"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

Monday, December 5, 2022

Journals, Volume 1: 1993-2001 by Matt Cardin (2022)

Three days ago, August 14, Saturday, I was reading at my camera station during intermission here at the Palace when I noticed that the man to my right was reading a paperback book. I could just make out that it was a Clive Cussler novel. I returned to the Iliad, and a minute later I heard a voice say, "So you're a reader too, huh?" I looked up to see that the man has passed in front of me to go get popcorn or use the restroom and had seen my book. He was in mid- to late fifties, and he had graying hair and wore white shorts. "Yes," I said. "I've carried a book with me for fifty years," he said proudly. "I'm always reading something." I said I hadn't carried a book with me for fifty years, and he laughed good naturedly and said, "Well, you aren't even fifty years old yet." He continued with obvious pride, "I have over eight thousand books at home. Mostly paperbacks." I asked him what kind of books he liked to read. "Science fiction," he said. "I'm a big science fiction fan. I really love Edgar Rice Burroughs." I told him I had the complete set of Tarzan novels. "I've got all of them," he said," and all of the Mars books and all of his others." He told me about some obscure SF author he loved, but whose name I can't remember. Then he left to take care of his business before the next half of the show while I returned to the Iliad. When he came back by, I asked if he was a fan of Phil Dick. He paused. "Well," he said, "I go more by book name than author name." I mentioned Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. No luck— he had never heard of Philip K. Dick. When I mentioned the film Blade Runner, he had heard of it. Then I asked about Lovecraft. No luck. Then I mentioned Ray Bradbury, without the slightest inkling that he would not have heard of him. He paused. "I'm not sure." I mentioned The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Dandelion Wine. Absolutely no luck. The man had been reading SF for 50 years and had never heard of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, or Phil Dick. Then the lights began to go down and I took my place at the camera. Before he sat down, the man told me, "I have the complete Playboy, all except one issue. All in mint condition." I said I thought that must be worth a lot of money. "You're not kidding," he said. "My wife wants me to throw them out, but I tell her it'll be a cold day in hell." Then he sat down and the show started.

8/17/ 93

*   *   *

It's a brave thing for an academic professional and professional fiction writer to present to the world the diaries of his younger self. 

In Journals, Volume 1: 1993-2001 by Matt Cardin (2022) we have a man's doubts about everything in his life as they emerge: family, marriage, religion, church, a career in academia, fiction writing. It is only late in the diary, as Cardin masters his subjective obsessions by reading and writing, with religious and aesthetic activity, and attains a level of detached calmness and satori, that mastery begins to emerge in his twin careers.

*   *   *


[....]the private interior conversation these writings represent. 


[....]my great love for Henri- Frédéric Amiel's Journal Intime, Impassio Press, have sometimes felt as if my journal represents my real work as a writer, expedient of a journal was but a compromise with his divided impulses, a compromise between the artist and the philosopher" 

[....]a three- decade trajectory of mounting despair as he found himself paralyzed with reflection and unable to focus his powers on producing the kind of work he really wanted to do. 

[....]In late high school and early college I developed a voracious interest in Lovecraft and Alan Watts. 

[....]My journal starts at that point. 

[....]During this same era I began experiencing sleep paralysis attacks with accompanying hypnagogic visions. 

[....]This is a journal, not a diary. It is the record of my inner life, not my outer one. If there is an overarching theme, it is the overwhelming intensity of my abiding compulsion to search for a spiritual and philosophical answer to the riddle of my life, as informed and abetted by a profusion of books, authors, philosophers, and sages, many of whom I only partly or sometimes flat- out wrongly understood as I appropriated them for my own unconscious ends, using them as fodder to think the thoughts, feel the feelings, and move philosophically and spiritually in the directions that I was interiorly programmed to move. 

[....]For a long time my attention was focused more on books, ideas, and associated inner swirls of thought and emotion than on daily life, the people around me, and external circumstances, though I mostly functioned well enough in that arena. (My family, however, suffered from my inner retreat and self- absorption, and this is something I profoundly regret.) 

[....]spontaneous inner autobiography. 

[....]sometimes when I wrote in my journal, especially during the 1990s, I was not so much expressing or describing my current inner state as trying to talk myself out of it. This means the content of some entries is pretty much the obverse of what I was actually feeling when I wrote them. 

[....]many of my journal entries circle around the same philosophical, emotional, and spiritual issues with a genuinely obsessive dedication. 

[....]obsessively recursive thoughts 

[....]Having presently reached what feels like the end the line as a fiction writer (though who knows, I could be wrong, it's up to my daemon muse), something resembling a conclusion to something resembling an introduction….

April 23, 1993 

[....]Bloom's Closing of the American Mind did it next, and I was a disciple of his for a month or so. 

 5/ 29/ 93 Saturday 

[....]One of the most bizarre and reprehensible things that movies and especially television have done to the psyche of most people is to give them the unconscious feeling that they are performing for some sort of audience, even when they are alone. I can see this in myself and others. 

[....]I keep doing it out of the feeling that it is supposed to be funny. Why? Because the omnipresent TV audience laughs at it. 

5/ 30/ 93 Sunday 

[....]In Protestant Christianity, God is outside not only us, but the entire world. He is completely supernatural, and virtue is defined as living up to his (impossible) standard (impossible (impossible because no concept of each person's divinity is allowed in Protestantism). 

6/ 13/ 93 

[....]F. told me he has started thinking about deep subjects such as God and death since he met me. It's nice to know this side of me can come off as something other than just weird. 

[....]I am surrounded by people asleep. I can honestly say I have begun to understand that, because I have begun to understand what a fog I myself have been living in for years. 

 8/17/ 93 

Three days ago, August 14, Saturday, I was reading at my camera station during intermission here at the Palace when I noticed that the man to my right was reading a paperback book. I could just make out that it was a Clive Cussler novel. I returned to the Iliad, and a minute later I heard a voice say, "So you're a reader too, huh?" I looked up to see that the man has passed in front of me to go get popcorn or use the restroom and had seen my book. He was in mid- to late fifties, and he had graying hair and wore white shorts. "Yes," I said. "I've carried a book with me for fifty years," he said proudly. "I'm always reading something." I said I hadn't carried a book with me for fifty years, and he laughed good naturedly and said, "Well, you aren't even fifty years old yet." He continued with obvious pride, "I have over eight thousand books at home. Mostly paperbacks." I asked him what kind of books he liked to read. "Science fiction," he said. "I'm a big science fiction fan. I really love Edgar Rice Burroughs." I told him I had the complete set of Tarzan novels. "I've got all of them," he said," and all of the Mars books and all of his others." He told me about some obscure SF author he loved, but whose name I can't remember. Then he left to take care of his business before the next half of the show while I returned to the Iliad. When he came back by, I asked if he was a fan of Phil Dick. He paused. "Well," he said, "I go more by book name than author name." I mentioned Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. No luck— he had never heard of Philip K. Dick. When I mentioned the film Blade Runner, he had heard of it. Then I asked about Lovecraft. No luck. Then I mentioned Ray Bradbury, without the slightest inkling that he would not have heard of him. He paused. "I'm not sure." I mentioned The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Dandelion Wine. Absolutely no luck. The man had been reading SF for 50 years and had never heard of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, or Phil Dick. Then the lights began to go down and I took my place at the camera. Before he sat down, the man told me, "I have the complete Playboy, all except one issue. All in mint condition." I said I thought that must be worth a lot of money. "You're not kidding," he said. "My wife wants me to throw them out, but I tell her it'll be a cold day in hell." Then he sat down and the show started. 

11/ 26/ 93

[....]A dream from last night: Some people go up in some kind of aircraft. An evil man waits on the ground for them. When they return he will use some machine or something to trap them in a dream, to make them think they're awake when they are really just dreaming. When the people get back down, we sit around on some couches. The evil man hands me a little contraption that is a plastic box with curtains that roll back. It is like a miniature movie screen or dramatic stage. I think it's neat, and I show it to someone else. 

 11/ 28/ 93 

[....]The Protestant worldview simply does not "present" itself to someone. No one would figure it out or believe it if left to themselves. Tertullian used this as proof for Christianity. Credo quia absurdum est. But I think that's bull. People have always had vivid imaginations. 

1/ 30/ 94 

[....]I know what young Sigismundo Celine meant when he wrote that he felt like he was walking around a step or two behind himself.

3/ 24/ 94 12: 20 a.m. 

[....]What is a thinker? An experiencer? A doer? A knower? What am I when I am doing or playing the role of these things? I feel that I can somehow "bend" my awareness back on itself. I discovered how to do this quite by accident when I was in junior high. I have forgotten about it for months and years at a time. Now I am trying to learn to sustain the experience, because it is slippery and elusive. When I am in this state, which usually only lasts for a few seconds, my main feeling is one of intense strangeness and wonder. I think, "What the hell am I doing in this body? What is a person?" I regard my usual state of awareness as being asleep, and I wonder what I really am. I feel that my everyday existence is just a dream. This is the most prominent sensation: the feeling that everything is a dream. Then these very thoughts distract me, kick me (or drag me) out of the experience and back to earth. 

4/ 3/ 94 

I feel first and think afterward. Thoughts are a coda to feeling. 

4/ 30/ 94 Saturday 

[....]my penchant for losing myself in movies, not to mention books and music, is simply an expression of my desire to be distracted from my real self. Thus, when conflict is removed and I am perfectly free to do whatever I want, to follow my own preferences and motives, I suddenly recognize movie watching and the other activities for the empty shams and substitutes they really are, and my ego- self feels threatened because its disguises are laid low and it is in danger of being exposed. This, too, is just more mental chatter, more nervous self- distraction. Something in it may be true, though. I will just continue to wait. 

[....]Joseph Campbell said he thought the commonly held notion that everyone is looking for a meaning to life is wrong. What we're looking for, he said, is an experience of being alive. If we could have this, we would realize that meaning, even if we know it, doesn't matter. In The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury has one of his characters discover this about the Martians: The Martians discovered the secret of life among the animals. The animal does not question life. It lives. Its very reason for living is life; it enjoys and relishes life. . . . And the men of Mars realized that in order to survive they would have to forego asking that one question any longer: Why live? Life was its own answer. Life was the propagation of more life and the living of as good a life as possible. 

[....]"Cast into the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened," cries Pascal, and most rational members of the 20th century with him. 

 5/ 16/ 94 Saturday 11 something p.m. 

[....]For every mood I have a book or a set of books, plus usually a few movies. It is as if I am "consuming" these ideas in the way Walker Percy describes the self- as- naught trying to inform itself by going through different furniture, fashions, etc. But I do it with ideas, philosophies, worldviews, and if I leave one alone long enough it regains its vitality and substance enough for me to latch onto it again. And of course as soon as I have it, I don't want it. This is spilling over into my reading pattern and hurting my reading life, because I can hardly even finish a book of medium length now. Before I am very far into a book I lose interest in it because I have other feelings surging through me that have their own books associated with them. But once I start these books my mood changes and I start another, and so on. Right now I am rather leaning toward an Allan Bloom- Walker Percy interpretation (the post- modern world's demented philosophy of humans has created people like me who have no ranking of their desires and no sense of an absolute standard of value), but this will change. By tomorrow I'll probably be thinking that life is only worthwhile as an aesthetic endeavor (Nietzsche- Lovecraft), and the day after that I will be caught up in Alan Watts and Richard Bach. 

8/ 2/ 94 Tuesday 11 something p.m. 

[....]I feel in my bones, as it were, the rightness of what I am doing, the value of reading what others have had to say about man and life and death throughout recorded history, but I don't know how to justify it or explain its worth to anyone else. I know and can explain my reasons, but they require more thought and attention than most of those around me are willing to give. 

9/ 13/ 94 Tuesday 11: 00 p.m. 

[....]How do I get beyond worldviews?

1/ 19/ 95 Thursday 11: 35 p.m. 

[....]For me, the most damaging single thought for any belief, the one that keeps blasting to pieces every faint glimmering of certitude, is this: The mere fact that something seems true or right to me does not make it so. My perspective is limited. Daily I read and hear multitudes of conflicting ideas and claims which I am incapable of judging. I have encountered the idea that human logic is a part of the world and therefore fundamentally related to it, that what seems logically true is in fact true— but I have also encountered the opposite of this view, which states that logic and reason are fine as far as they go, but they are by no means the only way of knowing. 

3/ 13/ 95 Monday 12: 30 p.m

My attraction to nihilism and my attraction to the Allan Bloom school of classical thought have this in common: a desire to withdraw from life and observe it as a spectator, not a participant. 

3/ 26/ 95 Sunday 7: 27 a.m. 

[....]I've oscillated between agnosticism and nihilism for months and years, usually favoring agnosticism. From time to time I have thought otherwise, falling variously into Buddhist, Taoist, and Christian modes. But my very jumping from worldview to worldview has only augmented and confirmed my underlying skepticism, agnosticism, nihilism. This gets interesting. I have long known something but not written it down, or even thought it through. It is this: My tendency toward skepticism and nihilism is as much (perhaps more) an aesthetic mood as a philosophical realization. More than once have I turned from a rather Taoist outlook to a nihilistic one at the thought of Lovecraft's fiction, which presents the attitude of meaningless beauty so enticingly. 

[....]The point is this: I know certain things. It is only when I let my conscious awareness stray off into useless realms of speculation that I begin to doubt everything. Certain things— books such as Roszak's Where the Wasteland Ends, a good day with my family, and (most especially) the sight and sound of birds, wind, and sunlight in the trees— tend to bring me back to myself, but I tend to want to hold onto my agnosticism/ nihilism. First, there is the aesthetic pleasure I find in it, and second, it is so simple. It absolves me of all obligation and responsibility, whether to people or ideas. 

 4/ 18/ 95 Tuesday 11: 32 p.m. 

[....]Tonight I received possibly the most direct "answer" I've ever received from the method of asking a book or other printed matter. After work I was in the video, audio, and lighting booth alone and felt rather scattered and desperate. I do not know what to believe. I'm not even sure what I do believe. I feel that I am growing more— something. Uncentered? Scattered? Crazy? Aware? Am I just seeing things more correctly? Whatever the case, I picked up HPL's Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, which I had brought to work with me, and I held the feeling, the issue, the problem, in my mind. It was particularly intense, the degree to which I felt the issue in my being as I blindly opened to three passages, and I knew as I looked down at the first one that it would really be a zinger. If I had any specific question to ask, it was, "What am I to do? What's going to become of me?" My answer, near the top of page 306: "I now realised plainly that I was lost." 

5/ 18/ 95 5: 36 p.m. Thursday

[....]The further I fall into despair, the further I fall back into the arms of my ingrained Protestantism. I've skirted the edges of nihilism all day. I've practiced the Jesus Prayer, read several words by Alan Watts, reread the first chapter of Beyond the Post- Modern Mind. All designed to lead me back to an invincible skepticism toward all views. It's not the content of what I read and think. Rather, it's the very act of reading and considering different views, of having it impressed upon me that people can and do hold irreconcilably different views of truth and the world, that leads one to a despairing skepticism and agnosticism. 

9/ 23/ 95 Saturday 2: 04 p.m. 

6: 54 p.m. "Dr. David Hufford, in The Terror That Comes in the Night (An Experience- Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions), demonstrates fairly convincingly that approximately 15 percent of any population has awakened at night, paralyzed, and with the sense of an unknown presence in the room."[ 6] 

10/ 8/ 95 Sunday 8: 22 p.m

[....]Volume I of Lovecraft's Selected Letters: A young HPL, approximately my age, expresses thoughts very similar to mine. He seems to have grappled 80 years ago with issues I face today: [P] rovided a man cannot belief in orthodoxy, why grate on his sensibilities by demanding that he belief? We cannot do what we cannot— at least this has been the general idea since the abolishment of the Popish Inquisition. It is only the forcible propagation of conventional Christianity that makes the agnostic so bitter toward the church. He knows that all the doctrines cannot possibly be true, but he would view them with toleration if he were asked merely to let them alone for the benefit of the masses when they can help and succour. The agnostic becomes bitter only when someone presumes to affront his reason by demanding that he believe the impossible, under penalty of censure and ostracism. The word "Christianity" becomes noble when applied to the veneration of a wonderfully good man and moral teacher, but it grows undignified when applied to a system of white magic based on the supernatural. This and many other passages astonish me with their direct correspondence to many of my thoughts and concerns. 

1/ 3/ 96 Wednesday 9: 46 a.m.

[....]I think for years I've convinced myself and others that I'm smarter than I actually am. I've read widely and intensively and I've remembered a lot, so it's easy for me to spout off reams of information and appear brilliant in doing so. But as far as what to do with it all, how to integrate it, and see it all stretched out before me, and develop a coherent worldview from it— as far as this goes, I am coming to the conclusion that my capacities are woefully inadequate. Maybe someday. Maybe I'll grow in mental acuity, but right now I'm not up to the task, and I've only just realized what a sham so much of my "thinking" has been. 

[....]seem attractive at times. Is there really a possibility of winning the game of life on the level which I am trying to transcend? If so, then I am not transcending, 

3/ 31/ 98 Tuesday 8: 40 p.m. 

Reflections on Ligotti's "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World":[ 16] Instances of liminality: Paragraph 1: a) Sentence about Mr. Marble b) Sentence about "the trees in town as well as those in the woods beyond." Paragraph 2— Sentence about the field "adjacent to the edge of town." p. 221— Townspeople trapped in a mood of half dream, half waking reality General: late Autumn— when does it become winter? Trapped in this no man's land by an extended autumn. pp. 221– 222— The attack of the townspeople on the scarecrow happens at twilight, a liminal time. General: A scarecrow is rather liminal, sort of a human but sort of not. p. 223— After touching black shape, trying to rub something from one's hand that cannot be seen— taboo violation? Sacred/ demonic contamination? p. 223— Reluctance to uproot the sprouting blackness is compared to reluctance of a person to lose a diseased part of his body. Implication: the townspeople know that the black thing is somehow a part of them, a disease. p. 224—" that field outside of town." Also, the townspeople gather the next day at dawn, another liminal period. pp. 225– 227— The shapes and faces peering out from everywhere— normal categories of perception are dissolving. Patterns that were always there are now becoming visible. Mr. Marble— He sharpens things for a living. Symbol of clear, sharp understanding and perceptions. Did he sharpen the axe the farmer used on the black stalk? Mr. Marble is the most fully described character, the most set apart, both by his name and in the plot. The only other characters who are singled out from the collective narrator are the farmer, who must be set apart because the black things sprouts in his field, and the person on p. 225 who speaks up, and that's just to advance the plot. p. 228— The glowing becomes evident at twilight, a liminal period. p. 229— The story is revealed to be about the collective narrator— they fear what the outsiders have discovered about them. Everything has been about the narrator. Mr. Marble— The first two mentions of him are in parentheses. He is still marginal due to his location in a liminal zone. Then, when he becomes the center of events, no more parentheses. This moves the story right into the heart of no man's land. p. 229— The introduction of the outsiders at this point reinforces the strength of the townspeople's collective identity. Remember how in the book's intro it is said that Grimscribe protects each of his identities from all the others? In "The Shadow . . ." this secrecy almost breaks down. If Grimscribe is indeed the name of everyone, as the introduction has it, then the near flip- flop of "The Shadow . . .," the nearly successful conquest of the daylight world by the ever- present darkside, is nearly the loss of all sanity and identity. The collective identity of the town brings about the horror, because such collectivity is already the beginning of the "backward slide into that great blackness in which all names (i.e., identities) have their source." The narrator fears what the visitors may have discovered about the town's inhabitants. At least a part of this fear may arise from the fact that the discovery of the townspeople's secret is also the discovery of the visitors' own secret. The madness passes itself on through the recognition of one's own secret self in another. 4/ 6/ 98 [More on "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World":] Mr. Marble: His deep knowledge of the strange things afoot sets him apart from the townspeople; he is outside the circle of the collective narrator and is referred to in the third person. But his individuality also gives him more freedom of choice than any other inhabitant of the town (which is symbolized by the fact that he lives and moves on the outskirts of town). When the mother and son visitors show up, they are the first true outsiders, the first characters in the story to have no connection at all to the town. The townspeople, the collective narrator, are by this point totally captivated by their secret. They are in its thrall. The dark thing is the root of their own collective identity. To recognize it is to become self- conscious, to know the horrible thing from which they have come and to which they must return. In the story's symbolism, they are the scarecrow which is being moved by the black stalk rising up into it "like a hand into a puppet." When the visiting mother and son appear, their murder will be a sacrifice, a ritual that signals the completion of the strange mutation, the inversion of figure and ground that has been taking place. The energy has reached a peak and must be discharged. But Mr. Marble's individuality, which is expressed in his deep knowledge of secret matters, is also what gives him the ability to deny what is happening by rebelling against it. At the last moment he refuses to complete the transformation, and he discharges the energy on himself. When the narrator drops him into the pit, this is a substitute for the mother and child. And when the town is back to normal, with the season now progressing as it should, it is a sign that the transformation was not completed. But perhaps it is only delayed. 

7/ 6/ 98 Monday 5: 35 p.m. 

[....]Lots of thoughts lately as I've reread Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door. What a wonderful book. Especially the parts about "Naming." A couple of representative passages where the (singular) cherubim Proginoskes is explaining what it means to be a Namer: When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That's basically a namer's job. . . . A Namer has to know who people are, and what they are meant to be. . . . (Speaking of the evil Echthroi:) I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un- Naming— making people not know who they are. My thoughts: I don't really know who I am until I find myself in God through Christ. I'm seeing the lines clearly drawn in my thinking between a petty, self- centered self- realization, which is the very essence and nature of sin, and realization of my essential need to find my true identity "outside" the enclosed circle of my subjectivity on the other. The first kind of self- realization is what is being advocated by the modern popular secular mindset, which promotes "growth," "self- enhancement," "self- esteem," "self- enrichment," for their own sakes, as if they were ends to be striven for instead of the natural products of the second, proper kind of self- realization. The sinful variety of self- realization is based on the desire to gain something for myself and myself alone. It shuts out concern for others. Even if explicit endorsement is given to the idea that each person should be given the same right to seek his or her own "enrichment," even if laws are enacted that guarantee this right, the end result will still be a bunch of self- absorbed, closed- off people, each seeking his or her own good above that of all others. In other words, the situation we now have in the general media culture of the U.S. The worst part of this deception is that it can so easily masquerade as the other type of self- realization, the type that finds self by going beyond self. And that's really the crux of the matter. Until and unless the quest for self- realization takes one beyond one's own little circle of personal concern, the quest inevitably ends in personal misery and isolation coupled with interpersonal strife. As Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee," and as Thomas Merton and many others have pointed out, our relationship with God is what directs and determines our relationship with our fellow humans. Our true self, the one we are meant to be, is found only in the Person of Christ. 

[....]Jesus didn't want us to look at him. He didn't want us to worship or venerate him. He didn't want us to make a point of emphasizing him in any way. He wanted us to look through him, to worship through him, to use him as a window on the Father. In this, he was and is the Christ. But in this, so is each one of us. Through recognizing Jesus' oneness with the Father, I can come to recognize my own. Through recognizing the archetypal pattern played out in his actual life— illumination and baptism; unconditional love for all; teachings of unity and charity; concern for everyone as one's own self; death and resurrection— I can know the stages that are being, and must be, played out in my own life. 

8/ 13/ 98 Thursday 7: 25 a.m. 

[....]As transcendent, God can be prayed to, can be worshipped, praised. God can be truthfully felt and understood as a sovereign other whose presence, friendship, fatherhood/ motherhood, whose very otherness gives comfort and reassurance. God as portrayed in the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament, and also (although I have virtually no experience here) the Q'uran, is this Other. As immanent, God is the source of my very being, the root of my awareness, that undoubtable presence within me whose reality I have come to recognize irrevocably. This immanent God is "upstream" of all that I experience in the phenomenal world, including what I usually take to be my "self." On this end of the continuum, God is my own deepest life, the nothingness at my core, that is in reality the capacity for everything. As immanent, God is not prayed to but seen from. God is not known because God is the knower. As transcendent, God is autonomous and can be recognized (truthfully, I might add) as an active, effective Other in the affairs of men. As immanent, God is not autonomous because there is no otherness, no separation between God and the world. Degrees of ontological distinction, yes. Separation no. An immanent God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. We do not recognize God's activities as being separate from ourselves, because we are God's activity. 

 [....]that we are recent buds on the tree 

Wednesday, March 31, 1999 

Wrote a short story yesterday. I had actually meant to write a short, but it turned into seven or eight handwritten pages. Strangely, I had forgotten that this was the way I began "An Abhorrence to All Flesh" last year: I had intended to write a rather short mood piece, but it burgeoned as I progressed. Perhaps this ability to start more easily with small expectations is akin to the phenomenon described by Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: One of his students was blocked on writing anything, and he told her just to write about a brick wall. When she was still stuck, he narrowed it down further and further until she was just supposed to write about one brick. And then she unexpectedly broke through and, starting with that one brick, had a lot to say about the entire edifice. I've been experiencing a greater sense of depth lately. Not much like the constant religious concern during my recent evangelical wave, but more of the creative surge I experienced last fall when I was writing stories and reading Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. I must take care not to fall into a narcissistic well of self- absorption. My inner concern must be balanced by an outer one. I'm still trying to reach that balance of ego with subconscious. I reread Colin Wilson's essay on fantasy fiction and "Faculty X" last night. As with the first time I read it, I found his speculation that the sense of twin identity in each of us, the sense of ego on the one hand and subconscious on the other, is due to the nature of the right- left split in the human brain, to be absolutely fascinating. A provocative and stimulating theory. It would explain in neurological, pristinely scientific terms the ego- subconscious split and would do away with certain abstract, possibly metaphysical (or at the least very vague) explanations of how human personality works, and how to achieve integration, self- actualization, individuation. 

Thursday, April 6, 1999 

[....]I think life purifies and deepens and gives significance to the usually selfish and shallow goals of our youth. We have grand goals and ambitions, and their frustration, alteration, and/ or postponement leads us to discover new ones, and to take a different, more mature and holistic view of the old ones. For example, in my own life, the desire to compose music, and perhaps to make a career of it, was once strong. I would listen to radio programs on NPR that played the type of music I composed, and I would realize that my own stuff was as good as most of what I was hearing. So why couldn't I compose and record music, and sell records, tapes, CDs, for a living? I had no idea how to break into the business, and as it turns out, the course my life has taken has been more fruitful for my musical skills than the one I was envisioning. The past six years of serving as a church pianist (something I never expected after high school) have kept me playing more regularly than I ever did when I was strictly messing around on my synthesizers. They have forced me to stretch and learn new musical styles and more difficult pieces than I ever would have encountered if I had strictly and selfishly followed my own ambition. I am a more mature and skilled player now than before, and if opportunities for composing, or for playing with a group, ever arrive again, they will be more meaningful to me. The same holds true for my long- running, sometimes abandoned desire to be a writer. 

4/ 12/ 99 Monday 5: 35 p.m. 

Re- bought Marsha Sinetar's Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow at Renaissance Books the other day, and as I'm sitting here reading Chapter One, titled "The Psychology of Right Livelihood," something occurs to me: I already know all of this. I already know the principle of right livelihood, and so does everyone else, whether we are able to consciously explain and articulate it or not. It is inbuilt. The problem is, we ignore it, either through deliberate decision or by being directed or misled by others. I have a failsafe system for knowing what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go, how to behave and how not to behave, what to say and what not to say. That system is found simply in my "inner voice," my sense of direction, my conscience, my radar. This sense of direction is maintained and strengthened through the continuous cultivation of a deep integration of my ego with my subconscious. Authentic living carries with it that infallible sense of direction, that knowledge of how to pursue one's right livelihood. 

 4/ 16/ 99 Friday 2: 35 p.m. 

[....]My real life's purpose is to find and exercise those talents I naturally possess and have cultivated (thinking, speaking, writing, playing the piano, producing videos) and to develop them to their greatest possible expression. Important: I must recognize when I say this that I am denying that my life's purpose is to be a husband, father, or son. As vital as these facets of my life may be, my final purpose is not found in them. Nor is it found in my church life. To put it differently, my final purpose is found in family life and in the collective religious life only insofar as these provide opportunities to grow, deepen, and exercise my creative abilities. And just as importantly, my purpose is found in these areas precisely to the extent that they afford opportunities for nurturing and celebrating the vital unfoldment of others as well. In this respect, my purpose encompasses and honors both myself and everyone else. 

[....]the all- too- easy meaninglessness of that digital world. 

[....]I must get adequate sleep, since I have discovered how poorly I perform when fatigued. I must keep up my regular exercise program, because I think and feel so much better. I must restrict my sugar intake, and indeed my overall volume of food intake, for the same reasons. I must persist in my spiritual practices because I have discovered how they serve as the very lifeblood of my daily existence (or rather, how they open up a channel for that lifeblood to energize and sustain me). I must give up too much speculative thought about abstract philosophical and religious matters, or at least to the extent that it begins to paralyze me internally and externally. I must learn to express real joy at the accomplishments of others. 

Monday, April 19, 1999 

[....]Why horror? Why do I write horror? And does the writing of it, the conscious concentration on such subject matter, stifle or cramp my spiritual style? Horror just seems to come out naturally. 

Tuesday, April 20, 1999 

[....]Ray Bradbury's advice for the writer's life holds true for all of life: relax, don't think, be yourself. Relax: Let go of all fear of the future and guilt and regret from the past. Don't think: Not a prescription for foolhardiness, but a principle that releases energy from the tyranny of self- conscious, self- doubting, self- recriminating intellect. 

[....]without stopping to reflect. 

[....]The very act of writing a story is so strange. It's almost magical. First there was nothing, and now there is a story that can be shared with others— events they can experience, characters they can come to know, emotions they can feel. Shakespeare really hit on a profound point when he wrote of the artist, the creator, as someone who gives to airy nothing a local habitation and name. 

[....]discussion, I said what's important to me is the idea that each of us is born already on a path. Our talents, gifts, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, joys, passions— all that we're born with, as well as the tendencies we learn from family (although the environmental stuff isn't as strong as the first, since it just serves to mark out the path, the course 

Friday, May 7, 1999 

[....]When we suspend our sense of familiarity and learn, whether alone or through instruction, to pay attention to what's really going on, we are amazed at the things we never noticed. We have to unlearn our unreflective thoughts, opinions, and attitudes that were bred by familiarity, in order to see and experience the world with "beginner's mind." This is the daily decrease of Taoism, the elimination of preconceived false opinions and attitudes. 

[....]And I'm a Christian myself. Weird thing. 

Saturday, May 15, 1999 

[....]At dinner last night, my grandfather said there's just not much to look forward to at 83. Though Teresa jumped in to deny that and speak encouragement to him, I understood what he meant. He said he gets up in the morning, and sometimes he plays golf, and if he doesn't play golf, what will he do? And then what's to do for the rest of the day? And at night he might watch television or read something, but he's alone and there's not much reason to do anything. And then he goes to bed and gets up the next morning and it's the same thing. I know this is all very much due to my grandmother's recent death, but I think he's seeing and feeling something very important, and he's seeing it very clearly. In a way I had the same feeling during my years of intense nihilism, and it was a cleansing experience. I know I'll have the feeling again to a greater or lesser extent from time to time, such as if and when I outlive Teresa. It's a feeling akin to boredom, because nothing sounds attractive or engaging or worthwhile, and yet I feel a definite desire to do something. The solution to this puzzle, I've discovered, is to realize that there is only now, and to live from here as much as I can whenever I'm aware of it. 

Sunday, May 16, 1999 

[....]Yesterday I read through my old journal from "The Creative Process."[25] It was very interesting to read my old thoughts and the professor's comments. I feel there must be a good reason for the thing to unexpectedly come back into my hands unexpectedly after several years. Betty Scott's comments at the end might have some application to my life now. They were to the effect that I'm a fascinating guy with a lot going for me, but I am far too wrapped up in putting distance between myself and others by erecting a façade of jokes and flippancy in order to hide my true self. 

[....]I am far too ready to profess uncertainty in order to avoid making a definite statement that might offend someone or elicit disagreement. Maybe that's an evolution of the tendency Betty noted in me, the tendency to hide my real self from others. 

8/26/99 Thursday 11:40 a.m. 

[....]In other genres, events are portrayed that, for the most part, the viewer would be happy to experience in real life. The horror genre is the one genre of entertainment that is devoted to portraying events or situations that no viewer or reader would ever want to be real or would ever want to experience. Thus, the threat to the viewer's transcendence, his or her ontological objectivity, that is posed by cinematic reflexivity is felt most truly as a threat when it's employed in a horror movie. Also thus, if any film can be said to shock a viewer into an existential experience of self-awareness or transcendence through the employment of this technique, then horror movies in particular should be able to achieve this with greater success, because the shock of breached viewer objectivity is greater in this genre than any other. 

9/2/99 Thursday 8:20 a.m. 

[....]The definitive work in the twentieth century that led to the current zeitgeist, in which reason or the ego is seen as subordinate to other aspects of personality or selfhood, was done by Sigmund Freud (who was heavily influenced by Nietzsche). Freud's classification of the human personality into the three parts or aspects of id, ego, and superego led succeeding generations to sense themselves as somewhat helpless egos riding a wave of unconscious bestial impulses. However, Freud's hangover from 19th-century scientism didn't allow him to take the logical step of giving up the idea of reason's supremacy. Even though he saw the ego as the tip of an iceberg, so to speak, he maintained that the tip came first, and that the unconscious was formed by the repression of incestuous and other societally inappropriate desires. In the end, his psychology was pessimistic and despairing, because he saw the human personality always and necessarily at war with itself, with the only alternative being the abandonment of civilization entirely. 

[....]It remained for his disciple and colleague, Carl Jung, to make the next move by saying that the unconscious actually precedes the conscious ego. In Jung's scheme, the proper role of reason or the ego is to assist in "individuation" by bringing to the light of consciousness the hidden desires and realities of the unconscious, which is now seen as being primary, as being the "real" self. This is accomplished through dream analysis 

[....]A mixture of Freudian and Jungian psychology lies at the heart of the contemporary zeitgeist. Reason's role is to bring to light unconscious material, and this allows the hidden, real self to "flower" and reach its fruition, a la Jung, but it is still widely and simultaneously believed that the unconscious is a frightful repository of bestial impulses which must be suppressed. It remains to be seen whether this uneasy tension will result in a new synthesis, or whether an entirely new understanding will arise. Perhaps the transpersonal psychology of, for example, Stanislav Grof or Ken Wilbur will take us in new direction.

2/6/00 Sunday 4:30 p.m.

[....]My spiritual pilgrimage in this life, as this awareness, is certainly tending to take me further and further away from evangelicalism. This morning I noticed, interestingly enough, the return for the first time in quite awhile of that stirring within my breast that makes me want to embrace the literal objective truth of (evangelical) Christianity. I recognized it instantly for the psychological trap it is, but it was pleasant in a way to indulge it briefly. 

3/2/00 Thursday 11:55 a.m. 

[....]I was reading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now today, and I came across a passage that struck me as expressing one reason why Ligotti's fiction is so powerful: 

[....]Because we live in such a mind-dominated culture, most modern art, architecture, music, and literature are devoid of beauty, of inner essence, with very few exceptions. The reason is that the people who create these things cannot—even or a moment—free themselves from their mind. So they are never in touch with that place within where true creativity and beauty arise. 

[....]I'm not saying that Ligotti's work is all about "beauty" per se, but it does have a power that is very aesthetically pleasing. I think for a lot of us Ligotti fans—and I know for sure in my own case—his writing serves as a link to that place Tolle is writing about. Ligotti writes from his own deepest personal thoughts and feelings, and many of us feel a powerful identification with what he says. He has spoken of his own erstwhile desire for a dark transcendence, and I believe his work provides an aesthetic experience of the very transcendence he has sought. 

3/28/00 Tuesday 11:45 p.m. 

[....]Idea striking me recently: The world of artistic expression (literary, musical, cinematic, etc.), which I have struggled to locate in my thinking for many years, may be a sort of simulation or ideal expression of eternity. When I was about to graduate from college back in 1992, and then increasingly over the succeeding years, I began to have difficulty justifying to myself the validity of artistic endeavor and enjoyment. I was very depressed and disillusioned by "adult" life, and I began to think tacitly that the world of artistic and creative enjoyment, which I had prized for so very long, might actually be a hindrance to one's (i.e., to my) ability to find "real life" tolerable. 

[....]I came to disdain artistic expression, at least in principle, at least sometimes, because it seemed like an attempt to escape from the real world, but perhaps art, even ostensibly escapist art, can serve to celebrate the eternal Now by calling attention to the timelessness of the subject of the art. This is, of course, what great numbers of philosophers of aesthetics have maintained for millennia, but it's only just now making sense to me and seeming relevant, even vital. 

3/29/00 Wednesday 9:20 p.m. 

Art immortalizes it subjects by making them seem to exist in a realm sealed off from the constant flux of the "real" world. Cf. Nietzsche's ideas in The Birth of Tragedy about the role of the chorus in ancient Greek theater as a sort of buffer or shield between the world of the play and the world of everyday life. The fictional world 

[....]needs to be set apart from the "real" world in order to be recognizable as, and in order to have power to affect us as, art. 

 3/30/00 Thursday 10:55 a.m. 

[....]I guess it's no accident that I thought of Nietzsche yesterday; just now I looked through The Birth of Tragedy for the first time in a few years and discovered that my ideas about art have been influenced by this book more than I realized. 

[....]this morning during church, as T. was reading and preaching on the story of Jairus' daughter being raised from the dead in Luke's gospel, I had a story inspiration, and over the course of fifteen or twenty minutes the whole thing laid itself out in my mind. It is titled "The Miraculist" (my original thought was to call it "The Wonder Worker"). I have a positive feeling about it. I think it will be a really strong piece. 

4/3/00 Monday 3:15 p.m.

I wrote most of part one of "The Miraculist" last night and decided to give titles to individual sections of it. Section one 

[....]is "His Arrival." Others will be titled "His First Miracle,""His Following,""His Opposition,""His Greatest Miracle,""His Departure," and the last will be titled either "His Return" or a repeat of "His Arrival." I hope I'm up to this project. I'm really uncertain about whether I can sustain the mood, whether I'm stylistically skilled enough to pull it off. In all probability the answer is no, but the solution, of course, is just to dig deep and write from the heart. 

4/4/00 Tuesday 12:15 p.m. 

[....]"The Miraculist" is becoming linked to specific music in my mind. Part One, "His Arrival," is nothing else but track 2, "Robbie's Office," from John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness soundtrack. The final section may be linked to "Manifest Destiny" from the Ravenous soundtrack, and 

[....]the section "His Greatest Miracle" may be "Saveoursoulissa," also from Ravenous

4/21/00 Friday 3:45 p.m. 

[....]Today I submitted my revised version of "The Limitless" to a forthcoming fiction anthology. The story is over 50% new from its original version, and it's almost 100% reworked. The new title is tentatively "Judas of the Infinite," but I also debated over "The Eternal Light and the Infinite Void." I obsessed over the thing all week, and I feel it's possibly the best crafted piece I've yet written. At least it says exactly what I meant to say in exactly the way I meant to say it. 

 5/1/00 Monday 6:10 a.m. 

[....]Once again my mind has been drawn to the issue of the possible conflict between a life of complete openness to God on the one hand and a life of creative self-expression on the other. Contemporary popular spiritual thought tends to equate the two. But is this right? I would like to think so, but I can't help feeling or fearing a certain self-enclosedness, a certain retreat-ish attitude, in my pursuit of ever more refined fiction writing skills. 

 5/23/00 Tuesday 4:07 a.m. 

[....]Luke 17:20–21 has long been a favorite of mine. With its bald assertion that the kingdom of God is "within" or "among us" (or "in your midst" as the NASB has it), it seems to be perhaps the most direct statement of nondual truth in the entire Bible. But then in the verses immediately after it, Jesus goes into a description of what the end times will be like "on the day that the Son of Man is revealed." For years this has struck me as an almost comically overt mismatch of attitudes. I have assumed that the redactor(s) of the book probably placed this passage immediately after the "kingdom is within you" pericope simply because both passages portray Jesus talking about people who vainly say "Look here! Look there!" in a search for the coming of the kingdom, and this commonality caused the redactor to overlook the glaringly contradictory messages. In the first, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the kingdom of God is not an external reality that can be predicted with signs and prophecies, but is instead an internal spiritual reality that already exists "within" or "among" people. By contrast, in the second passage Jesus (or rather "Jesus," as I have long thought—that is, not the authentic historical Jesus, but "Jesus," the church's theological ventriloquist doll) predicts future events as signs of the coming of "the day of the Son of Man." Clearly, these two passages simply don't fit together. Or at least this is what I have thought. But when studying the passages ten days ago for a Sunday School lesson, a commonality between them opened up to me, and I suddenly realized that the second can be read as expressing the same mystical reality expressed in the first. And this can be done easily, naturally, without undue eisegesis. What it amounts to is taking "the kingdom is within you" idea from v. 21 and applying this insight as the interpretive key to the second passage. Everything in vv. 22–37, the grand outlaying of a thoroughly apocalyptic, world-ending scenario, should be read symbolically, as referring to events occurring within a person's soul. 

[....]Just one example, from verses 34–36: "I tell you, on that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken, the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken, and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left." Contrary to much evangelical and fundamentalist Christian thought, these verses do not refer to the "rapture" in which many millions of true believers will supposedly disappear when they are taken away from earth by God immediately prior to a global period of "tribulation." In esoteric terms such a disappearance is understood as referring to the individual's no longer viewing himself as a separate unit or self, but as being united absolutely with Being. 

[....]The two men in the bed, the two women at the grindstone, the two men in the field—each pair is actually a single person with a split nature. This nature is simultaneously divine and human, infinite and finite, eternal and temporal, absolute and relative, transcendent and immanent. The human side is "swept away" in the day of the Son of Man, leaving only the divine self in its radiant Being. But this does not represent a complete devaluation of the human and the finite, because in the larger context of orthodox Christology, Christ's divine and human natures are coterminous, so what has happened when the one self is "taken" is not that it is destroyed but that it is removed from view temporarily so that the sense of exclusive identity with it can "die" and be transferred to the divine elf. In essence, the two have now become one. Both still exist, but as a unity. 

8/7/00 Monday 8:20 a.m. 

[....]Can I really throw myself fully into the belief system of orthodox, creedal Christianity if I'm holding onto the awareness that, at a deeper level, a truer level, the creeds with all their exclusive language, and more importantly the Bible with its exclusive language, are not really saying what they flatly seem to be saying? 

9/3/00 Wednesday 11:10 p.m. 

[....]In the desacralized universe, everything hangs on propositions and commands—i.e., truth is verbal, rational, objective—and if the validity of the commands, or their character or nature, can be rationally called into question, then the whole structure collapses. The very rationalism that desacralized the first religion (Roman Catholicism) then serves to undermine the necessity of the second (Protestant fundamentalism), which in many ways was just a residue of the first one anyhow. 

[....]and the need to re-enchant and resacralize the world must be carried on from right where we are. Maybe the arts have a huge role to play in this. I don't know. 

 10/26/00 Thursday 11 a.m 

[....]language conceals as much as it reveals, and God in and of Godself is simply unmediated reality. And if words are merely relative to this reality, then no symbolic description has universal, monopolistic validity. To really be beyond words and propositions—what would that entail, both for the reality in question and for the relative realm of propositional truth? 

2/17/01 Saturday 7:20 a.m. 

[....]The adoption of the H. G. Wellsian, Russellian, Lovecraftian view of the universe as a meaningless product and process of matter, time, and chance requires a leap from subjectivity to objectivity. 

[....]it requires one to become unmindful of one's first-personhood, because the despairing mechanistic materialist view of the world entails, and even rests upon, an assumption or attitude, whether conscious or unconscious, about the thinker's place within that world. One abrogates one's most intimate reality—the immediate experience of being a self, a subject—in favor of a cerebrally concocted view of oneself as a minuscule part of a vast blind process. 

3/13/01 Tuesday 10-something p.m 

[....]I now see what I couldn't see then: that my longing back then actually prevented me from finding what I wanted to find. The whole thing was a recipe for nihilism. I knew that I was unhappy with my life at the time because I could see no possibility of fulfillment in it, but I also knew even in the midst of the longing that anywhere I went in the entire universe would be just the same. 

[....]I could never really escape myself. 

3/23/01 Friday 4:20 p.m. 

[....]Having seen the ultimately pointlessness of all entertainments and distractions—movies, music, books, and so on—I am now free to enjoy them without fear of despair. 

[....]I longed for a fulfillment that these things simply can't give. But now I'm free to enjoy them for what they are. 

 6/23/01 6:55 p.m. 

[....]Every completed story is an iceberg with 999 of its 1,000 fathoms still submerged beneath the gray surface of the writer's subconscious. 

 7/10/01 Tuesday 10:00 p.m. 

[....]A man (or woman) conceives a hatred of, a repugnance toward, a desire for revenge against, his parents for procreating and giving him birth, which has consigned him to consciousness, memory, misery. He desperately desires pre-womb oblivion. "I don't care about the rest of the universe. I just know that I want to go back to that bliss of beyond-ignorance, and after that, everybody else can go to hell." Stupendous narcissism implicit in the desire for no-self, and the realization of this contradiction as an inescapable trap of despair. 

7/17/01 Tuesday 12:20 p.m. 

[....]5:15 p.m. Story idea: An academic is revered for the brilliance of his writings, which he churns out at a remarkable pace. The secret of his prolificity is that he knows his ideas and writings have no meaning, no matter how profound they seem. "I won't repeat Sartre's absurdity of talking about meaninglessness and then turning around and trying to claim I've really said something," he brags. Then one day he learns that his ideas and writings indeed have a meaning, and a horrific one at that, something beyond his conceptions and those of the adoring crowd who follow his work. His eyes are opened to the fact that although he has indeed been writing nonsense, it's of a sublime tenor that calls down madness on his head, because concealed within those chaotic writings is an order beyond human understanding. 


The purpose of the world is for you to transcend it. —Eckhart Tolle

 There is nothing to do and there is nowhere to go. There is nothing to be and there is no one to know. —Thomas Ligotti 

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6 December 2022

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