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MY grandmother died recently. She was 96 years old, and she passed away peacefully. Her last week was spent mostly asleep, and her last moments were shared by her three sons. I was able to visit a few days before she passed away with my eldest sister. She was sleeping, peaceful. She looked at the time as though she had already done the hard work of preparing for death. Lying on that bed, as thin as she was, she looked less like my grandmother, and more like the archetypal ancestor. She proceeded me, came before me, lived a full life which I know so little about. She married, had children, raised them, watched them grow up, worked, retired, watched most of her siblings die, outlived her husband, aged, and over the last few years, lost most of her reason and slowly fell into dementia.
She was always an anxious woman, always nagging me when I was a little boy. She would cut my fingernails when I came over and scold me for touching her mirrors and glass tables. She loved me, but she had an uncontrollable anxiety about things. When she began to succumb to dementia, her anxiety slipped away. It was as though she had always gripped too tightly, trying to control things, until she realized fully, with merciful humility, that it was no longer in her power. The last few years she was relaxed, although she did not like living at the home, but demented or not, who would?

I cried several times when she died, but most of all when I re-read chapter one of Ecclesiastes. My grandmother was Jewish, though I don’t know how religious she was, and I am not religious in any explicable way, but I have studied many parts of the Bible, both the Torah and the New Testament, fairly closely. Right now nothing seems more profoundly true than these lines:

1. The Words of the Preacher, the son of David, King in Jerusalem.
2. Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3. What profit has a man from all his labor which he does under the sun?
4. One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. …
11. There is no remembrance of former things; neither will there be any rememberance of things that are to come with those who come after. …
18. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.

I don’t know why I thought to share that here, but I have been thinking about Livejournal again. I don’t even know how many people I used to know who are still around, or how many people are listening. Since I have abandoned this journal for so long, I will mostly be posting from now on in my new journal, Project18. Feel free to add me if you like, I will of course add back. Otherwise, I wish you all well, in all of your labor under the sun. May you profit from it and arrive on time while the feast is good.
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X xx xxxxx xxxxxx my life xxx xxxx. Xoxoxxxx xxxxx 10 xxxxxx xxxxxxx smoking x xxxxxx xxxx xxx xx x xxx@xxttx. X xx xxxx xxxxx xxxx xx relationship. X xxxx'x drank xxxxx xxxxx June. Xx job xx xxxxx xxxx. X xxxx'x xxxx reading xx xxxx xx x xxxx xx, xxx x xxxx xxxx journalling x xxx. xxxxxs xxx xxxx xxxx here.
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Il ferait volontiers de la terre un débris
Et dans un bâillement avalerait le monde

When I came here, it was for stability. My life was as open as these things get, and I was ripping apart, so I delimited. As I depart here, to some degree it is refreshing to see the familiar yawn of the abyss. In other ways, it was very nice, if uncomfortable, to be nailed to a wall for four years. It was, after all, a wall that I chose. For the most part, these familiar feelings, since I have changed so much, are unsettling. I feel like I was a broker between the powers of chaos and order, and now I have lost all contact with the agents of chaos. I will deal with the freedom much differently now. I wonder how uncomfortable it will be for the person I have become.

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Therefore theory, which gives facts their value and significance, is often very useful, even if it is partially false, because it throws light on phenomena which no one has observed, it forces an examination, from many angles, of facts which no one has hitherto studied, and provides the impulse for more extensive and more productive researches...

Hence it is a moral duty for the man of science to expose himself to the risk of committing error, and to submit to criticism in order that science may continue to progress. A writer... has launched a vigorous attack on the author, saying that this is a scientific ideal which is very limited and very paltry... but those who are endowed with a mind serious and impersonal enough not to believe that everything they write is the expression of absolute and eternal truth will approve of this theory, which puts the aims of science well above the miserable vanity and paltry amour propre of the scientist.

-Ferrero, Les Lois psychologiques du symbolisme, p. viii
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[1919]

"We later civilizations... We too now know that we are mortal.

We had long heard tell of whole worlds that had vanished, of empires sunk without a trace, gone down with all their men and all their machines into the unexplorable depths of the centuries, with their gods and their laws, their academies and their sciences pure and applied, their grammars and their dictionaries, their Classics, their Romantics, and their Symbolists, their critics and the critics of their critics... We were aware that the visible earth is made of ashes, and that ashes signify something. Through the obscure depths of history we could make out the phantoms of great ships laden with riches and intellect; we could not count them. But the disasters that had sent them down were, after all, none of our affair.

Elam, Nineveh, Babylon were but beautiful vague names, and the total ruin of those worlds had as little significance for us as their very existence. But France, England, Russia... these too would be beautiful names. Lusitania, too, is a beautiful name. And we see now that the abyss of history is deep enough to hold us all. We are aware that a civilization has the same fragility as a life. The circumstances that could send the works of Keats and Baudelaire to join the works of Menander are no longer inconceivable; they are in the newspapers[...]"

-Paul Valéry
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So I have a question for you:

I was looking at an old friend of mine's visual art on her web page, and her art is incredibly good, and talking to a different friend of mine, and thinking about my sculpture, and thinking about Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and listening to Bach's St. Matthew Passion, and It helped crystalize a question I have been trying to articulate for a while now. I think, and I am very possibly wrong, that there is a difference between good work, and masterful work. I feel like the difference is hard to put my finger on, but it has something to do with the craft aspect of the piece, and not the aesthetic aspect. Some work seems inspired, or like it fits my taste very well, but other work seems like it overshadows other work in it's field. Like it's creator had a better control and understanding of the technical aspects of it's creation that I could even if I studied the medium for a long time. That seems like part of the distinction I want to make.

Now either I am right, and it's easier and easier to tell the difference the more experienced you get with a specific medium, or I am wrong, and it's just a misconception one develops from never getting too far into an art while dabbling enough to recognize technical proficiency, or it is some more complicated third thing. What do you think? Am I looking for a non-sensical distinction?

I think it may be tempting for me to try to lump good art, music, etc. into two categories: 'I like it and it's good.', and 'wow the technical proficiency in that piece is so far beyond me that I can't understand how a human could make it.' Perhaps that creates the illusion of these categories.

I've been thinking about this a lot this year. In the past few years I have learned enough to compose music, though not well, and analyze scores. I can sing in and out of the shower, and in an organized chorus. I can draw tolerably well now. I can finally sculpt things that resemble what I want to make before I touch the clay. I can still write tolerable fiction, alright poetry, and good essays. My reading has gotten much better. I can take pictures with some vague thought about general composition. I can sew things that aren't embarrassing to wear out of the house, which may just speak to my taste and not my level of 'skill'. I can dance well enough that I won't flat out reject the idea of going to a swing night or a waltz party. I can definitely speak most directly about writing, but I am thinking about this laterally.

I don't plan on ever mastering any of the arts mind you. I would just like to be able to look at, listen to, read, touch, etc. a piece and think about it critically. That is mostly why I am studying them.

I was wondering what all of you thought about all this.
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What is that reverse luminescence within us? It's like an inner light of some kind, right, only it radiates darkness. Is it actually an act of generation? Is it continual? Can we flip a switch and turn it off, or adjust a dimmer a bit? Is it a single thing? Is it a part of us? Is it something else that somehow gets within us, like L'amour-propre or original sin? What is that darkness? I know that we always struggle with it, or at least in it, when we have something important to struggle with. The biggest battle is normally the internal one, right? I don't know yet. I will.

Il y a dans le coeur humain une génération perpétuelle de passions, en sorte que la ruine de l'une est presque toujours l'éstablissement d'une autre. (La Rochefoucauld, Maximes, 10)

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Out with the old, in with the new. X xxxx xxx xxx x xxxxxx xxxx. I hope last year was good, xxx xxxx xxxxxxx xxxx, I hope next year is better. x xxxx xxxx xxxx xx xxx xxxxxx. X xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxx x xxxxxx xx xxx xxxxxxxxxx, xxx xxxx xxxxx xx xxx xxxxx, xxx xx xxxxxxxxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxxxx xxx xxx, x xxxxx xx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxx xxxx xxxx xx xxxxxxxxxx. Xxxxxxxxxx, I plan on having the best year I have ever had.
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I never knew this could happen to me
I know now fragility
I know there's people who I haven't told
I know of people who are getting old

In a dream I lost my teeth again
Calling me woman and a half man
Yes in a dream all my teeth fell out
A cracked smile and a silent shout

A cracked smile and a silent shout

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