Thursday, November 30, 2006

21 March 1956

Dear Folks

Every night about this time the Chief & I go through a little office ritual I call "the battle of the pen." There are numerous pens in the office, but most of them don’t work--& of the ones that do, the Chief has a favorite. Since it writes a little heavier, I use it too. Do you think he would use any other pen? No, he would not. Reminds me of our seating arrangements at the table at home. I used to get so irritated by father’s insistence that we sit in the same place, night after night. I remember one night when I beat him to the supper table & moved my glass over to "his" spot. We both nearly had fits—dad insisting I move & me not being able to understand why he had to sit in that exact spot! Ah, what fun.

Up at 0510 this morning, much to my regret. Replenishment went off exceedingly well; we loaded 168 tons in just two hours.

Read some more poetry this evening—I am now 1083 pages deep into it. I’ve come to the conclusion that I like poetry very much—IF it rhymes or has a rhythm, & if it comes out & tells what it wants to, & is not so distorted or loftily symbolic that it takes a slide rule to figure it out.

The modern poets (I’m up to Robert Frost) seem to ramble too much, or try so hard to make it crash & bang that it wears you out before you’re halfway through. From tonight’s reading, I especially like an excerpt from George Santayana—

For some are born to be beatified
By anguish, & by grievous penance done;
And some, to furnish forth the age’s pride,
And to be praised of men beneath the sun.
And some are born to stand perplexed aside
From so much sorrow—of whom I am one.

I like it all except for the "sorrow" part—I’d substitute "confusion", if it would fit the metrical scheme, in which I am not the least bit interested.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about becoming a teacher. Oh, not of sniffly-nosed little fourth-graders, but of High School or college. Why, I don’t know—maybe because that is about the only way I can talk for hours without interruption. Yet, somehow, I have a dread of it. Of course, I have no doubt I’d be kicked out of a school as fast as I got in, & labeled anything from "extremely liberal" to "downright fanatic." I would, no doubt, be what my students label a "character." There’s something fatalistic about the whole idea. But if, as I hope, I am t become a free-lance writer, what I do for eating money? Oh, well, I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them

144 days left. Oh, how tired you must be, listening to me slowly tick off the days like an old clock. The days past are nothing—garbled memories stacked, with more pattern than I realize, in the front of my brain. But the days ahead—one tomorrow is farther away than a thousand yesterdays.

Tell me—do you think I’ll ever be a writer? Or do my thoughts run onto the paper like dead may-flies on a bridge. While I’m thinking these thoughts, they’re alive—I hear myself thinking, speaking the words very distinctly in a voice of silence. But once they hit the paper, they are as dead and meaningless as yesterday.

Why do people ask opinions when they will only be willing to accept one answer? Still, what do I expect you to say? You are too busy living your own lives & thinking your own thoughts (not just you—everybody) to bother with mine.

And yet, if I could just effect a "breakthrough"; if people said "Why, that’s exactly the same was I feel (or think)," then we could all unlock our minds—not to let our secrets out, but to let the fresh air in.

I find it almost impossible not to "do unto others what you would have done unto you." That isn’t particularly conducive to success in this "survival of the fittest" world.

Maybe I should teach philosophy? Heavens, no! I’d have everyone in the madhouse.

Oh, well….



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