Friday, September 28, 2007

The First Crack of Tao



Fall equinox sounds like something you might get in Tijuana, and I've certainly had a fall or two, the visits to the doctor, the waiting for the results, the feeling of "Ah, Faustus, now hast thou a bare hour to live. And then thou shalt be damned perpetually."
And the feeling, out of Marlowe, "Stand still ye ever-moving spheres of heaven, that time may cease." All this in the course of a full moon and right on the date of the Fall Equinox.

And certainly it is the sun "standing still", twelve hours of daylight, twelve of night and one is no closer to redemption or piety.

The first thing I wanted to do after being told I have neither AIDS nor cancer, was to have a drink and a smoke. And I did. In spades.
Now I'm really sick.

Doom and gloom.

Tossed the I-Ching. It said "remorse." "You have dipped your tail into the water.
" Nothing will further."

This is not good

So suddenly.
The Fall Equinox and its inexplicable depression.

We tend, like trees, to grow around the barbed wire of the sore spots in our lives.
Today's depression harkened back to another time, to where the problem was unresolved; the tree had to grow around it.

Oh how much fun it had been to have been the cock of the walk, Seneca's prime teacher, the "Creative One", to be talking to the Dean and everybody around the campus knowing who the really important guy was.
No campus head games with this guy. He was in print every week and 67,000 people knew about it every week and the "Creative One" felt so good, he just wanted to jump up and grab his own tail.

And then, suddenly, inexplicably, "black dog."
Depression.
Came all of a sudden in the course of a full moon.
And it would not go away.

Stopped. Can't go another mile.
Stumbling around the house with your beautiful children oblivious to your condition, with your wife wondering what was wrong, a quarter million in the bank, a sexy teaching job and the man is depressed.
Fall equinox. The fall. Not for nothing did I teach Camus.


I was actually teaching communications to a new class of future museum curators, this depressing enough, but I learned they already had their B.A.s, and had, for some reason (as B.A.'s?) found themselves unemployable. And here they were at a place I'd anagrammed in a joke to call "Senescent Collage of Applied Arse and Irrelevancy" --in a hope of learning something practical, like journalism.

Great. But they wouldn't do the work. Would not hand in their assignments.

Not wanting to totally destroy work in their programme, I gave each one of them a "Did not attend" or "Did not write", where in actual fact they certainly would not attend half the time, and they ceratinly would not write.
You couldn't give a student an outright F. Hurt his or her feelings.

I was not used to a crowd like this. "I already have my B.A. and there isn't much you can teach me at the undergraduate level"
Where did they get their degrees and how could they graduate in anything with an attitude like that?
I learned shortly afterwards that my new class really comprised a cult. They moved from college to college in a group, their academic paper was worthless and this time around they had stumbled into the hardest course at Seneca College--mine, for you had to produce in my class and substandard, unpublishable work just would not do. My course was practical, that is to say, "we'll get you a job in the media."

But to not produce, not to write write-- sorry Dwight!
Imagine a magazine editor or TV director with a staff that kept yawning and refusing to produce.
Where did Seneca find these people?
I learned that the course head had personally recruited them all in to pad enrolment in his course.
Where did he go to get them? The Salvation Army?
These were not students. These were bums.

I had been on a trimester. The course I taught had been in summer. It was September now, and after pretty well failing this bunch of communal farmers and stoners and, as it turned out, their course head too (he was fired), I was pretty well burned out.

I was exhausted and depressed. "You shouldn't have been there," said a friend. "Your discipline is creative writing and this bunch consited of rejects from 'The Summer of Love.'"

First crack of realization.
The community college approach in local learning. Failed totally in life? We'll reward you with an education.
O Canada.

Failing people did not go with my temperament. I had been something of a star at the college and now felt somehow like a red dwarf.
Ah, the first real test of a teacher. To face a hostile class and not flinch or falter.
I had gone through it, but the semester had left me burned out.
"You did not cave in. Most teachers faced with a cult like his would quit. It's a good thing we had somebody feisty in the deparment. You did not quit." The Dean speaking and assuring me there was lots of work around.

But now I was depressed and wanted to quit.

In fact, I did "quit", asked for a sabbatical and got it.
But the depression would not go away.
Life was gray, gray, gray.

I stayed that way for a year. Could not write. Lost the selfconfidence to teach. Sort of like William Burroughs staring at his big toe.

One day I sat down and wrote something resembling a newspaper article.
The article resulted in another regular column for me.

"I think I can, I think I can."

Inexplicably, my wife came into a million dollars. An inheritance.

There was certainly nothing wrong with me that a million dollars could'n't fix. Made short work of the depression.

Hey, back into the classroom, smelling of success and money.


There is a tao to all this, but I don't think it is the tao of Ivan.


##

46 comments:

eric1313 said...

I dislike people who say thigs like, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

I once wrote two stories, each one based off one half of that statement. They weren't good, but I was still a young learner, so each story at that time--as they are now--is practice for the next story I would write.

Teaching is its own art form, no matter what field one is in. Certainly, if one can't perform in their field, how will they be a good teacher? Thus you end up with professors like Trevor's...

I consider myself very lucky to have had an excellent teacher with no end of patience for all of my questions about writing--as to the creative process, the finer points of good editing, as well as the business end of publication.

eric1313 said...

Yeah, I would have been up last night, but I was feeling fevered and chilled and had to pass out early.

Hope everyone is OK today.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

We might have something in common.
I go on a real writing streak--and then wham, mood swing! Fonts jammed up and the words will not come straight and clean.
Where it comes from and where it goes, nobody knows.
Certainly the same thing in music.
a good guitar player might only play when he or she feel like it.

So last night I was in my cups and when I finally pulled out of that, you were out of the mood for our usual give and take.
Goes that way.
I think we've all got full moon fever.
I am growing more and more convinced that a lot of really great writers (not me for sure!) were that way. Heminway for certain. I think he told his psychiatrists that they should all take a creative writing course to understand the condition he had come in with.
And then the final act of self-criticism.
Well, it's a good thing we're not Hemingways.
But I think the manic-depressiveness is there.

Ivan

Josie said...

What is it about writers and depression? Does the art grow out of the depression, or the depression grow out of the art? They seem to go hand in hand.

Boy, there's nothing more depressing than the full moon during the fall equinox, hey? Had my share of that one.

I am feeling a bit depressed these days too. I think I will go out this afternoon and do some "retail therapy". Heh.

Everyone loves you, boychik. You're the king of the blogs. Don't be depressed.

Josie

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Bloggy feeling loggy.

But thanks for the lift, Josie.
Think I'll go duck hunting with Dick Cheney.
Loss of face!

Ivan

Donnetta Lee said...

Well, I was into the deep depression all yesterday--teary eyed and the whole bit. Mostly affected by the rainy weather and stupid health, I think. Today was better. I do believe there is a connection between creativity and depression--maybe not for everybody, but for many. Meantime, I'm singing the mantra:
I think I can, I think I can.
Donnetta

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta.

A lot of shoes dropping around the Quarks.

Josie not only depressed: some fool ran a light and smacked up against Josie's arm. Poor woman shocked by the incident (accident?).
I would have yelled "Whiplash!" straight off...Anything to get out of working.

EA Monroe said...

Anything to get out of working... I just emailed a friend... anything to get out of writing!

Yep, the mood indigoes have been taking a bite out of me for quite a while. Or maybe it's all my imagination? Shoot. It's the pits.

I've been reading Julia Cameron's The Right to Write It's been therapeutic in a way. I believe there is something about depression in it that I just read. I'll have to look it up.

Anyway, I've been asking myself what is the point?

Zeitgeist...

Bless you!

Hah. ~Liz

eric1313 said...

Is the party all here?

How's everything for you, Ivan?

Liz? Thank you for the encouragement over the songs, combine that with Ivan's above comment, and I went and had a healthy hour of guitar practice.

No new tunes yet, but really, I have a good dozen original songs with no lyrics. Just the chords and the changes.

It's funny, but I know of a Norman Mailer quote about writing and depresion...

Let me go find it...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Liz,

Zeitgeist is spirit of the age.

Can't be talking about me; I am a pretty droopy spirit tonight.

But I knows good writin', gal and you know how to do it.

You have reached about a hundred people (far as I can tell from old comments) with your writing and that ain't bad. And with the uncommented hits--thousands.
I think we're all a bit success-shy.
My Light Over Newmarket once made good-sized waves.
First thing I do is spend all my considerable money and start picking up cigarette butts. People stopped reviewing me.
Yes, yes, Name's I Massie and his girlfriend is named Sadie. Hee.

Ivan

eric1313 said...

Can't find it...

But basically it said
"I can't write without falling into at least a mild deperssion"

That's pretty close.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

Got an important meeting with a media guy first thing tomorrow and drunk that I am, I'll probably miss my alarm clock's ringing.
Success-shy, like I was telling Liz.
Norman Mailer's depression is in a long piece inside his Advertisements for Myself.
I forget the exact title. It's something like "The Progress of One Book."
After his world- wide success with The Naked and the Dead (hey, you yourself just wrote a poem about war!)--Mailer was rejected eight times with his "The Deer Park".
Depressed? The guy almost had a nervous breakdown. He was finally taken by a company called Putnam's who said they would print the book for his name alone.
Reviewsws were, "Botch" "Bunch of Bums" "Friggin' awful" and the like.
Mailer took out a newspaper ad and printed all the bad reviews, urging all to buy the book anyway.
Then, in a genius move, the founded The Village Voice.
Talent takes many forms. But then Mailer is Mailer, eighty-four years old or not, the last of the wartime novelists.
Ah hell. Everybody likes Mailer.

Ivan

eric1313 said...

That's fantastic for Mailer.

Glad he made good things out of being pooh-poohed, instead of letting it get him down.

Critics are all wanna be writers who never had the courage to follow their dream anyway, despite being criticized themselves, it seems. Not too may of them made book critic their first choice of careers. So they look for a chance to drag a great one down to their level, so they aren't as lonely.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,
There is no more dangerous person for a writer to meet than a frustrated creative type.
One of my profs was that way, but he held it in check. He printed my short stories and poems (he was an editor too) but very nearly failed my ass in English Drama.
Don't know why he did that. I did not take that particular course.
He said my publishing was extracurricular and I didn't totally satisfy him with my knowldge of English drama.
He went to Baron Byng High with
Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen in Montreal. Said they were all losers. Ha.

Ivan

eric1313 said...

Wow. What an ass!

Richler and Cohen 'losers'?

That's a supremely bitter man!

And dangerous, as you say.

eric1313 said...

Actually, it sounds like he might have been quietly anti-semitic, too.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Possibly.

eric1313 said...

or maybe just bitter.

There really is something to be said about someone whose dreams were dashed.

Maybe he's a case of "those who can't..."

Ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

In Dr. Jack's case, I'd say it was "those who can't", though he write a rather good introduction to a some stories we kids published at Ryerson U.

But that's expository writing, I suppose.
He was certainly a madman for Jane Austen.
I f*cking well hate Jane Austen.
But the "bitch" is the most successful Hollywood screen writer today. And how old is she, 150?

Now the Bronte sisters--that's something else.

eric1313 said...

Don't like Lady Jane, ehh? I admit Pride and Prejudice was a snore.

Never read the Bronte sisters, but I've heard nothing but prais for Wuthering Heights.

Hemmingway could be a snore. I thought "The Sun Also Rises" was two thirds get on with the story, and the final third of the book was pretty good.

Lady Brett Ashley sounded like my kind of lady--fast and rich.

eric1313 said...

Just kidding--but she was the most engaging of the characters, considering the age it was written during.

I really like "For Whom The Bell Tolls", I loved the story in the middle told by Pillar, of how the anti fascist revolution first broke out in Valencia, and they threw all the fascist over the cliff, alive or dead. Morbidly fascinating.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Yeah,
I have to admit that The Sun Also Rises was the most boring fishing story I ever read. No disrespect, but then everybody lays an egg.

Now For Whom the Bell Tolls--that's
somethng else. I was right there with the commies and Lt. Henry. Could almost hear the flamenco.

eric1313 said...

Wasn't Old Man and the Sea the fishing story? It was pretty boring, but could be read in one sitting. The Sun Also Rises was about Americans living in France and Spain.

I heard he was awarded the Nobel prize for it because the Nobel Commitee couldn't award him for a political novel like For Whom The Bell Tolls. And the Pullitzer, that was another big one.

Hem could be terribly boring at times, but some of his work was outstanding. The war stories about Nick Adams, 'Like God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen', or 'A Way You'll Never Be' were excellent, when the main character was recovering from a head wound and hallucinating all over the stories. Excellent stuff.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Oh I so identify with The Old Man and the Sea.
The fish was my novel, Light Over Newmarket and by the time my Ugandan printers put it out, it seemed thoroughly eaten by sharks-- dropped lines, bad proofreading and all.
I had risked everything on that book, personal happiness, family, wealth.
--And came back with a chewed up fish. Each page had a mistake on it. Once the mighty Uganan presser roared, I could not break in for edits.
Ah, we romantics. Following the paths of the great writers in an age not of writers. Working in an obsolete medium...and every year, a fresh candidate. Seems everyboy still wants to be a writer, long after those bullshit times of Paris in Fitzgerald's Jazz Age.
I swear at times half those peopple were assholes and only Fitzgerald stood out as the true
novelist. I think history bears this out.
Fitzgeral not only decked Hemingway on the canvas that day, but I think he also won the prize of best novelist.
Certainly borne out in English 201's Great Gatsby.
Ah well. I have been a rum runner and something of a pimp.
Again, I identify. :)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

I especially ejoyed "The Short Happy Life of Francis McComber", though it seemed anti-feminist to me, somehow.

eric1313 said...

Ha!
I've heard that Fitzgerald's and Hemingway's letter to each other are some entertaining reading.

Yeah, Fitzgerald was awarded well before Hemingway was. Hem was an aging statesman of writing before he won a his awards.

eric1313 said...

Macomber was a good story. It was anti-feminist, but in an exaggerated way, like Hemingway was exposing an attitude of the time.

He himself was pretty misogynistic, though. His mother really messed him up. She used to dress him as a girl an pretend he was a girl all the way up until he was ten. Really. Except one year, when he was seven or eight, his mom cut his and his sisters hair short and pretended they were both boys, calling them both "the little chaps". He always reffered to his mom as "the Bitch" in letters to his sister. He hated his dad almost as much, or maybe even more but in a different way, for standing back and not stopping her from being an irrational person. That's why there's a moratorium by him in his will that his familly letter cannot be published untill one hundred years after his death. Who knows what all is in them... But the occasional letter has been leaked by other parties, so a lot is known abou this.

If you can find biographical material about his childhood, I recomend reading it. I did a 'life and art of Hemingway' paper for my composition 2 final paper. Got a B, but the teacher didn't give anyone an A for there papers, either.

eric1313 said...

maybe I woud ahve got an A if I spell checked... or didn't use the wrong word forms.

I'm dyslexic, so I can't fault myself too much--even though it's still my fault.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

I screw up tests and form all the time.
In my Classic course, I was to write an exam for Greek and Roman history. On that same page was the exam for Philosophy...I was so nervous I wrote for both separate profesors, the History guy and the Philosophy guy. This split my mark and I barely passed, though I like to think I impressed the philosophy guy. I never did take formal philsophy at U. of T. though I had taken it a Ryerson, a lesser institution.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

That's really interesting about Hemingway.
The Italian-American autobiographical writer, Pietro Di Donato was introduced to Hemingway who immediatly told Di Donato that Italy was great, "though the place was full of wops."
Donato was insulted and said, "Your mother's head on your father's body.
"Some athlete, some man you are."
Hemingway answered, "You are an immigrant and possessed of all the crudities ofimmigrants. What do you know, you wop?"

Then Di Donato quoted Hemingway where he had said the noblest thing a man could do would be to cut off his lower head and put a gun to his upper head.
"Yeah, noble as hell," Donato said.

And so it went.
Hardly a pleasant meeting.


Hey, what time is it getting to be?

I gotta get up early in the morning.

eric1313 said...

Go on to bed, Ivan,
have a good meeting and hope it all works out for you.

That's one hell of an exchange. I had heard that Hem was a racist, and that really adds up.

I guess hem took the advice to heart--or head.

eric1313 said...

Oh...
Hemingway said that...
that is pretty damn ironic.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Good night, Eric.

Maybe some of the girls are still up.

G'night all.

Ivan

TomCat said...

Quite interesting, Ivan. The writing do is far easier, because political writing requires less creativity. Some days, I feel like an automaton. But I grew up in an educational environment where, if I didn't do the work, I got an F, so I learned that when I cannot give my best, I give the best I can.

ian@creativewriting.ca said...

Tomcat,

Libertarian lawyers had almost ruined education in Canada and it is only lately that Canadian high school graduates hve been able to write, spell and do math.

eric1313 said...

"There are only two things worth anything in life -- poetry and drinking." Richard Burton


That's words to live by, right there.

How are you this evening, Ivan?

ivan@cre3ativewriting.ca said...

Put up periscope from the blogging and did Yuppie lunch.

Holy cow. There's a whole world out here.

Bit loggy from the beer.

Might have to do a power nap.

Exciting, huh?

eric1313 said...

That's the beauty of blogging. it's twenty four/seven for the most part.

ivan@creativedwriting.ca said...

Whoops,

I'm so buzzed right now I can't tell emails from blog comments, but
I was once told by the head editor of the Globe&Mail, a national newspaper from around here, that "Zippy headline writers are shat upon around here."
I think they "shat upon me" when I procuded word plays on Crakataoa.

Further to Sir Richard Burton, he did do s scene or two with Elizabeth Taylor...Ava Gardner?--in Night of The Iguana.
Pivotal character in the movie was an old poet.
Yep. Poetry and drinking.
But I almost failed a whole bunch of Americans on the GI bill when I was teaching at a satellite campus of U.C.. Motherbangers could do poetry, but they couldn't write prose.
"Don't fail me, Sir, I might have to go back to being a gardener."

Friggin Lady Chatterly's Lover Mangue'...Should have kept game.

Ivan


Ivan

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Whoops.

Doormouse is nodding at the table again.

Catch you in the wee hours, if you're up.

Ladies: You want to keep Eric company?

Ivan

the walking man said...

I refuse to be a depressed writer, I may be depressed but I can look at a blank page and see words on it. Whether they are any good or not, it's not my problem to judge.I just writes 'em; someone else's has to judge them and you know what I got to say about that...if ya' likes it then I loves you and if you hates it I still loves you but fuck off.

God loves a cheerful curse speaker, swearer or miscreant writer who just doesn't give a rats ass about Hemingway or Fitzgerald who was the most anal retentive writer of the 20th century. Fuck 'em they are dead and I am alive so right at this moment who's ahead of the game certainly not someone molding away in the dirt somewhere where some fool leaves a 1/2 bottle of fine brandy on the grave of a man who can't drink it every year.

Nope fuck all that depressed writer bullshit, if you're really depressed do a Brautigan and rob the world of what could have been your best work, fuck it give me a blank page and I'll fill it and then another and than another and another after that because the brain is in the finger tips not the the dick or the head or even in the dickhead but the hands.

Take my one good eye, take my ears,nose or, mouth but leave my motherfucking hands and I will write no matter what my psychosis tells me I feel.

And while I am at it fuck that being famously dead, if you're dead get the fuck out of the way and let the living speak to the living because nothing from yesterday is relevant to my now.

The Franco whatever the fuck war ended when? a hundred years ago who gives a shit, WWI the I that was supposed to end all wars forever...bullshit and that makes the literature of it and about it and around it irrelevant to me for Christs sakes they didn't even have bunker buster bombs or a way to deliver them much less nuclear weapons...so tell me how does the morality of those dead mother fuckers preaching at me mean a goddamn thing...it doesn't, except in a classroom setting emphasis on ASS...if I write today and am irrelevant that makes me a shitty writer but everything written prior to Alex Haley or Mario Puzo is old shit meant to entertain me with historical novels or little think pixies that have no relevance to the world I live in and you know what...the same goes with The Iliad and The Odessy decent stories written by what by now is surely dust.

In other words fuck them, I'd rather read a hundred depressed Ivan and Eric pieces than one page of a dead mans words unless they spoke of universal objective truth and very little of that has been documented, even in science they are at best seeing one percent of reality...so don't tell me tales about dead authors that hated other dead authors or themselves...tell me why you hate me or my words or if you like them...just don't tell me while I live that you are indifferent to them...because then I'd have to find you and fuck you up.


Ivan here is about 750 words you can have these ones to replace the ones the ether stole from you.

Peace

mark

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

TWM,
Yeah. Dead men. History. Luther.
"The Diet of Worms."
Why that mother...er ever ate worms for is beyond me.

More history:

A lion races over to a trembling Christian at the Circus Maximus.

Quoth the lion, "I'm going to f*cking well eat you."
The Christian promply pulls out a pistol and shoots the lion.
Moral of story: It is better to be a Christian with a pistol than a foul-mouted lion.

the walking man said...

ain't that the goddamn truth of it too!

ivan@creativewtiting.ca said...

Mark,

I envy people who are math-smart, rather than word-smart.
I think you are math-smart, really smart.
But the goddamn evangelists get us all.

the walking man said...

Math smart, Ivan i failed algebra twice in HS and withdrew from it 5 times in community college.

fucking (ABC) doesn't represent a number to me it represents ABC.

The secular religious evangelists never got to me, I always eat them before they fire the shot because they are too slow to see the reality of the situation.

Death waits for no one when it comes to call.

Peace

TWM

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ever since my Cabalistic baby left me
I got nothing to eat but alphabet soup.