Die of a Sort of Creeping Common Sense

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sculpture, Tree welded from cable, DCCCD Bill J. Priest Institute for Economic Development, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Honor thy error as a hidden intention

After a long day of not getting much done I found myself bereft of ideas. My computer has thousands of text files that I have typed up to remember things, going back twenty years, and I decided to peruse them and see if I could find something useful.

I came across this quote about a Chekhov short story by one of my favorite writers, Tobias Wolff:

There’s a wonderful story of his about a soldier who’s returning from Manchuria, dying on a troop ship, but too ignorant to realize he’s dying. He was a brute, and that comes through, but he also has a very tender side. So he dies, in this state of longing and unredeemed ignorance, and most stories would end there. But Chekhov has the burial at sea, and then he follows the body, the weighted body going down and down and down. And a shark comes up, and nudges it, and swims away. And then he moves the vision back up to the sea and the sky where just at that moment the sun is breaking through the clouds and he talks about the light dancing on the water — and I’m trying to get this right — with a sort of joy for which there is no word in the language of men. So you get this tragic thing, this man dying in complete ignorance, a man with all the goodness in his heart that was never realized, so you have that incredible focus on the individual. And then suddenly he opens it up so we can see where we fit into this and how small it is. It doesn’t diminish your feeling for the character, but it gives you a sense of the finitude of our duration here and our problems. He’s an amazing writer. I love Chekhov. I could go on all day about him.

What an amazing story review. I, too, love Chekhov, but I doubt that the story will be as good as this review.

I don’t know, maybe it’s better. A quick Google search and I found the name of the story is Gusev.

It’s readily available online. Here’s one translation:

Gusev by Anton Chekhov, translated by Constance Garnett

I’m going off to read it now – I suggest you do likewise.

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There Is A Way To Be Sane

“I’m simply saying that there is a way to be sane. I’m saying that you can get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. Just by being a simple witness of your thought processes.

It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.

It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher.

And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.

That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”
― Osho

Sculptures, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Mechanicalize something idiosyncratic

I am fascinated and have been studying the intersection of Self Hypnosis, Meditation, and Mindfulness. They are related, of course, but different. I think there is an especial power when the three come together.

If anyone has any thoughts – think them pure and strong, and maybe I’ll pick up some vibrations.

Or better yet, send me an email or leave a comment.
bill(dot)chance57(at)gmail(dot)com

I Influence It

“The past does not influence me; I influence it.”
― Willem de Kooning

Seated Woman, Willem de Kooning, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas



Oblique Strategy
: Give way to your worst impulse

There is nothing as exhausting as facing your fears – no matter how things turn out. It is so tiring, I’m not sure it’s even worth it.

Faster and Faster Every Day

“I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable–if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”
― David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

Oblique Strategy: Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame

(click to enlarge)

I have always liked this photo that I took at the Invasion Car Show, in Deep Ellum. I’m not sure, but looking through my archives, I don’t think I have used it in a blog entry before. I might be wrong.

Think about how everybody used to – especially when cars had hood ornaments like this – viewed speed. Travel was going from props to jets and life was speeding up. Think of how wonderful it must have felt. Think of riding in a metal tube thousands of feet in the air moving at hundreds of miles per hour, in comfort, in luxury, while a beautiful woman served you food and drinks. It is a miracle.

Of course, we all know how this speed thing has turned out. The speed increases, props, jets, and now the speed of light through a device held in your hand to every corner of the world, instantaneously. We move so fast now, we don’t go anywhere.

It reminds me of a quote from a book I just read. When the railroads were first built, people believed that they would suffocate if they travelled faster than 30mph as they would not be able to breathe due to the surrounding air rushing past them. Engines were throttled so they couldn’t go over thirty.

They were afraid of a speed that we take for granted. I think they may have been right.

Now Considered As Normal

I think we all, at times, wonder how it would be if the world were different, that’s the essence of imagination. I don’t think utopian ideas are bound to fail, but quite likely when they become real or succeed they stop being called utopias. Think about the Internet, or women’s rights for example. Some of the things that have been achieved are now considered as normal.
—-Mai-Thu Perret

Sightings: Mai-Thu Perret
Nasher Sculpture Center
Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place

The AK-47 is a frightening thing, an object of terror. I remember traveling through Central America and seeing traffic cops waving their arms, directing vehicles this way and that, with an AK-47 slung over their shoulders. That is scary.

Here, it isn’t unusual to be waiting in line for fast food, noticing a cop in line beside you, and being a little intimidated by that big handgun hanging off his belt, inches away from you. Compared to a guy directing traffic with a machine gun, though, it’s no big deal.

The AK-47 is not frightening because it is beautiful. It is ugly. It is not frightening because it is accurate – a lot of weapons are more accurate. The AK-47 is frightening because it is ugly and cheap, and reliable. It is a very efficient way to kill people.

Would an AK-47 still be frightening if it was made of translucent purple plastic?

Probably. But it would not be as ugly.

Witness the Collision

“But he said, in substance, to himself that if the earth and moon were about to clash, many persons would doubtless plan to get upon the roofs to witness the collision.”
― Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

Confederate Soldier Statue, Ellis County Courthouse, Waxahatchie, Texas

Face and Tower

“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan

Ellis County Courthouse, Waxahachie, Texas