Every man carries his 'I.D.' at all times... upon his very face!
The arc of life: desire gives way to deadlines. The word that rides this arc all the way is 'determination', but its meaning shifts as we advance: from 'drive, vigor, spiritedness', to 'the order of things can be no other way'.
Nothing makes me angrier than when I hear someone ask, after a respectable dinner, 'Can I get you some dessert?' Do I look like I am five years old, that I should want a cup of pudding? A cream tart with berries? I am a grown man! No, no, I say, bring me some more salt!
Once I found myself at high table at Trinity College in Cambridge. I was sitting next to an ancient robed man, who wished to tell me what meals were like there before the war. 'It used to be they brought you two savories before your sweet', he offered. 'Now it's your savory, then your sweet, just like that'. This man had likely won all sorts of prizes; at the time I had still barely escaped juvenile delinquency. I didn't know what the word 'savory' meant, but I found the word 'sweet' obscenely undignified, and wondered why I had pushed so hard to gain a place at that table.
Benevolent community members can carve out 'safe spaces' here and there, but this will not prevent you from rupturing on the inside.
When I was 19 I still had not mastered the difference between 'its' and 'it's'. Around that time I realized that to gain such mastery, to perfect grammar and syntax and spelling, was my surest hope for gaining social capital, and eventually, perhaps, other forms of capital too. And now I am surrounded by literati who seem to write well enough in their published work, but from whom I receive e-mails in which they replace 'you' with 'u', in which they write 'definately', use 'good' as an adverb, and even leave the accent marks clean off of borrowed French terms. Some even boast that they let their editors take care of that stuff, that it is beneath the dignity of the true writer to worry about such things. And here I had supposed that to be a true writer meant to never let your standards drop, not for a second, not for any task, no matter how trivial.
I love America. I am sitting in a West-facing Mannahatta perch looking out at the helicopters over the Hudson, at honest New Jersey across the water, and at the Battleship Intrepid that makes me forget, momentarily, my hatred of war. I think of Canada, from where I have just arrived, and where I betrayed my country a few years ago by swearing loyalty to the queen and her successors. I think of all the tired recitations I hear of Canada's advantages over the US, especially, and worst of all, from self-identified progressive Americans. Sure, health care, gun control, etc. But there's no poetry in it!
Well, the Yukon is poetic. Baffin is poetic. But Canadians turn their backs on their great poetic North, and hug their southern border, as if for warmth, as if it were some fat sleeping spouse.
People involved in the production of high-prestige literary reviews, agents, publishers: they read jehsmith.com. I know they do because they write to me, full of praise, and tell me they want in on the action. So I send them ideas I have --'pitches', they're called-- and almost without exception I am told, 'This is not quite what we're looking for', or 'We need to find a more contemporary hook', or 'This wouldn't really appeal to a wide audience'. Then they say, 'Let's try to hammer something else out'. And I say: What the hell did you think I was going to deliver? Why not just leave me be, here, where I can write what I wish to write? How can it be that there is a whole class of people whose job it is to say, 'Instead of writing this thing that you wanted to write --which, don't get us wrong, we love-- why don't you write this other thing you didn't want to write?'?
Heidegger pretends to be getting closer to the true meaning of 'being' by using the archaic seyn instead of sein. We might just as well substitute, for the English verb 'to be', the Elizabethan 'bee'. Some paternalistic public-service ad campaign featuring an anthropomorphized hymenopteron telling kids to 'Bee smart, take your vitamins': does this get us closer to the primordial meaning of being?
Academic philosophers are now in the habit of mocking the unwashed masses for asking us, when seated next to us on airplanes and informed of our line of work, what our 'sayings' are. Well I think sayings are a fine thing to have, and am currently working on some of my own.