Averities

June 15, 2009

Dear friends and lovers—

With every body I have encountered, I can distinguish at least one thing I am grateful to them for, at least one thing I have learned. This holds true for exlovers, exfriends, exentities. For each person is a valuable one, and worthy of existence in their own way.

Joyce showed me what a writer could do, what tricks and powers they were capable of. But it was during the summer of schizophrenia when Miller’s berserk language established, in my mind, the effectiveness of constructive hostilities. No saccharine ideology before or since has comforted me more than his simple explanation: “And this reminds me to say again that perhaps one reason why I have stressed so much the immoral, the wicked, the ugly, the cruel in my works is because I wanted others to know how valuable these are, how equally if not more important than the good things.”

I do not have time for non-fiction. I do not have any interest in leafing through volumes of Eastern texts or pre-Socratic philosophies to identify the kernel of acceptance in mankind. That does not mean I do not have an interest in it. On the contrary, I am always striving to collect more perspectives, more ideas on how and why to live wholly in the world. I am only bored by those who claim to have discovered the secret to satisfaction which is hidden inside all of us; or, worse, those who assert to being the “first” in believing or practicing some realized way of life. There has never been any firsts and there never will be any lasts. What is is and always has been. We make things, yes; but we implement nothing new. A film is a song is a novel. Ideas, like energy, can neither be created nor destroyed.

Recently I’ve fallen into an internship at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. I met a handful of dedicated volunteers whose every human need is provided for them–food, shelter, and sociable contacts with shared interests. Hundreds trample through the library each month from all four corners of the world, both Miller-experts and initiates. I introduced myself to Magnus Torén, a hell of a Swede who runs the library, over two years ago, during my big road trip from Los Angeles to Vancouver. I stammered when I met him. Here was a man who, out of sheer love of books, established an international non-profit, a single plot of land dedicated to a banned, ignored, reviled writer. Now, hell, we’re on emailing terms, and handshakes all around. I bluffed my way into the organization and I don’t plan on leaving soon. For fifteen years Magnus has not been churning a profit, and yet the library continues, through generous donations and fantastic public events. The others running the library have similar backgrounds. Not a single worker over thirty years old–and who knows how many hands have helped Magnus through the years, wore down the boards, downed the tea and coffee and wine, and read aloud from a nearly complete archive of Millerabilia. When asked why, each also with the same response: “I instantly fell in love with Big Sur.” There is something comfortable about the woods, where the land drops a mile down to meet the mighty Pacific. There’s one road, one post office, less than one thousand people. There is nothing but time to read and write and paint. To reacquaint oneself with what it means to be human.

My work there is simple: take the complete Miller bibliography, from primary sources to brief references and quotations, and put it in a searchable database. For a human, the feat is soul-crushing; for a computer, it took a week to program and a completion time of less than two minutes. The hard part was already done before me. Some kind entities had already typed, in a somewhat consistent format, all the data. All I had to do was come up with a solution to the patterns. Altruism exists in its purest form down there, an altruism that expects nothing in return. The members of the Henry Miller library truly believe that it is their mission to make access to Miler’s works as wide and free as possible. As the lead archivist, Keely, told me, they’d been waiting for years for someone with my kind of technical expertise to help the library out.

Years? I fell in love with this lot all the more. The enormity of the Miller information they collated was done not with the expectation of my arrival (how arrogant an assumption), but with the belief, the yearning, the hope that there would be someone available to overcome their technical limitations. For months, their work sat dormant. And it might not ever have been put into practice. But that didn’t matter to them. It’s marvelous. They’re all down there, working on the only task that makes sense to their hearts and minds. They’re contributing to a society that they created, that they give endless birth and love to, a society that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else, a society which, should it ever dissolve, would mean the end of human passion forever. For these people to toil on a task that has no clear end, to reach that end, then to ask the eternal damning question, What next? and disregarding it and finding some other joy in life to take from literature, ahhredirect_from:

Their work continues whether or not anyone appreciates it.

We should all be so lucky as to dedicate ourselves to projects we truly believe in. Success or failure–in the end, if you will it to happen, it happens, in spades.