A Day in the Life


The days fly by, and the weeks. These days I have an awful sense that I am floundering with precious little to show for those days and weeks. Maybe this is just a case of summer doldrums. Maybe I need to narrow my focus instead of flitting from project to project. Not being able to run has me edgy. Too many days pass with the feeling that I have done nothing but dither. Some days, though, when evening comes and I go to my journal, put pen to paper, it appears that I kept at my little projects better than I would have thought. Nothing exceptional, mind you, but better than I would have thought.

Friday was one of those days. I rose as usual between 5:30 and 6:00. Shower. Morning meditation in the spirit of the Soto Zen tradition of just sitting. I do not time myself while on the zafu, the meditation cushion, but simply note the time when I begin and end. It generally comes out to be fifteen to twenty minutes. While sitting I focus on breaths, in and out, sitting fixedly, thinking of not thinking, as the Japanese teacher Dögen taught in the thirteenth century. When a thought comes, be aware of it and it goes away until the next thought comes, as it will because we are thinking things. The practice is being aware of the thought when it comes.

I have followed this practice for almost thirty years, sometimes more diligently, too often less. Sometimes people speak of enlightenment. I do not know what enlightenment might be. The only thing I know is that I am pretty sure I have not found it. Yet something is gotten from the practice, a certain discipline, a way of being who one is. Much remains mystery. I am left with just sitting.

Following meditation I adjourned to my desk to run through the morning news by way of Doonesbury, Politico, Talking Points Memo, Vox, Axios, Daily Beast, and The Guardian, as I once did before heading in to the office each morning. After that I checked Facebook, the box scores from the Phillies' doubleheader with the Mets the previous day, and the latest stats for Phillies' minor league prospects. As some of you may be aware, I have lived and died, mostly died, with the Phillies since the summer of my ninth birthday when they set a record by losing twenty-three games in a row, a record that still stands. Ah, but that is a story for another day.

Then came breakfast, a bowl of bran flakes, juice, and water, followed by morning coffe and a go at Socialism: Past & Future by Michael Harrington while I iced my ankle. Scintillating stuff.

From there the morning was devoted to the first draft for the Saturday week's end blog post and research and writing about the strange and curious case of Jordan Peterson, social-media phenomenon with legions of fans and in conservative circles a ballyhooed intellectual with whom I am weirdly intrigued and even a little obsessed but not impressed. My nose was not put to the grindstone as someone more disciplined might have done. I took periodic breaks, a few minutes here and there, to check news updates and, yes, more Facebook and that silly FreeCell game that can be played with half my brain tied behind my back. Somewhere along the way I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and later moved it to the dryer when the time came.

At noon I lunched on the customary peanut butter sandwich while reading a few more pages of Harrington. After that I sprawled out on the futon sofa with an Inspector Irene Huss crime novel by Swedish writer Helene Tursten, who is pretty good, if you want a recommendation. Then a nap.

In the afternoon I took the number 15 bus downtown to hit Park Avenue Café for an espresso and another session with the Peterson essay. The walk from the bus stop at SW 5th and Washington took me through Pioneer Courthouse Square and the South Park Blocks, the usual sights, pedestrians strolling, people seated on the steps in the square or lined up at food carts, a street musician, the homeless and the lost, fellow peddling Street Roots at the corner of SW Broadway and Yamhill, kids frolicking in the Director Park fountain, skateboarders and maybe a whiff of pot as I entered the park blocks at Salmon. Nothing transcendent but the walk was pleasant.

Home again around 4 pm, the news junkie checked the news again, and a little later the MLB scoreboard to see how the Phillies were faring in the evening game underway on the east coast. Ace Aaron Nola was on the mound for my boys. It was going well with an early 3–0 lead.

More hammering away at the Peterson project took me to 5:30, when I broke to take care of the minimal weekly bathroom cleaning, shower and toilet, after which it was time for the PBS Newshour segments of interest. On this day that consisted of Judy Woodruff's news wrap and her regular Friday feature with Mark Shields and David Brooks.

By now it was happy hour. Time for a beer, Tursten's Inspector Huss novel, and more ice for the ankle before dinner, leftover black bean burritos, a mixed greens salad, and red wine. I have a little game of sorts I play with myself to keep the wine consumption from getting out of hand. If my doctor had his way, I would not consume alcohol at all. Other than that he is a good guy, and he doesn't push it. We bear with one another. Perhaps my lifespan will be shorter because of the indulgence than it might otherwise have been. So be it. The routine goes like this. Monday through Thursday I enjoy a glass and a half of wine each evening, beginning with dinner and finishing up with the crime novel du jour afterward, a glass and a half because what's the point of just one glass? On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I add a happy hour beer before dinner. It is kind of amusing how much I find myself looking forward to the beer when Friday comes around. One of life's little pleasures.

The evening closed out with cleaning up in the kitchen, then lounging on the deck with the crime novel, sometimes reading, sometimes just looking at the sky. It was a lovely mid-August evening. While looking at the sky the thought came to me that I might write a little "day in the life" piece. Instead of diddling around until bed at an absurdly early hour, I went to my desk and hammered out a first draft before bed at an hour that was still early but maybe not absurdly so. And of course, going to bed always entails reading at least a few pages before I turn out the light, a habit that dates to childhood when my reading taste ran to science fiction, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, those guys, and a few women writing in the genre in those days, Andre Norton (pseudonym of Alice Mary Norton), Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin. There you have it. A day in the life of one who dwells perhaps too much on what he got wrong along the way in a life that maybe once held promise, the litany of the poor choices and foolish moves sometimes weighing heavily, yet still in thrall to the intellectual adventure and trying to keep faith with that dream of being a poet he had when he was nineteen.

#Miscellany

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David Matthews

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