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Chicago Street at Night

I came across this quote “Anxiety is the fundamental mood of existence” — attributed to Martin Heidegger — in Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson. Markson also wrote that Van Gogh could make everything — even a pair of boots — seem to have anxiety. I don’t remember who he attributed that to.

Wittgenstein’s Mistress is a marvelous book — the height of the experimental novel, according to David Foster Wallace who committed suicide — probably due to his anxiety. But I don’t want to write about the book right now. I want to think out loud about the idea of Heidegger’s about the fundamental mood of life. Is it anxiety for most people? Is anxiety the fundamental mood of your life?

I discussed this with my wife. At first Aurora was skeptical. She is a very positive and cheerful person so ideas like this don’t usually sound right to her. Then, later after thinking for awhile she said something like — “you know it makes sense. We are in a mode (not mood) of survival — always deciding to flee or fight when pressured. And we are often pressured.”

Many of us feel like we are fighting a war. Business is war. The economy is survival of the fittest. In America when its time to file your income taxes it is always anxious time for most of us. We speak of the dog eat dog world. Even our holidays create anxiety. Getting away for a vacation is a source of anxiety for most of us too.

So is the purpose of philosophy and religion to help us over come this anxiety? There is another cause of anxiety — a kind of background noise for our existence as super-sentient beings — the knowledge of our impending, inevitable death. As I read about Buddhism I am learning that one purpose of meditation is to figure out how to deal with knowing that we will certainly die but at a time that is unknown and not of our choosing. Some Buddhists meditate on that daily and afterwards decide how to spend the day — which could be the last one for any living person.

Mortality is one of the truths about life Buddha woke up to. Its a pretty fundamental truth but many mortals do not face it until late in life if ever. By face it I mean think through what it means and how this knowledge should inform our daily life. Buddhist thinking has it that we can only be sure of the present moment. The past is gone, tomorrow may not come and is unknown if it does. Some western religions ask us to focus our attention on ‘the next life.’ Live in a way that will ensure entrance to heaven. Of course Buddhists — some Buddhists — believe in Karma and reincarnation. Karma = actions and the associated reaction of the laws associated with Karma. So this amounts to the same thing, I think.

Meditation is good practice whether dealing with mortality or trying to calm jittery nerves. So is being in nature if one really is there to enjoy it. Real work can also relieve anxiety but there isn’t as much of that around as there used to be. By real work I man doing something for the joy of the work itself and what it will accomplish. Some of us still have that kind of work, others seek it and make it out of an avocation. But there is no doubt that real work is a big help. And maybe the most favorable way to calm down to to help others. I think after meditation there are Buddhists who decide to do just that as well as Catholics, Unitarians and atheists as well.

I recently read a book entitled “Buddhism Without Beliefs” by Stephen Batchelor Its a condensed introduction to Buddhist practice and thinking without the mysticism. A little like Thomas Jefferson’s bible — Jefferson cut out all the mysticism and miracles from the New Testament and made a book that was mostly the sayings and wisdom of Jesus. I highly recommend it. It might help you deal with your anxiety — it helped me with mine.


I just discovered DFW’s commencement talk at Kenyon College, 2005 on a blog called ‘Go ahead and sue me’ so I think it may have been ‘lifted’ so to speak. Thanks to Brian Sawyer for posting a link to a DFW story in the New Yorker — I followed the DFW tag and came across the address. Its worth a read. Its about being aware/awake. Taking in what surrounds us and choosing what to think about, instead of accepting our default settings, and deciding what to worship. He agrees with Dylan, you Got to Serve Someone, or in Wallace’s case worship someone/thing — this is part of human nature, he opines.

David’s Talk

Mark Hobson’s blog has been intriguing . He has been a very active blogger — unlike me lately — and I’ve joined in on Mark’s blog with a photo and several comments. I was very pleased that Mark published my photo in his blog, and pleased with the comments it generated. Its a favorite one but not everyone likes it — unusual, huh.? Glad to have it accepted by Mark and others. (Go to his blog if you want to see it.)

Mark lives in the Adirondacks and is a guide there as well as a photographer and other things. I bet this time of year the guide activities are lite so he has lots of time to blog? It a good thing because I’ve enjoyed reading his stuff and being involved. There is something about his thinking and images that I feel simpatico with. Maybe its the raw simplicity and directness of both. I feel encouraged to post the photo above because of this — its of a fence along Hildreth street in Westford that I’ve admired for a while now.

Post Card

I’ve got an exhibit in the gallery in town — at the Parish Center for the Arts. I have the good fortune to share it with two artists I admire — Gail Flannery and Alice Phalen. Their work is wonderful and rich and our work looks good together. We mixed our pieces together rather than keeping them separate and the effect has been to highlight everything — something that is difficult to do, I admit! Mine are B&W photos taken back when I was a Leica shooter. I miss those days but you gotta move on — no regrets. Tomorrow we have Sunday gallery hours then next Sunday the 11th we will have a brunchie reception between 12 and 2. Stop by if you can.

The card doesn’t do the paintings justice — I screwed up the color — Alice’s doesn’t have all that purple — its much more blue. Maybe I’ve finally learned that purple is a rarity in nature so be careful when it shows up.

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