Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Navel Gazing

with 2 comments

One of the things about writing a blog is this:  it shows you, in no time at all, how little you have to say.

When I started this, I had two purproses.

The first was to write about the things I think about and get too little time to talk about these days.  I like philosophy.  I like it as an exercise of the mind.  I like it because it seems to me to be intrinsically interesting.  If I believed in the possibility of inheriting mental habits more particular than general temperament, I’d almost say  this was just my Greek heritage, coming out.

On the other hand, I know a lot of Greek Americans, and some actual Greeks, and the tendency hasn’t been inherited by most of them, so there’ s that.

At any rate, many of the things I’ve written about here are the things I think about when I’m on my own and can do anything I want.  Some people collect stamps.  Some people play World of Warcraft until their eyeballs fall out of their heads.  I sit around and worry about how the concept of the autonomous individual provides an incentive for totalitarianism.

But I don’t do it in any practical way.  I’m not much interested in What Is To Be Done.  It’s the intellectual exercise I like, not the practical implementation.  My father always thought I would go into politics.  I could have told him from off that he was wrong.

The other reason I started this blog was just to have a place to be myself.

In a way, that’s a silly goal to have.  Part of my problem over the years is that I find it absolutely impossible not to be myself most of the time.  Either I’m not self-aware, or I’m too little aware of other people, but the result always seems to be large scale hissy fits in the general vicinity and declarations that I’m–well, a whole bunch of things that don’t make much sense when you try to put them together, and I long ago stop trying to put them together.

I like what I like.  I like Bach and Telemann and Scarlatti in the mornings–but I don’t find them more difficult to listen to, or requiring more concentration and seriousness, than I find the music on my phone, which tends towards Alan Jackson and the Beach Boys. 

I like to read good prose fiction, and the writing will always be more important to me than the content.  I find a book with a “good story” where the writing is flat or worse to be impossible to get through.  I can read an entire novel where nothing much happens just because the writing is perfect and the music it makes is beautiful in my head.

I see a lot of movies, most of which I’m not interested in.  I’ve got children–mostly grown children, but still–and that means I get hauled off to the latest superhero movie or the latest adaptation from a comic book whether I want to be or not.  Some of them I like, some of them I don’t.  I really, really, really liked a movie called Moon.  I absolutely hated Watchmen.

Movies I do like do not seem to have much in common.  I definitely do not do the thing with movies that I do with novels.  For me, movies are all about content, and if the content isn’t there I get bored.  But what content?  Damned if I know.  If I had to pick a list of favorite movies, I would start with Apollo 13 and then include Remains of the Day, Rebecca, Mathilda, Matinee, Casablanca, and The Nun’s Story. 

I don’t have any idea what that means. 

I don’t like most sports.  No, that’s not true.  I don’t like any sports.  I never liked playing them.  I really never liked watching them.  The best thing I’ve heard about a college lately is that Cornell does not give out athletic scholarships.  The whole culture of sports thing, the towns in the South where local television stations broadcast high school football games, the fan mania and all the rest of it, just leaves me cold.

But I taught in the Big Ten, and the coaches figured out from nearly off that I did not treat athletes as idiots or automatically assume their papers couldn’t be worth more than a C because they played for the university.  That meant that by my second semester of teaching, I had athletes in droves, writing how-to papers about ice hockey and observational papers about Ohio State’s defensive game.  I even got them to write all that clearly enough so that I sort of understood it, at least at the time. 

Erudition, education, cultural range all matter to me enormously–at the same time that many of the people who have those things drive me right up the wall.  I’m repulsed by Sarah Palin and the tea partiers, but I’m equally repulsed by a certain kind of educated upper middle class twit who runs around using words like “simpatico” as if he were in a Fellini movie.  Except that he would never be in a Fellini movie, because Fellini movies were always far too…muddy.  Full of mud.  Dirty in the sense of not washed.  Think Nancy Pelosi.

I was brought up among rich people, but by and large I don’t trust them.  Maybe that shouldn’t be “but,” but “therefore.”  I don’t know.  In my experience, what most characterizes the upper regions of the upper middle class and the lower regians of the actually rich, at least in New England and New York, is an obsessive self-protectiveness, so that there is nothing that matters so much as maintaining their particular status quo.  Matters of principle, or of right and wrong, or of sheer human decency get thrown overboard in double time if something comes along that threatens their positions.

Maybe it’s like that everywhere, with everyone.  I do think it’s like that in all established institutions–that institutions protect themselves no matter what–but then, these are the people who run institutions.

It drives me absolutely crazy that there is no way I can get the kind of high school curriculum I want for my sons except by putting up with these people.  If I find a school that does what I want it to do academically, that puts its stress on the classical Western tradition, that emphasizes the life of the mind–well, there they are, in all their glory, showing up at parent-student meetings fresh from their morning runs and demanding Fair Trade coffee. 

The Republicans had it wrong in that idiot ad about Volvo-driving, brie eating snobs. And that’s interesting, because a fair number of people on the high end of the Republican Party are the same twits as the ones I’ve been describing above, so they knew better.

I tend to like actual guys, at least for anything serious.  Metrosexuals do not attract me, and neither does the kind of man who cares what the wine tastes like.  Or even likes wine.  Because I don’t like wine.  I don’t even like fruit juice.  I can drink lemonade every once in a while, and back when I drank alcohol to excess on occasion, I liked grape juice for hangovers, but other than that–eh.  Why?

I figure that the one sure sign that I’m getting old is that I sometimes just get tired–not physically tired, but tired of reading, tired of writing, tired of having political arguments about anything.

When I was younger, I lived for political arguments.  I could do it all day and all night, the more heated and acrimonious the better.  Now I sometimes sit around and wonder why all these people don’t just shut up.

Including me.

If I had a chance to do anything at all with the rest of my life–if money and commitments were not an issue–I think I would spend the rest of it traveling again, just moving from one place to the other and staying for three or four months at a time.  I would like to get to Australia, finally.  Mongolia sounds interesting, or did in a brochure for a trip there sponsored by my college alumnae association.  A nice long time in Italy would be good, too–oddly enough, considering all the places I’ve been, I’ve never been in Italy except in the Rome airport.

And that one’s a very long story.


Okay.  Melacholy, silly, self-absorbed post today.

I think I’ll go listen to music.

Written by janeh

March 23rd, 2010 at 7:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Navel Gazing'

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  1. S’okay. If we’re all here helping you be yourself, we have to take the melancholy with the manic, don’t we?

    When I get that “the minutiae of life are wearing me down, if I have to (insert hated repetitive task here) ever I will scream” feeling, I try to do something completely different. Eat a new food. Drive someplace I’ve never been. Or fast for a day, and leave the hated task undone.

    Sometimes you’ve just got to give yourself a break.


    23 Mar 10 at 12:03 pm

  2. I’m not sure you’re allowed to get older, but in any event, that particular tiredness isn’t an indicator of it. When I was 17 a number of things were exciting that aren’t 40 years later, not because the overall subject isn’t important or interesting, but because I’ve seen the dance too often and know the steps by heart. I buy a certain monthly magazine whenever it has an article which does not rehash something it covered 10 or 20 years ago. Sometimes now I go a year between purchases.
    It’s only a sign of getting older if something new comes up and you’re still uninterested.
    And if money and commitments weren’t issues, I’d do about three vacations a year, none longer than a weekend. No place I haven’t seen can possibly be worth the inescapable hassles of travel.


    28 Mar 10 at 3:08 pm

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