volume 12 of the golden west: 1997-98 october-january  work & days: a lifetime journal project  










Working on the scientific modeling paper that became Kantian stories and struggling with Tom more in actuality, less in fantasy. Part 3 Rowen visits, Thanksgiving debacle.

Mentioned: Idris Shah The Sufis, Duncan McNaughton, Bill Gates, Robert Rosen Life itself, Andy Clark, Esther Dyson, Michael Snow interview, The African Queen, Endless Summer 1, Gerry and Louise, Egoyan's Salomé, David Adams Richards Small gifts, Counting Crows A long December, Ismael Lo and Marianne Faithfull Without blame, Doris Lessing Love, again, Richard Ford Rock Springs.

Sunday 5th October

Reading in bed this morning the Dec 1986 journal. It's a book. It's a bright not-nice real book with starvation, sex straight and lesbian, dirt, joy, weather, city politics, a baby, community, sickness, enemies, books, art, misery, therapy, beauty, deep phenomenology. It can have note pages with pictures. It can have the breathing moose on the cover. It slanders lots of the living and praises too. It has pointed two-line book reviews. It would stake me a place in the world. It lives great freedom in all its consequences. It would out me thoroughly. Really I have a high heart thinking of it. I want the next twenty years to be full of publishing speaking and showing. I want out, out, out.


In all the world the person considered richest is someone who has been an American boy for thirty years. His games are communications technology and business. He works by expanding boy gang to corporate empire. He is natureless and beautiless. Who's his god. Mercury. Market for him is fierce and handless, no luminous offering of oranges by a brown woman sitting on the ground under a red canopy amid bushes stirring and glittering in bright blue air. No one says this outright: he is a eunuch self-altered the better to win a child's war as a child. He is a child who has given up everything but that war against those who have crossed successfully into adult senses. The present fact is that American culture is on his side in this, as if there is no convincing reason to wish to grow up, or hope that it can be done well.

My effort has been different. What an artist offers is evidence of capacity that can only be mature personal capacity - not capacity projected into machines, not capacity a math boy has at ten.

What are math, chess, programming, that makes them best done by the least experienced people? As if they are native use of the universal impersonal brain, the hardwiring common to brains successful in many circumstances and therefore most accurately tuned to basic natural law.

I answered that question as soon as I asked it, but I don't like the answer. What is it Shakespeare could do that a math boy cannot? What is experience good for? What is long self-creation necessary to? My guess about the math boy skill makes it instinctive, personally low-level, as the evidence seems to be about young grand masters and hackers - though the institutional cultures it is released within are very developed high level cultures.

Again, what is maturity good for? Or is what I'm calling a mature ability - for instance my ability now to read across anyone in the history of philosophy of mind, or my ability to take six real photographs a year and make one of them perfect, or my ability to crunch almost any discipline and write a paper like Representing continuity or Brain and imagining, or what I learned with the book over nearly twenty years, or the rapid rumble when I'm suddenly set up with a garden, or the precision with which I can see the changes of a face in front of me, or the efficiency of my unconscious catch of relevant news (turning on the TV the moment Peter Tiesenhausen's boat was being shown). That last one might be native, though.

What does Gates make money avoiding?

What is it that Duncan defends, what human ethos?

What is the better way to think about this?

I like best what Gates said about the harm to young minds of not being able to get answers. That's why I'm so angry with the Mennonites. They killed intelligence on principle. It has taken me forty years to get it back.


Working on the list of integration, imagining myself at UBC, I feel like a huge old woman with astonishing range, instinct, rigor, and grasp - I feel mature and universal - as if I have no intellectual or other quarrels and can thank anyone for their small work in the large task, which is to build free, skilful brains with which to love the world.

10th November

Wake feeling what my righteousness is. I was furiously righteous with Olivia. I was saying, you're ugly, mediocre and corrupt and I'm not.

But what is this? Recovery, it says. Recovery of ambition? Yes. A wish to press. I was rigorous but disabled. Then I wasn't rigorous and could act. Now I can have rigor and act? No. Can I have rigor and action as a balanced contradiction? Sort of. What does that mean in practice? Early love. Early love is action, rigor curbs it? No. I'm confusing rigor and capability, it says. It isn't about mastery of early love, it is about allowing early love strongly enough so it gets to capability. This is key isn't it. No. What is? Excluded child. Because it's excluded early love? Yes. Incapability has to do with a brain that isn't allowed to balance. If the brain is released, capability follows? Can follow. This is where rigor comes in? Call it focus. A released brain will want to do something. Our parents thought of discipline as curbing but really it's the opposite - it's focused allowing.

13th Thursday

But I am righteous I said to Tom. Oh you're over the top with righteous.

14th November

I want to praise you for a paragraph before I go to work. I love how much you want sex. I love your enjoyment everywhere you are. I love the way you don't carp or criticize. I didn't expect you to be impeccable about a physical job but you are. I like your robust eagerness that I don't have to protect. You declare yourself emotionally and that helps me to. I like your fairness in dispute. I like your complicated face, your many faces, a constant entertainment to see. I love your voice. You whistle on key, though you sing off - did you know that? (Tuesday night I was falling asleep feeling the vibration of your voice with the whole front of my body wrapped against you.) I like the way you want to fall asleep embracing. I like your energy, the way you don't stop all day. Having fun is hard work, you said - and I could see, suddenly, that having fun is your discipline. Let's not waste life, you've always said.


Just looking at my interview again and thinking, you read this and had nothing to say about the life. You read Livable margins and had nothing to say! The way Mike also had nothing to say. There are my photos all around us when you're here and you have nothing to say. I read you my journal and you have nothing to say. How do women bear to be so invisible in their gifts and struggles. You're here with me and you're giving your detailed attention continuously to the creation of men's music, men's movies. What am I thinking of, putting up with that?

21st November

"I wished for a system of thought that would leave my imagination free to create as it chose and yet make all that it created, or could create, part of one history."

Michael Snow says "I do not have a system. I am a system."

'Passage', Artforum 10(1), Sept 1971:64, reprinted in Shedden ed, Absence and presence 1995, 27

What is it about both of these. I am a system but I'm not. A thousand systems I've been. They don't unify. Yeats had an art that was a capability he built widespread. He was a system. Snow sounds as if he is one by grace and not by making.

There is a system in me, I'm thinking - not the systems I become but something like a system that senses those systems as such. Is that it? That was Dorothy Richardson: who she wrote from when she finally wrote. Do I have that?

Monday 24th November

In Pilgrim's Market this afternoon, where I was standing in the shirt aisle while my wash was in the drier up the street, a man rushing toward me was saying Hello Ma'am in a very intended way. I split a second deciding he was stoned or crazy but alright. Looked him in the face, smiled, said hello. He was sweeping past. At the end of the aisle he turned and rushed back. He was saying something like, I should call my lawyer as he got up next to me, and then he said You're a very beautiful woman, trailing a touch on my upper arm. Jeez, thank you, I wasn't feeling like that today.

Louie on the phone yesterday named the chapters of my biography: "She did her own thing, she did her own thing, she did her own thing, she started to change her mind, she started to get into the world, she was in the world, she was in the world, she was in the world and did her own thing, she was in the world and did her own thing. Last chapter: they all died." Then we cracked up.

26th November

What am I going to say. Sci vis within a cognitive philosophy of imagining starts with a three year old flying a piece of wood making engine noises, talking to himself. Perceptually supported imagining which includes imagined perceptual support.

Talking to Louie yesterday about what Patanjali might mean when he says yoga is unity. I said imagine a tree, imagine a piece of 3-d lace, where there are loops made of golden light, loops on all scales, very small, large. They are arcs not floppy like crochet but tight like wire. The whole thing is changing all the time, the position of the arcs is shifting, there is light running in all the loops. If you have been traumatized at some time, some parts of the shape will be dull, they won't be included in the circuits, they'll be grey like lead. Yoga is about doing things that make them come on again. Another thing is that if all the circuits are connected, then when you look at something, more of the circuits will change and the change will be more coherent, which means you are seeing more, and more kinds of things, at the same time.

18 December

This week I have gone through pounds of paper, my note piles reducing. I've come through a lot. I've got a lot of it so thoroughly sorted I don't need to see it again. There I was in the notes coming at something again and again. It is as if a lot is simpler, the questions have been dissolved. I've worked through a lot of the discourse community and defended my simple coherence point by point. I'm beginning to be something I now understand as ready. You can go into the world of the profession when you have built your coherent take on anything, your confidence.


I crashed and then relaxed.

An unconscious conviction that I have to choose between intelligence and belonging, that was an intense fog of conflict and dejection. I said I would choose the intelligence of open heart.

This morning we got there. I want to write a sign that says:

Don't forget.
Your faith wasn't a mistake.
When he's closed he can open.
When I am closed I can open,
but maybe only by crashing,
so what I have to remember is not to hold it at bay.
It's the same for everyone.
It's childhood coming through.

28th December

Why would anyone who can look as real as you do when your eyes soften and your face pinks up want to shut down ever?

But I'll say a harder thought. There is that beautiful being in everyone, that state of love could be found in anyone. I find it with you and say I wasn't wrong, he is what he says he is, it's right to hang on with him. But our daily selves are uncomfortable with each other.

11th January

I wake these mornings still thinking about that paper. I come out with a summary sentence. I haven't held on to them but I take it I'm working. What I'm working on is theory of perception, imagining, representation. Why I'm working on them is political. Perception is being described as if it's necessarily out of touch - rationalist theory of perception. I'm thinking of those moments of distress at the Slade looking at pronouncements about perception. How can they say this? Thinking of my land.


What I was mainly feeling was a question, what is it to define oneself in the family? What am I that's different than that? I define myself in the universe not in the family. For me the family is that sitting in church, with Judy's rivalry, my father's tension and malice, Paul's humiliation, Rudy's crumbling, my mother's hunger - and in church the men and boys' separateness, the girls' rivalry and small-spiritedness, the aunts and uncles gone away into prosperity of whatever kind they can reach. Opa impotently trying to impose the old ways. Oma - I respect her laughter. Opa Epp - I respect his interestedness.

Sandra saying she found ways to stay open. That. That's the unarguable core. When I look at my summary of my family I see the pleasure I take in writing them off. I tried to stay open with them, I didn't succeed.

My rivalry, my tension and malice, my humiliation, my crumbling, my hunger, my separatedness, my small-spiritedness, my gone-awayness into prosperity, my impotent effort to impose the old ways, my laughter, my interestedness - when i was a child I was all of those? Not all

I am isolated from those people because I want them to carry those things     YES
What I could do is relate to myself in them in those ways    

19th January

Here's something. On the phone these days he is playing and he's lightly bright, and I find myself wanting to run. It feels like being afraid it's going to end. I cautiously play back.

He's asking questions, he's responding to things I say, he's listening. I get dumbfounded when it happens.

Something that I can trust about you, that I like a lot, is your appetite for what happens, all the quirks and swerves.

I'm frightened by this access of joy. Is it possible he isn't going to leave, is it possible I'm not going to leave, is it possible he's going to keep opening up, is it possible there's nothing wrong.

On Saturday as I was falling asleep I woke frightened remembering saying to Muggs, "I feel like I'm just going around telling people not to do things." What frightened me was my tone of confidence, the confidence with which I bear myself every day.

Was that a fluke    
Is there someone in me who is frightened all the time     no
Is that confidence a bluff     no it is the confidence native to you



The feel of the moment in the Evergreen Motel, when I say, I love traveling with you. Do you know why? Because when I'm with you I never wish I were somewhere else.

What about it. It was a moment like deep velvet - like three years old - so safe.

Later falling asleep in our wide bed holding hands. I just love you ... (phone rings), ... Mr Love Man.