Life becomes loud and demands participation. And I'm drawn away.
I do things, make decisions, and find myself sitting at the side of the road. I feel like I've fallen off my bike and skinned my knee. I'm no longer an adult. The pain is unbearable and unlike nothing I've experienced. I want help. I don't know where it is. I don't know where I am.
I need to come back here. The focus will help me get back on my bike.
February 14, 1983 Lecture Notes
Creative writers are never bored with the world around them.
There is always something new for a child. People (Adults) are bored because they think there is nothing new.
People tend to be uptight/worried about why others around them think of them.
Artists have to become "as children" again---freshness of view. Look at things around them as if you have never seen them before.
People don't like to admit they are or have experienced something.
They don't learn from the experience and, thus, don't grow.
There is no limit to human growth except that which is self-imposed.
A wise human has the wisdom to see that every day is a brand new one, no matter if apparently a "dull" routine.
Creative people try to live lives that are spontaneous, non-scheduled.
Watching your reactions to things experienced tells you about YOU.
The Death of Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal died. I don't remember who exactly introduced me to his novels, but chances were it was Hahn. Myra Breckinridge and Duluth became catalysts for me.the novels were examples of forces who helped form me and Gore Vidal a colossus in my life.I never read his historic levels, but I plan to begin again reading his works. I think I'll start with an early gain novel, The City and The Pillar or maybe his biography Palimpsest.
I've been reading through articles about his death online and I found this quote from the article located a at the Huffington Post website:
' ...age and illness did not bring Vidal closer to God. Wheelchair-bound in his 80s and saddened by the death of Austen and many peers and close friends, the author still looked to no existence beyond this one."Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge," he once wrote, "all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. "Because there is nothing else. No thing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all."'
Gore Vidal died alone.
men and masturbation
Why wouldn't men want to know everything about women. Women know everything about men. They study your every mood. They know men better than men know themselves.
I realize masturbation was a good healthy thing when I read it in a textbook. The author admitted that one day when he had terrible stress and could not relax he had to go home and masturbate. I highly educated intelligent person said this in a textbook, while my mother was telling me I'd get hairy palms. Fuck that. Look at this [he held up his hands palms forward]: if palms got hairy I'd have hair down to the floor.
Men are assholes. They can't help it. They're raised in a society that caters to them. I'm an asshole, too, but I'm working on it.
The Eros of Teaching
I remember that Hahn used to speak often about the Eros of Teaching. Strangely I don't remember anything specific. I haven't been able to find anything as yet in my father's lecture notes. So I did an online search and found a brilliant article by Kathleen Hull about the Eros of Teaching and how it can be used effectively in the classroom. I attach it because of its importance.
Here, in brief, is what I gleaned from Hull's article:
Teachers and students are notoriously known for becoming sexually involved. But this isn't the Eros of Teaching. The Eros does have a physical element of desire, but it is more about the passion, excitement and joy of finding someone with whom one can share a common desire for knowledge. If someone becomes passionate about politics or literature, it is most likely because the person had a person or group who inspired this passion---the eros.
The most effective way of inspiring Eros in a student is for the teacher to admit their own lack of knowledge (ie. Socrates and his "I know nothing"). The teacher's acknowledgment of his own lack helps the student recognize their own lack. Love is the pursuit of what one lacks. The Eros is the pursuit of this love. The teacher cannot fill the lack, but can go in pursuit of the love together with the student, filling his own lack in the process.
This article was haunting. It explained most of my academic life, revealing to me all the instances of Eros with professors, and those instances in which I have been the object of Eros to others. It makes Hahn's loss all the more difficult. Even though I hadn't seen him in years, I knew he was out there and available. I am in pursuit, but he was potentially available to be present.
Now I feel alone and dislike the idea that I might be the teacher to others. It's a repugnant responsibility.
ouSaying that you "have to" do something is a refusal to take personal responsibility. EVERYONE has responsibility over their actions and lives---even babies are responsible for themselves.
You don't "have to" do anything. If you do something it's because you want to. Own up to it. Take responsibility for your life and don't try to push it on yourself.
People will say that they drive in two hour traffic every day to a job they hate because they HAVE TO support their family. That's bullshit. You do it because you WANT to work that miserable job and sit in that miserable traffic and support the family. You do it because you want to do that rather than anything else. Because you're a chicken shit and you're too afraid to change your fucking life.
But of course, change is painful.
I remember that Hahn once said: Don't write down anything I say. Just listen.
After my father died, a year after John, I found his notebook of his work for John's creative writing classes. He took the class in 1983-1984. I was nine. My father's notebook is about two inches thick and contains every scrap of paper that had anything to do with the class. There's a years worth of dream interpretations; poems and short stories; handouts; and extremely detailed notes of John's lectures. His handwriting is very tiny and, like my own, the letters join together making the words unintelligible. It's going to take me a while to decode what he wrote. But the following I have managed to work out.
Abstract---divorced from physical reality
[a happy face]
All look at same world, but all see it differently
Ignorance is the grease of civilization
most people want an easy life and use the "grease" to alleviate problems---never say what they're thinking
Life is not a popularity game---people who communicate [unknown] aren't very popular with others
Popularity is the name of non-communication---being vague
The truth hurts---lies don't
Telling the truth is a full time job
People talk like newspapers and TV/parrot media jargon and cliches
If you are not reacting to emotions, you are not a human being
Rio Hondo College is caught between a dump and a graveyard. That means something. Things like that aren't accidents.
If your boyfriend or husband is into Playboy, get down on your knees and thank them. There are much worse, horrifying sick things out there---like women being put through meat grinders. Playboy is so tame and safe.
Years ago, I would go home from work at night and sit at my desk with a gun. I would try to think of a reason not to kill myself. Teaching was the only thing keeping me going.
Every intelligent, creative person has contemplated suicide in their lives. If suicide is so wrong, why have some of the most intelligent, greatest minds have killed themselves. We praise Hemingway's writings and say he's a genius, but because he killed himself we dismiss it because we think it's wrong. He didn't think it was wrong. He thought it was the most intelligent thing to do.
This is not me. What you see is a performance. In my office, I'm a different person. We all perform different roles. Be careful about mixing them up. Tom Robbins has written some amazing, beautiful novels about women, with an insight that most men don't have. And women would line up to fuck him because they assume he's just as empathetic and insightful as his novels. Never mix up the art work with the person. Tom Robbins could be a huge asshole. You don't know. He is not his novels.
An Eschatological Laundry List
This is another handout I reconstructed. It was written by Shelly Kopp, author of Guru: Metaphors from a Psychotherapist.
Retyping it made me realize that I should still have it on my wall. There are 43 things on the list. When Hahn discussed the list in class, there were nine things he had us star as particularly important. I'll give those now, and add a pdf of the entire list.
5. Nothing lasts!
17. There are no great men.
18. If you have a hero, look again; you have diminished yourself in some way.
19. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends (yes, you too, and most certainly I myself).
25. Childhood is a nightmare.
27. Each of us is ultimately alone.
36. You can run, but you can't hide.
38. We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.
43. Learn to forgive yourself, again and again and again and again.
The Colossus at Rio Hondo
I took six semesters with John Hahn: four creative writing classes, Masterpieces of World Lit, The Short Story and an creative writing independent study in which I wrote a novella. It was called Cassidy Dante and his advice was, put it away for five years, and then see what you have. I did and didn't much care what I had by that point.
All his classes followed a basic formula. He had us all arrange the chairs in a circle: we had to face one another. (All facing one way, toward the front, helped isolate ourselves and forget we're around human beings---exactly why going to the movies is an absurd idea for a date).
He would sit on a table at the front of the class. He always wore t-shirts and jeans and always had a mug of tea. My father said he would sit in the yoga position, or have everyone sit on the floor. He would start his lectures, sometimes it would be about the material we were to cover, sometimes he'd just start professing.
I knew people who adored him, worshipped him and hated him. He had devoted students and students who complained about him. I believe that Rio brought in a second instructor to teach Creative Writing for people who wanted an alternative to Hahn. I had that instructor for a class---I gave her rebellious shit like a sixteen year old.
I never knew him outside class. I never talked to him in his office about anything other than classwork. It was partly from fear and partly from a desire to make him into a colossus. I suppose if I had been closer, I would've stayed in contact all this time and had known more of the particulars about his death. I could've told him about all the professors I had and how they didn't know how to teach creativity, but were good at teaching formulas. About how many writers I knew were terrified of themselves and fell into cliches because they couldn't look at themselves.
As Hahn would say, All we can write about is ourselves. If we write about serial killers or child molesters, we are writing about the killers and molesters within ourselves. All we know is ourselves, and since none of us really know anything about ourselves, most of what we know is wrong.
Oddly, I prefer not knowing the personal details. I needed, and still need, the Colossus at Rio Hondo.
Statement of Intention
This blog is about all I can remember about John Hahn, who taught creative writing at Rio Hondo. He died in 2006 and this is my way of remembering him. If anyone else remembers him, please comment or contact me.