Thursday, June 17, 2004

Journal Notes on Ed Abbey from May 1997

I purchased Edward Abbey’s posthumous collection of journal extracts entitled Confessions of a Barbarian (ed. Petersen, Little, Brown & Co., 1994) in April of 1997. Here are some journal jottings inspired by it.

From the notebooks of Paul Brunton to the journals of Ed Abbey – from one world to another. Each of us inhabits his own world. The common world in which we meet is but the lowest common denominator of our private spheres of meaning.

Abbey bears the marks of an undisciplined man, undisciplined in mind and in body. A slovenly reasoner, a self-indulger.

Paul Brunton, Ed Abbey, Whittaker Chambers, Gustav Bergmann . . . mysticism, nature, politics, ontology . . . . The wild diversity of human interest and commitment.

Ed Abbey: a romantic, the makings of a quester, but swamped by his sensuality. Held down by the weight of the flesh. The religious urge peeps out here and there in his journals, but his crudity is ever-ready to stifle any upward aspirations.

Abbey: the sex monkey rode him hard night and day. But did he want to throw him off? Hell no! Augustine wanted to be chaste, but not right away. Abbey did not want to be chaste. Can an incontinent man gain any true and balanced insight into the world and life? Lust, like pride, dims the eyes of the mind, and eventually blinds them.

Which is more manly, to battle one’s sensuality like Augustine, or to wallow in it like Abbey? Is it cock and balls that make the man? Clothes? Social status? Money? Political power? Or is it that weak little Funklein, the fragile germ of enlightenment?

The crudity of Abbey, the elevation of Thoreau.

Abbey: a tremendous sensitivity to the beauties of nature and music, but larded over with an abysmal crudity. Half-educated, self-indulgent, willful. But he knows it, and a tiny part of him wants to do something about it, but he can’t. His base soul is too strong for his noble soul. Goethe’s Faust complained, “Zwei Seelen, ach, wohnen in meiner Brust, und der einer will sich von den anderen trennen!” Abbey could have made the same complaint about two incompatible souls in one breast.

Abbey: proud of his sensuality, his big dick, his five children whom he thinks are just darlings while meanwhile holding that others should not be allowed to procreate. A misanthrope – but not when it comes to himself, his family, and his friends.

The battle between the noble and the base. In Ed Abbey, the base usually wins.

Ed Abbey made a false god of nature.