On discovering the same things


This is a Thomas Merton quote from The Intimate Merton, a collection of Merton’s journal entries. ‘Tis certainly true for me that a good deal of my learning and grown is merely deepening my insight into the same experiences and teachings that I’ve known for years. Yet so often I am still delighted to “learn” them, as though it were truly new and novel — and perhaps in a sense, it is!

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

8 thoughts on “On discovering the same things”

  1. Erdman how”s things? How’s the writing coming? Daughter Kenzie presently in Iceland, even farther north than you, though maybe you already know that from Facebook. I suppose this sort of comment is Facebookesque, but since I’ve no presence there you’ll have to put up with me here.


  2. Ha, ha. Right on. Keep away from Facebook. It’s a very strange virtual world. I’ve actually been thinking, though, that I should do some reposting of Facebook weirdness on the blog, for deeper analysis and discussion. Unfortunately, the discussion level on my blog is about nill. Plus, I’m looking into starting a new blog, anyway. But, yeah, I’d like to scrutinize social media a bit more carefully. I think that would be interesting.

    In any event, thanks for dropping a line. I’ve not done much heavy duty writing this summer, but there’s been enough to keep me in practice. Plus, I take a lot of notes for the novel that I’m working on. I’m looking forward to some intense writing time this winter.

    Iceland, eh? No, I hadn’t seen that. Sounds like an interesting place. I think Iceland resisted austerity, if I recall, and kind of told the bankers and the finance community to shove it. As a result, I think they had a much quicker, stronger recovery. But maybe I’m wrong about that. In any event, what takes Kenzie there? Extended visit? Job? Curiosity? Too warm in North America?


  3. I don’t really have a principled reason for avoiding Facebook; mostly I’m too misanthropic to friend people or for them to friend me. As a consequence I have to look over Anne’s shoulder at Kenzie’s travel photos that she posts on Facebook. She and her old roommate from college (graduated from Grinnell in May) are on a Euro voyage, with Iceland the first stop. Tomorrow they head for Finland, then Sweden and Norway and Scotland, after that they’re playing it by ear. Yes, I recall too that Iceland defaulted on IMF and World Bank loans rather than agreeing to austerity and privatization of public resources, and that after a couple of years the country was in pretty sound shape. Some South American countries did this as well; Greece probably should have followed suit. Kenzie says that it’s an expensive place, but that might be due to the geographic remoteness making imports expensive, while the short growing season means not much local produce.

    A new blog? And a novel? Are you prepared to reveal anything further on these intriguing developments?


  4. The blog is in the works, a cooperative effort, actually. Not sure exactly whether that will take shape yet. Still very much in process.

    In terms of my serious writing, I’m kind of still bouncing around and experimenting with different genres to see what feels like my best/favorite approach. So, I thought I’d give fiction a chance. I’m excited about the project. It is set in southeast Alaska and I’ve got four main characters that intrigue me and that I’d like to explore. It’s primarily focused on seasonal workers coming to spend a summer working, but I’d also like to explore deeper what Alaska is, at least in terms of my own limited knowledge of this state that intrigues me so much.

    What about you? Where are you at with writing?


  5. You remember Sam Carr. He died last week of a heart attack, per Anne’s Facebook intel. I last corresponded with Sam about a year ago. His wife had serious health concerns, but as best I know this came out of the blue.


  6. Wow. I just went to Sam’s Facebook and saw the very sad news. It’s very very sad, indeed. He was a rare voice on our blogs who was thoughtful, and I never remember him letting ego crowd in all that much. Very sad to hear.


  7. Anyhow… “When you reread your journal you find out that your newest discovery is something you found out five years ago…”

    I call this swirling around the toilet bowl,

    “Still, it’s true that one penetrates deeper and deeper…”

    Maybe it was true for Merton. My own experience is more aptly captured by Nietzsche’s eternal return. But I keep going around — what I’ve characterized as circling the toilet bowl — in hopes of breaking out of the circle.

    Is it winter yet, Erdman? Have you returned to the lower 48? I just posted a comment on Jason Hesiak’s blog, informing him of Sam’s material demise. Hopefully I”ll pass comment moderation.


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