Answer #4 (Part III) Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Barry



Probably more theme than they should. I mean I tightly controlled my concerns in the diary and tended to write to them exclusively – the past, family, nature, poetry, ideas, god.

All of this is placed in the day to day life, but eventually my diary got to these and other favorite areas.

I have to say I wrote about what concerned me, puzzled me, angered me, pleased me.


Sometimes when I take up an older diary I am absolutely shocked to see how succinctly I wrote about themes that I thought I had only recently explored in my journals. Not only the same themes, but the same incidents and enigmas in my life. Words from discussions, half-remembered incidents, childhood intuitions…


It would be fair to say that I had serious concerns that I brought to my diary. What does it mean to have a family/ to fall in love/ to be a good father and husband/ to be a teacher/ to be an American? To be a Catholic? These get worked out repeatedly throughout the decades. Sometimes I wrote better than I knew as a young man; at other times I hit the mark more forcefully in middle age.


The existence of God or the absence of God, the sound of God and the silence of God all play a part in my journals. Sometimes I curse the day I ever was taught religion; other days I am alive with the sense of god in all things, all creatures, all time and space. Although I happen to be one I am not often impressed with Christians and their claims of superior ethical and philosophical thinking.

I do like to write about some of the ideas I come across in a month of reading. I mention the names of other writers and books when they intrigue me and I try to work out my own response to their themes.


I am an identical twin so there are more than a few pages about growing up in a large Irish Catholic family and having a brother who is a soul mate and also a question. What does it mean to be a person? How does one person really differ from another when they have the same DNA?  Is identity a ruse, a false assumption or is it a separate fate for every living thing?


Some of my pages are taken up with the 42 years of teaching I have done. What does it mean to teach? Does anybody really learn anything from school? What is intelligence? What is creativity? What is genius? What is character?


I tend to write in an anecdotal way and usually don’t employ academic jargon or any kind of specialized language because I detest it. I try to make everything plain as if I am asking my class the questions that I am asking myself.


In truth I can  no longer take measure of the many words I have written. In one sense they are all in the same neighborhood of culture and concern, but I don’t really know what others would see and hear in my words. I am sure they would pick up on things I hardly notice or be surprised how important my questions are to me. I’m not good at giving myself answers. All I can do is carry along my honest explorations from day to day. If there is a clearing in the forest I have rarely found it.


I do try to write with humor to break the self-serious tone I can get caught in. Also humor is a way of acknowledging that life is beyond all of us. It is an Irish gift in my family and we all value it.

I have this idea that I am exploring my own human nature in the time I live. This can be tedious but it also requires a certain amount of honesty and courage. I do this not so much by telling everything I did, but rather trying to understand it. Trying too hard at times. Our society is all about winners, champions, the rich and famous, the biggest man in the room. None of that interests me very much. I like the idea of a being a small almost invisible part of the organic world. The private life is nearly dead but I am doing my best to live one with my wife and to find our place in the beauty of ordinary days in the midst of an empire that wobbles from sensation to sensation, bigger than life, and ultimately meaningless. I don’t mind poking along the roadside of my own era looking down at the weeds as the traffic passes.






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