From notes gathered into my journals: Will I ever “get to the bottom of it?” [bottom of what?]

Should I know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

* * *
TRUTH = the quality of being true or correct according to SOME ground or test for establishing the reality of a statement (proposition, idea, thought, belief, opinion).

“Truth” assumes that what it applies to DOES depict fact or reality.

But some statements are to be tested: proposals (accept or reject); resolutions (yes, or violated); promises (kept or not); suggestions (heeded, or not); commands (obeyed, or not).

***TRUTH IS THE CONFORMITY OF THE INTELLECT WITH THE THING (logical truth, “truth of knowing”).

SHOULDS: Contain VALUE JUDGMENTS, without moral import at all. “You should turn here.”  YET, the action COULD have moral import…and consequences: “You should turn here, or you’ll….”

PRACTICAL LIVING demands certain guidelines or limits within which all humans should behave.

BASIC MORAL PRINCIPLES can indeed be set up to govern most human actions–yet exceptions can be provided for, with careful and strong justification.

So, we live with NORMATIVES (“It’s good/right.”) and PRESCRIPTIVES (“You should not do it.”).

**Yet, even if a proposition is true, there is no guarantee that people will act in accordance with it–yet the proposition still remains true whether they do or not….

Just because they do it doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because they believe it doesn’t make true.

* * *


The principle that states a human being should always OUGHT to strive to tell the truth or be honest, except when it would interfere with or seriously violate the principles of GOODNESS, VALUE OF LIFE, and JUSTICE. [This principle is necessary for meaningful communication and human relationships…]

Vital-Lies-Simple-Truths-CoverARE SOME LIES VITAL? 

VALUE OF LIFE [SANCTITY OF LIFE] = 1st moral principle = life of humans is to be preserved, protected, valued

GOODNESS/RIGHTNESS = moral/ethical = good/right
Promote good over bad
Cause no harm/badness
Prevent badness/harm

JUSTICE/FAIRNESS = not enough to do good and avoid bad, but some effort must be made to distribute the good and bad resulting from actions = moral rightness, equity, fairness:
Exchange = payment/remuneration
Distributive = merit, reward (for work performed)
Social = fair and just for all
Retributive = eye for an eye/punishment

* * *

From On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt (Knopf, 2006):

Truth is so important to us . . . we should especially care about it. Yet common sense tells us that we know what it means to tell the truth, …and what it means to give false accounts: to lie.

Higher levels of civilization must depend even more heavily on a conscientious respect for the importance of honesty and clarity in reporting the FACTS, and on a stubborn concern for accuracy in determining what the facts are.

[No one in his right mind would rely on a builder, or submit to a physician, who does not care about truth. There is a clear difference between getting things right and getting them wrong, and thus a clear difference between the true and the false.]

…societies cannot afford to tolerate anyone or anything that fosters a slovenly indifference to the distinction between true and false. AND indulge the . . . narcissistic pretense that being true to the facts is less important than being “true to oneself.”

We need to avoid being debilitated either by error or by ignorance. We need to know–and, of course, we must understand how to make productive use of–a great many truths.

Our success or failure in whatever we undertake, and therefore in life altogether, depends on whether we are guided by truth or whether we proceed in ignorance or on the basis of falsehood.


…hiding our eyes from reality will not cause any reduction of its dangers and threats.

If we have no respect for the distinction between true and false, we may as well kiss our much-vaunted “rationality” good-bye.

For every fact, there is a true statement that relates it; and every true statement relates a fact.

…caring about truth plays a considerably different role in our lives, and in our culture, than does caring about the accumulation of individual truths.

It is because we appreciate that truth is important to us that we care about accumulating truths.

It is only through our recognition of a world of stubbornly independent reality, fact, and truth that we come both to recognize ourselves as beings distinct from others and to articulate the specific nature of our own identities.

How, then, can we fail to take the importance of factuality and of reality seriously? How can we fail to care about truth? We cannot….

“…many things have been omitted which should have been recorded. . . . It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time, because to write it is not what interests us.”   –Henry David Thoreau

thoreauHenry David Thoreau

Through the writings of Thoreau–Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers–a person interested in journaling can begin to make connections between writing, self, and life. Thoreau is the teacher.

walden pondA journal can help its writer make such connections, make her or him feel alive, discern life; journal writing can bring insight, can shape human identity, and give life meaning.

The journal will become a place to make progress in prose style, a method of/a place for self-understanding and self-revelation.

The journal-keeper will be able to make connections with the past and the present–and have a special vision: to see and to realize the value in making those connections–and writing about them.

week on the concordNOTE: A diary is a fact book: I saw a rainbow. A journal is a fact book with feeling–or with feelings about the facts: I saw a magnificent rainbow and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the colors of a prism. Simple, no?

composition book 1The Speckled Notebook for Journal Entries

Is there such a thing as a “right” way of literary criticism or critical theory?

Do you want/need a sound (old), “common sense” approach, among so many other “theories”?

David Daiches is (was) one of my critical heroes who told me “there is no single right method of handling literary problems. There is no single approach to works of literary art that will yield all the significant truths about them.” (This certainly goes for movies/film, too.)

I learned (and taught) these five: Historical, Formalist, Sociocultural, Psychological, and Mythopoeic (and maybe something like “Eclectic”).

But, since “art is greater than its interpreters…all criticism is tentative, partial, oblique.” (Studying the five MAY help us find our way.)

Criticism should be a MEANS to greater understanding and appreciation–not an end in itself.

“We turn to criticism [if we want] to develop and strengthen the ‘civilized’ approach to the arts: to enjoy with discrimination, to discern value, to recognize and reject the spurious, to respond maturely to the genuine, never to be fooled by the shabby and the second hand.”

“Every effective…critic sees some facet of…art and develops our awareness with respect to it; but the total vision, or something approximating it, comes only to those who learn how to blend the insights yielded by many critical approaches.”

Epilogue to Critical Approaches to Literature (1956; 1981) by David Daiches [1912-2005]


What? Mystical, cosmological, sociological, pedagogical.

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

* * *

J. Campbell.  M. Eliade.  C. Jung.  B. Bettelheim.  R. May.  N. Frye.  P. Wheelwright

Living a myth implies a genuinely religious experience, differing from the ordinary experience of everyday life, re-enacting fabulous, exalting, significant events.

“The bard is sacred to the gods and is their priest.” –John Milton

Ovid.  Whitman.  Milton.  Thoreau.

We live the myth ceremonially or by our performing the ritual [the “doing”; rite is the “how to do”]: in one way or another, we “live” the myth in the sense that we are “seized by the sacred, exalting power of the events recollected or re-enacted.” –Eliade

Employee-Wash-Hands-Sign-NHE-13171_300Simple hand washing?

The Lavabo: Latin for wash (or bathe).  In the ancient church, the priest would clean his hands after receiving gifts of oil, food, and other goods.

“The priest then begins to recite Psalm 26: “I wash my hands in innocence”: Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas.”

“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, . . .he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said.” –Matthew 27:24 (NIV)

“Will all the water in the ocean wash this blood from my hands?” –Mrs. Macbeth

Surgical Hand Scrubs: “There is a standard procedure for surgical hand antisepsis, gowning, and gloving which is based on current evidence, best practice, and validated research.” –Every medical-surgical instruction manual.

“Get up there and wash your hands before dinner!”–Mom

lava soap bars

“The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”

“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he [or she] is talking about.”

“The bullshitter…is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all. …his interest [is] in getting away with what he says…to suit his purpose.”

“…bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.” –Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

no-bullshit from Stop with the BS


I never had a BB gun. But I did have a six-shooter cap gun.

cap gun broken gene autry by junkables comBroken Gene Autry by junkables

The very first time I shot it, or tried to use it, with the caps in a circle of six, I pulled the trigger. The hammer hit the cap. A loud sound I had never experienced before, never felt. A shock to my system. I dropped the gun. It hit the concreted sidewalk in front of my grandma’s house. It broke: six or more pieces, I am sure: spring, barrel, cylinder, and “pearl” handle–all lying there. Of course, what I did next was predictable: I began crying (something often done during my young age). Looking around, I did not see any king’s horses nor all the king’s men–just the ghost of Ralphie.

ralphie shot Ralphie after Christmas

I picked up the pieces myself, and then ran into my grandma’s house, hoping for the working of a piece-by-piece miracle. There was my grandpa, The Jack of All Trades. Showing him…tears…. His verdict: “Irreparable damage.”

I do not remember my next cap gun. That memory is gone, locked away somewhere. But I know I had at least one or two more cap guns.

In my Chicago neighborhood, we did not play cops-and-robbers. We did not play cowboys-and-Indians. We played for serious: We played war. In fact, a friend of my dad’s gave me authentic-looking replicas, full size, of a Tommy gun and–yes!–a .50 caliber machine gun, complete with tripod mount, all painted in a dark grey.

I was king of the mountain. Most Popular Re-Enactor, Most Popular Shooter, on the block. I should have gotten an award for my status.  I am now remembering Tom Cruise playing Ron Kovic’s childhood during a summer in Massapequa, New York. He plays war in the woods, the child war in Born on the Fourth of July.

born on the fourth by wideangle-closeupTom Cruise as Ron Kovic.   Credit: wideangle-closeup

“No more guns,” Mom said.

And I put away the things of a child, and became involved in other activities, No more running, hiding behind bushes, setting up the gun with a buddy, getting killed– and no more skinned knees.

Until…1988, no longer a child, when the boy-toys grew “adult,” big-people toys. The toys were now weapons. I bought a .22 pistol.

ruger stainless 22 by icollectorRuger Government Model .22 Bull Barrel Stainless

I had learned not to drop guns, but had learned to shoot, for real, within an orange grove. I became a pretty good shooter, with a good history, with the .22, and then with a real 1911 Government Model .45, even entering shooting contests. Target practice, then local matches. Guns and Ammo was my new bible. I was hooked.

Until my eyes and vision got bad. Even new glasses did not allow me to see well a 50-yard target.

So that was the end of my “professional-amateur” shooting days.

Yet guns came and went: rifles, revolvers, automatic pistols. I still had fun at the gun range: shooting was a sport that I enjoyed. However, it all became very expensive. Ammunition became costly; range fees increased–or some ranges even closed. I was less and less on the range. Moreover, other challenges had presented themselves to me, not whole-man targets at 25 yards, but rather stained glass craft, and collecting diecast airplanes. There was no longer any time for guns.

The End.

Until recently, when I attended a large gun show. Once inside the large civic center, among hundreds of buyers and sellers of merchandise and shooting supplies, I had those good-old feelings coming back to me. It had been a long time since I had handled guns (handling glass cutters and soldering tools had taken over all my free time). I wanted to feel it all over. My friend Burt and I made our way from table to table, touchy-feely, triggers and barrels and handles. “Ah, this fits my hand perfectly,” I said, gripping a .45 with a price tag of $4,300! So smooth. “Smooth.”

45 auto ed brown kobra carry by gunsinternational $2400

Moving along, we came upon a dealer of air power guns, CO2, and mechanical, BB guns, and plastic-soft BB’s.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Really. I needed one of these. I could shoot in the house (gasp!) and in the yard.  “I choose this one.”

softy-gun .45My Softy .45

This was still my favorite model of all the many I have bought and sold.

And not to forget the plastic BB’s.gun BBs“Soft” BB’s

Imagine: “5,000 for $10,” the dealer said. “Of course,” I responded.

“I’m baaack!” I told my friend.

At his home, I said we had to try it out, in his yard. What fun it was.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Most assuredly possible: I read from the warning label: “DO NOT SHOOT AT HUMANS OR ANIMALS.” But I had to learn how much it might hurt.

My bruise was much better after three weeks…. On my right calf, where I told my son to shoot me. The plastic BB hit, and instant sting. Then instant–really instant–blood mark where the BB broke the skin, with some small bleeding. By night, the bruise was the size of a quarter, with puffiness and swelling.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Once again, I have a child-guy-toy. This time I will not drop it. No tears. Though maybe, after I made myself a guinea pig. From a yard away. “Pop!” Then,


© James F. O’Neil 2015

books_shelves by megan kerr com uk walesBOOKSHELVES by MEGAN KERR, UK, WALES

“Books play a far more intimate role in life than mere utilitarian objects. Their mere presence gives much to a home or a room, and they are capable of a very long-term relationship. I still wince when I think of a particular book lost or lent away years ago, and I feel fully moved into a new home only when the books are secure on their shelves, providing their necessary warmth and companionship.”  –Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life (1996)


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