Saturday, January 24, 2009

Add In Particulars

I am one among those who can be named. I am not aware of being named, but surely I am named in some manner, in certain circumstances.

What do I do about myself, in light of the fact of being named, as any person or object can be named? I am not trying to be difficult. I am simply surprised at being named, and I am unsure what to do next. I think I am supposed to forget this perspective and concentrate instead on what I name. But, being surprised at this perspective, I am not willing to easily surrender it. Surely, there is some meaning to be gleaned from this insight?

Now, I know the rules. I shouldn't be writing unless I have gleaned the meaning, or I certainly shouldn't publish. If you are reading this, then I must have arrived at some further meaning, and perhaps you have skipped ahead to the end of this piece to see where it leads to so that you can get back or ahead to other work. How like you - I might say - or how like me, to anticipate your reaction! Aren't some things better left unsaid?

I can say that the fact of being named is startling but should not come as a surprise. I can say that I have only so much control of the ways in which I am named. I can say I am unconcerned. Surprised, but unconcerned. Perhaps I am excited. Certainly, I could wish for more, but I do not. I can't support in myself a concern for how frequently I am named, or in what context. I trust that I share with all nameable things the properties of duration, materiality, and interpretive congress. That is, we play about, wed, part, wed again, we who are named: the button, the parliament, and I.

To turn about: I will take care to name you tenderly. This is a task I set myself among other tasks. I don't know that it amounts to much, either my intentions or my actions, I mean. But, being driven to such preoccupations, I cannot be surprised at what I feel and say. All my promises are real. There is no limit to change.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Friends Work

My friends work hard. I know this not because they tell me so, but because I see them working hard. I see what they write. I see what they read. I see their faces lined with the trouble of work and worry. My friends work hard.

I know they work hard too because I work hard and we are friends. My friends would not be friends with someone who didn't work hard. Or, I should say it's unlikely. My friends would gladly be friends with someone who didn't work hardly at all, as long as when they did work, it was on something hard. My friends are not escapists or Lotharios. They are poets, writers, actors, painters, and philosophers.

I worry about some of my friends. I do not worry about the work. I work in a law firm, and some of my favorite people are partner-level attorneys who work insane hours. They are not dead, these people I know, not yet, and my writer friends will not die from their kind of work. And, as we know, anything short of death is food for thought. No, what I worry about in re some of my friends is their loneliness.

God, who I believe has gotten just about everything right, has perpetrated a bit of nastiness in that someone who does what my friends do for a living is likely to find it difficult to secure a stable lifestyle or therefore a stable lifelong relationship. This observation comes out of someone who has been a spouse of mixed blessings, you understand, so I make no excuses for myself. I though have the good luck to have the opportunity and determination to prove myself. But for some of my friends, such opportunities are scarce or hard won.

I don't know what to say to my friends sometimes. I know friends who are clearly wonderful, caring, able, loving people, who are alone - now in their late twenties, into their thirties, their forties, and then what? What I say I only say to myself, unless asked, and it is that it only takes one. One person to complete your life. And each life is in part a history of having found that person, who identically has found you, and in that there is a great deal of what God has done right and what makes this world what it is, for we cannot be determined only in determining, but in having been determined, by history, relationships, by context, by reality.

I want my friends to have what is meager and obvious, as well as what is laudable and brilliant. So what can I do except say, I love my friends. I believe in my friends. And I need my friends' support, for I am struggling in my own way too. Who knows what your love will be? Can such a thing be predictable? Of course not. Can such a thing be encompassed by good works? Yes, it can.

So here I am, admiring my friends and really not at all fearful. Not really, except as my imaginative limitations may disallow possibilities that some of my friends may be living in right now. Right now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pleasure Pleasure Pain

I wonder if I am in a real sense exempt from pleasure and pain. I know I do not take it into account. I do what I must do, or I do what I am capable of in response to my life's mandates, and I accept pleasure and pain as some portion of the experience of response.

All my feeling, or what I experience as feeling, seems to be focused on impressions preceding my doings: am I drawn to or repulsed by the mandate? Now, you would think that being drawn to a thing (a day with my son) that I am drawn chiefly by the intense pleasure I derive from being with Jackson, but this is not so. The mandate to be a good father is in fact stronger than any pleasure I might experience in satisfying the mandate. The requirements of serving the mandate far outweigh an personal consideration. And even my feelings toward the mandate, or whatever specific actions are required that day to fulfil the mandate, for the mandate is constant and not a temporal or local occurrence, are only experienced fleetingly, and barely heeded. I know what I must do; what difference does it make how I feel about it?

I find myself doing things which, as a younger man, devoted to pleasure, I avoided. I go to social gatherings. I attend meetings. I pray. I read the New Yorker. I wash my hands before dinner. I listen and ask questions. I do things that I must and should do, willingly or no, and I am the better for it. But I cannot say I derive pleasure from all these activities. If anything, the pain I derive from exercising patience and civility is a sure indication of value. I know I cannot trust self to do what I want and live well, and so I trust myself in pain. At what point then does pain suffice for pleasure?

Writing poetry surely is a pain, a necessary pain. Writing however is the only possible response to the mandate to seek relief from the pressures that arise when, as a writer, you have not written. I sometimes wonder how it matters what I write, though it is clear one must write well, and to a sort of purpose or emotion, or nothing is relieved. Having written, the pressures build again, and the mandate renews itself. There is no pleasure in this, only a lesser pain obtained (writing) in deference to the unbearable pressure to write. One gives up, in time, the notion of accomplishing any one set goal that would give real pleasure or sustained relief. The writer finds him or herself exactly as he or she always has been: a vessel for conduction.

Pleasure or pain. Pain or pleasure. I don't know I see a difference. I seem to recollect writers who, it seemed to me, held out for pleasure, even as they lived in pain. But that may have been mere pleasantness writ across their features. And I can sympathize with the urge to be pleasant, to acknowledge pleasantness. It seems to me also that pleasantness, contentedness, used to be a great goal for adults. Now, we are harried to feel all the pleasures of youth even into old age. Well, I for one say that's impossible, and no thanks, besides. I do not want to feel what I felt when I was twenty, or thirty, or even forty. I want to do well what needs doing, right here and now, regardless of the pleasure and/or pain that swirls about me. And if I am granted some greater happiness, then so be it. But I'm not looking for happiness per se.

Why should I?