Monday, August 17, 2009

Jonathan Swift

I would like to give you a name. You wouldn't have to use it. You wouldn't have to thank me for it. I cannot give you the name just now, but I want to be able to give it to you when I am ready to, when the time is right. I ask you to trust me to know when the time is right, and to allow me to give you a name.

I ask a lot, don't I? I ask your forgiveness. If you will allow me to give you a name, I will allow you to give me whatever you like. I set no conditions. I already trust you, this much is certain. The only rule is, whatever we give we must not ask to be returned. We cannot be opening ourselves to each other and withholding ourselves from each other at the same time. I appreciate rest, yes, of course I do, but I promise never to withdraw.

Most of our time has been spent out-of-doors with no restrictions as to season. If anything, Summer holds us to ourselves somewhat. I hope I am not over-controlling. I hope you feel like you have had a hand in our games.

I will share a secret. At a given dozen or so moments every day of my life now, I wonder if it will be my last moment. That is, I anticipate my death with the frequency of a man hoping for an idea, and with some of the same emotions. I am wishful for insight and relieved that my world has not been tossed. Don't tell a soul. We are alone so infrequently, you and I.

What have you been reading? Good things, no doubt. And seeing good paintings too, I hope. Where does it stop, and why should it? Old men like us can clap as loud as any others.

The house is waking so I must go. Think about what I have asked - will you? Thank you. Let's stay in touch then.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Be. Serious.

Being serious tires me. I am good for ten minutes, tops, before I begin to feel the force of life draining away and I begin, however clumsily, to seek a means or passage by which I might clamber back to common ground. Good humor is a conduit; seriousness is a cell. Perhaps that is why people who seem perpetually serious often appear over-taken with their own opinions. You cannot be a greater or should I say better fool than to take yourself too seriously.

But what does this mean, to take yourself seriously? I believe that within any given day one encounters instances that require a literal or meditative interpretation. Such instances - let's pick neutralish ground - such as balancing your checking account - call for an energy that cannot be replenished in the act. There is no conversation, no art. Enlisting oneself in the function of checking account balancing, voting, conflict resolution, business discussions, etc., is to enter in a contract which must have a set duration. Otherwise is madness.

There is a social balance, by which we feel free to act according to our personal interests on the one hand, while conducting regular correspondence with our community on the other. Seriousness threatens contact. One cannot be serious without falling out of love with much that is irregular, frail, and characteristic of the society we live in. Seriousness seeks to trim the edges of ragged joy and despair. It gives shape to the perfectly offhand, ill-fitting behaviors and occasions that represent most of life as we know it. What can be serious in nature, that never could draw a straight line? Be serious and you at once begin to lose contact with your source materials.

Humor therefore is not a rhetorical leavening of one's message. It is the best evidence of the door to source being left wide open. I am required to speak for myself and to do so seriously. Granted. The fact that I do so economically is a function of my desire to get back to the real work, which is gathering materials for a better life. I say what comes to mind that appears worth saying, but always I hope with an eye on an early if not elegant exit. Perhaps the gift of writing is the speed with which one can pass from community and nature to one's interior self and back again. To be serious, but only for so long. Not to lose sight of what harbors all opinions in common.