Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sense of Self: What We Name, We Are

Bindweed. Creeper vine. Bittersweet. An August bounty of weeds. Some cool morning, I'll be in the little patch of garden trying to tear out the vines. The vines will win.

I will come away with even more metaphors for how a garden is life. More metaphors for one's sense of self, one's exploration of identity, one's reasons for persisting.

The vines, the semi-wild perennials, the sweet-scented rose. Too much sun and too much rain, both.

All building up to that killing frost...

Now she's lost her wits, you'd say, talking about frost on a summer day.

And you'd be right!







Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sense of Self (3)

How are the pieces put together—that's one way to look at the concept of "self."

Where do the pieces come from—that may be the more instructive question, especially from the point of view of an artist or poet.

Another challenge is to remember to ask about what isn't there, which means realizing there's a missing piece (or two or a thousand) before one is even close to completing the puzzle. And of course, a lost piece (a piece of loss) is still a piece of the puzzle of self.

I have recently read a couple biographies that struggle with this very thing, the pieces that go into the making of the person, the "life lessons" that shaped (or warped) the person's world view, the way loss factored in, the pieces that the person fought to keep despite all odds...It is overwhelming when one thinks of a biographer snooping around, picking out what seem to be the significant pieces.

And why always pieces? Is any part of us whole? Ever? No? Maybe in the way that a collage is whole, or a quilt?

Collage as autobiography...




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sense of Self: The Keeper of...

Last month was "depth of being" month here on the ol' blog. This month, I'm transitioning into "sense of self." The book I'm reading has me thinking of what goes into the making of one's sense of self, and how that includes all that is lost along the way. Loss as part of the creative process—that's the paradox I'm seeing as I read the memoir of a famous novelist who took a non-fiction detour to explore her family.

It is one thing to keep what one has—that is challenge enough, trying to hold onto love, sanity, friendships, purpose, temper, plus all the many tangible items one hopes never to lose. But to be a keeper of what has been lost—ah, that's the stuff of poetry and art. Of course, one thinks of Elizabeth Bishop's poem "One Art" here (please google it and read it if you aren't familiar with it). But for an avid reader such as myself, it's massive to think back over the past dozen or so books I've read and realize, they are all about the "art" of losing. Louise Erdrich said about stories that they are about change and "learning to hold on to what's important" as change happens.

And by change, we mean loss. Even what seems like a gain—a positive change—is accompanied by the sudden onslaught of the fear of loss.

Continued anon!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Depth of Being, part 5

alone in the dark
each of us —
dancer at rest

Far from home, my m.o. is to visit the homes of others who are long gone. Homes that once had an occupant of historic standing, and are therefore now sacred ground of some sort, worthy of pilgrimage. A place where ideas were fleshed out into acts or visual or verbal representations; a place where depth of being was explored and given some sort of outward manifestation that was then shared with others.

Yesterday it was the home of sculptor Daniel Chester French, whose most famous work is the sitting Lincoln in Washington, D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial. You may also know the Minuteman on Concord's North Bridge. Or the statue of John Harvard on the grounds of the college that bears his name.

What depths of being did I perceive as I observed the smaller-scale models of French's works? Complexity of character that could focus on a goal larger than the sum of the complexities, rather than being derailed by those contradictions, complexities, and even hypocrisies. I mean, Lincoln. One can almost feel, looking from that clenched fist to the open hand and back, the internal struggles, the contradictions at internal civil war. The Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial brings onlookers to stunned silence (onlookers who come from all over the world); the smaller models in French's studio are also capable of bringing one to tears, as my husband and I can attest. It was on this smaller scale that I was able to begin to contemplate the depth of being that French had made visible, the conscious struggle of a human being of the best way to be both human being and leader of a nation at war with itself. Compassion: to suffer with.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Depth of Being, part 4: Complexity vs. Hypocrisy

Many of us live somewhere around the nexus of complexity and hypocrisy, consistent in our inconsistencies, predictably unpredictable.

Complexity is the product of intelligence and curiosity, a worldview that life is there to be explored. People who strive to learn something new every day are complex creatures, understanding that change is inevitable but mourning what must be lost.

Hypocrisy demands thoughtlessness, a base and utter surrender to the whims of the emotions of the moment. A worldview so narrow that it filters out all capacity for imagination, curiosity, compassion. Remember the etymology of "compassion"—to suffer with. I don't suffer, says the hypocrite; suffering is something you need to do. Suffering is for losers, one can almost imagine a hypocrite declaring, right before unleashing a tirade of poor, poor persecuted me...

Many of us encompass both complexity and hypocrisy in our day-to-day choices, encounters, decisions, articulations. To really understand one another—to decide who is friend and who is foe—requires a study of one another's worldview. Is one alive to explore the possibilities that tantalizingly brush up against the outer regions of our consciousness, urging us to expand that consciousness? Or is one constantly narrowing, narrowing that field of understanding down to a solid, reeking little nugget of cognitive excrement, mistaking the waste for gold?

Complexity leaves something creative, generative, useful in its wake.

Hypocrisy loves collateral damage, period.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Depth of Being, part 3: A Poetic Interlude

wished it to
   rain this morning

was best to
   rain this morning

wished it to
    hold the paint brush

was best to
    hold the paint brush

wished it to
     catch the light

was best to
     catch the light

wished it to
      recognize footsteps

was best to
      recognize footsteps

wished it to
       hear that particular voice

was best to
       hear that particular voice