“By that cry Hugh, and Margaret, and the Rosicrucian, and I, everybody alive was pushed back. What we say and feel no longer rings true, is slightly beside the point. As if we were all wound up a long time ago and were spinning out of control, whirring, making noises, but at a touch could stop, and see each other for the first time, harmless and still. This is a message; I really believe it is; but I don’t see how I can deliver it.”
ending of “The Spanish Lady” in Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You from 1974
One steps into sixty seconds of infinite space.
Now is always now, so
sixty seconds is plenty.
Always always held in the palm of the banal is this capacity.
I’ve felt the fist, the closed hand,
often enough, the “Pshaw”, the “don’t be silly.”
Here, late afternoon sun hits my cheek.
This page glows, forthrightly illuminated,
like domes of the phlox are lit from inside.
No one knows what goes on at these sessions, least of all myself, for I know Larry but slightly, and that only owing to a mix-up in our mail. I assume that like any other meaningful effort, the ritual involves sacrifice, the suppression of self-consciousness, and a certain precise tilt of the will, so that the will becomes transparent and hollow, a channel for the work. I wish him well. It is a noble work, and beats, from any angle, selling shoes.
Teaching A Stone To Talk (1982) p.85
Th growing size of that blank and ever-darkening past frightened me; it loomed beside me like a hole in the air and battened on scraps of my life I failed to claim. If one day I forgot to notice my life, and be damned grateful for it, the blank cave would suck me up entire.
An American Childhood p.109
E.M.Forster, seeking to distinguish between story and plot in “Aspects of the Novel” referred to the former as “the chopped-off length of the tapeworm of time.” “Story”, in other words, is a matter of mere duration, whereas “plot” is time made meaningful through an ordered sequence of events.
Ink is all I’ve got and how it keeps running. It tells over and over the nature of ME and what I might want or who I might be. Like ME, it is fluid and pools sometimes, creating depth.
Every day it makes something different. In the course of twenty four hours I am “all in” with a particular “I” and every time in the interest of equilibrium. Funny, isn’t it. I think it’s a disorder. That in itself is one of my “I”s.
The last 10 weeks I have heroically kept my house clean, swiffered the hardwood, cloroxed the sinks and doorknobs, a maid serving myself, the hero who was serving the nation by staying in, going to bed early, meditating every day at 2 on the internet.
Now the Call to Inaction has been cancelled. There is no call. I have been let go, released back into the slosh of my pre-heroic life which required, as I remember, depression as the sub-text. I was depressed about not “doing anything.” If I didn’t brutally repress them, I would find a very specific set of feelings all leading to the same place which was a stadium with me in the center of the field and the loudspeaker saying “Do Something”.
For a brief few weeks I was relieved of that loud noise. In fact, doing nothing was required, even better, it was applauded. How lucky was that! How unforeseen that one could dilly and dally all one’s life and come near to the end of it having produced squat and been a schlub and then find a bit of peace in a sea of people all doing the same thing, which was nothing, for the good of the country.
This sort of reevaluation can happen when events disrupt your life’s habitual ways and means. You may be taken not only out of yourself–the boon of successful work in every art form, when you’re in the mood for it–but out of your time, relocated to a particular past that seems to dispel, in a flash of undeniable reality, everything that you thought you knew. It’s not like going back to anything. It’s like finding yourself anticipated as an incidental upshot of fully realized, unchanging truths. The impression passes quickly, but it leaves a mark that’s indistinguishable from a wound. Here’s a prediction of our experience when we are again free to wander museums: Everything in them will be other than what we remember. The objects won’t have altered, but we will have, in some ratio of good and ill. The casualties of the coronavirus will accompany us spectrally. Until, inevitably, we begin to forget, for awhile we will have been reminded of our oneness throughout the world and across time with all the living and the dead. The works await us as expressions of individuals and entire cultures that have been–and vividly remain–light-years ahead of what passes for our understanding.
(“Out of Time,” New Yorker, April 13, 2020)
“We shouldn’t intervene, we shouldn’t get involved in the problems another person has with reading. We shouldn’t be upset with the children who don’t read, we shouldn’t lose patience. It’s about discovering the continent of reading. No one should encourage or incite a person to go see what’s there. There’s already far too much information in the world about culture. We must set off on our own for the continent. Discover it on our own. Bring about the birth on our own. Take Baudelaire, for example, we must be the first to discover the splendor of his writing. And we are the first. And if we are not the first, we will never be a reader of Baudelaire. All the world’s masterpieces should have been found by children in public landfills and read secretly unbeknownst to their parents and teachers.”
“Me and Other Writings” p.71
“When we attribute our interpretations of our experiences to the situation rather than to our own way of seeing the situation, we shove our own meaning-making out of view. It’s a form of self-delusion.”
Steven C. Hayes, A Liberated Mind, p. 183