You make a lot of sense, more than you want to admit.

M writes:

You make a lot of sense, more than you want to admit. I like the tangential quality of your writing; it has a very 19th Century feel to it. You called it “rambling,” but it’s way, way more than that. As I said in my last post, just a few barely recognizable seeds will be enough to get you to create something powerful…then when I read, I begin to reminisce…allow for a short story…

I know I said I’m not that interested in books right now, but I cannot define myself independent of them–as both symbolic and tangible objects, as substantive and representational “spirits” of their own. I grew up surrounded by books. My parents, who never graduated from college, read voraciously, often a book a day/night. And they did not settle for “pop/glam” books–they read Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Faulkner, Twain, and thickly referenced historical works (such as “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”)…we had books everywhere…then, of course, I finally made my way to the University and began a full blown love affair with all the books. The University of Illinois library system became my idea of nirvana…I think, at the time, it had the third most volume of books in the nation, behind The Library of Congress and Harvard…

When I got to Iowa for graduate school, I would sit in a corner of the basement in the library where the University kept the Ph.D dissertations and Masters Theses…all were bound in dark green covers with white print on the covers. I began reading the sociology Ph.Ds, the people I knew about or actually met…then the ones I never met or heard of…then the ones in other disciplines that caught my attention…I kept reading, mostly to get a sense of the structure of the ideation…but also to get a sense of rhythm and even “melody”–writing does sing, even very tortured dissertation writing…I wanted to “hear” the rhythm and melody in my head…remove the words and just let myself get into the flow of it…maybe turning it into jazz…that’s the time I fell in love with walking…I had no car and did not get a bike until my 3rd year…walk man cassettes had just come out but I avoided them because I felt it would interfere with my own “music”…

It’s funny that you wrote you thought about me while riding your bike yesterday; I had written you the post then walked and thought about how you might respond, if you did respond…and then wondered what sort of things you would look at, surrounded by all the things I saw in the park–what you would make of the bare trees against the bluish-gray sky or the various children running with and after each other just as the squirrels did it…

So, rambling? No…but you said so many things…and back to the tangential quality, let me clarify…what you wrote reminded me of some of those writers of yore…such as Marx, Weber, Durkheim in sociology, for instance…they would make a point as if they discussed a tree, and then would elaborate upon all of the branches attached to the tree and then, even, describe the forest surrounding the tree…I loved it!

First (long prolegomena!), yes, let’s make the past emails our ground zero for the blog no one will read…Second, trying. I really resonated to what you wrote about that. I find myself so guilty of it, as in trying to impress a person (such as you). Then again, I find that I can do some things to my liking without even thinking about what I’m “trying to do”–sometimes, I feel this way in class, when I’m talking about something that seems so real and true to me. Maudie and I used to talk about being funny and who we thought as funny and who not–she would say, “Yeah, he’s funny, but you can also see the wheels turning when he tries to be funny.” I liked that…most of the really funny people are simply funny…

You’re writing about something deeper than merely being funny, of course, but the principle seems universal…it’s a little bit of a conundrum to me as to get to a point in which we do without trying, requires a good deal of praxis…one of my old Sociology Profs always liked to say, “in order to be good at something, you have to be bad at it first.” I know some are more prodigy-like than others. I remember you wrote me once about how you wrote poems almost as soon as you learned to write–and probably sooner as you “wrote” poems in your head. But even prodigies learn praxis…the great athletes, poets, intellects, spiritualists…all of them develop…

But I believe one can get to a process of doing that transcends words, methodology, and reasoning as we define it…my mom, a housewife by her own proud definition as well as a societal definition, cooked for purely utilitarian purposes, but loved to bake…we, being brats, complained about her cooking, but no one complained about what she baked…one of my sisters, similar to the sister-in-law I referenced, wanted to bake what mom baked and requested instruction…sister could not get the handle of it as she thought mom as “too vague” in her instructions (e.g., her potato rolls required ricing and then mixing the riced potatoes in water and two-three other juices; sister did not understand mom’s utter lack of precision when mom would say, “you’ll know the mixture is right”).

Aesop’s fable “The Sun and the Wind” often (well, I say often, but I’m going by my experience) gets read as a moral tale of influence…getting someone to do something (a young man taking off his coat) that he had not, on his own, thought to do…but I read it more in the context of what you wrote…the wind represents trying–incessant, deliberate, powerful, industrious, and resolute trying…the sun represents being and believing in such being…

I really like reading/hearing about your past, especially the Sarah Lawrence days…I do recall you telling me about the near-brakdown…and your connection to the philosophy class and teacher…do you think you needed to push yourself as you did in order to get to some catharsis? I guess I’m in Blake’s corner regarding the necessity of excess, but I’m also too much of a pragmatist to let myself go “too far”…or maybe, as Blake would say, I’m a coward (he would make it much more poetic and beautiful)…but we have to find the “place” in which sanity and insanity converge–it’s much more dynamic and variegated than a spot on a Venn Diagram, but we need to immerse ourself in that which we cannot know and control so that we can realize what is necessary, at least for the time being…I do not mean to sound or appear so “law-like”…

Oh wow, the 108 number…a great clip from a movie film, the first five minutes from “Bull Durham,”  begins with Annie Savoy’s monologue, “The Church of Baseball.” You can Google it and find a few people who perform it, but Susan Sarandon (who plays Annie) does it best (and I don’t know if her specific version is available on YouTube anymore). Once you read/hear the monologue, you’ll “get the gist” and then some. It’s really a cool film and I do not say that only because it’s about baseball!

You wrote something else that blew my mind–“And I like to think there’s no such thing as ‘getting back in’ touch, because I think we always were.” Cats taught me something–openings and closings mean so little to cats. I wanted a dog; I did not feel any connection to cats. Maudie did not like dogs–she said they smelled bad, but really, I do not think she wanted the commitment (same with children, she always took birth control). She said we should get a cat. I said OK, where do we go? She said, nowhere, now that I agreed to get a cat, one will show up. Sure enough, “Red” the black cat showed up. Maudie opened the door, saw Red, and said, “Come here, Red.” I wanted to know wht=y she called him Red, since he was a Black cat. Because that’s his name, she said.

The Red died and immediately after that, Kittle shows up, pregnant, under a fir tree in our backyard. A few years later, Buckethead appear, lost, stuck behind our washing machine (outside, in an enclave under our car-port). At this time, I started believing in knowing without knowing…we’re in process of meeting (and re-meeting) all the people for whom we have receptors…when I read what you wrote, I knew it immediately…

It’s impossible to predict such a convergence, but at the same time, we anticipate it, subconsciously, for lack of a better word…I knew you would enter my life, I just did not “know it” as I am taught to know things…

I just thought of something–I want to call it “a sociological loop”–I’m not sure what I mean by it, but it has something to do with shared and common pasts and decisions to take off our social masks…

I am afraid to unmask…very much so…I believe that is at the core of my fear of self…

More to come…sooner than you may want!


I respond:

There is so much here. I cannot respond to everything at this moment because I am tired and can only feel through my body and not my brain. Somehow like the wind and sun in your mention of the fable reminds me of the duality between mind and body. Both necessary and both switching extremes–able to transform back and forth between the persistent one always trying and the steady “being” who does not have to try. My mind often is the wind. And I’m learning to allow it to be the sun. Though at this moment my body is the sun because it cannot try (and thus neither can my mind) so I am simply radiating with a wave of understanding and bringing-in of your letter.

I feel through my body a sense of sadness and yearning from your words. But also a mature calm and looking-back. Lord I sound pathetic and cliche (editing while writing!) but what I mean is that I need these words, too. You are doing that thing where you are going into teacher mode and praising me. I don’t need praising. I need to hear what you have to say from your being. Where are you? What have you found? What doors are you knocking on? Which ones scare you?

But never stop the stories. Your mother, for example, was a zen with baking. In this way the sun. In this way a steady faith in herself and the ingredients. And the act of feeding. MORE than feeding. It was not, after all, regular cooking that sent you into excitement. It was her baking. The sweetness of it. The joy of feeding. And in this way, spiritually fulfilling for both you and her. Which is interesting you bring this story up in this context. Think about it.

And books. You and I are similar in that aspect. The holyness of the book. Of the word. Logos.

I miss the library at Sarah Lawrence, which was very much my temple. Yes, the bound thesis books. Ours are black with gold lettering on the binding. I can imagine you there in a corner in Iowa reading those you knew and those you did not. Almost as though a score of music and your eyes playing the keys, your mind hearing the rhythms. I did (and do) the same. Not as often as I used to.

Something which moves the mind. How these things can be holy. Taking in of something. Taking part of. Reading, seeing, hearing, touching.

I am very much in my body tonight, as you can tell.

What would I have observed in the park? Most definitely the bare trees against blue sky. I always imagine them as dendrites in the brain. I imagine seeing circuits and wires and information sparking between the branches. One big brain.

But I see what you tell me.

Please read Joseph Campbell. I’m sure you have but if not, do. Or download his radio interviews. Actually, YES, download his radio interviews and listen to them as you walk.

But don’t do it to learn in the way we like to learn. Just feel it.

We can take too much time being someone who needs to impress with knowledge and understanding and concepts and name-dropping. But that’s not why we’re here. Not RIGHT NOW. Not FOR THIS.

I want to go back to the way we express and question and discover in the way you describe lecturing on something that means something to you. All rules are out. And you’re really “funny” without trying.

Explain more about the Sociological Loop.

Unmasking. That’s a lifetime of doing. And yet can happen in a second and return again the following second.

Spiritual experience / surrender as a sort of unmasking?

More soon. Maybe in the morning before my appointment. The reality of the body, indeed. Which brings it all back, doesn’t it? I think the idea of death or true vulnerability has the power to either make us withdraw or unmask.

I can tell you more about Sarah Lawrence days, though you knew most as-it-was-happening. Tell me more stories, too. Stories are the vehicles for most of what we don’t know how to say, or can.

I’m afraid you’ll keep yourself from opening up. Same goes for myself. I hate knowing that I know more than I can see.

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