I Really Do Think I’d Be a Basket Case if Not For Long Walks (His Response)

“How do you/Love the unlovable. You just do.” As I’ve written before, your poetry has so many vivid images, but it also takes on the big concepts, such as love. Obviously, poetry would take on love, but you do it by surprise-amid a stolen cow and looking at a door made of bees. I connect to the surprise…then the feeling I get when I think that maybe we can love just about anything, even the dust.

My mind keys on death, but more now than usual. Over the past three Fridays, including today, three people I knew have died–one a former student who went back to school in her 50s, took my Death and Dying course, and wrote a beautiful paper on dealing with breast cancer, from which she died today. The other two were old friends. With their deaths comes my propensity to frame experience as mortal in its passage…and then comes the nostalgia…and all the while I wonder where all of the energy goes…

We had a memorial for one of the friends at a rib-joint on the outskirts of Fort Worth…on a table, his sisters and daughter arranged several hard-copy photographs of old, including one from the late 1980s, with “Mean Bill” (the deceased) standing alongside two married couples, one of them Maudie and I. Both couples are now divorced and I could not help but juxtapose the deceased with the released…

A young woman made the observation that among the many things babies do very early, gripping and releasing become continual iterations. Before acquiring language, the little humans experience the feelings of strident attachment and letting go after attachment. They probably sense things when doing both, but what? I like to think that when they let go, they still feel safe.

My writing…the last two things I’ve written and submitted for publication revolved around the concept of compliance, and in particular, the problematic nature of such compliance. Both emerged from lectures and crossing concepts with film/TV images. After a few years of tweaking notes and re-correlating concepts with images, I felt that I had the skeletons of two papers–on in regard to alcoholism films and the compliance dramas associated with the seemingly simple decision to have a drink and the other in regard to a particular TV drama (“Mad Men”) and the reluctant decision to conform to company policy. The conformity deals with, in part, the tension between creative individuality and structured group dynamics. A while back you mentioned Ayn Rand and one of the characters in the show also mentions her–in a way that accentuates the individual/group tension.

I have the same walk route today as I had 25 years ago. I walk down Trail Lake which leads to Foster Park. I make a semi U-Turn when I get to the edge of the Park and proceed into the wooded area, emerging from the woods and into Overton Park, which tales me past many trees, a couple of creeks, and a host of empty benches. After about four miles, at a pretty fair pace, with all the music I like blaring in my ears, I begin to feel that I am where I want to be…after seven miles, I feel where I need to be. Walking does benefit me and others in several physical ways, but I do it for the mood. I really believe I’d be a basket case were it not for long walks through two parks with beautiful trees against variegated skies, and all the music I like to hear.

But the “Buddah-like” mood does not last long–you wrote about it being OK to cry “even if life is good.” We cry and know that even a good life “is still hard and we are still lost and so separate from each other and alone.” In a way, walking helps me see such a world as a process of finding and discovery–but then I too feel the weight of separation and the harrowed grip of loneliness…but again, when the grip gets too intense, one can always let go…

We do live in opposition to norms–and maybe that is the equivalent of “living in sin.” A few years ago, a very smart and funny man, a medical doctor, told me that he really did not begin to feel connected until he forced himself to forget all that he thought he knew…in a way, he had to go against the norm he embraced, a norm of thinking that required linearity, logic, and systematic processing. It’s an important norm–a strong norm…but it can hinder us. Sometimes, as in the scene “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” we need to “clear the board of its chess pieces” and stare at its place left vacant.

If we had no norms, would there be no sin? In a somewhat analogous vein, Mark Twain asserted that if we had no suffering, we would have no humor-“there’s no laughter in heaven,” he wrote.

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