A man that I visited in a nursing home had incurred two broken hips since I had last seen him. He is in his late eighties and apparently facing his remaining life in a room.
There is little about him that is downbeat. He is engaged. Not showing any sign of depression. His demeanor provoked me to look for weakness. Is he crazy, narcissistic, or just a good guy?
I find it easier to find fault than I do in praising him. He has undergone a rite of passage that I don’t think I ever will. I have come and gone into puberty, adulthood, middle age and now early old without any signs of evidence that I ever experience a passage of any sorts. Other than time passing. I feel the same as yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
What I see in him as some kind of psychotic disturbance might be me looking dimly in a mirror. How have I jumped from sixteen to sixty-six without recognition? This man has been in the military and worn several other uniforms, many with badges. Occupations I would have spurned in my younger hours. I wanted recognition but never thought of it doing it the way he did.
Life for me has been more a passing than an entry. Until New Hampshire, moving from one town to another. It is what I see as intriguing about Lee Child’s fictional character Reacher.
Rather than hold to his military exploits, Reacher seems to wander into new realms. Where others might be insecure, he lives one day at a time and becomes prominent as a go to guy, a guy we might ask about life’s meaning. He is a wandering monk. A monastery is his likely next stop, not a nursing home.
One man real, and the other imagination, which one would I rather be?
Oscar Levant said to George Gershwin, “Tell me George, if you had to do it all over again, would you fall in love with yourself?”
It must feel good. Who am I kidding, it does feel good. Don’t all of us fall in love with ourselves at least once?
When does this become a bad thing? Ever? I suspect if done in excess it would be a problem. A constant demonstration of it and we would appear selfish. When is confidence self love? Can we be confident without falling in love with ourselves?
At least with Gershwin, the result is that most of us know who he is. But who is Oscar Levant?
Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “We have art so that we shall not die of reality.”
I don’t think of Nietzsche as being the most positive guy I never met, but I like this quote. Since he is dead, I have to think I have changed and not him. Or he actually had a moment of bliss.
I take him to mean that art is as much an outlet as an escape; for the artist and the patron. What say you?
In Owning Your Own Shadow, author Robert Johnson writes, “Narrow creativity always brings a narrow shadow, while broader talents call up a greater portion of the dark.”
Most of my life I thought that avoiding my shadow meant success. Now I am distressed to learn how totally untrue this is. It is incredible to me that I have found in my writing a willingness to do just the opposite. More than a willingness, I have an almost panicky desire to dance in the shadows. I can’t get there fast enough.
I hope you learned to dance before I did.
In “On Art”, an essay by Edward O. Wilson in the anthology Biopoetics, Wilson writes, “I emphasize the expansive role of poetry to argue that whereas art and science are basically different in execution, they are convergent in what they might eventually disclose about human nature.”
How does that happen? Does it happen? What do they disclose about human nature?
Robinson Jeffers built a stone tower as part of his home in Carmel, California. Dr. Peter Quigley quotes scholar Theodore Ziolkowski as having said, “the tower was not the realization of an image long present in Jeffers’s poetry, just the opposite.”
The tower worked to produce the poetry.
Whatever our means of making poetry, how great it would be if all our homes “worked to produce” it. The home we have lived in for twenty years has done that for me. Most of that work was in my unconscious and is only now commuting to my conscious being. All of it has been a joy.
Peter Quigley is his book Housing the Environmental Imagination doesn’t use the word crafting, but rather “fashioning.” Such a familiar word, but one I may have never used.
In The Oxford English Dictionary it offers, “Fashioning is to give shape to, to mold.”
Sounds like crafting to me, but that is not the point. The point is to consider how many of us get there? How many of us fashion a life that matter? Do even we even know when we have?
Quigley writes, “There is so much than conspires against getting it right. Like the crafting of a poem, one crafts a life alone.”
I guess Quigley got to that word crafting too.
He writes on, ” We do it against all odds, and we do it with the crushing likelihood that the project will evaporate, the profile will be blotted out, the language will blur, and all will be subsumed by some governing paradigm; we will fall in line.”
It has happened more than once to me. How about you? How do we craft a life that matters?