Life is not orderly. No matter how we try to make life so, right in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, drop a jar of applesauce (Natalie Goldberg, 1990, p. xiii).
Is it only Zen Buddhism that can imagine the items in this list as equivalent? Goldberg refers often to her guide and teacher Katagiri Roshi as a touchstone (it seems) for grounding her own wild mind in order to write with focus. There is always
so much in the way,
so much more to say, or
to say first (to set the stage), or
during (because life is lived simultaneously), or
to realize one needs not to say (because it isn’t the point, but a tangent, or a defense, or . . .
part of some other story, some other focus, an alternative point-of-view with its own distinct historical aim . . .)
How are we to live when those we love die, or move away, or decide not to be close with us anymore? How do we cope and un-learn the violences of the past, whether from the powerlessness of being children, the negligence or disinterest of people around us, or the systematic structuring of disadvantage and lack of opportunity? What do we do with pain?
Kenneth Burke argues there are two broad choices for accepting whatever life throws at us: we can interpret life as comic – not funny ha ha but amusing in our inevitably bumbling attempts to deal with events, situations, and circumstances absolutely beyond the scope of our control; or we can interpret life as tragic – full of terribly sad experiences, troubling emotions, and one bad drama after another.
When some bad crap has happened to ya, it seems hard to find the humor in it. I keep trying. And oh lordy, say some of my friends, am I ever a trial! Plenty of folk have way, way better skills than me. Living in a comic frame is a skill, btw – to find the humor in tough things without being mean or sarcastic or otherwise insulting, belittling, or small-hearted. I really hate the small meannesses (and am disgusted when I recognize them in myself; which does happen.) :-/
I use a teaching activity sometimes that requires participants to sort a bunch of actions from “least” to “most” – then they have to put a label on the characteristic that organizes the continuum. I am not saying these gestures cannot ever be used in jest, as humor or teasing for relationship-building, but there is a structural quality in which the smallest act of intentional harm sets the stage for each successively larger one.
What if you’re on the receiving end? Even if the harm is unintentional, it still hurts. And when it is on purpose? OUCH! Or perhaps the pain is simply unavoidable. Now what? We have to not only learn how to go on, we must speak the words that lead us “on” into the possibilities of a future that we want to desire.
When Goldberg met Roshi for the first time (actually their second meeting, she had not been impressed the first time around!), he was tending an orchid he’d kept alive for three weeks. Goldberg was astonished.
This applies to anything:
the memories and spirit of a friend.
According to the Sears Catalog Man, one has to be “gnarly” to live a long life. Besides the fact that my genes do not come from extraordinarily long-living stock, I was informed that I am “too intellectual to be gnarly.” Hmm. The freeonlinedictionary defines gnarly as “having or marked by bends or angles; not straight or aligned.” I am rather far from straight and there have been plenty of bends and angles in my life! Not to mention many many instances of non-alignment, as in reacting out of joint. Point being? I think there is hope!
In the midst of Boston yesterday to pick up the Wanokip, I heard Boston on the radio…”It’s been such a long time…” Indeed! What a joy to confirm that the lyrics to this classic rock song from the days of my literal youth still resonate.
That tune was followed by Jackson Browne, another poignant blast from the past: Stay.
That was yesterday. Here is my poetic offering for today
Trends converge, a trajectory takes shape.
Yesterday’s sun sets on the lake,
Wednesdays were so good!
Embedded – at last – in a web I can feel
Heart set strong on an even keel,
New moons rise full.
Lord of the Sky, Beautiful Forever, Always Smiling (except when she’s not), and One of the Gods from the Indian Triumvirate joined me with my Crown of Flowers to mark the moment of perihelion.
If you’re interested in following these things, a timetable of perihelions, aphelions, equinoxes, and solistices is posted through 2020. You’ll have to decide if paying attention to such things makes one a pagan: “n. One who adheres to a belief system outside that of established Orthodoxy.” Even though science has not proved the Gaia hypothesis, “that all living things have a regulatory effect on the Earth’s environment that promotes life overall,” science hasn’t disproved it, either.
Hakibbutz Hameuchad, Tel Aviv 1995
Here is is, the infamous photo taken by Tom.
As you can see, Sam’s early academic career did not indicate that he’d be rubbing shoulders with genius:
We were actually talking about the merits of vegetarianism at this point, or at least of eating meat from grass-fed, naturally-raised, free range types of critters… but it struck me as a parallel for the life of academics as we unwound from the culminating presentations for the European Field Studies program.
This was after I learned about snakebite, car bombs, the end of lock-ins, and curiosity about transmogrification to the ritual of last orders, a.k.a., the mad rush. Which was well after Elizabeth observed that it sucked to go first, was awful in the middle, and terrible to be last. Brougton showed us all up – predictably! I can hardly wait for the right professional moment to unveil certain camcorder documentation…although Billy Martin the tinker-gypsy isn’t the best moment captured from yesterday.
Extra travel day if I purchase by March 31.
Also, if my mind/eyes don’t deceive me, and Air France flight from Strausbourg to Budapest for 99 euros would make my day. Have emailed oh please universe be merciful and grant this deal!
FP6 overview Looks like I need a partner. Not sure any are close enough?
Multilingual text analysis, providing cross-lingual information access
Human Language Translation and Translation Research
This would be cool to attend, Summer Institute on international Migration, Ethnic Diversity and Cities. A bit pricey, but it does have a track on integration policies: “This block focuses on national and local integration regimes as developed in different welfare states, and the (perverse) effects of integration policies.”
check out the faculty for possible contacts…