one hasn’t a why or because or although
(and buds know better
one’s anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we come who)
one’s everyanything so
so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now
now i love you and you love me
(and books are shuter
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there’s somebody calling who’s we
It’s good to have a desk by the window. That is one thing I would never complain of. In preparing or delivering what seems like hour-long lectures I find myself learning more than I expected. I’m pretending to know everything, to be standing on the summit and telling you what I see from up here, there. But I’m new to this, and really, just walking a space in front of you. And when I turn around I always hope you’ll be standing behind, following - or I’ll be leading no-one into a wilderness I can’t be sure of, alone.
Classes aside, these are some things I’ve learned, or was reminded about, this turbulent week.
Ego, matters. Acknowledging your voice, your very own, and letting it ring - matters. I suddenly understood that I had to be careful, that the weight of effort thrown into suppressing one’s ego, one’s passions, can exhaust and kill. It’s a slow death, I imagine - with your spirit exhaled piecemeal in very, careless breaths. Many of us are fervent practitioners of self-effacement, in our own ways. I would like to boldly proclaim my permanent resignation from this title, but the fear catches up. The doubt creeps in. I’m afraid to go back to the brush and canvas, to the empty notebook. I suppose though, despite it all, that you’ve got to start from that proverbial somewhere. That’s Here and Now, and I know this.
I’ve had a few casual run-ins with this word, this idea. But the most memorable, and un-casual encounter was in Franny and Zooey when I was 16. This was what I turned to immediately when this understanding came - three years later. I can’t describe Salinger’s conception of ego, in fact I’ll humbly avoid this whole enterprise altogether and let the author, in one of his many guises, supply the words:
“What about your beloved Epictetus? Or your beloved Emily Dickinson? You want your Emily, every time she has an urge to write a poem, to just sit down and say a payer till her nasty, egotistical urge goes away?…half the nastiness in the world is stirred up by people who aren’t using their true egos.”
Act your age. Words of one of my art mentors, that suddenly surfaced this evening. I’ve been gorging myself - on the generous artistic, literary, scientific, and philosophical feasts abundantly brought forth by the many men and women who have came and gone before me, of those still creating as I write. It’s an unbearable and overwhelming weight, especially in this day and age when intellectual ‘treasure’ (as once again expressed in F&Z) is so easily amassed and feverishly hoarded. And in response to every byte of information that is shooting towards us at illegal speeds, I almost feel, at 19, to be fundamentally inadequate in contributing anything meaningful to the world. At 15 I tried to make art like I was 30, at 19 I find myself trying to think like I’m 70. It’s an exponential rise in the disparity between what I am and what I try to be - when I’m 20 I’ll beat myself up for not having the wisdom of a centenarian. With this knowledge all around, so available and availing, I would expect to create as though I had lived through epochs and wars and experienced the subtle vagaries of human life in our delicate condition. I have not. Not even a fraction of it has entered my existence, or rather, I have yet to enter the world of such things. It takes courage to act your age when you are standing upon the heavy, accumulating residual knowledge from all that has come to past. Despite it all -and this is the challenge I set to myself- I pledge to be 19. I will be content with what little I know now: my clumsy encounters with love, hurt, physical or emotional joy or pain, all the feelings in-between, my people, my places, other people, other places that I had reason to know…they are all I have, and everything I need for now.
Life is unpredictable. This is not so much a realization, or a reminder…but a riddle that keeps resurfacing after agitated and fruitless attempts at solving it. I shall once again take the backseat on this one, and humbly, if not desperately, seek the much needed aid of another voice to articulate my own fear and uncertainty.
(Chp 8. Death - of The Philosophy of A. Warhol) “I don’t believe in it, because you’re not around to know that it’s happened. I can’t say anything about it because I’m not prepared for it.” - Mr. Andy Warhol, whose lovely candor shines in this chapter.