There is a first photograph and a last. The first hung in his office: a lair stuffed with books and objects which begged the visitor to hear their stories. Despite the usual distractions of youth, she noticed him. Hard not to. Physically and in personality he had presence. Tall, dark and vital he was the most attractive man she had seen.
The connection to each other spanned years: from teenage days to adulthood and its attending obligations. In recent times they lost touch and a year to the day that he died she discovered he was gone. Prior to this knowing she had a dream; the details are lost but she was in his cabin in Vermont.
A cabin deep in the woods — not even on a dirt road. Took some finding. The back land held a vista of fields, forest and rolling mountains. The cabin was handbuilt by his great-grandfather and its interior was a oaken harmony of striated wood from ceiling to walls to floor. A beauty. Not much else did she remember of the dream, but it was the dream that prompted her to look him up and learn his end.
But was it an end? Not really. The end of the era to reach out to him and he would be there, yet during her grief she knew it was the burgeoning of the legacy he left her. Not things — not at all, rather the beauty of soul, what is true and good, what is elemental. Such treasured gifts of magnitude.
The last photograph she saw in a tribute to him. He is older, reading a book. Reclined between the Maine Coast’s beach rocks, he holds the book Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. How perfect she thought. She too likes Stegner though they had never discussed his work. She always misread this title as Angel in Repose. How apt. Books, nature, joy, the forest, solitude, heart — that was he. He too was social, witty, slightly dangerous, and just underneath the skin, definitely male and fulsome Eros.
It was a heady feeling being the focus of his attention and it was also baffling. He was talking with her and as he finished he said, “Now consider yourself intellectually seduced.” It was a season of elegant ardent words and fantasies, and that time — especially at an impressionable age — he changed her. For good she now understood.
She loved him. She carried him with her over miles and people. The tributes to him were legion; it was stunning how many people he had touched and how beloved by all. He gave from the heart and was not depleted for doing so. He remained intact.
One rainy afternoon he told her of a scene he imagined: both of them racing through a woodland of birch trees. Then he said, “I come back to the moment and see I’m washing the dishes or something like that.”
He folded her into himself and she sustained that within her. Now as she washes dishes and looks out her window onto the early spring sunset, she thinks that the not knowing where she ended and he began had not changed; it shifted. She sensed in the days after learning he died that she was immersed in him completely, swimming in the deep temperature-less soft liquid of primeval waters.
Now he has entered her again but more completely — the membrane is thinner — to live her own measure of that which he entrusted to her. He is everywhere.
Someone once said he was foppish. She remembered that remark, intrigued by the antique word and the observation. Not readily dismissed since there was a hint of precision to it — it leaned into his lynx anima.
That was during the time that they existed in a snow globe where within their perfect stillness all sundry matter whirled around them. One spring she wore her hair in braids wrapped around her head.
The first photograph is of a train station house on a summer day. He gave her a print of it which she held onto. She can see that moment in time through his eyes: an old fashioned country depot stop. The photo is taken from the opposite track looking onto the people waiting outside the station house. She feels the heat of the August day, hears the cicadas, smells the industry of the railroad tracks. The windows and doors are open and there are three people on the bench: a man who is turned away from the camera, and a young couple in love. They are two teenagers laughing over a private joke. The girl is in profile kissing the boy’s temple and smiling. His head is down, buried in her neck and shoulder but she can tell he is smiling too. Barefoot they are. Where are those two people now, she wonders.
“On a certain day in the blue-moon month of September
Beneath a young plum tree, quietly
I held her there, my quiet, pale beloved
In my arms just like a graceful dream.
And over us in the beautiful summer sky
There was a cloud on which my gaze rested
It was very white and so immensely high
And when I looked up, it had disappeared.”
Bertolt Brecht, Poems 1913-1956
Requiem: Angle of Repose, Clare Irwin, 18 March 2022
From Chihuahua to Connecticut, by M.A.M., Guest Contributor
Growing up in Latin America is an underrated life-hack. Nothing is easy, nothing is given. Latin American people, like me, grow up in places where challenges force them to wake up every morning wishing things were different. I come from a place where a history of submission has been transformed into kindness and hospitality. I consider being born and raised in Mexico a blessing like no other. It is a land that sustains itself thanks to the thousands of hands of honest hard-working people who give their all for their families every single day. A country that demands people to reinvent themselves because of instability and creates kind and solid communities that are willing to unify to keep each other afloat. After all, we need to learn how to jump into the obstacle course of life.
I learned that I had to constantly reinvent myself at a very young age. Since I was a little girl, I knew what it was like to look for an anchor to sustain me. I was born and raised in Chihuahua, a small city in the north of Mexico, with my parents and my two younger siblings. For many years we tried to survive the economic limitations that were more difficult for a family as dysfunctional as ours. During my elementary school years, waking up in the middle of the night and running to my sibling’s room was almost a daily routine. I remember cuddling with Ernesto and Cesar to shield them from my parents’ loud arguing across the hall. Ernesto was seven when he started having, what I did not know then, was anxiety, which I tried to appease by rubbing his back and keeping his head close to my chest.
At some point, we went from hiding under the covers to being the only physical barrier that would stop my fathers’ arm from beating my mother. It was heartbreaking to see my mother brought to her knees, and a terrified expression on her face trying to fake a smile and saying: “I am OK,” to calm our fear.
Fortunately, the three of us found positive ways to build our emotional protective armor. My siblings found their refuge in music and sports, and my grandmother’s love sheltered me everyday.
Despite the adversities of my childhood, I also had great experiences. At sixteen I had a full-time job at a coffee shop after school. During the time I worked there, I learned some important lessons. I learned to connect with people, to listen, to observe and to be patient.
I liked memorizing the orders of regular customers to try to make their day a bit better. I knew Rogelio did not like to wait and that Julia was allergic to cinnamon. Seeing their appreciative faces when I made them feel memorable was my way of making a difference. I learned that we always get something in return for the good things we do, even if it is not monetary.
What I enjoyed most about working there was getting to know myself. My job taught me that there is always room for improvement. The coffee shop showed me that even by doing small things we can achieve great things. It also taught me how to deal with frustration and disappointment.
My skin thickened just in time and prepared me for the day my father decided to leave. Without a warning and without a goodbye, my father had decided that the family he had formed with us was not what he wanted for his life anymore. Coming home to my mother crying in front of the closet my father had emptied changed the perspective I always had. The day my father left was the day I realized that my upbringing had prepared me for that moment.
I understood that I didn’t want situations like that to define me and that I wanted to do something remarkable with my life. I focused on school, my job, and being my mother’s greatest emotional support. I put on my shoulders a responsibility that I could not carry, but had to assume for my family’s well-being. My mom and I always say that we formed a team of two without realizing it. We made an unspoken agreement to build a new foundation to support a family that was falling apart.
Sometimes I look back to those times and I cannot believe that the woman I once saw lamenting the loss of her marriage became the strong and determined mother I so admire. A woman who raised three children by herself and who used everything in her power to make them good people. After my father left, my mother not only knew how to deal wisely with the anguish of an uncertain future for her now single parent family, but also she knew how to anticipate all of our needs.
After graduating high school I intended to apply to medical school, however, I ended up enrolling in dentistry school at my local public university. It was my mother who motivated me to continue learning, growing and working on myself, but coming from a conservative culture, she suggested dentistry, not medicine, would be the career that allowed me to have time for a family.
During my studies, I began to learn how fascinating the human body is and everything that we still need to learn from it. Nonetheless, the fatigue caught up with me. I needed more hours in the day to be able to work full-time while attending a school as demanding as dentistry. Even though I was passionate about my studies, I understood that what I was doing was not sustainable.
I ventured to enroll in the Au Pair program. It was the perfect way to combine my love for children and my desire to travel. In less time than I thought possible, I had filled out the necessary paperwork and was being interviewed by families from all over the United States. The Stevensfamily opened their home to me, and they trusted me to take care of what is most precious to them: their children.
I moved to a different country by myself, to live with a family that I only knew through a screen. Moving abroad brought out the brave woman that I didn’t know I had inside me. I moved to a place where English was not, at least then, my dominant language and the traditions and customs were considerably different. The moment I stepped off the plane and heard people speaking English, I realized what a huge step I had taken. I adjusted to living with three wonderful kids, and eating frozen food for dinner. I grew to enjoy the tranquility of the suburbs and realized how much I liked eating bagels with cream cheese on the weekends.
Living in the US sparked my ambition and reignited the desire to move forward. Coming from Mexico where there are so many shortcomings made me appreciate how the US offers opportunity everywhere. I never dreamed of moving to the United States, however my time here transformed me. Being away from everything I knew helped me to see that although many of the events in my past were not up to me, there was a point where I could decide where I wanted to go. My experience here also demonstrated to me how fortunate I am, after I volunteered at Person-to-Person. I had the chance to help P2P organize clothing donations. Many people who went there were Spanish-speaking immigrants who did not know a word of English.
It was gratifying to allow them to feel heard in their own language while having someone guide them through the process of acquiring items. I could see myself in the eyes of the people I helped, because I always thought that it could be me who needed a hand. I saw the relief on their faces when they heard me speaking Spanish, because that meant that at least for a moment they would not have to feel so vulnerable being in an unknown place. What they did not know is that they also made me feel closer to home.
At the end of my au pair program, after a year and a half in the United States, I returned to Mexico with the intention of finishing dentistry school. Returning to Chihuahua after having traveled to many big cities and towns in America had altered me. One Mary Ann left but a new Mary Ann, who now lived day-to-day much more consciously, had returned. After living in a place where children read, enjoy art and play tons of sports, where people respect traffic signals and do not try to bribe the police, my vision evolved. It was heartbreaking to return and realize that although I will always love Mexico, what I am looking for is not there. Although I felt renewed, full of life, and ready to continue with my journey, neither my school, nor my family, nor any situation around me had changed. I was different but the circumstances that welcomed me home were the same.
I never expected to return to find a closed door. I ran into barriers in obtaining an education. I tried a thousand ways to secure aid from my educational institution, the government, and private funds, but nothing was available. In Mexico, not enough funds are allocated to students. Mexico does not invest in the education of its inhabitants and that is why people who believe they have potential seek support in other countries. I also ran into the barrier of the customs and traditions of a conservative country, where it is thought that there is a certain age you are too old to go back to school, and where as a woman you should be focusing on finding a husband and starting a family. I decided to fight against the social pressure of following a traditional path, and did not hesitate when the Stevens family offered to sponsor me to return to the United States as a student.
I enrolled in community college and registered for classes in the Allied Health Department. There, I have had an enriching experience which continued feeding my interest in the health sciences. An undergraduate degree will pave the way to broaden my knowledge in areas inside and outside of my major, and prepare me for my next academic steps. I wish to enter Smith College to continue my pursuit of scholarship and realize my ambition of forging a career in medicine. I am particularly interested in the summer research programs Smith offers, where I will improve upon my skills obtained assisting research in the microbiology laboratory the few years I attended dentistry school.
Smith will give me the opportunity to be part of a diverse community that values knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I wish to be part of Smith College because of its challenging academic standards and the sense of community that it promotes. It excites me that the Ada Comstock program will allow me to be fully immersed in a scholarly environment, and where I will meet students from other colleges and universities. I want to attend Smith because it will establish a solid foundation as I advance in my career.
The course I charted transformed the girl who once hid under the covers with her brothers into a better version of herself, which then led her to choose her life’s path. Growing up in Mexico and moving to the United States in my 20’s showed me that determination and resilience, along with kindness and honesty, ease the way through life’s uncertainties. The underrated life hack of a Latin American childhood has served me well, and I know that my will to move myself forward, my desire for knowledge and my community-based engagement will contribute to SmithCollege.
Yet another beautiful journey begins.
UPDATE!!!! M.A.M. informed us last week that she was accepted to both Smith College and Mt. Holyoke on a full ride! M.A.M. has decided on Smith. How great is that?
Some images courtesy of Flemming Madsen, fashion photographs by Louise Dahl-Wolfe.
Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine: The Truth of Both, by Danny Lee Benson Guest Contributor
Who the fuck am I? Who the fuck are you?
The questions are aggressive in their nature, and so this is: how it all began, my individual narrow path on the road to my Genesis, my beginning, and the end is the same as the beginning, and I welcome it! The Exodus is in full effect.
Firstly, I despise religion, politics or anything that crushes the spirit. Whenever I make reference to spirit, insert CONSCIOUSNESS, the masses are trapped in low consciousness and grope around in the dark despite it being high noon, they are unwittingly embracing the wide path to destruction. They call evil good, and good evil, and they will be destroyed due to a lack of simple knowledge.
I shall impart my experiences of the simple knowledge to you without fanfare or religious dressing up. I will state how it really is–what you do with the information is up to you: that’s the gift of free will. Most don’t even have it, being washed along by a tsunami of lies and emotional drivel pushed by a narrative that is the collective low human consciousness ensnaring them without them knowing it. They cling to their willful ignorance; mass formation psychosis is the title that describes it quite perfectly.
I am the son of a soldier and followed in his footsteps. I joined the British Army at 17, I left at the age of 40. I have been to all the places you have seen on CNN and some you haven’t seen on CNN. I left with a pension and stories to tell, but that is not the theme of this essay.
After I left the army, I became what is called a close protection operator–a legal gun for hire. I worked internationally providing protection services to the oil industry, industrial magnates, and the shipping industry. I remained in this line of work until 2016, I made some good money and had all the toys .
Then I read a book that I found in a bin on a container ship transiting the Gulf of Aden. I was on anti-piracy operations aboard a ship called the JPO Sagittarius, providing protection from Somali piracy. The job was great, it was a welcome respite from the affairs of man to be at sea and isolated from their continual babbling. I was taking my trash to the incinerator room in the ship and noticed a book in the paper bin. I found this rather sad, and rescued the tatty looking black publication. It was the King James
Bible 1611. Now this book and I had often crossed paths; I said aloud, “OK I will read your fucking book!” My rationale being that it has been around long enough and perhaps deserved to be read cover to cover. So I did. I read that tatty thing for three hours a day for three weeks, and I didn’t try to understand it: I simply read it!
As time went on, my mind (my subconscious EVE was prompting my intellect–my ADAM) would regurgitate scripture to me and I would chew the cud about it mentally. The rebellious character Jesus spoke about cleaning your house and going within, in time I saw he meant to clean the body; it is where we all live after all, and going within was to meditate…so I responded to the simple instructions.
The following happened over time: I stopped drinking, I stopped eating dead flesh of murdered animals, and my mind became clearer and sharper. I was still looking at the world down the barrel of a gun and travelling extensively, but I always had time to go within. My life away from my wife, at the time, introduced celibacy and no internet at sea meant no porn. My life was being cleaned up, and the more I went within the more the scriptures made sense to me .
GENESIS: THE BEGINNING
My energy levels rose. The Father was making an appearance; my body was producing electricity and my mind was operating better for it. My meditations became vivid expressions of images that became an internal individual story relating to me, the world and my place in it. All the things I had once believed in simply disappeared like a fart in a strong wind and I was naked. I had been introduced to the great I AM: my own individual consciousness which bridges the gap though the ether to the Father, the universe.
This energy rebooted my brain, I witnessed a brilliant flash of light. This is a secretion that gets burnt off in the brain, and my ego was the offering, I had experienced ego death, the realisation that the ego is nothing more than a story that it tells itself, and the illusion of separation was gone. My mind was freed like Barabbas, who was freed so they could crucify Jesus. These stories are allegories for what happens inside the individual human that responds to the simple instructions in that tatty old book. Jesus is a secretion from the brain, and your brain is God. Have no doubt about that. When you overcome the limits of a brain that is fed on crap fuel and shite information it reaches the stars.
Enlightenment is illumination, everyone has this potential but few find it; they are too enamoured by the lies of this world and are to distracted by the world’s stage show to ever venture into their own darkness within, and so they remain in the dark, groping about like the blind despite it being noon.
The Father, the Electric energy is the DIVINE MASCULINE, it has nothing to do with sexual appendages at all .
The DIVINE MASCULINE must come first, because when electrons start to pulse they generate a magnetic field, this is the DIVINE FEMININE, these two energies: mother and father produce a child. The child is LIGHT– illumination of the brain. Electromagnetism produces light; this is physics. The Bible is a book about human physiology, human psychology, physics and much more besides.
The DIVINE FEMINIE has many names, kundalini, Kali, Ruwach Qodesh, holy spirit, and she is the slayer of Ego, and a new child is born: a child of light.
Her presence is always near, I mentioned earlier that I was naked, well she clothes me in her magnetic field, she is my comforter in times of need, she is my mother and lover, she is my subconscious, she protects me, she nurtures me, she teaches me, and when I’m doing naughty stuff she hides me from the Father, so he can’t see my sins, so as far as he is concerned I am sinless in his Eye. The Eye is the pineal gland, the all seeing eye, the eye of RA. It is all within me, and you have sought it out — this divine truth within you, or do you believe your own bullshit, perhaps thinking that because your body has a vagina it makes you the divine feminine by default? I’m here to tell you that your thinking is in error. Unlike the multitudes, I learnt the nature of my offence, I am not my name, I am not my mind, I am not my Body. I am a stream of pure consciousness that has overcome the illusions of an errant mind. And in doing so, I and the Father are one and the same thing: inseparable immortal conscious energy that transcends the limitations of the man hiding behind the curtain, the ego that is trapped in the ILLUSION of separation.
My Mother wraps me in a toroidal field, she has shot me out of my body, through the rooftop, shouting OM like an electrical transformer as I blast off faster than the speed of light. I move at the speed of thought outside of this physical plane, I become one with the all but remain individual; this is what the foolish Christians call the rapture. This is happening all over the world to people that have been called out– (11 11).
The Exodus is in full effect. She sings to me the songs of the ancients. King David’s secret chord rings in my ears 24/7, like an old camera flash that is charging up for the great internal reset; the real build back better happens within .
Walk away from politics, walk away from religion, walk away from the babbling masses, lest you get caught up in their schemes. Now you know why they pushed the vaccine so hard, they are destroying your birthright, robbing you of your LIGHT .
I know my Mother and Father, and I am pleading a case with you orphans .
Greetings! I have had several ideas for essays orbiting around my skull, but nothing has taken sufficient shape to pen. I was telling a friend about this and she advised, “Title your post: I don’t have any words!” I thought, okay, how about: “I got nothing!” and then I remembered the Gershwin song from Porgy and Bess (title above).
So that’s where we are. I created the new header image last week with the divine feminine in mind. To be sure, the DF is so much more than photos of beautiful women, but there are some worthy ancient archetypes represented. The DF is also not the exclusive property of females.
I reread the lyrics to the song and they are wonderful true and wise.
Yup! “And nuttin’s plenty for me…”
I think what I may do is let the divine feminine speak through others until I come up with…something….!
The phrase first appeared in print in Baudelaire’s piece on the Exposition universelle, 1855, Beaux-arts, anthologized in Curiosités esthétiques. Translation of Baudelaire par lui-même (1952) by Pascal Pia.
A friend reminded me of this quote today, so I thought to change things up from last month, leave a brief post, and wish everyone a happy?
We’ll see what’s next, won’t we?
Hope to write soon!
“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” Wassily Kandinsky.
Transverse Line, 1923, Black and Violet, 1923, Yellow, Red, Blue, 1925, Composition 8, 1923 .
This idea sat in my drafts too long. So here goes.
Earlier this year I was in the 18th century in my viewing: Outlander, TURN, Poldark…the 18th century started to look pretty good to me compared to the perpetual crisis state of now. Also, everyone’s hot.
Even though the Age of Reason had constant brutal wars, terrible diseases (putrid throat — doesn’t sound good!), battling the forces of nature, encounters with the animal kingdom of the two and four-legged variety, and of course the constant looming threat of rape.
Anyway, there was a scene in one of these series where someone is in jail (on trumped-up charges). The character is talking to the jailor, and says something contemptuous about the brand of justice they are meting out. It was a good delivery; he spit out the word.
This reminded me of something my father used to say. When we were whining, complaining, or attesting to something not being fair he’d say in exasperation: “If you want justice, go to church!” It was an odd statement and required some consideration because it didn’t quite make sense, but the intended effect was that it shut us up.
I think what my father meant was, “if you want to listen to a bubbameister where one gets one’s just rewards, then good luck with that.” Don’t hold your breath, I guess.
My father was highly suspicious of organized anything, but particularly religion. I know that he deeply appreciated the wisdom of the Bible but didn’t feel the need to go a house of worship and have someone interpret and put their realpolitik all over it. A lover of history and philosophy as well, my father relied on his own steam to discover the knowledge he sought.
So, we have religion, the Age of Reason and now: Plato. This is getting stream of consciousness and I have no excuses for the lack of cohesion. These seemingly random thoughts all came up from that one bit of dialogue.
To Plato. The Republic to be more precise. I read it in college and also translated parts of it from the ancient Greek. I remember our Classics professor taking us to a lecture by a preeminent academic on all ten books of the Republic which covers ideas like: the philosopher-king, justice, the just man. Big stuff. This earnest professor giving the lecture was from a country in Western Europe — one of the G7 so no one has to freak out — and English was not his first language. The room was hot and stuffy, the lecture interminable and completely incomprehensible.
I think most of us nodded off after wondering what we had done that merited such punishment.
As this gentleman was wrapping up, he used again a word that was much utilized in his lecture. He had spoken of Plato’s idea of the composition of the human soul which included “re-zoning.” It was only then that we realized what he was trying to say was that one crux (can there be more than one?) of the Republic was Reasoning! Not ReZoning!
I guess you had to have been there but I thought it was pretty funny because there’s some hard truth in the rezoning idea. Since we’re building a republic here, we might as well drill all the way down to the ground and make sure the zoning of this city-state is properly ordered. Rezoning fits in nicely with Plato’s tripartite caste system.
Is there a lesson here? Not sure except I do know that if I write an idea down without notes I will have no idea what to do with it five months down the road. The 18th century seems bawdy, ribald, licentious in a good clean dirty fun kind of way, but of course I’m getting my information from a highly unreliable source.
As far as Plato goes — if you want something sexier, I would suggest the Symposium. It’s shorter too.
I wish everyone well in their search for justice on this side of the veil.
This subject has been occupying my psyche for some months now and I believe bringing it into dialogue is long overdue. I’m pressed for time at the moment so for now I will start us off with a poem (oh no!) by James Dickey, the author of Deliverance, et al.
Power and Light…
only connect… — E.M. Forster
I may even be
A man, I tell my wife: all day I
Bowlegged up those damned
poles rooster-heeled in all
Kinds of weather and what is there when I get
Home? Yes, woman trailing
Like a snail, home is where I
And this is the house I pass
through on my way
To power and light.
Going into the basement is slow,
but the built-on smell of home
Beneath home gets better with
age the ground fermenting
And spilling through the
barrel-cracks of plaster the dark
Lying on the floor, ready for
use as I crack
The seal on the bottle like I tell you it takes
A man to pour whiskey in the
dark and CLOSE THE DOOR between
The children and me.
The heads of nails drift deeper
through their boards
And disappear. Years in the
family dark have made me good
At this nothing else is so good pure fires of the Self
Rise crooning in lively
blackness and the silence around them,
Like the silence inside a mouth,
squirms with colors,
The marvelous worms of the eye
float out into the real
Dancing as though existence were
One huge closed eye and I feel the wires running
Like the life-force along the
limed rafters and all connections
With poles with the tarred naked belly-buckled black
Trees I hook to my heels with the shrill phone calls leaping
Long distance long distances through my hands all connections
Even the one
With my wife, turn good turn better than good turn
Not quite, but in the deep sway
of underground among the roots
That bend like branches all things connect and stream
Toward light and speech tingle
rock like a powerline in wind,
Like a man working, drunk on
pine-moves the sun in the socket
Of his shoulder and on his neck dancing like dice-dots
And I laugh
Like my own fate watching over me
night and day at home
Underground or flung up on towers walking
Over mountains my charged hair standing on end crossing
The sickled, slaughtered alleys
Where the lines loop and crackle
on their gallows,
Far under the grass of my grave,
I drink like a man
The night before
Resurrection Day. My watch glows
with the time to rise
And shine. Never think I don’t
know my profession
Will lift me: why, all over hell
the lights burn in your eyes,
People are calling each
other weeping with a hundred thousand
Volts making deals pleading
laughing like fate,
Far off, invulnerable or with the right word pierced
To the heart
By wires I held, shooting off
their ghostly mouths,
In my gloves. The house
spins I strap crampons to my shoes
To climb the basement stairs,
sinking my heels in the tree-
Life of the boards. Thorns!
Thorns! I am bursting
Into the kitchen, into the sad
Of my home, holding a double
handful of wires
Spitting like sparklers
On the Fourth of July. Woman, I
know the secret of sitting
In light of eating a limp piece of bread under
The red-veined eyeball of a bulb.
It is all in how you are
Grounded. To bread I can see, I
say, as it disappears and agrees
With me the dark is drunk and I am a man
Who turns on. I am a man.
From The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992 James Dickey.
Have you ever tried to talk a 19-year-old into taking an online history class over the summer?
Even I wasn’t convinced by my argument. Sean’s mother asked me to speak with him and as I looked at his puckered cherubic face over Zoom, I felt bad. He’s been attending college online for over a year on WebEx, Teams, whatever until his eyes bleed.
He presented his half-hearted counter argument, to which I responded with a question. Now this is a smart kid; he has an answer to everything which sounds good, but without much drilling down is, as in this case, somewhat hollow. This response was the equivalent of: “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear….etc.” I nixed that and we got to the truth. The truth was he needed a break from sitting in his home office day in, day out and taking some heavy classes. This semester was: Linguistics, Psychology of Language, Philosophy of Ethics, and Developmental Psychology.
What does Kant have to do with all this? Well, he came up in the Philosophy class which was taught by a fresh-faced young woman from Scandinavia. Sounds good right? The syllabus for this class was beyond depressing. I was told that no one ever participated and never put their cameras on. Can you blame them? Here’s a sampling of the cheery topics: famine, casual sex, euthanasia, killing and eating puppies, abortion, sex and lies, casual sex again, rape, prostitution, addiction. All in the context of Utilitarianism, Hedonism, Cultural Relativism, Aristotelian Ethics, deductive reasoning, and last but not least the Kantian approach.
Now all we need is a safe word and we have a party!
There was a group project — something about marijuana and jail sentences — and it needed to be framed within these theories. Sean ended up being the group leader pretty much by default amid the semi-comatose. While assigning sections of the presentation (yea, a live presentation) he asked the quietest, least motivated, and seemingly most withdrawn student in the group, and she replied: “The Kantian Approach.” The hardest one. Full of Teutonic gravitas.
I found this all rather amusing. For some reason the Kantian Approach sounded like a chess move to me like the Luzhin Defence or the Queen’s Gambit. I was thinking about Kant’s Categorical Imperative (look it up!) and was wondering what would that chess move be? You lay your king down, walk away and hope the noise in your head subsides?
I could go on. There was a truly bizarre conversation on a class module about how lying to get sex may be regarded as a form of rape. Okay. I’m just wondering who will be left walking around, not in jail, after they round up 99.9% of the population.
I could hear Sean silently screaming, “Get me out of this!” This history class includes: the Enlightenment (okay), the surge of nationalism (yuck), imperialism (uh oh), World War I (double uh oh), totalitarianism, and to top off the summer: World War II.
We released him from this sentence. Instead Sean is working as a barista at a chic café in our uber-burbia. He’s delighted by the job.
After a day of work and loads of caffeine, Sean said to me, “Don’t ever give me cocaine!”
There’s an old monastery near me where I hike. The friars are long gone, but the acres are still there to enjoy. It’s a lovely tract of land and it has…wait for it…silence.
Last week we had a spectacular spring day. Off I went, and since it was a weekday no one was there. Only rabbits, turtles, geese and other sweet creatures. While I was on a remote wooded trail, two huge dogs came running towards me. Massive exquisite animals about 100lbs. or more.
Good thing I’m not afraid of dogs. I said, “Hi guys!” and their tails wagged and we were good. I think they had Great Dane, Rottweiler…maybe Doberman in them — I couldn’t identify the breed exactly. Both were dark-colored and one was brindled. They hung around with me as we enjoyed the woods, my new friends moving beautifully in tandem. After a while it occurred to me that there was no owner in sight. Unaccompanied minors!
I’m going to try and keep this short because it’s taken me several days to get this done. I saw the dogs a couple more times and I wound up my jaunt. As I was getting into my car, a Mercedes station wagon pulled up near me. A pleasant upper middle lady of a certain age got out and smiled at me (and I to her). She took two suburban-pampered-rescue-virtue-signaling-whatever Greyhounds out of the back. We exchanged inconsequential polite noises and I thought to alert her to the two dogs running around unattended. She was nice, thanked me, and then she irately said, “You know, I saw two intact males on Kimball Road!” Per usual, I had no idea what she meant; I think I was distracted because I was registering that she just had a close encounter with her inner Karen.
We wrapped it up; she went for her dog walk and I got into the car. It was then that it dawned on me what she meant. Intact males! She meant the dogs — maybe! I burst out laughing.
My family always had dogs, large ones and male. We never “fixed” them — interesting term. They had a lot of land to roam on and they were perfectly happy and healthy and lived to ripe old ages. Our last dog was a little more “humpy” than the others, so my mother suggested that we have him neutered. My father absolutely forbade it; he was pretty upset over the thought of it. I’m wondering if his primary concern was that he didn’t want my mother getting any ideas. My father had his way and the dog kept his testicles. The end.
What has happened? Where did we go? Hypoallergenic dogs, countless unspoken rules, the suburbanization of all viewpoints, make things “safe,” controlling every aspect of our lives so that no one draws outside the lines. WTF?