February 2009

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There are some people I meet who seem, immediately, to be and have been soul-mates. We go to the depths of each other’s characters, knowing the way as if it had been written in the tablets of time.

We move into the premises and promises and premonitions, each barrier sliding aside as the right questions are posed, the answers received positively, each generating a next.

We argue gently, for we disagree and are not each other. And that is O.K., because there are many life journeys, and the world is of a size that no one can go upon them all.

These soul-mates move, immediately, past what I look like to them into the depths of feeling and of thinking, into who I am, really. But I am fearsome, and many who would know me, cannot; and I do not know what to say or think about that.

I am often protective because I have known that many others have neither the means nor the willingness to begin to know me as I know my self. During several years of lessened confidence, I often reacted self-protectively; handled the reactions of others to my semblance, by an inner recitation of Machiavelli’s dictum: “It is better to be feared than to be loved.”

But even so, I am quite fortunate. I fit into several mostly positive stereotypes at this point in life. I look like what I should look like, for many others. They are inclined already toward me: too old to be physically dangerous, old enough to be taken seriously…for others to want to…know me, trust me.

My youthful earnest and self-righteous anger has mellowed and has been cast out from my appearance. Others – do not find many soul-mates because they do not look right…to them.

Already by the time we begin, the barriers erect themselves; the possibilities of hurt and anguish, overweighing the potential of understanding , of being…understood: pride, integrity?

Connecting. Yes, lovely. But not always…possible…or actual.

A nerve, a verve, a…willingness to do and be. A fear, a sense of fear kept in tow, if not exactly conquered. A question of why the issue of being confident should even arise.

A loss…of confidence? – more clearly the issue; the disappearance of nerve, of verve, of the fright of the willingness to do, leaves me almost breathless. Perhaps it is only a feeling, located somewhere in the depths of my bowels, but nonetheless a power in my life which determines much of what I will never think of doing…less of what I might actually do.

Confidence – that when I get up to play the violin (if I have prepared sufficiently), that when I perform or lecture, that I can depend on my knees not shaking so wildly that I will be forced to sit down or sit out; that my voice will not fail, that my mind will not blank, that my thinking will be fast enough, that words will be found in my thinking’s machinations; that whatever happens I will not lose my control, my coolness of mind…that I will be able to smooth over whatever anger or anguish may arise: others and my own.

Confidence in balance with wanting new experiences, to learn from and while doing, so I can move on toward new ideas. Confidence in some balance with the variety of fears which motivate and which obscure, which turn thinking aside, away from, toward the past and gaining ascendance over what I may do or will do in actuality.

The academic counterpart of the query: if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? If… why aren’t you at Harvard or Cambridge? That is, if… why are you here? Transpose! The obverse: you are here, thus you are not there, thus you are not so smart; not good enough to… A decline into a distrust of self, the definition of quality sliding into the same distrust. The quality of judgment, gone. Are there others who can help us? We need help! We beseech. “Hello! Will you come here and help us! We are not good enough to judge well. Will you help us? Why are we calling you? Because you are smart and rich… and you are not here. Will you come here and help us? No? You fear that you will become like us, once you are here? No, that is not true. You are there, you are worthy. You ask how we can judge that calling you is good judgment, if we have no good judgment?” A good question! A good question?