May 2010

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I asked him by what privilege the outlook calling itself the Humanities would proceed to write an Encyclopedia of Popular Art. His response, with proper bravado, was: “arrogance.”

I think he meant it. I, sitting in a liberal Midwestern setting where the people were well disposed to knowledge and ideas and some sense of strength and bravery and just a little cunning, wondered if we weren’t being slicked by the big-town boy with style, coming to bring us the word…the world.

He, sitting perhaps, in an academic setting which had no big outlook, no project of worth, worth doing, saw the necessity to strike big, to proclaim the big job, the Project, something to do, thus arrogance.

To this arrogance he does, however, bring an energy which might support and sustain the arrogance he will need to have, to do what he claims he wants to do. Maybe he can, maybe he will. Sheer arrogance!

The problem in being, in being loving and loveable, is that I must be sufficiently strong, sufficiently myself, so I can be as you, in your own terms and senses, while being still the me, that both of us want and need. To be weak, to be meek, is to yield a sense of self which fades in its own doing. To have given away so much of my self in so-called love, is to have to draw all my strength from you, perhaps strengthening the relationship from necessity, but no longer in-love. To know you, to be and to think in the terms in which you think and are, to give some full measure of my understanding to your being, is to have some reserves, some looking-out from which to draw my self into yours, and yet be the me that I can re-find in each and every moment. To be strong enough, to be able to be hurt without being destroyed, as I take on the hurts from your being as well as my own…to be able to use this to construct my own tomorrow, thus would I be and become.

An object, a demi-person, a convenient mark upon which to ventilate my frustrated feelings when they are so built-up that I am forced to the demeaning choice of beating upon some other – or upon my self.

A dog, so loving in most moments, will forgive me, I know, if I beat him or kick him or scream at him. A dog, so loving, his broad back available to pound upon, his muzzle, fawning eyes, so easy somehow to snuff out in my seeing of them non-reflective in his dog’s being, I can scream at. A dog will neither snap at me nor bite me, nor implore me.

Later, I can forgive him easily for the damage I might have inflicted upon him.

People – scapegoats, the small, the weak, the infirm, it is a little less easy.

If I attack my most time loves, I attack myself and find it difficult to recover that sense of myself which deserves their love.

If I beat upon some others, I seem to lessen them, to blame those persons as if they were some hated – or feared – type or sort of person.

And they? What do they do with my blaming them for something which happened to me? Do they understand? Can they?

In lessening them don’t I diminish my self?

And if I find no other creatures, do I do bad things to my self?
How do I learn to absorb the feelings or lessen them to some point where I can, and not teach myself how not to feel?

How do I direct whatever I may feel to its proper source, nor yet be afraid?

What’s misleading is that so many people live here. It seems like a city. It looks like a city. And there is plenty to do here. There is no great reason to leave, and unless you do, you don’t begin to ask where the next place is.

In any direction, in every direction, in each direction there is land, land, land, not so full of very much. It goes on, so that looking forward does not see any end, any point where there is someplace…else.

Arriving, it is now a pleasure to look back, to see, and think, to contemplate where I was: that it is an island, an urban jewel in the midst of oceans of land.

Never mind that it is frozen tundra much of the year (today, especially). Never mind the jerks, the banality of copyists trying to be not-so-great from too afar. Never mind the eras of too early maturing teenagers now middle aged who thought they were somewhere…in the big times which got older, faded, tired.

Here, looking down upon Ol’ Miss, the Great River, I see city everywhere, bustling through a wind chill which threatens in each moment.

The steams of city rising tell me that I am in the middle of an island, heavily populated, cut-off from the elsewheres of life which grant meaning in the news of today, every day.

Living on an island, trying to image-ine it big enough so its edges create the dialectics of newness.

So its perspectives of the distances of clear vision grant new understanding and do not stifle.