October 2010

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“A man in America is a failed boy,” said John Updike. What a vision: that boyhood is whatever is wonderful, a life in itself that it goes on and on; or that it somehow should. The courage of eagles, the heroics of hunting lions wrapped in a package of mock combat, far from whatever are the enduring realities of a grown-up’s life; free from…Failure as a real boy requires a kind of bouncing back, a super-seeding, to become All-American.

Ambitions for all of life, perceived by the short experience of teen age’s expanding chests and swollen shoulders; gaining strength, gaining confidence, always gaining. Nothing yet at plateau, no settling-down, no distractions. No looking back because there is as yet no history: to inform; to battle.

Manhood: at war with what and whom I might have been.

Life after high school: a perpetual reliving of the home runs I might have hit, or the goals I would have scored.

H (age 30).  Help! I am stuck. I am at the end of my rope. Running about the edges of a cul-de-sac, I have seen what there is so many times, I forget to look because it is all memorized. Help me! I want to get out of here.
H (age 70).  Really? That’s too bad. Why don’t you just stop. Get off, get out. What’s the problem?
H (30). Help me! I’ve put in so much time, energy, my life. My life…is here. I can’t get out, can’t give up.
H (70).  Are you stuck on being stuck? Have you fallen in love with what you are doing so that finishing, at this point, will leave you with nothing to do? Are you afraid to hang your work out in public like Monday’s wash? They’ll find out it’s you, you know. The torn and tattered underwear will give you away.
H (30).  But I want it to be right. No mistakes. I’ve put so much time in this. Help me!
H (70).  O.K. I’ll help. But only if you stop at this task of fifty years which you want done yesterday. You took on a difficult task. What did you expect, you thirty-year-old genius? Mistakes, embarrassment? Too bad. You wanted to be very good, but didn’t expect the high prices?  Everything’s inflated, especially your ego dancing still, just above the plateau of the do-able. Easier to deflate your ego than to complete this task? The impasse is you…not your work.