aphorisms

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A cold, alien chill shoots up our spines. What chill, what alien that it is a chill, frightening, threatening being? How, alien? Who am I that something not me can enter being, unwanted, unwelcome?

The body, full of spots of hot and cold and not so hot and less than cold, is alive. Food we take in our mouths becomes thermal energy, reconstructed by the body to provide heat against the colds of day and night, animating us, we move and think and be. What colds, what hots are us; which alien?

Alien? Alien! Some external notion, ever suspected or thrust away? Persons, sickness, retches, the colds of total shiverings, all me? What alien? What me? Some feelings of body I read and like. Others I don’t seem to like? Me? Alien?

Who I am, who am I not? Other persons: bodies, minds, they affect me, taking over thoughts, creating desires, fears, angers, loss of concentration. I want…I don’t…want. What edges, where is the me which is not anyone else? What love, what hate…them, my self?

Mothers’ work! All of us, all our flesh conceived by others, still imagined. The me I love, the me I love less, not so separate.

The me I am, the me which is other which is else, spinning webs of self-trap, imagining that I am hermitted in life. What family, what friends, where does love begin and fear end? What is lust, sickness, that I fear my own feelings and call them alien?

Kill the aliens; kill the fear?

The problem: my chill and rear.

The solution…?

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Attending the first of a series of meetings with the general title of “aspects…” I was alarmed at once by the lack of thought and study which had preceded it, and by the sense that the organizers thought they were engaged in doing something which would surely shake the earth. Some of the best and weightiest of minds had grappled with this area of inquiry and of life’s experiences, and here some lighter weights sought to exert and to insert their presence onto the world’s literatures.

I, a mostly outsider, mostly hoping to find some thought and talk, showed up a few minutes early. The room, a chemistry lecture hall which rises from about the sixth row, was virtually empty except for the two gatherers and a few others. A silly sense of consternation reigned, especially since the organizers had expected a full house based on a previous discussion series a few years earlier, on the subject of “Structuralism.”

They had wanted – it appeared – a full room, rather than the most interested, possibly most thoughtful half dozen. Even unprepared they wanted to play in a large arena, as if their mere presence and selfness would carry the day.

After several minutes of re-forming, a geologist talked about aspects of change, geologically speaking. The talk, well-prepared and delivered, talked about geology as a theory of change, itself. It was quite straight-forwardly descriptive. It was not informed by any such theory out of some deep and I sense hopefully mystical sense of what is change which seemed to lurk in the organizers’ wonderings.

The organizers, hoping that some theory of theory of theory would emerge, seemed disappointed, but capable of being informed. Left with the problem, not of change, but of publicizing the series, they will regroup and look for larger audiences.

I, inspired somehow by an underlying spirit of the meeting that the problems associated with change are central to most everything, swallowed my cynicism and became curious. It was this experience which moved me toward the study of Heraclitus who thought “all is change,” and toward the idea that the paradox of change and permanence are central to most everything else…

The end of a long summer’s drought, a seemingly gentle rain woke me early. Steady fall, the love of the sound, like ocean’s washings lulling my sensibilities. Now, a year past the mundane worries of new roof’s imperfections, my mind is given over to the morning’s review of my recent world, much filled with life’s major events: marriage, sickness, impending death of some older members of my family.

Rain steady, the backdrop to a Vivaldi string sonata melding as planned into the droplets: gently wavering. Now, teaching, a telling to a group of world students, who is the great behemoth of the West; where we may be heading. A love of teaching…to those who want to understand. This year, a clear resentment that we are involved, even deeply responsible for: the world’s killings, for some sense of injustice, for increasing terror and terrors – all in the name of justice.

Rain, like lullabies driving me by easy steps, into a wondering about life’s visions: for me, you, all of us, and in what name? What God; what gods, of life, of death, I keep thinking that we are telling ourselves to betray some trust, sacred in the hands of humanity. Rain, steady, bringing to my mind words like: inevitable, fate, destiny. These thoughts, usually more harsh, ebb and flow with the loves of being and of being, with you.

A rainy day, soon to take a long walk around the lake of my city’s living, abandoned to the very few who will love with me, the sound, the wet, the fogs of rain-altered vision.

Big words claim too much attention (Joubert).

In high school, a Freshman English teacher whom I remember mostly for her protruding teeth and slightly sardonic teaching mode, talked frequently about little words and big words, placing a pseudo-monetary value upon them: one-dollar words, five, then twenty, up maybe to fifty-dollar words.

I wanted, I recall, to know them all, ordinary to obscure, simple to elegant. But I hated using a too-big word when a cheaper one would do as well. A question of who I am, of audience, of a too-cheap impression, a trying to take on a mantle of faked elegance, where ordinary seemed more genuine? A friend, I remember, now a physician-professor at an important university, used the highest priced word he could find to do the job. I felt jolted, cheated, trying to make something appear better than it was, the words overtaking the content, the form calling loudly: “Here I am!”

I, who have spent much time with words: translating, writing, reading Thesaurus’ entries moving from one skein to others, want the words to do the job, to work, to attract, to scream even when screaming is useful – or necessary. But too big words proclaim themselves, stand out, want to be re-read, repeated, to grow…

Big words: claim too much attention.

My appearance is not what or how it appears.

Aha! What you see is hardly me. I walk in certain spheres and people see this middle-aged man, which is me, yet not me.

In fact, in some places, like hospitals and colleges people say hello to me as if I am someone they know and have known. I fit, somehow, right now, smack in the middle of some stereotype that people have for what I should look like, and I do – to them. And so they say hello to me as if they knew me and know me. And I say hello back, as if it is precisely natural and correct. The appearance, the I to whom they say hello, is not exactly the I who thinks ‘I am.’ So some sinner, I, shrug and remain polite, and do not challenge, saying, “You don’t know me, really.” And I feel a bit peculiar.

Closer to home, the where of where I live, where I am known in deeper actuality, I am seen as an appearance which is more closely dialectical. The ‘who’ you see, my dears, is me, almost. Some residue, some particular strangeness in me, alone almost, is the eye which is not. A plastic disc, iris painted in the detail which was the me when it was new some years ago, is the eye into which you pierce, looking for my soul. What looks back is no more than a moistened reflection of the ambience of the room’s light.

Where I am, then, in the midst of all this looking? I see very clearly, that you see the I you think I am. For me, you see, the fact of my experience is my reality.

Carlos Castaneda said – somewhere – that the most difficult thing in life is in believing what is happening in the moment; in this moment.

Both as participants in our lives and observers of it, we all live in two modes, each with its own sense of being and of time.

Unless we sense the context, know the script of what is going on, then we stand aside, watching. Like the watchful m/other when her infant is asleep, our observing self is content beyond the time of doing.

This is usually useful, because the world of happenings and doings and occurrences is mundane; almost a sleepwalking, once we know who we are and where we have been.

Occasionally, however, something happens at a distance, or in the background, and we fail to report it to ourselves because we don’t believe it; because we are not in its time, in our own time of each moment’s doing.

We live entranced, captivated by our selves’ observers, playing out its particular surety, not noticing and…Not believing what it does not see exactly. Not seeing because one self’s observer is already committed to one’s own belief.

Life is like a course of lectures, the observer seeking the content of each lecture; no longer noting what is a lecture, nor yielding life to any thought behind the lecturer’s presentation.

These happenings which we do not note, what happens to them? Do they bump our observers’ eye, push however gently at our life’s constellations?

Do we wake up some day to find our selves outside of…ourself?

Should we struggle to see and to believe what it is we see, in each moment…and if we do…?

 

When I (we) was young, maturity seemed like some end-point toward which…Adulthood a place which possessed its own knowledge and meaning which would become somehow obvious; achieving, falling-into this state.

For more than twenty years we took on the mantles of parenthood, thinking it was grown-up and adult, perhaps in contrast to our children who were small, needed care and guidance, and… who then grew-up.

All these outward facets of being adult have passed. We are here, now alone, now without the others to tell: yet consultants, friends, but not as adults to anyone, certainly not to ourselves.

What will be next – post-adult – beyond the imagination of becoming mature, a category whose outline blurred; what occupation, what place in the world, what to do, who and how to be?

Past-adulthood: a time to re-think, to re-consider; new problems, new notions of activity, a more powerful sense of boredom with more time, shelter no longer a house, where is there to be “at home?”

 

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