Insanity, Insanity

clive-james

You get to the age when a book’s power to make you think becomes the first thing you notice about it. You can practically sense that power when you pick the book up. The books I already had in the house presumably once generated the same sort of charge when I contemplated buying them. Now there they were, still in their thousands despite the recent winnowing. I roamed slowly among them: old purchases begging to be read again even as the new purchases came in at the rate of one plastic shopping bag full every week. Insanity, insanity. Or, as Johnson might have said, vanity, vanity.

~ Clive James, Latest Readings (August, 2015)


Image Credit: theaustralian.com.au

Perspective of time and distance alter substance

pascal-campion-drawing-illustration-jump-child-youth-memories

In the poems I have been thinking of and writing the last few years, I have grown aware that childhood is a subject somehow available to me all over again. The perspective of time and distance alter substance somewhat, and so it is possible to think freshly of things that were once familiar and ordinary, as if they had become strange again. I don’t know whether this is true of everybody’s experience, but at a certain point childhood seems mythical once more. It did to start with, and it does suddenly again.

~ Donald Justice, from an interview with The Missouri Review, quoted by Linda Pastan, “Yesterday’s Noise: The Poetry of Childhood Memory,” Writer (vol. 105, no. 10, 1992)


Credits: Art – Pascal Campion. Quote: Memory Landscape

 

A soft gray morning

bird-solitude-sky-alone

Such a tightly packed weekend …
I shall never be able to sort it all out today.
But there are things I must capture here this morning …
a soft gray morning, well-suited to a quiet think.

~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea: A Journal


Notes:

Your turn. Go ahead. Light up your particle episode.

  
It is through the individual brain alone that there passes the momentary illumination in which a whole country-side may be transmuted in an instant…Man’s mind, like the expanding universe itself, is engaged in pouring over limitless horizons…The great artist, whether he is a musician, painter, or poet, is known for this absolute unexpectedness.  One does not see, one does not hear, until he speaks to us out of that limitless creativity which is his gift.

The flash of lightning in a single brain also flickers along the horizon of our more ordinary heads. Without that single lightning stroke in a solitary mind, however, the rest of us would never have known the fairyland of The Tempest, the midnight world of Dostoevsky, or the blackbirds on the yellow harvest fields of Van Gogh. We would have seen the blackbirds and endured the depravity of our own hearts, but it would not be the same landscape that the act of genius transformed. The world without Shakespeare’s insights is a lesser world, our griefs shut more inarticulately in upon themselves. We grow mute at the thought – just as an element seems to disappear from sunlight without Van Gogh. Yet these creations we might call particle episodes in the human universe – acts without precedent, a kind of disobedience of normality, unprophesiable by science, unduplicable by other individuals on demand. They are part of that unpredictable newness which keeps the universe from being fully explored by man.

Loren Eiseley, “Strangeness in the Proportion” from The Night Country


Image: eikadan

di·lem·ma (n)

jump-hair-tuck

And it occurs to me that
there is a proper balance between
not asking enough of oneself and
asking or expecting too much.
It may be that I set my sights too high
and so repeatedly end a day in depression.
Not easy to find the balance,
for if one does not have wild dreams of achievement,
there is no spur even to get the dishes washed.
One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.

~ May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude


Notes: Image Source: Mennyfox55. Related posts: May Sarton

Journaling yesterday. Blogging (in the “receptacle”) today. We are all in the same boat.

journals-diary-writing

Growing old is certainly far easier for people like me who have no job from which to retire at a given age. I can’t stop doing what I have always done, trying to sort out and shape experience. The journal is a good way to do this at a less intense level than by creating a work of art as highly organized as a poem, for instance, or the sustained effort a novel requires. I find it wonderful to have a receptacle into which to pour vivid momentary insights, and a way of ordering day-to-day experience (as opposed to Maslow’s “peak experiences,” which would require poetry). If there is an art to the keeping of a journal intended for publication yet at the same time a very personal record, it may be in what E. Bowen said: “One must regard oneself impersonally as an instrument.”

~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea (1977)

(Robert) Coles himself says elsewhere in the piece, “Not everyone can or will do that— give his specific fears and desires a chance to be of universal significance.” To do this takes a curious combination of humility, excruciating honesty, and (there’s the rub) a sense of destiny or of identity. One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private, and one must also believe in the vehicle for expressing them, in the talent.

[…]

But I believe we learn through the experiences of others as well as through our own, constantly meditating upon them, drawing the sustenance of human truth from them, and it seems natural to me to wish to share these aperçus, these questions, these oddities, these dilemmas and pangs. Why? Partly, I suppose, because the more one is a receptacle of human destinies, as I have become through my readers, the more one realizes how very few people could be called happy, how complex and demanding every deep human relationship is, how much real pain, anger, and despair are concealed by most people. And this is because many feel their own suffering is unique. It is comforting to know that we are all in the same boat.

~ May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (1973)


Notes:

SMWI*: Everything is boring that does not happen in a chair

horse-mouth-funny

After the customary indulgence over the holidays, here’s Donald Hall, the 87 year old American writer and poet (and Poet Laureate), offering work-out inspiration. Think “Opposite Game” you played with your kids.

My trainer, Pamela Sunburn, works me out Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. She’s tiny and strong, four foot ten and a hundred pounds of muscle. If she had to, I’m sure she could carry my two hundred pounds slung over her shoulders. For half an hour each session she has me do cardio on the treadmill, squat with five-pound weights, lift tenners over my head and out from my sides, stretch muscles, stand up no hands with a beach ball between my knees, and do push-ups (as it were) standing against a wall. Exercise hurts, as well it might, since by choice and for my pleasure I didn’t do it for eighty years. (Once in my fifties I walked four miles.) […]

I sit on my ass all day, writing in longhand, which Kendel types up. Sometimes in a car I would pass Pancake Road, two miles away, and see a man walking his collie, the dog stepping out on his forepaws, two wheels harnessed to his backside. These days I no longer drive past Pancake Road or anywhere. I push wheels ahead of me instead of pulling them behind me like the dog. With my forepaws holding the handles of a four-wheeled roller, my buckling hindquarters slowly shove my carcass forward. I drool as I walk, and now and then I sniff a tree. […]

I went out for cross-country. As I did laps for endurance, I heard my eighty-year-old coach— the war had resurrected elderly faculty— mutter, “Truck horse.” My feelings were hurt. I worked on improving my style, but when I ran cross-country, agony rotated from ribs of one side to ribs of the other. I faked turning my ankle. […]

I have been told that as a baby I crawled up on a kitchen table and devoured a quarter pound of butter. I spewed it out quickly, and mouth-memory has endured in my distaste for yellow milkfat. Because it was so athletic to climb the table, perhaps my misadventure also led to my athletic malfitness. […]

Exercise is boring. Everything is boring that does not happen in a chair (reading and writing) or in bed.

~ Donald Hall, Physical Malfitness. Essays After Eighty


Notes:

Lightly child, lightly

raining-texture

To be held
by the light
was what I wanted,
to be a tree drinking the rain,

— Linda Hogan, “To Be Held” from Dark. Sweet.


Notes:

  • Poem Source: I Hear It In The Deep Heart’s Core. Photo: uiethma with Rain
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly

Benoit Courti

It’s just time:
the book I read,
the letter I write,
the window I look out of.
Just a sleeve I keep trying to mend,
the spool diminishing.
Just my one hand writing words,
my other hand weighing the silences between them.

Li-Young Lee, The Winged Seed: A Remembrance


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Memory’s Landscape. Photo:Benoit Courti  (via mennyfox55)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Amateurs. Seeking mastery? Here’s our Truth.

arrow-gif-bullseye

TRUTH. In a second.

He’s the spark for this share.  Greg Cowles, editor of the NY Times Book Review, reviews Mary Karr’s new book The Art of Memoir.  One sentence in his review (also titled The Art of Memoir) summarizes his thoughts on the book:

It is not, alas, a very good book. Repetitive, unorganized, unsure of its audience or tone, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a how-to guide or a work of critical analysis.

Here’s my review of the book review in fewer words: BAH!

Now on to the Truth, our Truth, Truth for anyone seeking mastery of anything – with the most illuminating excerpt from Karr’s new book.


[Read more…]

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