Too Late, Too Soon

I am reminded tonight, adrift as I am again in the horse latitudes of creative inertia, of a line from the writer Anne Lamott.

“Ah! Stuck in the shit! And it’s your fault, you did this…”

Believe me I’m deeply motivated to blame others for the reality that I’m creating nothing out of nothing. Jean-Paul Sartre said “hell is other people” because the judgments of society are always in our minds, so we are never free. Even now as I type this, all alone in my condo — with no impressions of the outside world but the gentle exhalations of the freeway and the whisper of the sprinklers coming on — I am not free.

You are going to judge me, aren’t you? People who know me and people who don’t are going to read this and make calculations, draw conclusions, read between the lines, assume and presume to understand. And brains will have reactions. So you have a claim on my freedom from the future, as I have a claim on your attention from the past.

That is a weird concept: You’re in my head, for better or worse, and I’m in yours. And it seems to be a kind of magic. But if we’re not careful, it’s more disillusion than illusion, less trick than trial.

Sadly, that is the Grand Illusion, that we have the capacity to know each other, or even to know ourselves. Nevertheless, that is the poet’s job: to look out at the world and explore and illuminate moments subjectively, with the self as primary subject.

It’s late – the mind drifts. I leave you with a few ponderables from my Commonplace Book, perhaps to be parsed furtively in a future post, if God wills it:

“No matter how piercing and appalling his insights, the desolation
creeping over his outer world, the lurid lights and shadows of his inner
world, the writer must live with hope, work in faith.”

— J.B. Priestley

“Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”

— Sartre

“In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.”

— John Steinbeck

“No one deserves to know the real you. Let them criticize who they think you are.”

— Unknown

 

 

Stalling Death

One wants to tell a story, like Scheherezade, in order not to die. It’s one of the oldest urges in mankind. It’s a way of stalling death.

So said Carlos Fuentes, who failed as do we all, and died in 2012. He was born on November 11, 1928, which is why it’s been brought up now. And you can still read his books, so there’s one way to cheat death if it won’t be deferred.

I confess that when I see the word Scheherezade, I don’t think of the mythical Persian queen. She told stories to the king so he wouldn’t kill her. As much as I’d like a few of my words to live beyond me, I tend to think of Rimsky-Korsakov. He’s dead too, but his music still lives. Well played, Nokolai.

Two Ponderables from Antonio Machado

 

I love Jesus who told us

the heavens and earth shall pass away.

When the heavens and earth pass away,

my word will remain.

What was your word, Jesus?

Love? Pardon? Affection?

All your words were

one word: Arise.

 

– Antonio Machado

 

~~~

 

In my solitude. I have seen things very clearly that were not true. 

 

– Antonio Machado

Risk Factors

James Gandolfini is dead, says the Internet. He was in Rome with his 13 year old son. That is too young to lose your Dad. My heart goes out to that boy, and to the man’s family and friends. 51 is too young to die.

Gandolfini was born in 1961, as was I. We have more than that in common. Risk factors; I’m sure you understand. So I turned away and looked to my blogs, and found Neil Gaiman writing about the death of his friend Iain Banks, who died of gallbladder cancer recently.

Regular readers of Metaphor may recall my post last month, about my own struggles with the gallbladder. Damnable, bilious little thing. I can’t wait to have it out and gone! But I’m perforce working to lose weight first, to reduce the risks of anesthesia.

By Heaven, it will set a man to pondering.

Remember me as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so you will be,
Prepare for death and follow me.

But you know what? Death is really hard to look at, straight on. You have to come at it holding a mirror at an angle, or a shard of broken glass, and pretend not to be looking at all. The greatest common denominator, and the real traffic of all writing and most of human creativity, is elusive in daylight.

Here’s a video, a song for those going on ahead. And may the judgment not be too heavy upon us.

 

OK, here’s another song. This one is for me, maybe for you.

 

Because the sea is good for doing what it does, for cleaning up and washing all away. But the graveyard accepts and is patient, keeping watch, letting the years pass slowly in silence and in light.

— From my flash fiction piece, A Shadow Or A Dream

Heaven

How often do you wonder about it? Are you planning ahead for the trip?

Maybe we will cross a Rainbow bridge, where we are greeted by all of our lost and beloved pets. They were always the first to greet us in this life, and the best at doing it, so why not? And we will live there forever with everyone we’ve loved … In the popular image of Heaven, not much is mentioned about God. But isn’t He supposed to be the point?

StJohnClimacus

In today’s Writer’s Almanac, there’s a nice little poem called Heaven, which says that we will live in the past there – that Heaven is the past – and we’ll live there with

“Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.”

Sweet. Everybody gathers up and goes back in time, and entry is automatic, based on love, loss and memory. But it doesn’t make much sense, from a theological perspective. What about, you know, Judgment? God will not be mocked.

And if we gather up at a point in time and go back in time, what about everybody who lives on, remembering and missing us? Do they show up on a later bus?

I imagine we are like Billy Pilgrim, stuck in time now but not stuck in time always. So it goes. And heaven exists outside – beyond – the stream of time. It’s not past, present or future, it’s forever.

What Dreams May Come

What do you think?