Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

From C.K. Williams' "On Being Old" (once again)

We come to know this thing called mind quite early on, and we also at some point much later come to realize how much our minds aren't susceptible to being what we'd like them to be. As I've aged--"matured" I suppose would be the word--I've become more and more aware of the parts of myself that don't arrive at anything like what's implied by that grand term. The older I am, the more I've become aware of how trapped I am in a mind that in its perceptions, its impulses, its emotions is very much still a child's. I've spent so much time, so much labor trying to tame this thing called mind, trying to cajole it to be more reasonable, more sensible, less absolute, less simply silly. But the task seems hopeless because my child's mind, the mind that lurks beneath all the others I like to think determine who I am, experiences the world in brute, crude, utterly unsophisticated systems of feeling and thought: it wants, it wishes, it desires--things, feelings, states of being--and when it isn't granted them to possess, or at least hope for, it becomes depressed, or flies into a tantrum. And, worse, it's not satisfied with halfway: it admits no partials, no gradations, no compromises or concessions. To it accommodations are capitulations, failures, precursors to defeat. 

Furthermore, that the world beyond me is not as my child's mind wishes it to be, imagines it can be, is passionately convinced it absolutely should be, throws it into a frenzy of frustration, exasperation, indignation, umbrage, so that I, trapped for so much of the time in this, my mind, am offended, embittered; I disapprove, I sulk, I become petulant. When I look out into that world, when I peer out between my petulance and my sulk at that world that at once lacks, and is in danger--how can it not be that I am fraught? How can my mind not be frightened--not only of the world but also of itself, this child's mind which inflicts the imperfect world on itself? 

But then, sooner or later, again and again, I ask myself how can the world's ultimate facticity, the simplicity of it, its purity, not be dimmed, diminished, thrown out of focus, distorted by a surrender to myself, by my helplessness before myself? I see the world as it is, its space, its people, its things; I see it glowing in the astonishment of pure being, yet the emotion I draw from that glow, from that blaze, is worry, concern, anguish; is anxiety, terror, then sadness, then, again, despair, that despair which seems not merely to perceive the world beyond itself, but, in its imagination, to consume it. 

And so I mostly shut up about my despair. Sometimes perhaps telling a poem, but mostly struggling to keep it to myself. 

As I will here. And return to death, which, in this context, can sometimes be, as I've said, solacing. Not to have to behold the rains stop, the deserts advance, the glaciers melt, not to experience the violence and suffering that may well ensue from such disruptions. 

And yet reality, our reality, is here: it beckons, it hasn't lost a bit of its glorious clarity, its colors, its sounds, its scents, those simple miracles which are more miraculous in the complexities that science has revealed are woven beneath them. I desire this world with the unquestioning, unconditional force of a love that forever wends a way through the interstices of disappointment, dissatisfaction, foreboding. 

And poetry. It doesn't seem absurd after all to have given one's life to poetry. To have been allowed to participate in the grandeur of its traditions, to have experienced so profoundly so many inspiring poems, so many poet-geniuses, so many glimmers of something greater than anything I could have imagined life would offer, life would be. Even unto death, poetry can go on, will go on.

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