Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Keifus's essay on masks reminded me: I like the person I want to be. I'm dashing, funny, loving, clean. There's an inner august with a purity about him, a better husband, a renaissance man. My doppelganger answers his emails, keeps up with his friends, consoles with kind words and baked goods.

I aspire to a kind of truth – that those around me could bank on what I say.

I aspire to know the difference between good and evil. To lose weight. To no longer move through the world with such phobias (car accidents, tidal waves, terrorism). To write.

I aspire to connections, like the other night when standing on the northbound platform, I looked into the lit windows of a southbound train. The people inside all looked familiar to me, as if I recognized them, as if there were a limited number of souls in the world and I had gotten to know most of them. The brakes put off an electric smell, the taste of a battery. It was cold, and I realized I was wrong. I don't have a guardian angel, and I don't have an illuminating angle on life. I just want to.

In 1960 the French philosopher E. M. Cioran wrote, "Whenever I happen to be in a city of any size, I marvel that riots do not break out every day: massacres, unspeakable carnage, a doomsday chaos. How can so many human beings coexist in a space so confined without destroying each other, without hating each other to death? As a matter of fact they do hate each other, but they are not equal to their hatred. And it is this mediocrity, this impotence, that saves society, that assures its continuance, its stability." He was talking about utopias. That people could imagine a better world allowed them to tolerate this one.

I would not put myself in a camp with Cioran. But I do think many of the decisions I make (most notably marriage) are attempts to challenge myself to try to live up to the me I wish were possible, and failure seems a constant danger. Still, I like it about myself that I aspire. It's a part of me I can relate to.


Keifus said...

The Cioran quote reminded me of a novel I read by Robert Charles Wilson called The Gypsies. (Wilson is a favorite writer of mine, but it wasn't, to be honest, his best effort.) But anyway, the prop was that a family of children had the fantasy power to open doors to alternate realities. The gradual revelation (spoiling here), which was well done, and which sticks with me, was that they were handicapped by their poor ability to envision better worlds.

(Take that analogy, if you will, to literature, to writing.)

One thing I fear is that the ideal me and the real me are going to sooner or later coincide. Not because I meet the ideal, but because I compromise it. On the other hand, maybe that's what inner peace is about. I'll let you know if I get there.

Also, thanks.


Dawn Coyote said...

My aspiration this year is to embrace my own nature, to struggle against it less, to practice wu wei, non-resistance, and to generally glide along peacefully, unruffled, a small, beautific smile on my face. In short, I’m converting to Taoism, not the seeking-immortality part, but the seeking-equanimity part (really, I just plan to chill out).

august said...

Chilling out a good idea, and if wu wei helps you get there, I'm all for it. I actually taught a class on Chinese Daoism last semester, and it seems that over there there's an awful lot of weiing (doing, making) to get to the calm part.

The immortality part seems to involve a certain amount of poison, so wise to avoid. The thing I always found most interesting about Daoist alchemy was its interest in transformation rather than goals. They'd turn cinabar to gold, and then back again. The point wasn't gold, it was change.

Hmm, might make a good top post.

Keif -- I hate Billy Collins, but he has a funny poem about people who die winding up exactly in the places they always imagined they'd go. So some folks are in heaven, others in hell, some in a kind of nothingness, and others stuck in boxes.

I agree it's a very good analogy. Probably worth more thought.

I wouldn't worry about compromise. I think you and I are similar in that we both seem to have endless reserves of self-criticism. Probably makes us good husbands. I guess I'd like inner peace, too, but see "poison" above.

Thank you.

twiffer said...

do i sense a new year's resolution?


i've made mine: not to track down and kill the person whose car alarm went off five times in the space of two hours late last night (why? who knows? must have had a "kick me" sign in the rear windshield). doing okay so far.

aspiration of self improvement is a good thing (generally). it's when you try to become a "better person" for someone else's sake that you run into problems.