Renewal Thirty-Nine : Riding A Barrel Over The Falls
It’s nearly 6 p.m. and I’ve managed to get my work accomplished for today. I may even try and grade some more papers just to make tomorrow a little easier. About three more weeks and I’ll be able to take a small break.
Somehow, I have to figure this out. There just has to be more space in my life, time to wander around doing nothing. And I’d certainly love to do that with my woman, wherever she is. And I’d love to do it on our land and in our house, wherever that is (yes, I’m an incurable romantic, along with a few other incurable afflictions).
I did see a picture in the paper the other day of a contemporary log home built from a kit. It was beautiful to me, something I could feel in my entire being. It had large, insulated front windows, which, when facing south in this hemisphere, would provide solar heating during the winter. The main front room had tall ceilings, a big rock fireplace and a loft connected to the upstairs overlooking it all. That’s about all it showed, but I fell for it immediately. It goes on my list.
In any case, the papers I’ve been reading are supposed to be about psychologist Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development. The students are required to visit four of his eight stages and explain why those stages might be important to know in other stages of life.
Many of the students are having a heck of a time with it, largely because it is a creative paper dealing with “whys.” This is not the usual descriptive or research paper that they are used to, and many are lost. By this time in the academic journey, students have been so indoctrinated to spit out what some teacher wants, that the ability to think logically, integratively, and creatively is pretty much a foreign concept. Ironically, Erikson himself did not much care for formal education (he never received an academic degree), believing that it stifled the ability to think for one’s self.
The last of Erikson’s eight stages is ego integrity versus despair which occurs somewhere around age 65 (each of the eight stages pitted a positive and a negative which were going to be resolved one way or the other, though a successful resolution required attention to both facets). This integrity issue is an important one. When I was in my teens, the father of a friend of mine once told me that integrity was not something one acquired, it was something we were all born with and we either kept it or we gave it away. His words were something that stuck with me.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, my experiences talking with the two older gentlemen in the gas station where I worked when I was 18 or 19, was also about living life with that sense of integrity. Though some 45 years ahead of me at the time (if we count 65 as the age in which integrity versus despair begins to kick in), I knew in my own way that what I laid down between then and later would fuel either integrity or despair.
As I’ve said more than once, I have made my mistakes, obviously. But, however clumsily, I have mostly remained true to that original vision. In fact, all of this recapitulation is about making the true desires in my being come into my life–the place I’ll live, the particular land and house, the woman that will genuinely be with me and I with her, the work I’ll do and the work we’ll do (and the same for her as an individual). And all of this will be a creation and a manifestation of our true selves, not someone who creates because of an overactive ego and/or because of some default societal download.
Each day I try and remember to reaffirm this position, each day I look for the things that I want, each day I try and celebrate what I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going (even if all of these affirmations are difficult amidst the backdrop of feeling blue), and each day, just for good measure, I am caustic a little bit–just because it cracks me up and seems to sharpen my eye. I will be careful not to be this way around those that are hurt by it, in fact I don’t even want to be around those people anymore. But in the relationship with the land and the trees and myself and my woman, wherever she is, and with the people who will laugh and feel good, I will be myself, and be glad for the company and the relationship of it all, and I will be very glad to release all of the rest from the cells of my experience.
I did not see all of the movie, but the other day, in the midst of working, I took a break and flipped on the television. A movie entitled “Double Indemnity” with Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck was on. I understand that it was a movie that made some waves when it was produced (early 40s?) because the good guys didn’t win.
It made my stomach hurt to watch what I saw of it. There was so much negative emotion created that served as a web that not only caught up other people in it, but the very ones creating the web. All of that sadness and grief, like some kind of magnetic angst attracting the same. All of that fear that one would not get what they wanted, though what they wanted kept shifting. And the use of that created data to support the feelings and the angst that were simply a construct and not the product of a lousy childhood or a beleaguered adulthood or some curse that kept people away from the brass ring. Then having concocted a reason why the brass ring was just out of reach, the competition begins–the created competition in which there is only one winner.
It struck me as an apt metaphor for human existence for the most part–our scars, our trophies, our troubles that seem external, but actually arise from creating the “one-event-one-winner” reality. I wonder why that works for us? Is it a sense of all or nothing, and if so, just where did we come up with that? Are we in such a fog, do we have the very nature of existence so turned on its head, that we need this kind of value system, this kind of hierarchy?
That plane of existence is not for me. I will leave it to those that like it, whether they know it or not. I survived it pretty well, but the waste of energy and life force is enormous. And that particular brass ring is actually cold and unalluring; the reality of it far less than the imagination of it.
I recognize that I probably go on about this because it is still very close. Staying out of an arena that is familiar is very difficult, after all, that is what is known. But the creative task means exploring that which is unknown, and a very difficult task that is, to leave any tether, to cut any umbilical cord, and to venture off into what seems like the unknown.
It’s funny though, what it boils down to is that the unknown is just not familiar. The trick is to let what is familiar and not wanted atrophy through inattention (not through ignorance of it), and to make what we want to be familiar, familiar through attention. It’s like a rule that we are unaware of, a rule that exists despite that lack of awareness.
Time is an interesting addition to it all. I suppose we need the space created by time to create what we want in the space. Maybe time allows us to make mistakes more slowly, even if it seems, sometimes, to keep us from what we want.
All of that may need a flow chart. Sometimes stream-of-consciousness just goes over a waterfall. And sometimes I feel like I was in a barrel on that ride.
Where’s that first aid station, again?
Thirty-Nine : Riding A Barrel Over The Falls