So I sat on the proverbial couch, a comfy chair actually, directly facing that of my therapist, a window looking out over a part of Dupont Circle, talking out in many different ways how I had refused to leave the territory of liberal arts one occupies then normally moves on from in college in the course of the twenty five years after it. I had failed the IQ logic game athletic competition job interview basic competence psychological check-up weirdness test insecurity ritual that is youthful courtship to my own lasting chagrin, and perhaps attempted some compensation, some cold comfort, and so I would not leave. I perceived liberal arts, at least somewhat fairly, as a family tradition, therefore something to fall back on in seeking life's course. I walked around in the normal world, but my mind was elsewhere, and if so it's hard to fake it.
In occupying that territory, customarily reserved for education professionals, I had gone down a long path, one of idle thoughts and daily writings, that could only lead to further positions obscure to the normal business practices of the everyday world, finally leaving me little to entertain but Buddhist concepts and the like. So was I a fairly useless person outside of my day job, which was a night job anyway, by its nature a job obscure to all but other practitioners of it. And a big voice telling me most days, "grow up!" Go to law school, do something, graduate school, get a grown-up job, make use of precious time, responsibly, practically, enough with this silly writer mental masturbation business. Liberal arts ideals had led me deep into a forest that almost everyone avoids, let alone spend years going deeper into it.
But one goes to a therapist because things are, or at least they seem to be, complicated. A Russian writer named Dostoevsky once wrote, at the peak of his career, a long mad rambling book exalting, putting forth, a humble human version of the foot washing ideal. And if he had abandoned such impractical matters, had not struggled, grappled with them, either with reluctance or not, we'd not have The Brothers Karamazov. He was a practical enough a writer to earn his keep, a track record proven. So you can't really compare, but still, going through his works, Notes from the House of the Dead, The Idiot, yes, you're not far from the mainstream of liberal arts thinking.
Or does one simply need the refuge of the thought-free meditations of Buddhist practice that liberal arts and reading poetry leads to, as a way of tending sympathetically to the organic being? Socratic dialogs in the mind, questioning.
Looking back on the actual leaving of liberal arts, that awkward period of graduation, the event was marked as much as it was from leaving the beautiful college itself by the unsatisfactory shut off of an interesting interaction with a very interesting young person of the opposite sex, something that gets under your skin and stays with you, something you try your best to be as noble as you can, not knowing you had such an ability to take suffering really. That person occupies your chest against your will. And your world can close down around you. But for the sense of having learned something, something like you'd find in Corinthians, even if it's largely useless. All good except for what it might offer as far your employment prospects, celebrating an organic uniqueness and individuality that might not come across in a world of advertisements, social media, the get with the program, the style we put on to wear to fit in which is not always ourselves.
Where is that place for Socratic dialogs, Platonic ideal, the higher love spoken of in Corinthians, for Buddhist understandings, for all the ghosts of liberal arts? Where do we talk about them, leaving for a moment the mode of strutting about like a chicken speaking of how practical we are, how we've got the essential we need to figure out to get through life figured out? Or should we not go there, have we by definition gone too far into that forest of juvenile thinking, the kind that gets us nowhere? What modern monastery could we abide in, one that allows for the incarnation of marital love? A farm?
And yet, I'd written a book, however rude, as a kind of monument. I suppose it addressed barely enough of accepted form to be a book, where perhaps it was more a series of dialogs about the meaning of life, addressed indirectly, a selfish sliver of a take on such things not intended for mainstream reading experiences. An account, of a being looking back in on the mysteries of its own self. Something recorded in the mind during college days, written after the fact. A Buddhist record, as much as such a thing were possible.
Ah well, move on and start your day. All of this is written with a sense of humor by a perfectly well-regulated and responsible person out there like the rest of us trying to do as best we can. It is wisely said that violence only begets violence, and so is it good to be calm, at peace with the world, no bone to pick with anyone. Peace begets peace.
And here's another good article from the pages of the New York Times: