Fortunately one does not have to study much to have a good therapy session. I was looking out the window recounting a painful chapter of life, how, like Wyeth I had wrestled some art of it, gone on about the meaning of bringing to life a moment of reality just as it is in a Zen sort of way to open up the deeper meanings. The back and forth, youthful insecurities, good intentions, clumsiness, that sort of thing. And I brought up that which is hard to bring up in front of a lady.
"That was demeaning, her saying that," the kind lady said. "That's sort of treating you like a low-life."
Yeah, it's a hard thing... "Say one more word to me and I'll go the dean's office and charge you with sexual harassment." There at the dining hall, sitting there kind of like she'd set a trap. To which I replied with two words as I gathered my books and left, "that's ridiculous." My kind of 'Fuck you.' Didn't say anything else to her for a month.
And I always thought that was like taking an atomic bomb to get rid of a squirrel. But what can you do, placed in that kind of a bind?
I brought up, by contrast, a better time when earlier we'd sat next to each other in Deviancy class and then walked to the dining hall, she was talking about dining in Europe, a trip with her folks, but I got distracted, wasn't wearing my glasses, had to go to a pointless meeting with my self-interested thesis advisor... It would have been so easy just to have a nice chat over Friday's New England clam chowder.
But that's what it's like being a writer, I went on, talking to my therapist. There's that discouraging voice, like the proverbial older brother telling the younger one to not do such silly things, from Dorethea Brandt's observations of the writing life. And you can't help being a writer, just the way your mind operates. And so you observe, and make few judgments, don't judge people, your life is lived in a certain careful considerate mode, maybe overly considerate, overly circumspect, not enough action for the taste of other folks.
There are variations on the nay-sayers and the guises they take. They can be English professors. All sorts and stripes of business-like non-encouraging people. Negative, hyper critical, completely missing the gist of what you are up to, not having the decency to ask. That's not the way my father taught. He was a strict teacher in making sure you learned something, but he was understanding of the individual and individual situations, good hearted about it.
Yeah, but, it's always been hard to refute that charge, like you can't go there. You can't deny it and say no I was not a stalker, because it's not by your own standards such things are judged, are they...
Okay, I was shitty and distracted, clumsy at the whole thing, but Jesus Christ, I had not intention to... I brought her flowers...
A writer is a person who's stuck in a kind of prison, and it's up to him to imagine his way out of it. Someday maybe his ankle chains are suddenly lifted away, as if randomly.
Looking out the window, thinking of a Wyeth painting, yonder pasture the railroad tracks not far away, where his father met his end, I had a sudden glimmer of understanding Hemingway's Three Day Blow, something about his relationship to a distant father. A remoteness, the abandonment to the weather...
And then later at work, going about my chores and enduring the complications of Jazz Night, I wondered if a writer's career wasn't in some way a sort of compensation, a response, for, to, the relationship he had with Agnes Von Kurowsky, his nurse, who sent a letter to him back in the States that she had married, putting behind the boyish affair. He wrote to make up for that? Maybe in some way, who knows. It was a vulnerable stage for him, during which he told a lot of stories exaggerating his wartime experience, back home in Oak Park with his wounds.
Maybe for him to sit down and write everyday was a way out of the feedback loop, the mind clouded by its own thoughts, the conscious part listening to all the stories of the thinking part, to write a way to simply exist, freshly, again, to be awake to the moment, to make no judgments.
In dreams I go back to Amherst. I dine alone, forsaken like Jesus, eating a hotdog by the war memorial, a new computer lab building obstructing the view of the Holyoke Range. And in my dream I know that all concepts, all things you could say as far as the truth about a thing, all of that is null and void, and things like self-esteem don't really matter and a lot of professors are a lot of talk and personal arrogance, though, of course, some are cool, I'm nobody, who are you?
Yeah, it's one thing to sensitively explore the complexity of a situation. This is what we do in education. And it's another to make a claim, like "I know what those people over there in that country are up to...." Do we try to understand Kruschev, his motivations, his personality, the political binds, his basic humanity, or do we block him out, condemning him...