So I after my therapist session I stopped by Glen's Market to stock up for the next days, my mom's visit. I give her a call, see how's she's doing, the cat's paw, the general nerves over driving down from Oswego to the Syracuse train station, the long train ride, packing, check what she might need for her coffee and breakfast. "Pretty good therapy session. She says I might be obsessive," I tell her. "Yes, you get comfortable and then they hit you right between the eyes," mom says, with a chuckle. I hit up the RiteAid for wrapping paper and V8, walked home in a cool rain that was nothing to an Amherst sleet. But when you're tired, the air is cold, and you get that cold feeling on your skin like goose bumps. And you want to take a nap.
Obsession. That's what comes out of therapy, I guess, sometimes, some sort of poking around at a possible visual diagnosis, based on the evidence in front of people, which you yourself have opened up and admitted. That's their job, so you don't hold it against the tailor therapist with her ruler and right angle or whatever it is. What do they know of you? You're kind enough to present yourself, and that's the price of someone listening to you talking openly, like paying for sex, there's a charge.
You're an artist. You try to explain. The deeper mind's eye. The subconscious. The need to write, to sort things out, as I always say. The positive step of stepping forward to make art. Obsession? It might sound like it, but really, no, it's not. Or is it?
Flashback to the office. My mumbling about my job, a guy who'd just survived surgery for cancer of the bowels came by with his lanky wife, another couple. They stop in on a Sunday night to see me after such events.
I talked about the artist process, how a writer is an actor, inhabiting a role. An actor has to inhabit the words, the words being an essential part of the wistful scene of Hamlet and Yorick's skull. "Where be thy jibes that were wont to set the table a-wit..." I'd talked about the difficulties of sending things off, of knowing when you're done. Don DeLillo's rule of not being able to talk about what you're working on. I skip bringing up Joyce's timeframes, each book a progressively longer time to write, as if looking at a bandwidth spectrum, each of the big ones in their own parts, making you wonder.
But yes, I do see a link, a parallel. The paper on the poem is late now, and I am at a carrel in the library reading, absorbing, saying the poem out loud in my mind, in the process memorizing it, inhabiting it. Either you understand it and all its parts or you don't, and even that understanding has yin and yang to it. Or there are the poetic situations of life, the things you want to take meaning out of. What does it all mean, meeting her, on the eve of Easter, and all that followed after that? Like I poem I go over it, sound it out, play it back, what does it mean? And finally as I go off into the world of the city traveling far, I start the process of writing about it. Yes, I'm taking too long. I take years, don't even know what I'm doing, but there's a meaning there somewhere, isn't there? Yes, of course it is obsessive, but then a book got written, and somehow books need to be written, even if they cannot fix things of one's personal life. And along the way your imaginative trajectory took you to develop an understanding of your father's wisdom and educational observations, the one you'd always wanted to explore, the deep stuff about how "Thou art that which is." And in this late geologic age you've indeed become the stardust of the Universe, burst into Milky Ways of creation, looking back on itself, with simple just peaceful understandings of life.
"You're obsessed. You're obsessed with lots of people." Yes, but it begins to sound like a charge against Jesus. And he would have said something clever, before walking away, or going off on a boat. A deeper reference to whatever is written about obsessions in Biblical terms. Something like "let he who is without sin throw the first stone; neither do I condemn thee." Something like a parable, about the sparrows and the lilies of the field, about the innocence of babes. Something like, beware the leaven of the Pharisees, or about no evil being done curing the lame on the day of the Sabbath.
And indeed, the moment had come about, in a tender enough way. Not to be obsessive about it. A reference to why one walks with people, why?, out of love. There on a Spring day, near a graceful old tree just above the foot of the hill of Amherst College, near the main road up through the Holyoke Range, the library temple with its columns and steps facing outward.
Is Job's story about obsession? Or the psalm By the Rivers of Babylon?
So, what do you do if you're a writer? Well, you try not to be bogged down in your projects, I guess, with your territory, your material, your claim.
Feeling the cold, after cooking hamburgers with onions under the broiler, a load of laundry, I take a nap, intended to be a half an hour, but snoozing into an hour and waking stiff with a vague scratch in the throat. Call mom again, check how she's doing. She'll have to drive down to Syracuse, then get on the train. The cat's paw, she doesn't want to leave him so, and can't stay long for the holy days.
Ah, the holidays... you do what you can do. Don't stress out any more than you have to. Keep plugging away, wrap another present, even as you might wish to get out for some holiday cheer somewhere.
"Yes, I am. I'm obsessed with lots of people." Maybe that's what he would have said. Or was it there by the tree, after the suggestion of my obsessiveness, that I in fact said, "that's 'cause I love you." And maybe that was too awkward and corny for words, something you just can't say in this world of material, of paychecks, real estate. Leave the words to hang in that pure world, the world of the Grecian Urn, the world of liberal art's irrelevant beauty and truth and justice.
Yes, the writer of a book merely wrote events down as cleanly as he could, without judgments, letting the different sides of things remain as they remain in the reality of the world. He wrote them so as to be referenced when an interpretation of Christian "Thou Art That Which Is" has a compelling quality to it, the need felt to make one.
And still I feel so awkward, awkward with time, the body and mind up earlier than the job that brings the rent money calls for. Why write? What to write? Jesus Christ, your material is obsession. Go see a therapist, maybe she can help... When maybe it's just the sad sort of Jesus state you're in, a reference to him, his wisdom, in this geologic age where the consciousness of the Universe has come about and is now regarding itself with high conscious awareness. Trying to make sense of things.
Jesus curled up in the ropes and took a nap. Maybe you just want to turn your mind off sometimes. Meditate. Not let things worry you, just let the thoughts come and go and realize that you are in face the bright consciousness behind all thoughts. No wonder then the Master's lecture, his theme, coincides perfectly with the rising waves, and the Disciples worry in the storm. Oh ye of little faith... and he calms the waves.
And where would Jesus go today? Would he enroll in divinity school? Where would he deliver his words?
Would he go to his therapist's office and look out the window, remembering his life, worried, anxious, depressed occasionally. Yes, it was obsessive behavior, tarrying at the temple, taking up the picaresque life, the life of an interpreter of old words, some form of a life that might get labeled as that of a prophet, something like that. "What is it they say about me," he'd ask Peter. What do they think I am. I don't know, I'm just curious. What's their interpretation? I mean, not that I'm going to take a Harris poll. Do you approve or disapprove of Jesus's actions?
They think you're an obsessive writer fixated on the past who's having difficulty moving on in the realms of adult life, profession, relationships, values.
Yes, I would like to be done with that job. It is awfully tiring. It's not good for any sort of personal life. I go home alone. I'm even afraid to write, don't know why I do it anymore, what's the point? Oh shit it's a champagne tasting tonight, and there's a 17 top private party in the back room. I don't want to think about it.
Funny how I'd rattled on one session, about Dostoevsky and Orthodox monastery and real life Father Zossima he befriended, Aloysha's dream over the body of the Elder of the Wedding at Cana. I'd told her about the Grand Inquisitor passage (that comes from the feverish overwhelmed mind of Ivan, the skeptic brother, precipitated sense) of how Jesus comes and they lock him up and throw away the key. "We've got a nice system going here and the last thing we need if for You to come along and ruin it," to which Jesus makes no reply.
Roth writes about sex and masturbation to get through his relationship problems. I write about Jesus in my own little attempt to likewise take arms against a sea of troubles. Different senses of humor, a nod to the other. One Jewish, one Irish, by tradition, one nodding to the sexual of spirituality, one preserving the story and high meaning of a saving almost through a sense of irreverent or even black humor. Joyce putting the two together. Eh. You write what you can, whatever comes to you.
Yeah, all the shitty things people, worldly people caught up in dealing the worldly, say to the Jesus in our midsts. "One more word out of you..." "We're letting you go." "You're obsessed..." None of it would have been a surprise to such a mind, a mind freed by not having to make choices, knowing, perhaps, the ultimate appropriateness of everything, which is at least a good way to stay calm in this troubling world. I kneeled on the carpet and wrapped up a few books, closer to being done with the Christmas gifts. Jesus is not found in things like The Da Vinci Code. That wouldn't be his wavelength. People make up codes. He is who he is, thank you very much.
The writer does not like to make choices. (Women, less ego, more in touch with nature and intuition, are the same way.) His material comes to him, naturally, without need of choice, if it's true and good potentially. What someone might call obsession, a fixation, well, no, that's just your material. And by not having to feel burdened by all that constant need in some part of the nagging mind of making choices, you're freed up and become energetic, possessing your own native strength. And maybe that's how you arrive at Christmas, tired of all the choices you make through the year and through the season itself. And so it is a season of forgiveness. Freedom from having to choose, meaning you don't have to judge everybody as much. That's a bit of what he's saying with his "render unto Caesar;" hey, it's not mine, not my business. I've got my things, he's got his.