Monday, May 25, 2015

But of course, it is a kind of lover's quarrel.  In that light I can understand Hemingway's line of going rounds of boxing with Tolstoy and Shakespeare a bit better, not as complete bluster.

Academics, I suppose, can not help but be a little bit (or more) jealous.  They have their territory, their specialty.  They are earning a living.  Their institutions have standards to uphold.  They do not generally open up to you, keeping you separate.

But Robert Frost did not teach that why while at Amherst.  And Benjamin DeMott was the least jealous of all.  He spoke with authority.  He encouraged that pursuit in others, putting them directly in front of the text.

Polonius is a model not necessarily for being foolish, but for being one of those self-limiting academic types, limited because of his sense of pride, the sense of earned territory, a titled position.  Thus his lesson, 'be not a borrower nor a lender be,' is dead as far as a potential lesson in learning, in teaching how to think.  No Socrates here.  Hamlet's reaction is beautiful.  'Words, words, words...'

When you're young and you're learning and your mind is turned on, it's hard not to be in a certain way, to want to explore your own direction toward the truth.  You're raring to go, and you almost get single-minded, or focussed, once the stars align to show you where to go.

I myself, fired up by Demott's classroom of 'bringing things to life,' found something in Hemingway worth study, eventually.  I called it 'abandonment to the textual truths of life.'  That is how we might explain the writer's focus on the details, the texture of an afternoon on the boat out on the water, the texture of his home, because it all seems to have meaning.  And the best story, in written form, is told through describing such things as the rusty colored gin and tonic with bitters, or squeezing orange peels into the fire and the oils making different colors in the flame, or the cat's habits of going up into the avocado tree.  What do all these details mean?

Well, they are simply the shape of life, of the shape of life we all lead.  Very close to the realization that we have hands, feet, faces, legs, chests, and so forth, simple basic stuff, but stuff which has to be acknowledged.  And then, like Da Vinci's drawings, or Durer's, man, humanity, the life breathed into the human form male and female, each coming from God's sketches, takes on what human energy might look like when given form with all our different centers of energy, tribal, sexual, appetitive, emotional, expressive, mental and spiritual, the being is revealed.  Take The Old Man and the Sea.  Take The Dangerous Summer alongside it.  Which is the real one, which is the fiction?  Or rather, the same story emerges, maybe one of later life, yes, but also of a man's work, his prayers, his prayers for truth and accuracy and the presentation of a complete picture.  And if a man is led astray by his friends, that too is a truth that must be acknowledged, and the writer is not one to avoid taking in personally such a lesson, to see how it works, what it is like, to see what costs it comes with.

That's the poet's job.  To look.  To look, as they say, dramatically, unflinchingly (a term for back book covers, marketing blurbs, Polonius-style literary critique.)

There is, it must be acknowledged, an entirely high purpose behind all education.  My father's own mentor, Dr. Ray Ethan Torrey of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, describes such a thing in his little handbook, Science and its Function in Education.

But the work of the Buddhist Abbot, of the Professor, of the writer is not much different, when you get down to the core of it.  And the truth may be variously represented, as, say, being free of ego...

Well, personally, I found out that I had to write, that I had no particular field of academics to seek out and jealously guard.  I wanted all learning to lead in the direction that spiritual people place it in.  And I did not know how to become that kind of a teacher, given the way it seemed to be set up.  I could not write papers without an eye for the higher purpose and the mode of teaching was not so much engaged in that.  What I should have been doing, instead of being an English Major was study religion with Robert Thurman.  I was dumb about that.  Dumb about a lot of things.

And so, now what, for the writer, now that he is so abandoned to the textual truths of life that he is positioned behind a bar, at the whims of the restaurant business, an author unacknowledged.  It would  seem that his old institution is to protective of its territory to acknowledge his critique.  Dismissed as 'memoir, to be kept private.'  Dismissed by the reviewer of Kirkus Indie Review who missed directly the central piece of dialog as far as its meaning even while directly mentioning it.  Yes, the text has its faults, but it is enough of an opening of experience to allow light to shine in and with it the eye of anyone in search of the higher meaning, beyond the psychological aspect.

I should have known it would all come at a price.  Cast outside.  Treated like a freak.

You know...  It was a choice I don't think an artist can help, my sort of withdrawal from the conventional academic flow.

But it is hard, to be downgraded at that which you know yourself to be doing a good and valiant and an intelligent job at, at the things that inspire you, like you show up to play ball and they tell you to go home, or "No Irish Need Apply," something like that.  It hurts.  You feel that you're letting everyone down, and that does not make you feel good either.  And there are bound to be other relationships that get caught up in it.  It can all just leave you mute, shrugging, 'what can I do?'

You know you tried.  You know you did on a good job on the earlier sets of problems...  And it's a hard thing to explain to someone else, that you are not feeling exactly so good about things.  Something is rotten in Denmark, and yet you can't quite put your finger on it, even though it's pretty obvious.  You want to say, 'look, I'm not a rebel, I'm not an instigator or a trouble-maker,  but there is something wrong here.'  The stereotype conventions, help out the minority, they get attention...

And what would you do, what would be your instinct, after taking such hits, finding your teachers turned away, the best one gone?  You'd want to tell another person that she was whole, that she was beautiful, and that her state of goodness and even perfection will never change, and that she has the strength within, just as she is, "I like you just as you are."

But the mainstream might not see it, and end up treating you like an idiot because it seems your lot in life, maybe.

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