Tuesday, January 3, 2017

So what does exile look like, the doctor might ask.

Writers should not be at a loss to tell you what they are going through.  Dostoevksy's opening line, Notes From Underground, what is it, I am a sick man...  I think my liver hurts...  something like that.  I look up at her, not always facing her directly as I sit in my chair.

Yes, perhaps you do have look on with some bitterness upon your situation, upon the suffering inflicted upon you for upholding your own attempt at honorable standards, at the education professionals who missed something in your student behavior, in my case, the getting in papers late.  First paper on John Donne, a little bit late, but well-written, an A minus.  And then, at the end of the course, Paradise Lost.  Something was going on... Do you kick the kid when he's down, or do you try to help him back in?  The sad and the sensitive, what do you do with them, in this world where everyone has to fight like the kid raised in the city to get what he wants from people.  As opposed to the old model of the gentleman, whatever that bygone person is...

Then there were your own sweet archaic countryside manner of courtship, different from the glib of popular romance sit-com emphasis on sex.  Again, the misunderstanding of 'lateness,' of 'taking your time.'  A relationship is a momentous decision.  I know girls just want to have fun, but any reader of poetry and literature, it's more complicated than that, long term.

I was depressed when I came here.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  Nothing felt right about it. New York was the city of the Princess, but I had moped on like a funeral train down along the route to Washington.  Where I could only be, act, appear, as a commoner.  I mean, not a striving Capitol Hill type, much as I wanted to be.  I became a busboy, because it kept me moving, kept me around people.  Opening the door to being a sorry night shift kind of person.  I wrote by day, tried to.  It was a rough time.

If you know you are in exile, does that help you get out of it, see a way out of it?

The prologue of Dead House, Dostoevsky's little sketch of this narrator who had survived the penal colony, a third person's account of the odd bird whose candle burns at night, whose main human contact, given his nerves, is the girl he tutors.  And he himself would write at night, we know, from historical accounts.  The the Russian reading public, his suffering gave him credential.  Exile to a prison camp nothing to laugh at.  People would have wanted a portrait of him, like the one you see on book covers, at least two coming to mind.   And the self-portrait is never alien to his works, from what I can tell, The Idiot, Brothers Karamazov.  His perspective.

But what is our general perspective now, as a culture, a fast moving popular culture, of economic competition, technology and energy sources our salvation, quicker words, exhausting environmental resources...  Who now do we praise, but those who are pretty enough to compete.

The artist, the writer of spiritual dimension and assessment of humanity, nears extinction in the mind's eye now, to the extent that he can offer much to us as insight.  He is left regarded as a creature, an exotic creation of nature who bears upon little but the obscure environment of the nature he comes from, nature kept at arms distance, impractical, irrelevant, encroached upon for its lack of importance stacked up against the importance of human activity.

See, it all fits together.  I took a sip of water from the pitcher of filtered water on the little table easily reached from the comfy arm chair.  I would always take the little plastic cup I used with me, bringing it home, cleaning it with the tea cups and the sharp knives, stacking them when they were dry.  Once she commented that the one I'd apparently brought back and forth several times, about to crack, pulled out of my courier bag had gotten enough use.  We had talked about how little either of use could personally do about the melting polar ice caps.

But depression haunts exiles, though they try to be healthy about it all, get their walks in, eat right, don't drink too much, try to get some daylight in.  The sense of being alone, few other exiles to talk to.  Few others considerate enough.  Other people, even sensitive ones, use you as their sort of plaything, and they too derive benefit from your stoic good cheer, that odd hospitality that comes from gloom, the easy good humor, the general understanding of the human condition's pain beamed out over a blank room and blank people who go about their business of functioning in the modern world, economic units, hard workers.  They don't know the terror of going in to such work to face them when out of practice.  The demoralizing quality of work from which one finds uplift in the little offerings of kindness, polite appreciation.

Well, the restaurant business...  it seemed for a long time as some sort of social life, the presence of other people worthy of some respect.

A wiser person would have never allowed themselves to get into such a situation.  No wonder, the exile, in need of rehabilitation, would seek the soothing of wine at the end of the night.  We are built the way we are, biologically, and as we age can appreciate that more and more, the things that work for us, the things to avoid, even if such rules seem in large contrast to the mainstream.

The time grew to a close, said the little white clock with little black hands, I wrote a check, said, thank you, gathered my coat, hat and scarf and traipsed slowly up the hallway, past the lobby as I sipped from the plastic Dixie Cup, to use the mens room, then back down the closer stairwell.  Her door was open still, as I glanced briefly.

I wondered what had prompted my little talk of exile, of assessing the general tale of the book I'd written previously.  Who had made me a writer, what right did I have, or particular talent, beyond some apparent physiological need for the activity of sitting down, perhaps to quell the great anxieties that come to us when we are not put to work at something, too much time on our hands while honest people work with goals and money in mind, forget being a do-gooder, an artist, a humanitarian, a citizen of the world and the planet and the universes and time itself.

Often I was very hungry, and there was a little NY Gyro Stand across Connecticut Avenue with Hallal Lamb, either in pita or on salad.

Caffeine, though necessary to move up out of bed in the morning before work, and to get to work, I can barely handle anymore, making me too nervous.

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