Nothing is gained by flying
to escape this globe
that trapped you at birth.
And we need to confess our hope
that understanding and love
come from below, climb
and grow inside us
like onions, like oak trees,
like tortoises or flowers,
like countries, like races,
like roads and destinations.
~ "Philosophy" by Pablo Neruda.
These words are from the poem "Philosophy," one of Pablo Neruda's last, written in 1973 while he lived on Isla Negra and in the midst of the battle he lost with Cancer. The poem and 20 others were published posthumously by Copper Canyon Press in a collection called The Yellow Heart ~~ the title of the collection, explains William O'Daly, who translated the collection, comes from what you'll find as you uncover the layers of intimacy Neruda invites you into: "the yellow light of Neruda's waning years, with its irreverence and satirical humor, [which] breaks into varying emotional hues and tones." I'll come back to this in a minute (or two)....
I know I haven't been around lately ~ neither on the blogosphere nor in parts of my real life here in Oakland ~ maybe if I were more anonymous I would be blogging more about what is going on in my real life. But I can't ~ there is so much going on in my head right now, and I wish I could use the blog as the release but complicated factors make that impossible, it seems. Partly also, frankly, I've lost my inspiration to write, or blog anyway, with the fervor I had, say two months ago, which feels like two lifetimes ago. I know I'm losing readers with this prolonged absence....but I don't want to disappoint anyone with insipid venting and angst, or insincere reflections on politics, the election in Iraq, or the dismal state of public education in California. Hopefully, those passions will be refueled soon.
My recent state of "disconnect" has manifested itself in other ways besides a blogging-moratorium ~ mainly this consists of my uttering "I'm dead inside" as a weak attempt at humor when my friends try to coax me back out of my shell, or (as I found out Friday night) in the form of an invisible and impenetrable "cone of silence" hovering around me, which works as a shield off of which words and compliments bounce so that strangers who try to chat me up (say, in bars or coffee shops) do not find engaging conversation, but instead a polite smile and hasty retreat. That is not like me. I feel like certain recent events in my life have permanently altered certain positive traits of my core identity ~ say the simple ones such as trust in people, a desire to connect, or an enjoyment of the art of conversation. I don't know how to get them back, or if I will...ever. And the idea is maddening, frightening, frustrating.....and partly inviting ~ the easy way out, right?
But some things that did happen this weekend ~ what compels me to write, at this moment when I have some monumental things to do ~ is that because of the blog, a few very amazing people have shown me incredible support, understanding, and hope. To compound matters, this was a weekend when I saw a few very important people from my (pre-blog) law school days (daze), and experienced the same profound support. I mean, people I have not even "formally" met have, rather quickly, connected enough with me that they are able to distill portions of my personality into song recommendations or book recommendations ~ metaphors for my current state and a "safe" way to reveal to them some of my harsh "truths."
V. sent me two very appropriate Mp3's to introduce me to the music of starsailor ~ Good Souls and Poor Misguided Fool. First of all, I don't think anyone has ever taken the time to email me Mp3's of what I may be feeling, courtesy of a good pop song. Amazing technology ~ but more amazing humanity. Then, "Jefe" (a social justice bad-ass) pulled a very impressive "High Fidelity" moment and sent me a personal Music List he compiled for me and about me....which is right on target. Not only that, he knows part of the angst I am facing in February so he summarized his impression of what I mean to my friends into one beautiful and amazing sentence, and sent me a link to this book: And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos by John Berger, and this quote by Berger:
The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied...but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.
How can people you don't know, know you much better and purer than the one person you thought knew you best? ~ As for the friends I saw from law school, they all work hard to end poverty ~ to raise justice to eye-level and within arm's reach.
On one level I am so proud of them and yet on another, I am intimidated by their brilliance ~ do I measure up? Can I do these things, too? How do they allow the beauty of their external struggle to enrich their inner struggle, whereas so many people (myself included sometimes) allow the darkness of their inner struggle (that fear, angst, trepidation I am always scolding you about) to dilute the light and love of their external journey? Yeah, you see? It has been an intense weekend, in inverse proportion to last weekend's maudlin anniversary.
And, as if to illustrate the intensity of the weekend, I had two very telling telephone calls. In one call yesterday, I tried to reach out to someone very important in my life, who has hurt me in ways words cannot capture. You know that feeling when you've had all these images of that person and how great they are, even when they're not, and then you finally call because you feel good and positive and not out of some need to hear their voice but rather a desire to connect, for them to hear from you ~ and you have the brief conversation and you hang up ....and then you realize, "Wow, that person has just carried on with his/her life as if I was never in it ..." ~ Don't you hate that feeling? Not only does it feel like the wires in your phone are disconnected, but you now know so is the fragile link between you and another person. ~~ And yet....I had a phone conversation today with someone I hardly know, and this time the discomfort came from a clear connection I was feeling with another human being ~ something, as you know, I have been avoiding. A connection filled with moments of commiserating about the similar experiences we are having in the law and life, and so many other things.
And these two phone calls, and the wonderful gifts of words by people I hardly know, and the love I feel for my law school classmates and the work they do ~ you know it all adds context to that damn internal dialogue which has been berating me for weeks now.
Which is why I went back to re-read Neruda's poem, Philosophy...because I need to deal with my trappings and make them open doors rather than impenetrable walls, and because I need to rebuild that "hope" in me that has been, literally, shattered by recent events ~ rebuild it in a different shape or form, or using different, sturdier raw materials. And I have to share with you what O'Daly writes in his introduction to The Yellow Heart:
In The Yellow Heart, as in many of the later books, the acceptance of death hinges on the decision to live. The process involves a lifelong dialogue we have with ourselves and with our responses to things that happen every day. But life, like a hurricane or a dog, is always what it is ~ it never lies. Neruda believes that we alone are responsible for the integrity of our inner dialogue, whether the actions that result are socially unacceptable, impetuously heroic, or futile. Our response to life is shaped by our responses to the moments of clarity we are given, those glimpses of cerulean sky in which truth is migratory. When the inner dialogue is rooted in a world not overly distorted by abstracted fears, then understanding and compassion grow inside of us "like tortoises or flowers." When we do not need our arrogance or greed to protect us from the inner or outer world, we come face to face with truth, and our creative energies are renewed.
Remember when I said that January 22 marked the day I should have stopped being impetuous? Well, I want it back ~ I want that gift back...an impetuousness of heroic proportions. And, this weekend I had a few moments of clarity ~ only time will tell if I heed the wisdom of that clarity, though. I thought I had such a moment when I picked up the phone to make that call on Saturday ~ I thought I was untangling myself from fear and staying focused on the good parts of another person ~ and sadly the conversation was actually a way for me to find my way to the truer, harsher reality.... ~ and I get caught up in these single, broad, life-altering moments.....so that I forget the hundreds of seemingly tiny, everyday experiences that shape me more fully and and deeply.
Recently a friend and I discussed this as "el ritual de lo habitual": the experience of maintaining awareness of the Truth in every moment of our ordinary existence ~ finding our own personal way to the divine spirit (whatever that means to you) through what are seemingly life's most mundane acts. When you brush your teeth tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, look deep into your eyes, into your own Soul, and ask your Self: What is your Truth?
As for me...I need to go cook dinner now ~ I'm broiling a nice salmon steak stuffed with cous-cous (thank you Trader Joe's); and I will try to remember that my dinner-ritual offers more Truth than meets the eye (or mouth). ~ :)