Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Opening Up Again

I've missed a lot of spring (and a few years, it seems, of springs, summers, winters, autumns) sitting in a dark room answering and originating e-mails. This spring I've started taking walks. Last week I took a long one, much of it along wooded paths, dappled with light and shade and flitting bird shadows, bird song, squirrel rustles and all the other familiar props.

It began to get to me (or I to it). I liked the world a lot. Loved it. Started to talk to it.

I realized some things I'd always known, corny things, of course: That wishes come true, that our thoughts and feelings make things happen. I noticed something a bit less obvious (though, really, it's another way of saying that wishes come true): When I get too involved with trying to do the right things, with trying to understand what is happening to the world, what chaos is being wrought in it, when I badly want to do something about the wrongnesses I see --

[the possible destructon of the planetary food supply by genetically modification, the glut of mind-and-liver-and-nervous-system-destroying FDA-approved drugs (particularly those prescribed for non-existent mental "illnesses"), a population sapped by artificial sweeteners -- as if sugar weren't bad enough... -- OK, maybe some of these aren't real to you, but you can probably list your own bete noires] --

but the wrongnesses seem overwhelming, and the few things I think of doing (e.g., signing petitions and writing letters to Congresspersons who depend on the designated villains for their campaign funds) seem futile, and even these futilities pile up in my in-box, as I fall behind and neglect my own production (poetry),

and I begin to feel desperate, start to daydream of solutions, huge effects I might create, though I know the dreams are stupid (what do I know about blowing up things, and wouldn't the consequences be heavy oppression and a scarier world?),

but as I walked through the woods and felt a renewed love for our planet and you and even for myself, I realized the trap I'd gotten into, and it vanished -- at least it's gone right now.

What happened is that as I walked I realized that it does the world some good to love it, even lessens the likelihood that some of its denizens will need to resort to psychiatric drugs or feel impelled to muliply their billions by further poisoning us. Affinity creates a space for people to be themselves, be people of good will. My small wave of affinity created a small increment of the space for good will, and lots of us create vast spaces for it.

When I get locked into desperation, I lose faith in the value of creating small effects. Worse, I don't see them anymore. I don't see that my dreams are affecting others. I go blind to this, so think I need to create huge effects. And that need leads to despair.

This is what happens to most artists at some point: The need to produce only GREAT and MIND-BLOWING art renders them mute, unable to create. One man struggles in vain to create an effect on others by leaping about, waving his arms and screaming obscenities. Another man has greater impingement, though all he did was listen to someone and acknowledge or smile, in passing, at the beauty of a child or a cat. The one screaming can't conceive of creating any worthwhile effect simply by admiring beauty -- and CAN'T admire it because he can't RECEIVE that small effect. Not only does he not feel he's created an effect unless he can create a huge effect (like blowing up a planet -- in an extreme case), but since he can no longer perceive any small effects, he can't experience them: He can't feel, because only huge overwhelming feelings can touch him, or so he thinks. He must push sex toward violence, for example. An extreme case would be the serial killer who can't be turned on by anything less than murdering and mutilating -- and in time that fails him, so he tries to find greater outrages.

I know of people -- GOOD people, eager to help others, aware of ways to help, willing to work at it, able to lead others -- who get caught up in this despair of small effects and lose the ability to feel. They still pursue their goals, lead movements, hide their despair behind masks of calm certainty, but have lost their own dreams because they no longer know that small effects are significant -- perhaps are not even small. They MUST save the planet, CAN'T save the planet, become obsessed with visions of mad, violent, revolutionary chaos, fight the visions down (usually), and are locked in combat with themselves, unable to spare a nano-erg of energy for attention, much less admiration.

I'm not saying one should always be satisfied with creating small effects, never strive for larger games, greater scope of action. But I'd say that the ability to create large effects derives from an ability to create and appreciate the small effects. If you can't care for the ones you're with, your large-scale actions will be tainted by desperation. The world you strive to save will be an abstract world with no live beings in it, only symbols.

Another thing I'm not saying (actually I'm not saying practically everything) is that the path to creating a better world begins with the ability to take a walk and fall in love with the world we have, because for many people that's too difficult. There are easier steps on the path. For some people, perhaps a first step would be to notice that one exists and not get nauseated by noticing this. There is no bottom to awareness, no bottom to dreams. Even the stones are dreaming, but are so caught up in the frantic random criss-crossed zinging and twitching of their molecules, that their e0ns-long dreams are never completed, never blossom as what we'd call awareness. They cannot dream themselves awake.

I believe that wishes, prayers, dreams all work. We always get what we often don't realize we want. When we wish against our own wishes, things get complicated. When we get simple enough and aligned with ourselves enough, we no longer have wishes. We have, instead, decisions. We decide what sort of world we want, and we put it there. Except when we're real good at it (fast-draw artists), the deciding and the putting it there aren't separable. That must be why, when I feel most in love with the world and everything in it, I feel so quick. The quick and the dead. Quick, yare, ready, responsive, perceptive -- these are things that go together well.

I wrote this quickly, made the phrases tumble over one another, piled up the commas -- that's how a spring day came upon me last week and has been with me since. Sorry I haven't offered you much talk of sun and cloud and buds, etc. It would be nice to do it all and give you that day, but you can make your own. I hope I've created a small effect here.

I have.

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