Residual | Part 4

residual | part 4

‘To ache is Human – not polite –’

mauisunrise

once there was a morning when
the sun dripped out of bed
infusing the air with the violet
drops of a blood orange, just
as citrus just as sweet, and
it was harsh and threatening. it made
the day action, abstraction
to concrete form, now. now. now.

what could i have done?
every brain was churning yet
in dream juices and acid trips.
what could i have done then?
i pushed open the doors
windows locks latches

and ah the reprieve! to drink
the atmosphere – clean and strong
as black coffee, and
what then?

an inhale – fear despair sadness cynicism
helpless hopelessness pain the dark
the shallow

yellowgreen bruises burnt edges
weeds dark deeds
doubt

cheeks drop numb, and
heat prickles behind my eyes,
and words escape:

my heart bleeds like a river                my heart bleeds like a river
my heart bleeds like a river from my soul
I’ve got peace like a river                   I’ve got peace like a river
so roll              Jordan             roll.

and the sky rippled with the stark dance
and the skyflash was brusque
with this exhale of it all.
its path was watercolored on the map of the sky
in red
bright red
blood apple cherry rose copper blood
then darker, darker: scarlet maroon crimson
color, color gushing from my lungs in an arc

a fountain

a river.

*

While I’d like to fancy myself someone who can be Strong Independent Woman (™) enough to not let certain things get to me, if I am being completely honest, a number of others’ comments both to and about me have stung enough that they stuck. Which is unfortunate, because many times they were not meant maliciously. And even more unfortunately,
(a) of course my reactions only reflected my own insecurity as well as
(b) a sort of existential belief that how others saw me was, in turn, how I was.

Anyway, this conversation in particular was great fun:

Other Person: “I love how you never get too excited or upset about anything.”
Me: “What? No, I’m not – stoic…
Other Person Again: “Yeah, stoic! That’s the word.”

Oh lord. Not that it’s a bad word: the Stoics were wise folk, being placid is crucial at times, who doesn’t need composure, etc. Just, for me, the word is not really that (typically anyway) true. In fact, I get excited about really microscopic and/or silly things. That SNL sketch about how much Ryan Gosling hates Papyrus? Totally me. Once I wrote a series of essay-length rants about the more egregious parts of commissioning and publishing poorly-written SEO content. (If it were well-written, no problem, but…) After seeing mother!, and the movie ended and the whole theatre started complaining, to my regret, I replied to those complaints rather loudly: “Haven’t you people ever heard of an allegory??”

It goes on. I won’t. Better to quit while I’m, what, behind, and being revealed to be a very obvious snob.

But. But. All that aside, stoic is a modus I once used in contexts where being otherwise was, shall we say, frowned upon. Not a great idea.

Getting to a place of being not-stoic most of the time means something like this: being okay with dealing pretty words like blades that never deemed they hurt.

(It’s from the poem this poem’s title is drawn from – please read it! Emily Dickinson deserves all of the appreciation.)

All this is to say, I suppose, that sometimes, to actually get free from whatever bullshit is dragging you down, you have to relinquish everything you’ve been holding completely. A bit like an elimination diet: flush out all that’s not right for you so you can know for sure what is.

And maybe it’s an exorcism to and for no one in particular, except for you. Because it could be there’s nobody to blame anymore. And/or, maybe there never was. Still, it is release of some kind that each of us needs. Because, as the Great One said (and I’ll say it over and over): to ache is Human – not Polite –’.

*

Awe-importance

Lately I’ve been magnetically drawn to the idea that, as humans, we need to regularly experience awe: it has a positive – even transcendent – effect on our perspectives, lives, and relationships. It’s heartening to see that this eternal truth – something poets, writers, great thinkers, and outdoorsfolk have taught us through the ages – getting more of an intellectual and scientific platform.

Awe: what is it? Per this Psychology Today article on the latest studies, it can be defined as  “that sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.”

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Yeah… that.

In literary terms, this is what is called the sublime. The sublime is the counterpart of the beautiful. It is greatness: something bigger, deeper, and more endless than anything else.

And what is most compelling about sublimity, and about awe, is that it does not necessarily have to be inspired by something physically big. No: connectedness, too, creates awe.

I’m convinced that one of the biggest contributors to hopelessness is a shrunken sense of the world. In the context of inner depression and external oppression, it’s an apparent enough symptom. Or, perhaps it is a cause; or, perhaps it is both, causing a vicious cycle of trying to escape from that gloom and failing to, something all too familiar to anyone who has experienced either depression or oppression (or both).

But seeing and trying to comprehend anything massively sublime is enough to radically alter your perspective.

This is what happens when we see the ocean after months of being landlocked, or find ourselves beneath a deeply starry sky free of city lights. Unexpectedly, knowing that we are very small – a piece of a larger puzzle, one design element in a larger framework – somehow makes life more meaningful; more manageable.

To me, mountains and oceans have this effect every time. But this symbolic act of atonement at Standing Rock also had made me realize how much beyond-ness there is, even on a daily basis.

This week, I turned 26. The gravity of that number – of moving past my mid-twenties into the late ones – was weighty. But perhaps I let it be heavier than it was. As a symbolic act, I chose to visit the town where I effectively grew up, and absorb that energy.

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While there, I chose to walk along a favorite trail whose expansive view – and steepness, mind – never fails to take my breath away. As for the drive itself, somehow I had forgot about the way the mountains framed the journey, just peripherally but all the same, extraordinarily, too. The traffic I waded through, and the time it took to finally catch a glimpse, was well worth it. For what did I feel filling my heart but this true sense of awe, this sense that the tiny crowded spaces are not all there is?

For some reason, it prompted me to remember these words:

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, dont know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Emily Dickinson

While we don’t always recognize the exact what beyond our awe, part of its compellingness is that intangible quality. We see the mountains, and cannot help but stare at every ridge and shadow, slowly comprehending, and yet never coming close to true comprehension. It comes in waves, in moments; it washes over in its complexity, but does not stay, and that is life – to continue to seek it out in completion. Someday, perhaps.

 

Those miles, to me, represented a vastness that ties us together. And beyond that, the human capability of enduring even in difficult circumstances because of our connectedness to one another.

That is awe-inspiring. That is worth remembering, always.