Riff

The following are lines mined by my mind rather randomly from journal passages I’ve written during the past couple of years. An experiment in the essayistic. An inquiry into what I might divine.

“How can I be out of danger if I’m not dead?”
                                                                                   Rachel, Rachel

I have a simple problem that requires a drastic solution. You could think of it as a relationship, this connection between language and me, probably the central relationship of my life in that without it, I have no real way to see and know myself. Some people have other avenues to self awareness and peace: some learn about themselves by moving their bodies, some by making music, some by creating images by pencil or pastel, by carving stone or wielding a camera or a scalpel. But when I want to know by own mind, I have to wrestle with words, and when I don’t, I drift in a landscape I can’t identify or name.

Writing is that thing I cannot cease doing without losing myself. It looks like a world unfolding itself on the page in response to my fingers on the keys. It looks like a line dangling from the end of my pencil point as it glides over a smooth blank page.

With words I conduct experiments in social reality, the same way scientists experiment with material reality. Each statement I make offers a proposition, a theory about the reality we share.
“It’s a beautiful day,” I say.
My neighbor confirms or questions my theory. We bond over a shared truth, a common view confirmed, or I leave the encounter chastened, seeking to test my view again.

I’m trying to learn how to pray again: always a request for presence—whose matters less than the request, the invocation. I’m trying not to press where it leads, to move away from results. So difficult in a world and culture that tabulates everything, that measures by quantity, where more of “good” always means “better.” Let it fall away from me. Let me release these words—not my words—to become what they will be. Let me enter the joy of that exploration. I could claim that Argument attaches itself to me. But, no. The intention comes from me, from a desire for certainty, or at least safety.

Let me drift, onto the rocks, if need be. Onto the sandbars. Let me sink only to float on the next tide, any tide that will find me, that will wash me to where I’m supposed to be.

I’ll start with the small: this moment, this letter, this word. Resist the call of the overarching, of the complete. There will be time for leaning into the future to try to grow what needs to grow.

Start with here: a room in a community center where my son practices soccer while he plays at being who he might be. Let me run run run across this page and feel the speed of risk blow over my skin, see the cinder block walls around me, the television blaring La Liga, the high angled wooden beams and ceiling climbing high toward a skylight leaking gray sky. Battered brown furniture. Flickering fluorescent lights humming. Let a presence to all these be my attempt. Let me in these find a self to occupy this moment.

Strange. How sweet and terrifying the releasing of yearning for results can be.

 

 

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