…When I did my Master’s degree in 2009 I really thought I could make a fresh start. I was going back to my alma mater, but I told myself that this time it would be different. I would be friendly, popular, outgoing. I would be relaxed, affable. I would be fun. I would be the kind of person with whom people wanted to be friends. People would come and knock on my door just to talk to me! I’d even started this cool blog (the one which you are reading now) but that was going to be my secret internet persona, only to be shared with those closest to me.
And I screwed it up! I screwed it up completely. I said stupid things that scared and alienated people. Some of them thought I was mad. The invitations dried up. Other people found their own level, and I went off on my own. I ended up burying myself deeper in my studies. I did quite well at that regard; not exceptionally well, but I did all right. And I wasted a chance to be a different, better person.
Since then I have come to accept a different version of myself: I am a person who just doesn’t really have a social life, and who doesn’t try especially hard to make friends. This actually runs contrary to many of the things I think about the nature of personality, and how nobody ever really grows up or stops changing as a person, and how you shouldn’t use the fact that you suffered as a child to hold you back in later life; but whatever. As we like to say at work: we are where we are…
Yes: wisdom begins with fear of the Lord,
which comprehends the power that made the seas,
the earth, the shimmering dawn, the unexplored
unfathomed skies, the moon, and the Pleiades.
Which also know Who comes to judge our shoddy
little failing lives, knowing full well,
we need not fear the one who kills the body,
but only He who condemns the soul to hell.
Which also knows it magnifies the Lord,
defying the demon, being the only release,
oddly enough, from fear, being its own reward,
which is also wise, is faith, is hope, is peace,
is tender mercy, over and over again,
until, at last, is love, is love. Amen.
I’ve thought about this poem all summer.
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.
Stacie Cassarino, Summer Solstice
Albert Camus, from The Plague
Elaine Scarry brings up an interesting point. Pain, she says, is unique in its inexpressibility. It represents the apotheosis of subjectivity, unsharable and therefore incommunicable. Language itself breaks down — words become inadequate, phonemes unpronounceable. Meaning reaches a dead end. Knowledge of pain, more than knowledge of anything else, is predicated on experiencing it. Possessing it. Being in it. And yet.
And yet to presume to know another’s pain, while folly, is to make an originary, inaugurating step towards empathy. To presume to know another’s pain is to project your own past experience of pain — yes singular, yes subjective — onto the other, solipsism and subjectivity made common. Empathy, says Scarry, is predicated on the experience of pain, on being in pain and encountering others in pain. (via index-rerum)
all is courtesy and horror.
|—||Sharon Olds, “Unspeakable” (via invisibleforeigner)|
– That John Roderick fellow.
JÖRN VANHÖFEN, select images from ‘Elbe’ and ‘Sudafrika’, 1992-2007