Monday, October 20, 2008

Notes: Time, the Destroyer

I had long supposed that the most important things in life are work and relationships, but I'm not sure that this knowledge, insight, or belief, has made much practical difference in terms of accomplishment or happiness. And, in the last two weeks, despite moments of pleasure or distraction, mostly I have been--oh, depressed, disappointed, down.

I have been thinking about the importance of basic human acceptance, how important it is to give it and receive it; and that we might call this basic human acceptance, in its most ideal forms, respect and love. Growth happens in time; and we do not have forever in which to grow--and decay also happens in time. There is much that is lost in isolation--information, the testing of assumptions (rigor, knowledge), the reminder of boundaries, new possibilities. It is easy, in isolation, to be drowned by fear, insecurity, doubt, shame.

It is not hard to find similarities to our own experience in the lives of others, and in the surrounding culture--if we look. (Even television programs, many of them focusing on family situations or crime or the supernatural or scientific, are often about human error and evasion; about intelligent detection and moral punishment.)

What can be a key to a good life, or a rewarding career, is learning to live beyond the limitations of one's flaws or weaknesses; learning to manage one's temperament and habits.

In my last days in New York, Lena Horne's version of the song "Havin' Myself a Time" played in my head, a song about "doing what I like, and liking what I do"; and during my first days in Louisiana, I kept remembering the Eurythmics "17 Again" and Nina Simone's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and Matthew Sweet's "Evangeline." The Longfellow poem about Evangeline has long been connected to southern Louisiana, so that is one easy explanation. The Eurythmics song is about feeling "like I'm 17 again"; and I first left Louisiana for New York when I was 17. And, the Nina Simone song says I had a mother who could pray, so if I should die and my soul be lost it's nobody's fault but mine--and, of course, my mother has religious faith and I do not. And, despite whatever other criticisms I'm inclined to make, I think my mother and her family are fundamentally decent, generous, humorous people in ways that make sense for who they are and where they are.

Here, I have been here in Louisiana for a little over a month, and I have been trying to get my personal papers in order and to initiate some professional work projects, but nothing of significance has been achieved yet. That has been disheartening. As well, some family relationshps have been...unsettling, thanks to too much communication or not enough communication. During the weekend, an aunt who has been helpful interrogated me about my future work plans; and my younger sister, who has been distant, surprised me by offering to be helpful in whatever way she could. My relationship, now, to other people leaves something to be desired. (Sometimes the most pleasant moments have been brief notes exchanged with a few friends through e-mail: one is in India, one Pennsylvania, and one New York.)...The land itself is a resource, of beauty, of spiritual refreshment.