Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Soul's Residence

Here are three apparently unrelated happenstances in my life today (now weeks ago!), the relation of which is my attempt to tie them together (by definition, it would seem). They coincide in me, and therefore tying them together has at least as much justification as any other self-definition, even if their interrelation doesn't seem to have any more significance than that coincidence.

If I can find something by which actually to tie them together, then I might even have demonstrated a way toward the self beyond my self; the process of writing as it relates to the self - specifically the generation of the self - and I might even touch upon something broader, relating to that elusive and impossible linguistic trick and travesty, truth in the abstract. The self, I think, represents more an achievement, or rather an aspiration, than a given, and its trueing is a process toward what can easily be mistaken for an essence, since only death can represent its accomplishment.

First is the event of my daughter's Mock Trial competition, at which she is a widely touted champ. This competition rehearses the very formal and formalized ways in which truth in the particular is arrived at in our society (and doesn't the need for such formality itself mock the very notion of truth in the abstract?). I walked into the event this afternoon, not incidentally, with her teammate who is a first generation American, and whose parents are Indian. My occasion to learn this was a text-messaging barrage with my absent-from-the-event other daughter, who freely addresses me as "loser" and worse, which I suspected, rightly as he replied, would not go over so well with this particular teammate's father. Hold that thought.

Next is an email from my sister, relating how she did send to my other sister, without compromising copy to myself, a reportedly straightforward bit of truthtelling, which we are both (my unimplicated sister and myself) convinced my implicated sister needs to allow to penetrate her own Fundamentalist-ly impervious soul. I had previously opined as to the futility of such truthtelling, having in mind the ways in which those bent on defending, say, Sarah Palin as promising commander-in-chief are apparently unbowed by the reasonable power of any mitigating observations or arguments.

Finally, an unbidden email from my former girlfriend, mother of my own aborted child, leaking some pride at the upcoming musical performance of her own daughter, of an age somewhere between my own two, I believe. This I received as a very pleasant surprise, and even wrote, or rather thumbed, a no doubt very strangely packed response from my phone, letting her know, among other things, of the sad and more recently bewildering events which have befallen my youngest sister because of her, so-called, sociopath husband, again so-called. My former girlfriend had been quite close to that sister. They felt some affinity. And now her daughter shares the violin with my sister. I could not help but be struck.

Among these events intervened several automobile passages past the mournful and apparently Catholic protesters in front of the gynecological clinic, which must be one of very few remaining abortion providers in the city (I'm sure there are plenty which don't cater to the under resourced, and which therefore are less handy to the protest). Also, the revelation that my younger daughter had escaped the out-of-control escalation at a post-Halloween party, just before the police arrived to mortify those - among them many of my daughter's friends - who hadn't beat a hasty enough retreat.

As is typical for me, I wondered at my own absence of anger or judgement. Just the facts, sweetie. I was wondering how justified was her boyfriend's anger at her for her apparent abandonment of him, more than I was wondering about any betrayal of me, though still for the purpose of gauging "character." The jury is out, though my own championing of my daughter, whatever her shortcomings of character, intelligence, argumentation, behavior, and so forth, has long long since been decided (unconditionally in her favor, should you doubt).

I am also proud to the point of choking up when in the presence of my older daughter doing her Mock Trial argumentations. I am not so much the perfect Machiavellian fan, finding only fault in the opposition, whose efforts I also do credit. I just think my daughter's the greatest, and the pride comes as it were unbidden, and quite beyond my control.

So now my brother-in-law, and this will be absolutely no surprise to those who read the world on the basis of some literacy, has all along exemplified that very sort of strong fatherhood whose passing I mildly mourn, at least in the sense that it would have both grounded my pride and conditioned my (in the event lacking) righteous anger at my various daughters for their straying beyond the pale of acceptable behavior, almost regardless of who was doing the accepting. (this even despite my own implication for having made the straying itself stray so far from invoking any inward fear on their part for the traipsing).

Now there also was a kind of fourth event (I've always been mystified at how one can enumerate, prior to the utterance, the precise number of points one is about to elaborate, as though they were elaborated ahead of time, in the mind. In this case now, I think I was really being arbitrary when I said "three", since as soon as I said it, the number of potential candidates fairly started marching across my memory for the day.) But this fourth does almost rise to election as an event, and not just a part of the background noise, like the abortion protesters, or my younger daughter's reveleations.

My good friend, with whom I have enjoyed many a reckless night and day emailed me a celebration of Hunter S. Thompson, written by Johnny Depp, by the sending of which I was implicitly being compared to this great man (not Depp!). Apart from the mournful fact that I have never given any evidence of life lived quite large, I did also recognize, with plenty of regret, that to the extent that I ever did come close, I have fallen that far away from anything of the sort. I am now entirely cowed, and devoted to paying bills. My passions are very effetively drowned in liquor, broadly meant; that selfsame category of stimulant which in company excites rather than quenches same.

These days, about the only thing which qualifies me for affinity with Thompson, notwithstanding that drinking alone would never qualify as life lived large, is the fact that I chafe acutely at my abstention for the purpose of corralling these thoughts together. My work, most days, is done by the time I even think of writing, and being done, I desire only release and oblivion. And even this day, it seemed I was working to ferry the girls and their various teammates around the town, and to guide relatives and friends to the right Part, and so on and so forth. But I remain clear of thought.

Well, you be the judge.

So, I don't understand why I remain so shy of myself. It pains me actually, and on occasion I really strain to catch a glimpse of how I might appear from the outside (don't we all?), as today when I realized that my daughter's former high school teacher, to whom I look very much up, but who certainly now appears much younger than me, and to whom I could claim actual seniority of academic credentials, might regard me as something other than the fuck up I regard myself. I think I once learned that she might have aspired to teach in the school I once headed. I thought of this as she conditioned her encouragement of my thoughts for my daughters' college choices by the limitations of their high school's reach; the one at which this teacher still teaches.

Was this a reprimand for my older daughter's reaching? (she was rebuffed by various Ivys, despite an astounding set of credentials which hoist her well beyond the school-limited transcript, by standardized proof not just of her potential, but of her actual achievement). A reminder not to commit the same sin twice? I wonder what it might feel like actually to be looked up to, by potential drinking buddies especially, as Hunter S. Thompson was by Johnny Depp.

I guess you have to start with some inward esteem, and that is the thing so hard to achieve. I feel incredibly fortunate for the peer-based pairings I have enjoyed, never wanting to ratchet them outward to something larger than is my actual life. But even when my life has expanded, I never did realize any sense of my own deserving, and I've always thought that this subjective lack defined and continues to define my aloneness, if not lonliness (that last remains only aspirational). A spiraling inward and downward which was my epigraphic photo and only remembrance in my proper class's yearbook from college.

Well, so my sister wondered if there was such a thing as too much conscience, as she agonized about what to say and how. She finally sent her sharp words entirely on her own, without so much as checking in with me, and even declining to let me know just what she did say.

And I think rather more in the direction of this reticence I feel, which is directed back at me, and not as something good to have. This is surely not any overabundance of conscience, and I project the selfsame lack upon my sister. In my case, it is something more toward the direction of, if not my sociopathic brother-in-law, then my God-beholden younger sister who has virtually abandoned her own now thrice unwanted and unrespected daughter.

She herself, this daughter, is coming to terms with what it means NOT to have been aborted, and therefore never quite affirmatively wanted. My brother-in-law's example of the very thing I lack, does not by his absense of conscience somehow confer to me its presence. I know that I am more like my implicated sister in her betrayal of her daughter, when I feel no outrage toward my own daughter's behavior, than I am like a good father who offers structure, support and guidance. I know that this is something reciprocal, and joined for that, to my own father's spirit-killing ownership of his children's behaviors as that thing from which I had to escape, although less so than my mother's spirit-killing ownership of my soul (control freak/naricissist - must be a common-enough pairing).

So, I do applaud my unimplicated sister for her liberation from me, to the extent that I am proxy for our father, but even more so to the extent that she finds me articulate, sensitive and wise in matters of intellectual and emotional understanding. I am rather proud that I didn't want even to know, much less to second guess, what she said and why. I simply trusted that it was hers to say, and felt glad that she'd risen up to say it as and on her own. I also felt no small amount relieved.

* * *

I dipped my big toe in, starting with Violence, and liked it and felt I even could read it. Then I dove right in, making perhaps a page a day, with The Parallax View (I'm going to attempt, assiduously, to avoid trying to find the characters to put those silly marks over the z's in the guy's name, so the links will have to do).

Now, what I want to say is that this guy manages to say, almost precisely, the very thing I'm trying to say here (here?), or rather to work out how to write here, so that I can eventually write it somewhere more appropriate, or just give it up as a crazed quest. The trouble is that here is a credible scholar saying the very same thing, but the trouble is that he's way less readable than I ever hope to be (!!!).

I came across this brilliant writing, allegedly from Chomsky, just by accident while reading about Zizek (there, I did it without the proper marks) in the handy Wikipedia. Chomsky beautifully trashes PoMo in all the lovely ways, pointing out its hermetic existence within the academy, and its utter disconnect from any useful efforts to better our lot. Principally, he distinguishes that sort of scholarship from any other by the fact not only that he can't understand it himself, but that he can't find any self-professed experts to lead him to any better understanding than the one he can arrive at himself, which is that it's all gibberish and not to be understood.

So, it's a fine thing for me to claim that yup, I'm trying to say exactly what Zizek says, only I'm trying to say it in a much simpler way, without all the philosophical jargon, and, perhaps therefore, with more powerful results. I'm trying for the much simpler scientific method. But how disgustingly cheeky of me to claim affinity to someone so far my better, especially when I'm only a tiny way into the impenetrable book!

The Chomsky article then reminded me of a brilliant little pamphlet recording a famous dialog between Chomsky and Foucault, the one in English, the other in French, which I came across quite by accident in the local indie bookstore and thought so brilliant I recommended it to someone, who, rather predictably, couldn't find any interest there.

So, what is one to do? You think you have this understanding, this way to construe things, which is so important that all sorts of people need to come to terms with it, and you can't make it interesting enough for one single other soul even to get a start with it. I guess people need a hook in. I don't think very many people are reading this Zizek book, though I could be wrong, since it's plenty commented on, and the book has nice production values. I mean, it's frickin' brilliant and all, and I guess he built up his cred in the field, and so forth.

But back to Chomsky for a moment, who, I think, dismisses the PoMo folks in the very same way I would dismiss the religious fundies, or the people who will defend Palin regardless of what an idiot she manifests herself to be. It's like they get convinced by some internal narrative which trumps all and any attempts to penetrate it.

I myself know a certain attraction to PoMo writings - to that kind of social criticism - which gets caught up in word play and a kind of argument which is just as hermetic as the academy-bound society which are its sole practitioners.

So there! In these words, the soul resides? By these words, my soul's residence is constructed? Is it sad to say that I think perhaps so? These words as analog for that heart construction that is and has been my every behavior, to make me, quite simply, recognizeable to those who would love me. And if I do make the mistake of not sternly enough structuring my own daughters' lives, at least I do so up against the impossibility anymore, post modernly, of knowing God directly as those very very evil practitioners claim to do. My love strives for liberation.

. . . but for the transgression of posting this, which at best should remain as notes for future labored elaboration to the point of readability. But isn't that what guarantees my safety (and yours?)

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