Archive for July, 2015

Heart and soul

July 28, 2015

There’s a recording on YouTube of Peter, Paul, and Mary singing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” with Andy Williams on his show.  It’s a Bob Dylan song.  For some reason, I particularly like this recording of it.

It’s a song.  I recognize that.  It’s only a song.

But I am interested in what I can see behind the line “I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul.”

Because sloshing soul material back and forth between lovers can be so wonderful, but trying to do that with ego-selves can be a disaster.

And I’ve never quite understood what we’re supposed to think about the relationship being implied by the break-up phase covered in the song.

Of course, some of what I see in the song, and in the line more specifically, has to do with how the singer(s) interprets the song.

I think the narrator missed the boat on this relationship.  I think this woman knew how to love as uninhibitedly as a child and she knew how to exchange love deeply, at the level of souls.  I think “the original vagabond” (Joan Baez’s words in “Diamonds and Rust,” usually taken to refer to Dylan) didn’t get it.

Men who have been overwhelmed as children by too much adult emotion (for example, from their mothers) sometimes assume it’s always going to be dysfunctional like that, that it’s going to be an exchange of heavy, human ego-generated emotions.  They shut down.  They won’t try again as adults.  They can’t try again as adults because they haven’t really developed in this area since that trauma.

The exchange doesn’t have to be about excessive ego-based emotions, but for it to be about something purer, the lovers have to know how to pull the ego out of the way so it can.  Then the souls slosh, back and forth (having the slosh go in both directions is very important).  It’s an incredible feeling.

Maybe it’s an incredible feeling to be adored by thousands of fans in an arena, I wouldn’t know.  And maybe Dylan has experienced the sloshing of souls back and forth, as well, I wouldn’t know that, either. (Dylan’s song “I Believe” gives me reason to think he might have at some point, although I may be reading into that interpretation the personal experience of the singers I’ve heard covering that song.)  But I don’t think the song “Don’t Think Twice” reflects that stage.

Coerced consent

July 28, 2015

I wrote a paper years ago about the validity of coerced consent in Roman Law, which focused on the person coerced and what responsibility they had for their subsequent (coerced) act and whether that act was valid from an external point of view.  But it occurred to me this morning that I haven’t much thought about the consequences of the coercion to the person engaging in — doing —  the coercion.  I don’t have any particular desire to go see how Roman Law thought about this.  I do know that rule over Rome by kings ended with Tarquin’s and that he was overthrown (the paper took as its point of departure Livy’s telling of the story of Tarquin’s rape of Lucretia).  How I myself would think about it is that a coercer cannot expect the same consequences to flow from a coerced act as would flow from an act freely engaged in by the other person.  Or rather, while a person who has engaged in coercion can expect whatever they want, I don’t think the consequences to the coercer from a coerced act will be the same as the consequences to them from what looks like a similar act but is freely given.

Did I set this up?

July 21, 2015

I can’t remember whether I transplanted this day lily to the base of the stump on which my black Buddha sits because its colors reminded me of Buddhist monk clothing or because it seemed like a good spot in the yard to absorb yet another day lily.  I know I was searching for a place for it — my recollection is that I needed to remove the plant from where it was and couldn’t figure out where to put it.  But I don’t remember what the deciding factor was for choosing this spot.  I do know that one of my considerations was whether I would be creating, by where I planted it, yet another area I would have to mow around and not through — I already had to mow around the pear tree stump, so this spot did not add difficulty to that task.  And some other areas I was considering for the transplant had too many tree roots or early-spring flower bulbs to make them suitable locations in which to dig a hole.


The day lily didn’t flower last year, and maybe it didn’t flower even the year before, so I didn’t remember what it looked like.  When it bloomed this year, its first blossom opened at the same time I was reading a column on the NYTimes website about the Dalai Lama.  I think there was a picture of him included with the column online.  It made me happy to see his colors echoed in the flower.

“If I Had My Way”

July 18, 2015

I have found myself listening to live recordings on YouTube of Peter, Paul, and Mary singing their version of the Rev. Gary Davis* song about Samson and Delilah.  They call it “If I Had My Way.”  It’s a pretty rousing song, so the live performances have a lot of kick.  I think I am caught on the idea that Samson is saying that if he had his way, he would tear this building down — leaving open the possibility that he won’t.

*I see that Wikipedia says that the original writer of the song was Blind Willie Johnson.

A post about posting (or not)

July 14, 2015

Yesterday I had something to do that I was to some extent dreading and which did turn out to be difficult to do.  But I got through it, it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great.  On my way home, alone again in my car, I got to thinking about how I could write a blog post about it.  And I realized, as I was observing what I was doing, that that line of thinking was leading me to, to borrow a contemporary colloquial phrase, make it (the episode) a thing — to make it a thing instead of just letting it go.  I had anticipated the episode, I had engaged in it, I like to think that I had done something reasonable during the course of it, then it was over, and while I wasn’t all that happy from the experience, I didn’t really need to assess it, I could just let it be — just let it “have been” — in fact, it was probably better all around to just leave it as something that had occurred, like paint drying.  It had happened, but I didn’t need to reify it.

That got me wondering what impact writing more generally has on how people process their experiences and think about the world.  I know I never wanted to write the book about our experiences building a family that many people suggested I write.  That reaction came to me as a matter of not wanting to relive all those events.  Now my sense is that writing requires me to choose a particular way to present the material, that a particular voice be chosen and that the events be characterized and assessed to some degree and assigned some kind of significance — I don’t think most books are just flat recitation of what happened.

I don’t doubt that some people, perhaps even as a result of writing about them in a certain way, move on from events in their lives after writing about them, but it really hit me yesterday that the process of processing the events in order to write about them was going to impede me from just accepting them as things that had happened, that really did not need to be assigned greater significance than that, and that writing about them would turn them into permanent artifacts of a certain sort in my memories, like bringing home unwanted bargains from a yard sale.  To present the events might lead to positive reactions from others — the material certainly would lend itself to making something dramatic out of it — but I think it would actually result in trading a healthier frame of mind for some more immediate positive external feedback.  I don’t want to file the events away under particular emotional headings, I would rather leave them more fluid and let the memories give me different or more attenuated impressions over time, if that’s what happens.

Southern novels

July 11, 2015

There’s a lot of discussion about the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, and people have been talking about what To Kill a Mockingbird has meant to them and/or to the country and American literature.  I have been scouring my memories for what To Kill a Mockingbird meant to me.

I think it upset me, and I think I was unable to sit through the entire movie made from it.

I think I read at roughly the same time Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding, and I know that that book made a lasting impression on me.  My mother and I used to use its title to refer to similar situations we knew, and even in a more general way, to other situations of attempted enmeshment in other people’s personal relations.

I have been thinking that this renewed interest in Harper Lee’s books may actually get me to reread McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding yet again.

A variant that worked

July 11, 2015

Yesterday morning Jordan left the house before I left to take a walk around the Res.  Some documents had come in the mail that I needed first to photocopy so I could scan both sides, and then to scan and attach to emails and send off to multiple parties, making sure the attachments were not too big for my commercial email server’s settings and making sure that my email program was not inserting an email address other than the ones I intended.  Then I filed away those papers, and a couple of others I had put off filing because it meant moving around stacks of cartons of files in the attic, so by the time I got out of the house, Jordan had been gone for a while.

So Jordan reached me by cell phone as I got to the Res, and he asked if it was okay if he invited a couple of friends over in the evening, to play boardgames and card games, and whether one of them could do a load of laundry in our machines while he was over, and I said it was fine, after reviewing what Jordan needed to do that day.  So when Jordan asked when I thought I would be back, I thought he was calculating when he was going to do something or other, either a chore or some prep for the game night, that he wanted to do before I returned.  I told him I thought I’d be another hour, and I didn’t pay the exchange much mind.  He had said, earlier in the conversation when I had asked where he was, that he was coming up the hill to the house from the bus stop.

And I took a glorious walk.  Saw a Great Blue Heron flapping over the water, saw small dark fish with iridescent tails in the shallows of the water near the shore, clambered down to the shore in less accessible places that seemed to have things that needed to be seen, found a sea shell and saw a rabbit.

So I get back to my house, climb the front steps up to the porch, and notice, as I am fumbling for my keys, Jordan’s messenger bag on one of the chairs.  And then I notice other stuff on the middle chair, and no, not Goldilocks in the third chair, but Jordan himself — he hadn’t left his things on the porch by mistake, but he was there with his iPad doing his millennial generation screen engagement thing.  I was a little surprised to see him sitting there.

I thought he had taken his key with him when he had left, but, as I learned, he had forgotten to.

After we clarified that, he said, “I didn’t want to tell you because I wanted you to take your time and enjoy your walk.”

I generally don’t like being deceived, and sometimes an attempt involving deceiving me has backfired royally, as when someone says they will come and help in some way, perhaps thinking that that sense of back-up will encourage me to do more myself and that by then I won’t need their help.  When the person doesn’t follow through, I have found my reliance on the promise and my continuing need for the help to be a difficult combination to deal with.  The reliance produces a shift in me that is difficult to undo sometimes.

But Jordan’s variant on this mix of inducing an attitude on my part and not being completely straightforward actually worked for me.  I had a great walk.

Jordan was absolutely correct that had I known he had forgotten his key, I would have been at best somewhat distracted.  It’s summer and he’s 23, so I wouldn’t have worried, but his waiting for me so as to be able to get back in the house would have been in the back of my mind to some extent, and I might not have taken as much time as I did on my walk and in my explorations and gazing, even though it turned out that I got back from my activities in the amount of time I had estimated it would take me and which Jordan had accepted without any discussion.

For me, this was an iteration of a pattern that had been quite painful rearranged into something quite pleasant, including my appreciation of Jordan’s considerateness and thoughtfulness and that he knows his mom and her issues.

That this episode involved someone returning home and another person waiting for the return had resonance for me, reminding me of a tradition of stories in which someone is told that someone will be coming back.  I had been thinking recently of a version of such a story, in which the little girl left at an outpost in the wilderness would have been much better off without the promise of a return by the grown-up, who told her he’d come back in part to make himself feel better and in part because he didn’t realize she had better coping tools than a false promise.  So my experience of a deceit involving a return home and a wait in which the elements have been reshuffled to produce happiness all around meant a lot to me — I like to think it reflects that progress of some sort is being made.

And Jordan had brought back with him to share with me a free chocolate candy bar that he had been given at a table in front of a yoga studio near his gym.  Priceless.

Flower burst cont’d

July 4, 2015




More views of my flower burst.

Flower bursts

July 4, 2015

Don’t have my own fireworks for the Fourth of July, but nature has given me this:


It’s the flower that grew up out of the “hen” part of my Hens and Chicks plant.