Finding my way


It might seem odd to many that for me, entering into this virtual platform feels rather like a great plunge–a plunge that is rounded about with not a little anxiety and misgiving.  I have to ask myself many different questions if I am to embark on “putting myself out there” on such a vast scale as the information highway allows.

Who exactly am I to address?  It might be best to simply transcribe my letters or correspondence with you, Jonathan, and so give the outsider a vantage from which to scrutinize or perhaps gain insight into our unique exchange, reaping from this whatever knowledge or entertainment might me a valuable addition to the possibly unknown recipient’s life.  It may very well be that this is the best course to take.  My other option would be to write in a more general manner that would be speaking to whomever might be directed to, or have stumbled upon, this site.  In this case I must ask myself what would be so alluring as to draw someone’s undivided attention, and withal their precious time, to the reading of an online avowal.  I also know that any notion of what has come to be known as blogging will never be part of my life such that it would detract from either tangible acts of discovery in actual bound books with covers and real pen and paper, or warm-blooded correspondence where the other’s face and body are present.  It may be in the very writing of this post that I will begin to discover what the future holds for a virtual Many Arrows.

So where does one start?  And yes, I am always including you my friend in any question or consideration written here.

I’ve been reading the copy of Pascal’s Pensées that you sent to me not that long ago.  I needn’t tell you how brilliant it is. I was drawn to it because of several films I happened to watch from the French director Eric Rohmer.  He is quite obsessed with Pascal and uses the wager in at least two of his films (My Night at Maud’s and A Winter’s Tale).  I have been wondering about Pascal’s notion of “custom being our nature”, and how this applies to the iconoclast within society–namely the artist–and if one can ever escape the customary influence completely.

Let me give you an example.  I was driving the kids to school yesterday morning, and in a rare moment of inspiration, decided to put on some music for the trip.  I chose The Decemberist’s Crane Wife, beginning with part one and going forward in chronological order.  As we motored down the valley I paused the song now and again to embellish and explain the songwriter’s interpretation of the Japanese cautionary tale, and it didn’t take long until I was moved to tears by the beauty of the song.  Of course I attempted to mitigate my emotion by widening my eyes to create a larger space to hold in the brimming tears (for I didn’t want the kids to see their stalwart father crumbling under a musician’s influence), and I did that strange cough when I was explaining things, coupled with long pauses, to get a hold of myself and hide my being so moved.  When I was pulling into the circus ring of my son’s school, the line “and all I ever meant to do, was to keep you….my crane wife” whelmed the tears so that they streaked down my cheeks and I had to turn my head down and to the left and wipe the hot salt trail with my sleeve.

So I ask you Jonathan, or anyone, is this customary?  Is such a reaction to beauty and authenticity commonplace in our culture?  Is reading Hugo von Hofmannsthal on his birthday and feeling an overwhelming connection to a dead Austrian poet normal?  And Trakl, my God, how is one to reconcile such an astonishingly felicitous obsession with death to a biopolitical environment that sees this as pathological?  And biopolitics have become the custom.  Were we born with hearts too large for this technologically foreshortened world?  You said in your last letter that you would lay down your life to save a final pair of moths.  I am thrilled when  you relate such sentiments, and I believe that the more our care grows for what are seemingly insignificant creatures to most, the more our capacity for love burgeons.  Perhaps our ire looms in proportion in order to protect the fragility that is our compassion.  You ended by saying “And I will always criticize myself to understand how to love and empathize more with all.  That’s my meaning.  It even includes the good humans.”  One would find it difficult to improve on such a statement.


4 thoughts on “Finding my way

  1. I want to start by saying thank you Seth for writing this and “putting it out there” because it helps others, like me, who stumble upon and take the time to read, feel connected (not alone in their thoughts), inspired to do that “something” that is pushing them from their core to do, to begin- to start, because not doing it would be worse, not doing it would be like death to the soul. Not saying what it is one must say is internal torture and will manifest in unwanted ways. I feel that by placing greater emphasis on cooperation and connection with each other, humans, our souls will begin to thrive as they should. And even connect across time and space with those who are deceased- souls keep living and I believe those connections are real and transformative when we allow space and open up to them; we aren’t limited to the here and now and that’s beautiful and comforting to me. I really have much to say in response to your questions you have “put out there,” but I will refrain and spend time contemplating. Thank you Seth. And this is of value to my life. Please keep writing and sharing. Your courage and openness is very refreshing, encouraging, inspiring, and beautiful. It’s this exact thing that is the positive side to technology.

    One last thing… Crane Wife. He takes her in, heals her. She comes back, takes care of him- she offers it up-, her body,- to help, to save, to fix, (maybe out of guilt, debt?)- I know this, as a woman, we do this, and for myself, the desire to help, fix, save someone, at whatever cost…pluck, pluck, plucking away at my body… slowly declining at first, then rapidly… then he does the one thing she asked him not to do, “see her”…wow… and then she leaves. She had given so much of herself, but kept it hidden… kept hidden… then it’s too much to take and she leaves. If, only, she had told him? If only he had paid attention to her? If only…

    Thanks for reading,


  2. Seth,

    Thank you for this beautifully written and poignant post.

    I sit here at my kitchen table, surrounded by ferns and scattered papers, in an attempt to respond. I wish you were here so that our words could fly over the wood to reach the other’s ears.

    The waterfall image is gorgeous. Choice symbol of the “plunge.”

    The plunge is terrifying in its way. It’s more than just unleashing the dog of writing into the world. Being non-electronically inclined humans, there is an innate resistance to media technology in us. As you say eloquently, we prefer books (motionless paper screens) to illuminated screens and that “blogging will never be part of my life such that it would detract from either tangible acts of discovery in actual bound books with covers and real pen and paper, or warm-blooded correspondence where the other’s face and body are present.” The walk through the woods and up a mountain accompanied by nature’s sounds is more real than writing. More physical. Yet there is something about art that clings and demands our devoted expression.

    It is certainly strange to throw out words into the universe. And toward whom? I tremble each time. It is a different feeling than journaling.

    For whom did Dillard write her Pilgrim book? Or for whom do Merwin and Lee write their poems?

    Must be: for us.

    I think in our case we write for each other. We know each other intimately. The words flow easily because our voices are in each other’s heads. I can say without doubt that when I write, you are a titanic part of the audience I have in mind.

    However, when we commune in and over words and music and painting in the blog, I believe we expose ourselves to someone else’s view. Someone’s tacit participation. Perhaps eavesdropping. Our conversation–the blog or the letters–is for us, but it may be that there are qualities in it that other’s can share or with which they can empathize.

    For example, your incredible anecdote! It is this kind of real, personal description of an important sequence of moments as you are in a car with your children listening to mythic music that can grab attention. The meaning conveyed is powerful. Is it the iconoclast coming out?

    Art is about what art means for our souls. It is this that you are gesturing at with the question of emotions in front of an amazing work, a poem or a painting. Our reaction to beauty and authenticity is quite rare, it feels to me, though not so rarefied as to be an eccentricity. Others whom we would want to find share our sensibility and our sensitivity as “hearts too large for this technologically foreshortened world.”

    I have to believe this. It is also what allows us to identify with the authors and artists that strike us with profundity. With the sacredness of life itself. Including the umwelts of insects.

    Electronic media is by its essence something inaccessible to our warmness. We can never warm to it. It will always be a nemesis.

    It is struggle. The unknown is here. We have no idea who might stumble onto our path. This creates anxiety for me, but if we do not put ourselves out there (here) then we won’t know whether our stuff is of benefit to the world. It’s a weak justification, I know.

    We can keep to ourselves or we can disseminate. But we needn’t throw out the seeds of expectation as seriously as we would if planting an actual garden. If no one reads us, so be it. At least we are engaged when we choose to be.

    One thing is certain: this blog–any blog–is no substitute or compensation for actual lived experience. It replaces nothing. We are not beholden to it. Writing on a screen is the weirdest thing to me. Feels unnatural. Unlike pen and paper, which feel real. All of which you say.

    We are anachronistic. We were born into the wrong era perhaps. Which perhaps is why we have such strong feelings about beauty and authenticity. We don’t want these, and the creatures, to slip away. We are olde school. As you write in your letter, it doesn’t matter if the world leaves us behind. In a way, it already has. Twenty-something years ago.

    We write to pause the extinction of what we love.

    We are human beings, but probably not so much customary ones. Nary an artist-thinker has been customary, as we know. American culture has never really been known for its prowess in artistic sensitivity. But we do the utmost we can, even in oblivion and anonymity.

    You are not alone. We are not alone. So maybe instead of plunging, we just wade out into the tide slowly. Just dip at first. See how it goes. No pressure. No expectation that this foray into electronica will feel as authentic as flesh-and-blood experience.

    We can always pull back onto the dry sand.


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