Earthbound & Timebound For Too Long

Too much Now and far too much Here. Present and accounted for: my mantra for years. For all of the San Francisco Years.

From Here. On This Moment. Faulty sense of offense to the point of atrophic defenses. I’ve gotten rusty at Combat, but unexpectedly better at Building. And I never noticed. Not til Now, which is no different to the Now of each Day.

Calendars play at…well, I don’t quite know. Building a folly for non-existent tomorrows. But follies don’t need reason, all ornament and no cunning. But every Thing, living or not, that ever was or ever will be (unnatural participles notwithstanding) has a reason. The Builders choose.

San Francisco itself is a Folly for many: a place all ornamental and guileless. It swarms with people who chose it for those very reasons and there are people who absorbed it and stopped them dead in their tracks. Motion stopped and therefore Time stopped. Retardation is the padlock and who can work a key anymore?

Escapism is another word for stopping Time; but Time doesn’t exist and by fiat and consequence, neither does History. Those who cannot endure such things and live within them naturally live without them. Without motion forward, without backward pensiveness: a lock on learning (also requiring a Marker in Time: Before and After).

Itinerancy both doesn’t exist and therefore that becomes all that exists when you choose to walk away from imagining. Tragic, frankly, because Imagination has never respected Time nor Place: Imagination is Itinerant, a notion that exists without Time yet still manages to move about in the World that itself choose to create.

Then there are those who don’t move, by choice, and let the world move through them. You are what you eat, and that sort of thing. And did you know that corporeally, all of the molecules and atoms filling out the pattern when you were born have all gone away? Matter flows through the pattern that is You. But that’s Motion, invoking Time and Space? But aren’t you still you? You are not the matter than flushes out the pattern and seeps into and out of. The Pattern is retained, but you remain more or less a Constant.

Of course there’s Then and there’s There, if for no other reasons than we require it for excuses for extraordinary behavior or original thought. Or for vulgar reasons like burying the past or living without consequence or avoiding blame or responsibility.

In the Folly that is San Francisco, sitting in the middle of a Vast Garden, there are no boundaries: it only took me nearly fifteen years to let that in completely, consciously. I have lived with the lack of boundaries—which is really just another way of reinforcing the solipsist’s luxury: human calenders. No boundaries and everything lies flat, colors bleed into one another leaving a brown muck, a quicksand which owns you, retards you. Locks you into Now and Here. Friendships bleed into Sex. Relationships are porous to the point, sometimes of there being more non-existent parts than the fragile, frail scaffolding that holds it up: the Pattern is there, but it’s covered in that muck. And the popular choice in all of this is to believe in diversity but bury it every time in that same muck, silencing those who dare carve out a walled garden where life has color and wonder and safety without sacrificing self or beauty or joy.

The muck overtakes the garden every time. The Folly wins and your Neverland becomes a Never-was.

San Francisco has my love in spite of how it retards some and makes them boorish and ignorant and disrespectful of the very diversity they probably came here for. After the just over a decade of setting aside a fraction of my individuality to appear to be “one of the guys”, the events of the past few years have worn away those walls, wicking away the sunshine and color and wonder and making me feel as alone as I’ve ever felt, for there is no worse loneliness than living behind a pasted-on smile, a vibrant individuality being dulled on purpose. And there is no worse dread than stepping into the muck because that’s where everyone else is, for fear of suffocation and for fear that those things which you hold most precious are the things that the muck-dwellers feed on. Feed on for energy or to simply dismantle anything that dares to be special.

Respect. Boundaries. Time. Space. Candor. Honor. Decency. Empathy. I live—or try to—amidst the interplay and interstices of each of those things. And often I must behave otherwise, if for no other reason that self-preservation. It’s only belief in all those things which animates me and allows real choice in changing the pattern that is me.

I have to: there’s not enough respect from the outside.

Verloren in Translation

I am a huge (if fledgling) fan of the works of Rainer Maria Rilke. My interest began in a session with Ronald. Weeks before he presented me with the quote that would start the love affair with the Werks of a turn of the century German poet, I had imparted my “How I came to respect psychotherapy” story: essentially, I figured that both therapist and patient were humans, and there was no possible way for objectivity to enter into it because the caregiver could escape his own human frailties no better than any patient could.

He understood, because he understood me. That normally would be enough to say of any patient/doctor relationship, but Ronald is a beautiful, special case. He came back with an answer for me by quoting Rilke, and I was so affected I asked if he had the source. And it was from “Letters to a Young Poet”.

Immediately I went out and bought the book. I read the book through, and the quote was near the end. It was a quite satisfying (and quite emotional) experience. I told Jenniebear about all of this and of course she was way ahead of me, and recommended the Stephen Mitchell translation, and further, his translation of the Duino Elegies.

Lee is here for Christmas, because family belongs together at Christmas-Hannukah-Ramadan-Duali-Kwaanza. He wanted to get to a book store. We got to a Barnes & Noble near “up the mall” and I’d remembered I had wanted the Mitchell translations (the translation I’d bought was not Mitchell’s). I texted Jenniebear and asked her to verify the translations I should be looking for and ended up buying “Letters to a Young Poet” again, and added another book of selected poetry of Rilke, including the Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. An added bonus: each poem is printed auf Deutsch and on the facing page, Mitchell’s translation into English.

So anyhoo, this all gave me a chance to compare one person’s translation of a given text to another translation. In the quote Ronald gave me that so touched me, only a few seemingly insignificant words were different between the two, but even those few (and relatively common) words were enough to produce a noticeably improve adsorption, their sentiment pressed more perfectly to my own mind.

Mitchell’s translation of the quote Ronald gave me, recall, as response to my now long-gone hesitations about therapy:

Don’t think that the person who is trying to comfort you now lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes give you pleasure. His life has much trouble and sadness, and remains far behind yours. If it were otherwise, he would never have been able to find those words.

The emphasis is mine. For the dearth of good will in the world, for all those who steal it away like a niggardly coward in the night, the only way to restore our world may be to remember Rilke’s words and inhabit them, either as the comforter and comforted.

And to me, Good Will is nothing more than being both comforter and comforted simultaneously and in like company.

Update: I thought it might be a good idea to include the other translation of the same section. It’s not that I think less of Reginald Snell’s translations skills, just that Mitchell’s seem more habitable to me. Here’s Snell’s translation; perhaps you will find his choices more to your liking:

Do not think that the man who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words which sometimes do you good. His life has much hardship and sadness and lags far behind yours. If it were otherwise, he could never have found those words.

For me, it just may come down to a “would” instead of a “could”.