Baffled

*No literal, real-life horses were harmed in the writing of this post.

My father and brother arrive in Ireland this evening, after spending some time in Spain to visit the exchange student they hosted this past school year. They’re only here for a few days, so we’re going to try to do as much of the island as we can in a whirlwind adventure. Current plans include Dublin, surprise, Belfast, and possibly Galway or Cork. We’ll see. But should be good craic. It’ll be nice to see them and to have them visit. For my younger brother, this trip is not his first time out of the country, but it’s close. And it’s his first time to Europe. Catalonia and County Dublin will make quite a contrast, I’m sure. All the better.

Also, here are some cats for this week, from the remarkable Evie.

So the preceding news is probs more interesting to most of you, but after jilting this post last week, I felt like I really ought to include it. Didn’t want to hurt its feelings. This is the part where the horses come in, for good or ill, if you were confused by the disclaimer at the beginning. Here goes.

I feel like lately I’ve been writing a lot about how confused I am, just as a general state of being. So I kind of hate to beat on that super dead horse. But also, I mean, it’s where I am. And then I stumbled across this wonderful quotation by Wendell Berry who I normally associate with environmental stuff (but who is also a poet and stuff I guess).

When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

I then came across this little stunner from Rumi, whom I expected to be poetic.

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.

How true. It’s all very ancient Greek, you know–the unexamined life and all. But somehow more human, I feel. Because, in examining my life, I don’t feel that I learn much most of the time. Instead, I become baffled. And perhaps that’s what’s important.

And notice that he’s not like, “It’ll all be grand once you overcome X confusion or solve X problem.” No. If you’re not baffled, you’re not living. Solve problems, do. But always know that the work is never finished, not truly. The seaweed may indeed be greener, but no lake is puzzle-free.

Which is sort of comforting (another deceased ungulate–how to feel better about yourself when you’re abusing the horse of confusion). The idea that you’re never really supposed to get to the point where the stars are perfectly aligned and all the ducks are in a row and everything’s coming up roses. We wander around, having all-too-brief moments of clarity in the midst of an otherwise enigmatic world. And life, generally, leaves us bewildered.

One thing that is actually encouraging, rather than just comforting, is that the world is full of people–not just people who are as confused as you, but people who may be confused about different things. When other people play significant, positive roles in our lives, some of that always-looming bafflement recedes. When we let other people teach us–as in the dark as we both may be–they can show us, perhaps, a better way even as we may show them. When we live together with people, truly together, it just makes things better

I have one final quote for you, if you’ll bear with me. In the course of this year, I have read pitifully few Irish books–not even Dubliners. But I did read a remarkable contemporary novel recommended by an Irish coursemate, The Book of Evidence by John Banville. And though I read it in December, just recently a section returned to mind. Not only is it incredible writing, but it also seems to be an all-too-painful assessment of the state of humanity–not just now, but always. His character says:

I have never really got used to being on this earth. Sometimes I think our presence here is due to a cosmic blunder, that we were meant for another planet altogether, with other arrangements, and other laws, and other, grimmer skies. I try to imagine it, our true place, off on the far side of the galaxy, whirling and whirling. And the ones who were meant for here, are they out there, baffled and homesick, like us? No, they would have become extinct long ago. How could they survive, these gentle earthlings, in a world that was meant to contain us?

I don’t know about you, but those words almost make me ache with their accuracy.

Maybe that’s not a great place to end a blog post, especially when it seemed to be going in a more positive direction. But surprise. There you have it, something unexpected happened and brought down the mood. I rest my case on bafflement.

I guess as some small consolation, I’ll leave you with this:

Tristan2016-7-25

 

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