The Sky

I hope that you’re ready for some more poetry because I have been reading [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by E. E. Cummings and here’s the part that I want you to know:

—time is a tree(this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you

Life is but a little leaf on the great tree of time. But even time itself becomes limited and small in the face of love which is huge and boundless and essential and everywhere. That’s my happy thought for the week. Love is the sky, immense and present, and that is what is getting me through.

I’m going to be real with you though. I have had more video calls this week than ever before–and all of them social, voluntary, and friendly (none of them for work or interviews). I’ve been trying to lap it all up like a parched camel because it’s kind of exactly what I’ve been wishing for these past several months while at home, not particularly close with many friends.

So it’s been awesome in most ways but it’s also presented some mental challenges for me. I’ve written before that I’m trying to stick to the facts, as best as I may know them, when it comes to friends. Being clear with sending and receiving signals, communicating openly so that I can put the lie to the thoughts that tell me that I’m the least valuable player in any social setting. And I think that I’ve made progress on that, truly. One would think that all this social attention has helped too but, surprise, believing lies doesn’t have to be logical.

While I know that the reasonable response to such an increase in contact would be to think something along the lines of ‘wow people do like me, it really is just time and effort constraints that have prevented greater contact in the past’ and now that there’s time, there can be socializing with me. But the thing that I think initially, despite my best efforts, is that either a) this is happening because no one has anything better to do ie I’m a last resort or b) it’s been happening all along but only now am I being made aware of it because people are trying to reach out to others in these difficult times.

I recognize these problems and I’m working on combating them. Just wish it were a little easier. With everything going on, my life hasn’t actually changed much because most of my time has been stewing aimlessly at home anyway. The inescapable frustration of underemployment. The diminished capacity of listlessness. Stewing really is the right word for it most of the time. I hope I come out of this as a really delicious soup because otherwise what am I even doing.

Anyway. Trying not to turn too inward, a tendency for me which the current situation exacerbates.

There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now and it’s important to pay attention to it. I try to take it seriously when I can offer support to other people. It’s hard sometimes to know what to do especially when notes of caution are added to my natural laziness (and selfishness) but I do still want to try to do things. I tell myself it will be better when I have a normal, full-time job and can establish a reasonable routine but we’ll see about that I guess.

In the meantime, if there’s something that I can do for you, please let me know. Just like a little check-in, or virtually playing some games with you, or bringing you groceries if you’re in the area. I’d love to write you letters, too, which you can let sit in mail quarantine for a few days before opening. Whatever I can do.

To conclude, some cute pictures of cat tongue because why not.

The line quoted at the start of this post is near the end of the final stanza. E. E. Cummings is hard to understand in the best of times but that stanza begins with the line, “worms are the words but joy’s the voice.” Whatever the words may be (worms? like, death? or nature? or just small, insignificant things? or???), the voice is joy. Joy is the voice and love is the sky.

I can’t get over that single phrase. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love, love, love; sky, sky, sky.

Love One Another

Spring is such a hopeful time. I don’t have any other observations about it at the moment but I just had to say. I spent a little time meandering in parks this week, and several times noticed how late the light was lingering in the evenings.

Once again, I have little to discuss this week. It has been a great deal of nothing, generally. I visited some friends up in Seattle which was great fun. I visited another church because I had never been to an affirming church and variety is the spice of life. I visited Tacoma to see a movie called The Death of Stalin which, of course, is a comedy. Thoroughly enjoyed it, can recommend.

Along with all that, of course, I’ve had plenty of time to read and I have been doing plenty of it. Nothing earthshatteringly good but lots of normal good. I do sincerely wish, sometimes, that I did not become so emotionally invested in books, though. I don’t know if reading fiction does actually make you more empathetic, but sometimes I wish reading didn’t have the power to totally change my mood for the rest of the day–provided I can actually put down the book. Of course, I wouldn’t trade my reading experiences for the world. But still, it’s draining. Even knowing what’s going to happen and that it’s not real, I spend anxious (or giddy or frustrated or sad) hours between reading sessions.

In the midst of my not-doing, and the generalized angst and feelings brought on by books, I’ve had plenty of time to just think (a dangerous pastime, I know). I’ve not had dark nights contemplating the deep, dreadful fates in store for a world as sordid as this. Nothing quite so dramatic, though I do that often enough, too. It’s just been me thinking soberly about things in the world and in my life and how my life is a part of the world. And, as per usual, I’ve found that a lot of my feelings have been voiced quite eloquently by someone else.

Some time ago, I encountered W. H. Auden’s poem September 1, 1939 and I’ve often thought about it since. It’s both anti-fascist and somehow anarchist. Historical and informed but also strikingly topical. It combines a dismal but accurate view of the poet’s world in 1939 (not a great time for anybody) with a persistent attitude that, in spite of or perhaps because of the poem’s general despondency, seems almost wildly hopeful.

I get that poetry is not for everyone and it is often difficult to understand. Not claiming to totally comprehend this particular one, there are still some salient points that seem pretty straightforward to me. If you find nothing else in these admittedly convoluted lines, look for these: fear, justice, love, hope.

I will not reproduce the whole poem here (though I would encourage you strongly to read it). Instead, I will quote only the final two stanzas.

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.


A Dark and Stormy Night

So here I am in the kitchen, writing, and it certainly is dark outside. And raining. And windy. Not sure that it’s quite a storm, but I’m going with it. My reasons, though, have more to do with the state of the world than the current meteorological realities of North Dublin.

This week was full of great class discussions but, as per usual, they were pretty depressing. Near the end of our first class this morning–an overview of the neoliberal system and how vast and awful inequality &ct is–one of my classmates just simply asked, in all seriousness, “Is there any hope?” And my first thought was good question. It’s not just our classes, which are pretty topical, but the variety of other things going on in the world that variously draw my attention: the US presidential race, the refugee crisis, Syria, the rise of the far right across several countries, climate change, drought, famine, disease, poverty, violence. And a whole slew of others. I’ve talked in previous posts about these issues and the occasional feeling of helplessness if not hopelessness. And I’ve explained why I do have hope. But it’s a tricky thing and I require reminding sometimes. As the old song goes, “I’m just a poor, wayfaring stranger a-traveling through this world of woe but there’s no sickness, toil, or danger in that bright world to which I go.”

The question of how to confront these challenges is a big one. Always I’m asking what to do. And solving the world’s problems is not the purpose of this blog, so I’ll forgo answering, at least for now. It’s incredibly frustrating, tiring, and not a task for an empty stomach. So I’ll leave it there and simply allow the preceding paragraph to both illustrate my mental state and serve as a public service announcement to those who may be unaware of these issues–or those that prefer not thinking about them. They’re tough, and you may not have anything to say about them, but you ought certainly to think about them. Thinking is pretty important in my estimation.

Anyway, on to other things. Tomorrow is our belated Australia Day party (perhaps I should say ‘Straya Day’). For those who don’t know, Australia Day was this past Tuesday so we’re gathering tomorrow in honor of the Australian member of our ranks to eat food and hang out. Should be good craic.

Ooh, there’s a fun thing. Ireland time. Okay, the word craic. It’s pronounced crack, like the cocaine, and it means fun. Sort of. You can use it in an astonishing variety of contexts such as “Missed you at the party last night, it was good craic” or “Ah, yeah, he’s great craic” or “what’s the craic?” Now the Irish (and occasional British) are welcome to critique that assessment (and/or supplement my examples) but everyone else will just have to take my word for it. Please note, it is not used in the sense of “Hey, what’s crack-a-lackin’?” but “What’s the craic?” is a fair translation for that phrase into Irish. Yes, I do know people who say crack-a-lackin’.

I don’t have a whole lot else to report. Things are proceeding and it is what it is. Ideas for my dissertation continue to stew, we’ll just have to see where that will end up. Just one final note from me on the state of the world. I try here, when urging people to just be better people generally, to use really simple and broad terms so that I don’t have to explain myself and so that people really get my point without their hackles going up. And I realized that what I wanted to say today (particularly in reference to issues like immigration and refugees but also broadly applicable) has already been said. The phrase is in such wide circulation, in fact, that it has a name. A phrase with a name.

The name is The Golden Rule.

So there’s my two cents for this week. Think about it.