The moon, it turns out, is a great place for men. One-sixth gravity must be a lot of fun, and when Armstrong and Aldrin went into their bouncy little dance, like two happy children, it was a moment not only of triumph but of gaiety. The moon, on the other hand, is a poor place for flags. Ours looked stiff and awkward, trying to float on the breeze that does not blow. (There must be a lesson here somewhere.) It is traditional, of course, for explorers to plant the flag, but it struck us, as we watched with awe and admiration and pride, that our two fellows were universal men, not national men, and should have been equipped accordingly. Like every great river and every great sea, the moon belongs to none and belongs to all. It still holds the key to madness, still controls the tides that lap on shores everywhere, still guards the lovers who kiss in every land under no banner but the sky. What a pity that in our moment of triumph we did not forswear the familiar Iwo Jima scene and plant instead a device acceptable to all: a limp white handkerchief, perhaps, symbol of the common cold, which, like the moon, affects us all, unites us all.
It was nice to wake up this morning to an email from my poet friend Luisa mentioning that she was reading Carrie Yury's (pic) Huffington Post article on How To Keep Making Art After Grad School and saw my name mentioned. If you happen to be an artist or even an aspiring artist I recommend taking a look at Carrie's article. Lots of solid advice for those involved in the creative pursuits, which is everyone really.
Next up. Carrie wants to photograph me in my underwear for a series of work she's doing. She was recently added to the permanent collection at LACMA for work in this particular series. I agreed. This should be interesting. And no, they will not be posted here, but hopefully you'll see them in a museum some day.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about ambition as I'm in process of starting up this part two of my professional career. The considerations around ambition have come up often, with no easy direction found. In my experience ambition is a complex thing, not all good, not all bad, but requiring careful negotiation, especially at this point in my career. So this piece from Emily Gould's memoir on free-floating ambition caught my attention. Because it's accurate, at least in my universe. What do I really want to do?
“Free-floating ambition is toxic because it means that anyone
who has accomplished anything in any realm of human endeavor is the
enemy because she might be your competition. So you hate everyone a
little bit, but behind this wall of hatred you still feel vulnerable.
And you are vulnerable, but not because of the competition. You’re
vulnerable because if anyone points you in anything that seems like a
direction, that’s where you’ll go.”
Postmodern irony and cynicism's become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try and talk about ways of working toward redeeming what's wrong, because they'll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony's gone from liberating to enslaving. There's some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who's come to love his cage.
“If, by the virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you
ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway
facility like Enfield MA's state-funded Ennet House, you will acquire
many exotic new facts [...] That certain persons simply will not like
you no matter what you do. Then that most nonaddicted adult civilians
have already absorbed and accepted this fact, often rather early on
[...] That sleeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with
sustained effort be abused [...] That purposeful sleep-deprivation can
also be an abusable escape. That gambling can be an abusable escape,
too, and work, shopping, and shoplifting, and sex, and abstention, and
masturbation, and food, and exercise, and meditation/prayer [...] That
loneliness is not a function of solitude [...] That if enough people in a
silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of
steam coming off the coffee. That sometimes human beings have to just
sit in one place and, like, hurt [...] That there is such a thing as
raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness [...] That the effects of too many
cups of coffee are in no way pleasant or intoxicating [...] That if you
do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting
the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it
was you did or in any way or form trying to get credit for it, it's
almost its own form of intoxicating buzz. That anonymous generosity, too, can be abused [...] That it is permissible to want [...] That there might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels.”
David Foster Wallace,
“I see myself forever and ever as the ridiculous man, the lonely soul, the wanderer, the restless frustrated artist, the man in love with love, always in search of the absolute, always seeking the unattainable.”
Our practical perceptions are narratively guided because they are organized around a set of practical concerns: identifying the on-going social dramas in which we find ourselves, searching for an appropriate place in those dramas, and so far as we can, attempting to direct them in desirable directions. Our attempts to both locate ourselves accurately in a larger social story, and to steer that social story (or our place in it) in desirable ways, generates obstacles, surprises, the on-going suspense that characterizes much of life experinece. Hope, in other words, is a narrative thing.
Where does the hopeful therapeutic plot come from? Rarely does it emerge from the particular events of therapy. these are, often enough, trivial, difficult, and mundane, taken in themselves. What gives therapeutic events significance are their connections to life plots, the extent to which they open onto much broader narrative vistas which lead far beyond therapy. Effective therapy must successfully address the question of why someone should care to engage in activities and exercises which are routinely dull or painful. A therapeutic plot only seduces to the extent that it emerges as an episode in an unfolding life story, gives some hope for a life that is still to be lived. Even therapy directed to the dying must offer something desirable for a future, a better ending to a life or a gift to pass along to those who remain.
Positions...pre-exist the people that occupy them. - Rom Harre
I applied to the Taos/Tilburg Ph.D. program yesterday. It doesnt look like I will start till next fall (if accepted) but I am excited to start heading down that road. I'm also excited and grateful to report that John Winslade will serve as my advisor in the program. As part of this process it looks like I will be starting some writing projects around conflict resolution/conflict coaching, positioning theory, and of course narrative practice. That should keep me busy for a while. Not sure where all of these will lead but I am excited to find out.
This evening, the sturdy Levi's I wore every day for over a year & which seemed to the end in perfect condition, suddenly tore. How or why I don't know, but there it was: a big rip at the crotch. A month ago my friend Nick walked off a racquetball court, showered, got into his street clothes, & halfway home collapsed & died. Take heed, you who read this, & drop to your knees now & again like the poet Christopher Smart, & kiss the earth & be joyful, & make much of your time, & be kindly to everyone, even to those who do not deserve it. For although you may not believe it will happen, you too will one day be gone, I, whose Levi's ripped at the crotch for no reason, assure you that such is the case. Pass it on. - Steve Kowit The Dumbbell Nebula
"If there is any irreverence in my own work, I hope it is the irreverence I bear in mistrusting my own sincere self, which then sincerely mistrusts the irreverent me. If there is a bottom to this, I think it is a life's work." - Mary Ruefle