Thursday, January 07, 2010


I’m wearing purple this morning, and was pleased to see the sky coordinate its outfit with mine, violet clouds streaked with orange as I was driving to work, great pillows arranged against a blue-ing sky.

Someone wrote, I can’t remember who, that some animals, like ants, are able to accomplish stupendous feats in groups, while the opposite happens with humans. This is strangely true—with all of our brain power, we ought to be able to come together harmoniously to do great things. I suppose we do sometimes. But if we are left to average human behavior, the bigger the group, the stupider we get. This may be one of the downfalls of individualism—everyone wants to be in control, and eventually in a group, someone will emerge as more powerful than others and become some sort of a leader. Very charismatic leaders can achieve great things in groups, and also can cause people to behave very stupidly and/or dangerously. Since we value individualism so highly, this state doesn’t last forever, and probably not for a long time—someone will be disaffected and fight against the leader. It may be “good” or “bad”, but it’s more likely a combination of the two—goo-ad, ba-ood, goad, bood— or perhaps neither—but rarely is something absolutely good or bad, and if it starts to become that way, something will come along and give that wheel another spin, turning things around. So, individualism is a double-edged sword. But why can’t we just work for the common good and drop all of the other unnecessary politicking? We just don’t seem to be able to do that in large groups.

The clouds outside part and blue sky and sunshine appear. January has been a month of clearing, Mercury and Mars retrograde, no new progress, get the old stuff sorted out, get rid of the dust, the clutter, clear up the misunderstandings, prepare to move forward again. “When fisherman can’t go to sea, they repair nets.” And if you’re stuck in Newark Airport, you can always have a sing-along.

Arriving at work, I found myself, for no good reason, thinking of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, “The Moose”. The people on the bus, traveling to and from various destinations, the older folk talking about who retired, who died, who had to be put away (“Life’s like that. We know it (also death)”). Then,

Now, it's all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.

While it is a startling event, it is not frightening (“A man’s voice assures us, ‘Perfectly harmless...’”). It is beautiful and mysterious, like the unexpected gifts and surprises that punctuate the ordinary flow of our lives. Such an event reminds you, makes you aware, takes you off the wheel, even if for just a moment.

I’d made an attempt to learn the formal art of writing poetry last Fall. Iambic pentameter, spondees, trochees, assonance, alliteration—the part of me that likes to be neatly organized and precise felt that my attempts at poetry writing resembled the ramblings of a drunken transient or incorrigible child, and could stand some respectable cleaning up and discipline. But I just couldn’t follow through with it. My academic side has to tolerate this disheveled and disorganized roommate, it seems. Or, perhaps it’s another failed attempt on my part to organize and label something that can’t be organized and labeled—at least not for me.

Some failures are beautiful.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I loved this piece!