Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In Review

I held her shoulder in my left hand, and reached across for the anterior superior iliac spine on the other side -- what I suppose the uninitiated might call the hip-bone -- with my right hand. Supposedly the left hand is negative, drawing energy, and the right hand is positive, giving it. Whatever. That's polarity talk. If I were talking shiatsu, I'd call the left hand the mother hand and the right hand the son hand. The mother hand just rested. With the son hand I rocked her back and forth. In shiatsu, it's the mother hand, the hand that doesn't move, that you pay attention to. It's the listening hand.

Polarity arouses all my skepticism. It's American. It's modern. It's eclectic. It stands to older forms of massage as Mormonism stands to older religions: I can't get over the conviction that someone just like me made this up; it can't be worth anything.

Nevertheless, the little we've learned has infiltrated everything I do on the table. The holding, the rocking, the way I listen with my hands.

"You radiate warmth, care, kindness, and good humor... your presence de-escalates stress and upset, and contributes to an overall sense of happiness and interest here."

I cared about this performance review. I mean, I always care about performance reviews, since they're about a topic of such absorbing interest, i.e., me. But I cared about this one especially. For one thing, I admire Faith more than anyone I've ever worked for. Her good opinion is important to me. For another, I feel like I've let myself be seen, at the Foundation, as I have never let myself be seen in my high-tech jobs: this review was about me, not about a manufactured persona.

Probably I've never been as good at manufacturing a persona as I have fondly imagined. But the point of course is not whether I fooled anybody: the point is whether I intended to.

My reviews in cubicle-land mentioned the same sort of thing. They described me as cheerful and easygoing, a good team member, diplomatic; someone people like to work with. So what was so different about this?

How much it mattered, I guess. It was, really, the central point of the review: that I was kind. What matters most to me, about me, is what matters most to Faith too. It would be hard to exagerate the difference that makes in how I feel about working for her.

This strange, bittersweet year is nearing its close -- to me, always, the end of September, harvest-time, is the real end of the year.

The earth element's season is harvest; its weather is damp, its taste is sweet, its sense-organ is the mouth, its emotion is worry, its body component is the muscles, its sound is singing.

I'm grieving, under the sky. The long shadows and the closing door.

Multnomah County Library has, against all probability, a Kelmscott Chaucer in its collection. I'm going to go spend some time in its company, soon.

Befell that in that season, on a day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay
Ready to wend on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, with full devout courage
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty, in a company
Of sundry folk, by adventure fallen
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all.

(I have, by the way, great sympathy for that voice-in-the-wilderness scholar who keeps calling for the use of modernized-spelling editions of Chaucer -- who points out that Chaucer's spelling and Shakespeare's spelling are very similar, and that if we're willing to make Shakespeare accessible by changing it, why not Chaucer? That, above, is word-for-word Chaucer, just spelled as in modern English. The rhythm is ruined, because you can't see some of the syllables that should be pronounced -- but you can read it just as easily as you can read Shakespeare. Why not? We have no compunction, after all, about mangling Shakespeare's rhythm in the same way, if on a smaller scale. So what if someone mistakes Middle English "corage" -- meaning "heart," and pronounced ko-RAH-juh -- for the modern word, restricted to a particular subset of associated virtues? It's mistakes like that that make reading old poetry such a resonant, disorienting, and beautiful experience -- we're always being asked to open our courage a little.)

I am going on my own pilgrimage, in a couple of weeks. To Brooklyn, with full devout courage.

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