Saturday, September 19, 2015

Old Copper

I had a revelatory moment, a couple decades ago. I was experimenting with an antidepressant, effexor, I think, which damped down my libido. And I suddenly discovered an obvious truth, which had been hidden from me by its sheer ubiquity: that I ordinarily had a lot more desire than other people. Because now I was having responses that were more like the mass of people, who had always puzzled me. It no longer took all my will power to tear my gaze away from someone I found attractive. Something disgustive -- loudness, unkindness, poor hygiene, stupidity, even poor dress sense -- could trump sexual desire. My desire wasn't gone: but it was only one player on the stage of my mind, competing with others.

I walked around in wonder for a few days, savoring the unusual experience of being normal. My moods, also, had stabilized. No more surges of ecstasy upon reading a poem or seeing a cloud mountain slowly toppled by the wind. No. Good poem: nice sky. Next, please. And no sense of ominous looming presences, of shapes speaking just below my hearing behind my back, foretelling disaster and desolation.

It was deeply instructive, and went far to help unbuild much that was harmful in my habits and my personality. I'm grateful for the experience. But it wasn't where I wanted to live. I discontinued the drug. I went back to the world as I knew it, albeit with a hint of transparency. It was the world as I knew it, but it wasn't the world as it was.

(Not that the normal world was the world as it was, either. I'm still Buddhist enough to hold the conviction that the world "on its own side" is inaccessible to us. What we have is the world of appearances.)

But. Now my own chemistry and personality, as I age, is running its own new version of this revelation. Fortunately the clouds and the admonitory presences remain largely as they were. But the desire has dwindled, and changed. Young women no longer engage my attention much: they often strike me as ill-informed and self-absorbed, and sometimes even vapid. Presumably it's my cathexis, and not the young women, that has changed. 

Last week I saw a woman of my own age, with a fierce, strongly marked face, and a mass of iron-gray hair shot with black, padding across a parking lot like a great cat. I was surprised at the depth of my response. I would always have found her attractive: but now she is an exception. Her image retains its intensity in my mind, when most others fade and go dull.

What does it matter? What do such things have to do with me, now? But it does matter, nevertheless. I have nothing to rewire with but the old copper. Whatever the current that makes this consciousness play, it's the same as it ever was, and I can only draw it in the fashion I'm used to.

We had our fallen ash tree cut down level to the ground, this spring. What was left was flat splotch of spongey, damp, crumbling wood. But all summer long, through the long drought, with not a leaf to its name, the roots of that ash kept wicking up water from some deep underground source. It was always damp. And I don't doubt that we'll have stubborn shoots to cut back for some time to come: maybe even years.


rbarenblat said...


Natalie d'Arbeloff said...


Nimble said...

Thanks for a new word: cathexis. I am also thinking about the changes of perspective as the sixth decade approaches.

Jarrett said...

Thank you, Dale. I think I've been on this drug most of my life, in some way or another. It has its pleasures.

Kristen Burkholder said...

another good 'un
bless you