Friday, August 25, 2017

A Quick Quiet Fish

But it is good to shake free, and to think clearly, to run the numbers, to make sober projections. To be still and quiet and take stock.

I have always been good at pretending not to care what other people think. It was a survival skill, in middle school, and sometimes it serves me still. Learning to really not care what (most) other people think is a much more advanced skill.

Cutting loose of what other people think altogether is probably a bogus enterprise: it wouldn't mean not caring what other people think, it would mean only caring about what the shadow audience my mind invents thinks. It would take away the only value of social anxiety (gathering in and using the judgement of others) and replace it with smugness. The alpha male of one's parents' basement. It's a common enough solution, but it's not the one I want.

So no, not altogether. But. My little brushes with being a public person have made me quite clear: I do not want to be a public person.

And the whole dream of "being a writer" -- what does that mean, but craving an imbalance, wanting to be in conversation with a large number of people, but still have only your own opinion be important? That's what being a writer is. Being able to talk to a crowd, say your piece, and walk away. Never to have to engage. Never to have to change your mind.

No: I think I'm done with that notion. I don't actually want to be in relationships like that. I actually want to know. I want to understand. I want to end my day with a larger understanding, not a smaller one.

Unless what I really want is to disappear altogether. I think of that sometimes. I tire of being myself, of shoring up the fragments of my ruins, of the fret and busyness. I want to strip off these bulky stiff canvas clothes, and dive into the lake, a quick quiet fish, where the sunlight comes dim and strange in the water. What is all the rest of this for?

I don't know: I really don't know.


rbarenblat said...


Murr Brewster said...

Somewhere in here is the answer to why I flinch at the phrase "I am a writer" and have no trouble saying "I write."

Lori Witzel said...


Joyce Ellen Davis said...

I wrote.

Sabine said...

This speaks to me on many levels.

Jeff said...

Right there with you, Dale. I dimly recall that when I was younger, I hoped to make awe-inspiring pronouncements and stand there beaming on my mountaintop. Now, though, writing is nothing without the conversations that result.

A couple years ago, a music student wrote to me from out of the blue to tell me she'd turned one of my poems into a modernist composition. When they heard a performance of her rather unusual piece, most of my friends and family were indignant on my behalf and insisted that she had "misinterpreted" the poem. Objectively speaking, she probably did misperceive the tone, but what she came up with was so unexpected, so unforeseen, so dang weird that I just plain loved it. Our poems and books go out there and have some pretty interesting conversations without us.

(Speaking of which, I read the first part of Opening the World this week. It's wonderful. Behold the power of blogs to put us in a position to engage and change a mind or two.)

Dale said...

:-) :-) :-)