Friday, October 17, 2003

Woke at 4:30, slid silently out of bed, and sat for a few minutes -- just shamatha, no time for ngondro -- and then we drove Tori and Ashley to the airport. So they're off to Japan.

We went out to breakfast together, Martha and Alan and I. Alan full of grief at his sister's departure. He got a vast strawberry waffle, and speared great wedges of it, secured with huge strawberries, trailing plumes of whipped cream, on his fork; and then he took large bites out of this mass.

I was embarassed; I wanted him to stop; I wanted people to know that we had in fact taught him to eat like a civilized creature. But knowing his grief, his sense of abandonment, I held my tongue. There's a time to teach table manners and a time to let them go.

My own father had no sense of that. He lived, by inclination and training (he was a science teacher), in what he thought of as the objective world, and he felt it was his duty to make us all live there, too. The subjective world was unreal and illegitimate. The quintessence of a life worth living, of a human life, was rising above subjectivity, above the tyranny of emotion, and above (what he saw as) its concomittents -- irrationality and local prejudice.

It's the common world-view of science and I owe a lot to it. It makes me uneasy to depart from it with Alan. I worry that I'm short-changing him by not holding him to that discipline -- it is good to learn that grief doesn't make you exempt from table manners.

But it's even more important, more basic, to understand and recognize your emotional responses. And Alan's sophistication there is way past what mine was at twice his age. He doesn't have the inexplicable irrational eruptions of rage and losses of control that I had at thirteen. His emotions are altogether more workable. He knows, when he's pestering his sister and her friends, why he's doing it, and he is able to curb and moderate himself. He knows what upsets him and how he responds to it. And he cuts other people slack when he recognizes that they're upset. Simple understandings, simple skills: but I acquired them much later in life and at much greater cost.

But O, what agony, to sit and watch him eat that way! Took all I had. And I'm grieving at Tori's departure too.

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