Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dear Reader,

Now a slight hitch, a stutter. A sudden infatuation with the Victorian cult of hard work -- as if, at age 47, I could transform myself into a Salisbury and become A Man Who Gets Things Done, rather than a vacillating dreamy wordmonger. Silly fantasy.

I woke this morning frightened of becoming feeble and sick. Not something I recall ever having feared before. An uncharacteristically sensible thing to fear.

A young woman walks into the Applebee's across the street, flipping her long red hair. An atavistic desire pushes past me -- a quick rude jostle -- and is gone, leaving a faint nostalgia and a stronger relief. Relief that I'm no longer bound to that wheel, at least.

Silver-white sky; leaves flickering green and yellow. Cars hurrying back and forth. Some of the mechanisms of depression are stirring -- the Salisbury fantasy is one of them, but the most telltale is that every velleity is met immediately with an equal and opposite doubt. Every desire cancelled with anxiety, every imagination with skepticism. I wonder whether it might not end right here -- sitting in a cafe on 185th avenue in Beaverton, Oregon, with never again a wash of volition strong enough to slop over into action. They could make a school project of me, swathe me in papier-mache and paint me in bright basic colors. Man Stuck in Cafe. People could come to get their photographs taken, sitting next to the Stuck Man, hamming it up and pretending to offer him a soda.

A little blue opening in the cloud, covered again in less time than it took to type it.

The Three Foundations of Depression. Let us begin a disquisition. First is a chemical misstep in the brain, a pathological hiccup between desire and action. Second is a conviction that life is bounded in space and time, that I stop at the edge of my skin, at my birth, and at my death. And third (this is really the same thing, if you are attending carefully. Are you attending carefully?) is the conviction that anything real can repeat itself.

The convictions are patently false. I did not start and I do not stop in this body, even taking the strictest materialist view. Leave the supposed spirit out of it for the moment: biology and culture have flowed into me and out of me. They continue to do both. And though words and symbols can repeat, nothing that they represent can. Not only am I not stuck: I am not even capable of being stuck. I am capable of imagining myself to be stuck, that's all. I am capable too of imagining myself lifting the vajra and the bell, black and free as the midnight sky, my skin glittering with jeweled stars, and bending down, infinite in mercy, down even to 185th Avenue.

The blessings of October on you all. The hound of heaven can run pretty damn fast, in Autumn.



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