Monday, September 05, 2016

September: Progress Report

Losing one's identity is, according to some Buddhists, a consummation devoutly to be wished. I have certainly lost mine. I used to be someone who was extraordinarily well-read. Now, well, I read sometimes, sometimes. Often I just look at silly old movies on YouTube, movies from my native country of the seventies, with the sound off. Or I refresh, monitoring my bets. I read 538 and religiously. I wander in and out of Facebook, far less conversational than I used to be: a mostly silent figure. When I do speak -- or rather type -- I am haunted by how often I have said exactly the same things, time and time again: Oh yes, I say that because I am a Buddhist, a Redistributionist, a Literary Man, A Person Who Looks At The Sky. But really, of course, I am a man who looks at his computer, and who feels that all these identities have grown into enormous suits, that dwarf him, like Byrne's suit in Stop Making Sense. And often I wander away now without saying anything, because what do I really have to say, I, this shrunken little old man gazing rapt at the shreds of his native, vanishing world? I have nothing to say. It was all a lot of silly posturing. I am surprised when I find that I can still speak those languages.

When I read aloud, I can hear my voice changing, the sibilants becoming wheezier, less distinct. When my brother, five years my elder, came out to visit, after many years away, that was was struck me most forcibly: he was hale as ever, but he had an old man's voice. And so I have been watching for the onset. And there it is: some faint loss of suppleness or agility in my tongue. No one else seems to notice it, but I do. 

This is real too: the watch I keep on my own physical decay. It is not quite what I would have thought. I welcome every loss: I am comforted by it. I feared I might be immortal, indestructible. I am not.

And, from someone who never gave a damn about money, I have become parsimonious, hypersensitive to the varied meanings of spending and withholding money. This small person I have become, darting from one hiding place to another, realizes only too well how much of his foothold in the world comes from being able to pay his own way.

In the bits and pieces of Spanish that I read, in primers and first readers and such, it is astonishing how front-and-center the passion of parsimonious grasping is. Over and over the lesson taught to the Spanish-speaking child is: the life of the grasping miser is a wretched one. Spend freely and be a man. Generosity is what makes a human life. I tell you, the takeover of American culture by Latinos can't come fast enough for me. Taco trucks on every corner, and a Church that takes its duty to the poor seriously? Bring it.

And I wander, barely here, redeemed by massage and human touch, when I am redeemed. And by the sky above me, when I am riding my bicycle: that still happens sometimes too.


The month of love and renewal, in my personal calendar. I am not sad, though I suppose I sound so: I am happy, confused, and young.


Nina T said...


rbarenblat said...

>>When I do speak -- or rather type -- I am haunted by how often I have said exactly the same things, time and time again>>

Yes, me too. I keep saying them (or writing them) anyway, but sometimes I am chagrined by how I seem to repeatedly circle around the same things, always.

I am glad that you are not sad. I send love.

Dale said...


Lucy said...

It is a puzzlement how life is so long, and so many selves can be left behind, and yet it seems to go by so fast.

I liked being reminded of David Byrne's big suit.

Jeff said...

"I am not sad, though I suppose I sound so."

Yes. I've been writing a year-long poem about moving from the city to the woods, and people keep telling me it's wistful and haunted and sad—which makes me smile, because it's based on the happiest year of my adult life, a year that brought an unexpected "reboot"—or at the very least, a comprehensive upgrade—that I couldn't have willed into being if I tried. I'm also experiencing the physical decline you describe, with less resignation than you're showing, but so many of the infinite small, new things in my life delight and energize me. It's almost sweet, the way so many dear and well-intentioned people misperceive it.

tatz said...

xo --