japonisme: 6/13/10 - 6/20/10

19 June 2010

the summer light


There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown
roses on the grass,
Or night-dews on still
waters between walls
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.

Here are cool mosses deep,
And thro' the moss
the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.


Lo! in the middle of
the wood,
The folded leaf is woo'd from out
the bud
With winds upon the branch,
and there

Grows green and broad,
and takes no care,
Sun-steep'd at noon,
and in the moon
Nightly dew-fed;
and turning yellow
Falls, and floats adown the air.

Lo! sweeten'd
with the summer light,
The full-juiced apple,
waxing over-mellow,
Drops in a silent autumn night.
All its allotted length of days
The flower ripens in its place,
Ripens and fades, and falls,
and hath no toil,
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.
How sweet it were,
hearing the downward stream,
With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream!

To dream and dream,
like yonder amber light,
Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
To hear each other's
whisper'd speech;
Eating the Lotos day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples
on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;

To lend our hearts
and spirits wholly
To the influence of
mild-minded melancholy;
To muse and brood
and live again in memory,
With those old faces
of our infancy
Heap'd over with
a mound of grass,
Two handfuls of white dust,
shut in an urn of brass!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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15 June 2010

is everybody HAPPY?

fear, again. it's as taboo as, say, sadness or homosexual love. all as natural as can be -- just let nobody see. there's only one emotion that's permissible to show (unless it's the first week after a funeral): HAPPY!

what do they say when they point a camera at you? SMILE! (or its artificial alternative, 'say cheese.' even an artificial happy is better than a real something else.)

we are forced into a theater of our own making. create a scrim to shield reality (it from you, you from it), and a backdrop so the farce maintains a context. "i'm cool."

if you show your fear it might belie a marginal confidence. learn from the politicians and the oil executives: sound strong (and caring) and there'll be few who'll guess that you are neither.

Gray skies are gonna clear up,
Put on a happy face;
Brush off the clouds and cheer up,
Put on a happy face.
Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy,
It's not your style;
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
Ya' decide to smile!
Pick out a pleasant outlook,
Stick out that noble chin;
Wipe off that "full of doubt" look,
Slap on a happy grin!
And spread sunshine all over the place,
Just put on a happy face!

Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject

But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
'Cause really I'm sad, Oh I'm sadder than sad
Well I'm hurt and I want you so bad
Like a clown I appear to be glad ooh yeah

but isn't it there for all of us? is it not our whole emotional cornucopia that makes us such thrilling creatures? yes. like i said yesterday, fear all the time -- why? where does it come from? it's survival instinct. it's your mother telling you to look both ways. it's every ad in the book telling you you're doing it wrong.

'no, i ain't scared, now pass the bottle.' and we might spend entire lifetimes certain that 'nah, i ain't scared' because what do you think that scrim is made of?

so many ways to not show fear (even to yourself): alcohol, drugs (legal and otherwise), smoking, developing a rigid world view (including a religious one); some tell jokes, some have somebody new in their bed every night. some shoplift, some go into therapy. but most won't tell you. most might not even tell themselves.

What if i say something wrong? what if i have a piece of spinach caught in my teeth? what if i'm dressed wrong? what if i look like an idiot? what if, and of course this is the big one, what if i'm doing it all wrong. what if i've been down so long it looks like up to me? what if everything i know is wrong? is anybody HAPPY?!

well, actually, yes. not every smile is phony and our hearts can hold bounteous joy. i somehow like to think of it as polar bears at eternal war, one fear ('animal,'body'), one love ('human,' 'spirit'). if you do nothing to mask it from yourself or anybody else, you know that already. i guess the bottom line is that FDR was right: all we have to fear... is fear itself.

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13 June 2010


i was telling a friend who was having a job crisis about my entirely odd employment history. 'how brave you are,' she said, commenting on the fact that i had often jumped feet first into things about which i knew nothing. 'i am too afraid.'

when i got home i suddenly realized that she had made the assumption that i was not afraid. how could anything be further from the truth? i'm afraid of everything -- it's probably my most common emotion.

i'm not so much afraid of dying as i am afraid of running out of toilet paper before i do. when i got, back in my earlier, but not that much earlier, days, my fancy (to me) expensive new printer. it took months before i could bring myself to touch it; i had to give myself a deadline. same with my sewing machine. i just got a 'new' 50-year-old sewing machine (they're practically giving them away on ebay) -- the same model with which i had felt so comfortable and at home for all the years i used it until it just wore down for the last time. can't seem to bring myself to even unpack the one that just arrived. guess it's time for another deadline.

being slightly asbergic, i fear putting my foot in my mouth as i blithely say whatever comes to mind, and talk about scared of ghosts -- if my mother could see my kitchen floor!

every single time i do something new, i'm sure i'll never get it despite being proved wrong again and again. i got one of those butcher-block-topped stand-alone kitchen carts from a mail-order catalog. to anyone who had ever done anything like this before (or even, admittedly, someone who actually read the entire catalog copy), it might have come as no surprise to find delivered two huge boxes filled with loose parts! i was on the phone to the company (and this was when long distance was still long distance) at least a dozen times, certain every step of the way that i couldn't do this... until i was done.

and the million fears to accompany most waking moments: i lost my keys! i don't know what blue-ray is! is this torn nail going to get infected and eventually my whole arm have to be amputated? i mock myself, yes, but this is not the slightest bit exaggerated; in fact i can't even think of all the specific fears (which are of course more interesting than general fears) because they're so ubiquitous.

philosophically, it's my belief that i'm probably speaking for most of us, and that religion (including psychotherapy) has been created again and again to help us to behave in the world from the other part of our nature than fear: love. people have called me brave before and i have countered, with complete honesty, that rather i was ill-informed. but i have learned one thing about bravery -- that it doesn't exist without fear. if you're not afraid of it, why do you need to be brave?

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