The truth is, I'm getting tired of humbling moments. I have a silly notion that by the time you're in your eighth decade, you ought to be above that sort of thing, i.e.: you're past being humbleable. (I know, it's not really a word, but I think you can tell what I mean.)
I live in a place full of people within ten years on either side of my own age, and half of them, I've become convinced, have either forgotten how to read or simply don't bother any more. I just submitted to a website entitled "My Name Is Not Bob." Its author had already sent me a message signed "Robert."
I claim a small excuse: I'd just spent my third two-hour session with AT&T in an effort to regain my e-mail service, and I was cross-eyed. Still, I addressed this poor gentleman as "Bob!" What's really humbling about that is that I now have to swallow all those snide remarks I've been making about people who go into the library, ignore the 81/2" x 11" card posted to provide instructions on how to sign out a book. I have to restrain my scorn when reminding someone that the item is on the calendar. I have to admit that I suffer "senior moments" too darned often.
If I write down something I need to remember, sometimes I'll spend ten minutes trying to find the piece of paper the note is on--since I can't remember what I wrote, only that I wrote something. So now, I have to ask myself if I've always been that way. One thing I know for sure: too often I'm in some kind of hurry. I like to think that 40 years ago I'd have written, "Dear Robert."
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I was fortunate to receive a comment for the "blurb" on my short story collection called Peripheral Vision that gave me not only an ego boost, but reinforced a conviction of mine that I've seldom thought to articulate myself. "...pleasure...comes as much from what is withheld as from what is given..."
A few days ago, someone quoted to me:
Hard words will break no bones/ but more than bones are broken/ by the inescapable stones/ of fond words left unspoken.
Since I'm spending more time on writing poetry than on prose of late, both these quotations take on more freight of significance than they might otherwise. When you're asked to speak to a book club, or read for an arts group or at a library, you have to try to find the right beginning to get people curious enough to listen to what you have to say. If, heaven help you, you're hoping to get a sale or two out of the enterprise, it occurs to me that it's more important to hold back than to show all. But that's only part of the value of what's left out.
The challenge is not to withhold the wrong thing.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I'm reading a wonderful novel set during WW II, much of it in London during the blitz. Daily I go to The Hunger Site and click on the charities shown there, one of which is for animal welfare. The connection between these statements is the question that has bothered me most of my life as to how it is that most of us are more immediately and physically touched by pity and sadness at the pain and/or death of an animal than of human beings.
Is it a matter of becoming calloused of necessity, as George Elliot suggested when she said that if we could notice everything around us we could hear the squirrel's heartbeat and the grass growing, and we should die of the noise? We can't emotionally afford to react fully to everything.
Is it because so much of animal suffering is inflicted on total innocence? So many of the awful things that happen to people are caused by people--like wars and genocide. But what about the random horrors of natural disasters? You can sit in a movie theater and weep in the darkness while the faithful dog starves on his master's grave, and watch TV news with your jaw clenched, but in control, while images of starving children fill the screen.
Way back in Aristotle's day, thinking people learned about catharsis. Is it somehow easier to experience it at one remove?
Oh, the book is The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.