Thursday, October 28, 2010

The circle

Time for me to close this little experiment, this public song of myself and my ideas. I have to admit being strongly influenced by this season of dormancy and decomposition. I feel a need to acknowledge how many things this year ended - the short time with my dear cat being only one - and, by doing so, opening myself to hope that life will continue to offer me beginnings.
 Autumn is not just about sadness and the foretaste of winter's death-like stillness. Before leaves and other plant matter release their nutrients to the soil, air, and water, they seem to partake of the fourth element: fire. What better way to go than in the blaze of glory, embodying light? It's as if life itself sings out before departing.

Life continues through recycling, but also by metamorphosis: the transformation of one form to another.

So this may not be my last stab at the blog idea. A new one will likely tie into a new project - book research, perhaps, that needs airing and feedback while in progress - or one of the main threads of this first blog. Human evolution and our dietary habits are on the top of my list. Of course, poetry and ecology will run through everything....

Come springtime, who knows what will appear from the awakening soil?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A challenge or a sign?

I had a talk with an old friend a week ago. The conversation ended up on the subject of "hitting a brick wall." (It is somewhat related to my previous post.)
When you encounter a set-back of some kind - an experimental flaw, a series of obstacles on the path to a goal, or a huge lack of support from all around you as you embark on a new project - do you see that as a challenge to be overcome, or a sign that the matter at hand is not meant to be?
My friend and I only succeeded in parsing out the problem. No easy formula occurred to us for determining which is which. I guess every dilemma has its own unique factors.
I imagine the age you are when you hit the brick wall is quite significant. Young people are inexperienced in most things, so they will find themselves ill-equipped more often than someone older, generally speaking. The brick wall is more likely to be a challenge. Education can overcome it.
They still have to ask if they should continue taking flute lessons or not, try for the football team for the fifteenth time or change to baseball (or no competitive sports at all), stop pining for that girl in biology class and look elsewhere for love, or take the bar exams for the nth time.
As a writer, I have heard many stories of famous books that were rejected by publishers more than 20 times before someone savvy enought to see the genius in the work took it on - making history. Good example, the 1960s travel memoir The Kon Tiki. How did the author keep trying? Did he ever wonder if the constant rejections "proved" it was a dud? Maybe so - but the determination (or benign sort of egotism) made the author go on, ultimately to success.
That difficulty was a challenge.
To someone else, a sign - not to quit her day job. Being a published author didn't seem to be in the cards. (Giving rise to another potential discussion here about "destiny." No ... I won't go there.)
On another note: no word from any of you out there. Four more days and I'm out of here, unless I hear otherwise.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Everything, a Season

Many years ago, I had a very good friend who was a Jehovah's Witness. The friendship would not have persisted over more than a decade, starting in our late teens, had M. pushed his beliefs on me. He was very respectful. But I remember one visit when we were in our mid-twenties, when he finally showed me one of his pamphlets. I had a look-through out of curiosity and was appalled. I had never heard of the Rapture - that fundamentalist Christian belief in some sort of global purge and selection of the holy - so the pamphlet was my first taste of the idea that destroying the planet and starting over was a good way to deal with sin (broadly defined). At that very moment, I learned that many people, religious or not, seek to solve a difficult problem by clearing the slate - instead of doggedly working to fix whatever's wrong.The concept of a cleared field or blank sheet of paper or uncluttered desk focusses the mind incredibly. (In the case of the Rapture, we are not supposed to think of all the people who must die horribly in order to leave the planet "clean.")
Since then, I have seen much evidence of this. Of course, stories abound of stubborn/crazy/devoted writers or researchers or explorers. James Joyce took 18 years to write Finnegans Wake. The Australian who discovered Heliobactor pylori, the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, fought years to convince a whole cadre of medical skeptics that he was right, until his proof became irrefutable, and controversy became accepted dogma. They were ultimately thanked for their informed monomania.
But giving up might be more common - either because of laziness or wisdom. (We can never know how many projects have been ditched prematurely.) To be sure, hard work is, well, hard work - and the easy way out is enticing. However, it can be folly to ignore any number of signals saying, this ain't gonna work, honey, try something else while you still have the strength. Sometimes it's better to clear the slate and start over. It's not weak, it's wise.
The really, really tricky part is to know when you're onto the right thing - and keep fighting for it - and when it's better to quit.
I've been thinking of this all year - for one thing then another. (Why now? Is it correlated with my age?) At stake are time and energy, two very precious commodities. Hope is a basic human feeling, both adaptive and maladaptive. My dilemma: is keeping my hopes alive a help or a hindrance? Am I a dreamer and a fool? Should I face reality (with the facts I have at hand) and get on with the rest of my life, pouring energy into more certain outcomes?
On a related note, this blog is nearing its first anniversary. I have been wondering if I really have more to say on the subject of connection. Also, the almost complete lack of feedback makes me think I'm writing into a void - the reason I was reluctant to start a blog in the first place!
Perhaps the time has come to bring it to an end, and start another, entirely about neuroscience.
If I don't hear any howls of protest by October 28, I'll sign off then.