introspection

“It is in the nature of things to change. Nothing can last beyond its given time. And I think that instinctively we know what that time is. What is it that makes us know when the summer turns? The smallest shift in the light? The slightest hint of chill in the morning air? A certain rustling of the leaves in the birches? That is how it is – suddenly, in the midst of the summer heat, you are overcome by a tightening of your heart. The realization that it will all come to an end. And that brings a new intensity to everything: the colors, the smells, the feeling of sunshine on your arm.”

from, Astrid and Veronika

My daughters all had birthdays this spring/summer. They went from being 13, 9, 5 (still little girls, really) to 14, 10, and 6. One year shouldn’t make all that big a difference, but I felt a shift …. the smallest shift in light … in my life. Sarah Jane will be going to high school – HIGH school – and will be running on the amazing CHHS cross-country team. Her voice sounds like a grown-up on the phone, a bit raspy and confident (like a sorority girl or a college soccer player – you know the sound? a too-deep voice, almost a bark). Anyway, she’s not a little girl anymore. Neither is Rosie or even Lizzie, my “baby.” I saw a TV show last night where the mother of a 9 and 13 year-old said, “I’ve done the mom thing, now its time to focus on me.” Yuk. I don’t want to focus on me – how boring. I’ve been with ME for 45 years. This new generation of American adults who have fallen prey to the consumer propaganda of beautifying self (to the point of carving up actual body parts with plastic surgery, yikes!) and finding self and loving self, and self-care, self-help, self-exploration, self-discovery, blah blah blecchh, bores me to tears. I want to go screaming back to the Vales of Har.*

Maybe Benjamin J. Barber feels the same way:
Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole

What about you?

* “The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek
Fled back unhinder’d till she came into the vales of Har.”

Wm. Blake

10 thoughts on “introspection

  1. thronedoggie

    JOE
    I have no interest in myself.
    I think about myself, I get
    bored out of my mind.

    PATRICIA
    What does interest you?

    JOE
    I don’t know. Courage.
    Courage interests me.

    — Joe Vs. The Volcano

    …Quite often I get caught up in myself, and that’s when I become “restless, irritable and discontent”. There is no appeasing self – self is like a bad mother in law; listening to it and trying to keep it happy doesn’t shut it up. It just makes more (and louder) demands.

    I can either serve self, or I can serve God by serving others. If I try to serve self, I am telling myself that I am needy, and I feel deprived and become depraved.

    If I try to serve God by serving and helping others, I am telling myself that I don’t need anything, that I am not lacking anything – and the abundance of my life becomes remarkably apparent to me.

    All that awareness – and all of my experience – and I’m still able to fall for the lie of “self”, ten times a day!

  2. Hieronymus

    First, to the poster above: yah, J v. Volcano is a wealth of good philosophy; talk about a mis-marketed movie!

    Second, to Joan: a great post and, for me, particularly poignant. Just got back from some camping; Friday was Karaoke night at the campground. After mangling some girl’s name, I see my eldest (only a bit older than your youngest) walk up on stage, where she proceeds to belt out Jailhouse Rock!

    After, I asked her how she got the idea to join in. She said “I just felt like it.” I asked her how she knew Jailhouse Rock, she said “I didn’t, but I read the words off the screen.” I asked her why she chose it then, she replied, “I thought it was SCHOOLhouse Rock!”

    ‘Scuse me, I am going to go cry now.

  3. joan

    I’ve never heard of Joe Vs. The Volcano.
    I guess I’d better add it to my Netflix queue!

    As for not living for SELF, hear what the Clod of Clay has to say in Wm Blake’s Thel:

    “Then Thel astonish’d view’d the Worm upon its dewy bed:
    ‘Art thou a Worm? image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?
    I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lilly’s leaf.
    Ah weep not, little voice, thou canst not speak, but thou can weep.
    Is this a worm? I see thee lay helpless & naked, weeping,
    And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother’s smiles.’

    The Clod of Clay heard the Worm’s voice, & rais’d her pitying head;
    She bow’d over the weeping infant, and her life exhal’d
    In milky fondness; then on Thel she fix’d her humble eyes;

    ‘O beauty of the vales of Har, we live not for ourselves.”

  4. Hieronymus

    I went to the desert with two movies: Joe vs. the Volcano and Groundhog Day. After many, many viewings, each became funnier and funnier.

    I also brought one of those “books of immortal poetry” (the guys liked to hear ’em, but only war poems…). My father was a Wm Blake man (I am more a Robt Frost kind of guy). Several live with me still. I may have to return to reading aloud at the dinner table (I used to read to my wife, but have fallen out of the habit since the children arrived!). Thanks for the moment of reflection.

    On another topic, either for discussion or reflection: how does one teach perspective? My current observation is: I do not like to hurt anymore, or at least hurt to the point of improvement. What I mean is, for years I a)could forego temptation (sweets, let’s say), and b)used pain as a measure (e.g., repeats HURT). For the past year or so (as I accept “middle age”), I have been less willing to forego smaller sins (lifestyle creep, e.g., good wine; more-than-occasional ice cream; deep, dark chocolate…); further, I am less willing to run in a way that hurts (and, trust me, I am a world or two below you: I am talking maintaining barely sub-3 marathons through my forties). This scares me. Comfort, the love of comfort, the eschewing of self-sacrifice (or the shift away from “serving others”) is, to me, a slippery slope.

    What have you noticed as you gather experience (a.k.a. age)?

  5. Eric

    (. . . Keeping with the uber-literary theme poking through here:) Even Odysseus, alone and very much needing to attend to himself for years, always turned to thoughts of home. As with so many things, I suspect there needs to be a balance: if you ignore your self, your health, your job then you won’t be much good to your family eventually. But if you ignore your family to have your 13th nose job, then you’ve missed out on the prize. Keep a balance, and you may have the strength to both find your way home and slaughter the suitors once you get there.

    In two months my two turn 13 and 10. I’m with yuh.

  6. Pingback: songs of experience » Come into the light …

  7. thronedoggie

    Going from JvtV to “Groundhog Day”, and being uber-literary, and dealing with serving self, I offer Rita’s quote to Phil Conners (from Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstel”:

    The wretch concentered all in self,
    Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
    And doubly dying shall go down
    To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
    Unwept, unhonor’d and unsung.”

    jim p.
    “You think I’m doing this because I’m self-centered?”
    “It’s your defining characteristic.”

  8. Joan Post author

    Jim, who said that last quote? Ethel? ouch!
    (but funny)

    Those of us with kids (Jim, Eric, Hieronymus), this one’s for us:

    “All, all that I had
    Was yours more than mine.
    All my best intentions
    Were thine, thine, thine.”

    Karin Boye (translated)

    3 daughters
    3 thines!

  9. thronedoggie

    Nope, that last quote was from the same movie; right after Rita quoted the Walter Scott poem to Phil, Phil said “You think I’m doing this because I’m self-centered?”

    If you don’t know this movie, you might want to get familiar with it; it can be watched over and over again with benefit.

    jim p.

  10. knightsofni

    To take a different scope on the question posited in note 4 (and more than a little literary license): when was the last time you tried something outside your comfort zone? Is the goal of “maintenance” really a sufficient motivation when it seems like you’ve climbed such a long way? Running is an old friend: it’ll always be there when you come back.

    The recent modern American lifestyle has turned our evolutionary development on its head: whereas for millions of years we struggled incessantly to retain our foothold on this planet, in just the last 30 years we have more or less eliminated all significant daily threats to our existence. With TV, people can live entire lives without genuine environmental interaction. Many are detached and seeking validation through some sort of worthy challenge, some way of being engaged in a struggle that they know they may not win. It’s easy to opt out of the struggles that we’re supposed to have and rest on our laurels, however richly deserved.

    Maybe you’re like that, maybe not. But always staying in a place where you have well-known landmarks to guide you might leave you wanting more. Use evolution as the guiding constellation: life is a series of challenges and responses. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. If you haven’t lost at something in awhile, maybe you’re staring down challenges that are too small for you.

    In the final analysis, perspective is more a function of loss than of age. Loss is what tests our mettle, and our response to loss determines our willingness to go outside our comfort zones. I really enjoy this following poem: it’s flippantly poignant.
    — —- —-
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
    so many things seem filled with the intent
    to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

    Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
    of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
    places, and names, and where it was you meant
    to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

    I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
    next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
    some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
    I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

    —Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
    I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
    the art of losing’s not too hard to master
    though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

    — Elizabeth Bishop

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