On Learning

7 09 2006

No one knows everything, but allow for the chance that once in a while someone can come across, younger, and know more than you. And I don’t just mean books.

In Good Will Hunting, Sean (Robin Williams) leans over in a “Taster’s Choice moment between guys”, talking to Will Hunting (Matt Damon), saying “So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.” And so what? “You’re just a kid, you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talkin’ about.” Even more, Sean seems to have the upper hand. But what makes his understanding so much more precious? Sure it can be said that he has “lived life” or that he’s been there. But if you haven’t gone to Vietnam, haven’t “held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help”, then how could I possibly understand it to that extent? What good is knowledge if it can’t be communicated? A better question, the one I pose to those who feel they know more about life, love, and such because they’ve “been there” is this one:
If you presume to know more than me because you’ve been there, and that all I can know is just from secondhand accounts from books and such, what good is it for you to give me another secondhand account? You’ll still “know” it better than I can, under your guidelines, because I still won’t have experienced it.

So here’s my take. I think you’d much rather I completely see it from your perspective (sort of like trying on your shoes in some virtual reality of sorts), then after I’ve seen it from your way, and just exactly your way, then I can make my own understandings. Let me listen to you, add your perspective, but just because I don’t see it through your eyes completely doesn’t mean I’ve ignored you or not learned. Let it go, and ask yourself if the secondhand advice I hear from you is advice I’ve heard from “They Things They Carried” or “Hamlet” or “Anna Karenina” before you immediately charge into telling me things I “cannot possibly understand.” They inspire soulful discussion, growth. Ask yourself, who communicates Vietnam better: you or a person whose entire career is defined by it. Who can talk about marriage better: you or Leo Tolstoy. Allow for the fact that I just have to experience some things as I go along. But understand that some experiences come before others in your life, and that I may not have to experience such misery to understand pain, or to watch a friend commit suicide to understand depression, or to total a car to understand what it means to take senseless risks.

Everyone’s life is different. A subtle touch more understanding and such. I’m willing to hear, but don’t act so condescendingly. Think, maybe he’s aggregated more information, maybe I can learn from him. And when you all begin to think that too, it might not be so one-sided. Remember those who lecture in the ways of old will never learn anything new. Try to understand these things everyone. Because I’m willing to learn from you.

 [ note: the repetitive, somewhat hypocritical, confused nature of this post is a mistake.  when reading this keep that in mind and fix accordingly.  ]

Motionless in Bed

5 09 2006


Dreamt of going east,
Finding things foreign to me,
Like love, joy, and liberty,
So you said that this is life, this is life,
And as our children recede into their rooms,
Into the dark hallways of their solitude,
I pray that they’ll find what I could not,
Enough a reason to live on.

This Could Be A Brand New Start

3 09 2006

And I thought to myself, with my breath hanging in the air, what would I do and how far would I go to save the one I love? Maybe it’s not an everyday kind of of save, it’s not your usual rush to the scene to lift her body from the ashes; maybe it’s only a change on the inside. I’ve written from my heart before and it’s never quite coherent. I’ve written half the words my soul speaks, but I know I’ll never quite catch up.

The darkness that quietly falls in while I’ve left it exposed is wrong for you. Once we promised never to let go of the other for the other’s behalf, but my brain has led me to a loophole of sorts. Though I love you with all my heart, I can’t go on hurting you. How could I ever be happy never satisfying you, even for ten minutes? I’m not so selfish, you deserve better treatment. Maybe some will read this and con themselves into believing I’m so much the better person. I’m beyond the delusions of infatuation, you’re compassionate and understanding, and I’ve got sarcasm and an open ear.

In the next week, we’ll see who I am; I will strain myself under the critical lens of my own watch. Everything will be called into doubt privately, put to the test, stressed, and hopefully under such duress, my heart will perform not through soft-spoken and eloquent speech, but through the language of actions. I’ll leave the light on for you as you sleep, and turn it off once you’re home in my arms. Greet you with a smile and a song from my dizzy memory. Close my crying eyes and hold you when things go wrong. Walk your books to your first biology class. Wait sleeping for your return. And I will watch you come up with a thousand excuses for something you think you did wrong. And I will hold your hands and you will know it before I say, “everything is alright.”

A story for you, girl, I’d write,
Hands over hot chocolate,
A lover’s story, on a cold night,

Girl ran away, a boy, no reason,
Hands over their faces,
Autumn’s son, not that hard to love,

Don’t believe me, I’m not that bright,
And I won’t forget to fill the spaces in between,
I’ll let out the light, before we say goodnight.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, it will still feel like ages away from our next reunion. It will still feel like nothing has changed. I promise you understanding. Sympathy. Empathy. Compassion. Maybe I haven’t addressed the core of love, or shared anything particularly interesting to those reading this letter. But to you, I hope you’ll see a change. And more than that, I hope I believe in my change.


Bridges and Brides

1 09 2006

On the Coronado

I am standing at my bridge, my bride. I can barely hear the cars passing by. Every second is worth a year in their lives, and every moment seems slow and relentless. I can imagine the waves luring my lifeless body to the depths, so I believe in a cold peace with life. When I turn to let go, as I fall in my far too perfect suit, I reach out, to be saved by you. And when I close my eyes, I’ll pretend that you (at least you) noticed I left the reception, and between giggling with our stale friends, you missed me.

I stopped believing in love when I was eighteen; or maybe I stopped believing that love is difficult to understand. It was as if I had taken an old photograph of a couple kissing, and rather than tear it apart or deconstruct it, or anything I would soon learn to do in college, I just simply held it and valued it for what it was (and wasn’t). A photo of an elderly man holding his once-beautiful bride, kissing aged lips not for sensation, but for passion, not forced out of habit, but genuinely. While you can spend hours dissecting love, you inevitably reach that bland, awful conclusion – that love simply “is”. And though that’s a nothing way to say everything, you eventually get there – maybe earlier, but usually by your late-twenties.

When I left college, in the late seventies, most of my friends still experimented with sex, drugs, anything really. Though they eventually settled into their pays-the-bills jobs, they hadn’t grown up. Sure, they were “dealing with life”. And no one can fault Mark for sinking into depression after his daughter died. Even though he hadn’t seen her or her mother since they hooked up sometime in college. And no one can get upset with Andy when his corporation folded. Even though he spent the profits on tuning his car. What is maturity to them but a series of disasters?

So I leave this note to you my wife, mother of seven years, partner of fifteen. Haven’t we planned everything so perfectly well? There were small things, like candles, and I would wait patiently for you to remember me, to light them. But someone’s candle must have burned your skin, because you forgot to last year. I waited motionless that year as the breathes I took were stolen by the children and your job, by the sky that occupied your camera’s eye and the troubles you wouldn’t share. “We’ve got more important things now, can’t you see?” I could, honey, and while you watched them, who watched me? And it struck me sometime in December as I watched a man fall from the sky that small little angels don’t give men second tries. So I gathered my thoughts and all of my cares, and I walked to your door, our door, and I kissed you there. Didn’t you see desperation in my eyes? The desire to care and protect in my passionate eyes? Love, my dear, is not what you get but what you get to give. So I stopped believing in love when I was eighteen, not for a lack of love, but because love doesn’t exist if it isn’t shared. And last year, the light has gone out altogether.

I know this will never answer some questions. Those are the questions left unanswered. Remember that night we had a date in the small town by the shore? There was a beautiful flower, dazzling really. You offered to run to the car to get the camera. Instead I took your hand and reminded you that some things aren’t meant to be photographed, just .. remembered.

I want you to be there before I get there. Stop me at the bridge, save me. Hold me and never let me go again. Kiss my heart with fire, and I’ll pick you up in these tiring arms, lift you up. But you won’t be there, will you my darling?