Monday, March 5, 2007

TOUGH TIMES

Somebody asks me how can I sit around writing lists of favorite cowboy or rock’n’roll movies when the world is falling apart.

The world is almost always falling apart. As is almost everything else—nations, families, relationships, bodies—when they aren’t coming together.

But this time the world literally is falling apart, vide the polar ice cap melting, etc.

Borges once wrote something like: all people are given bad times to be born into.

I was born in early 1942, very bad times. But like with everything—the world, nations, families, marriages, relationships, bodies—there’s almost always some good news with the bad, or vice versa.

In 1942 The USA was losing—hard to remember from all the WWII (which by the way I never heard anyone say as written, “double-u double-u two,” back then or since, if they had anything to do with it, but always as “World War Two”) movies.

OUR SIDE WAS LOSING in 1942.

But, and there’s always a BUT, WWII ended The Great Depression, got the economy moving, lots of jobs on the home front for those not being drafted or volunteering.

A lot of people were dying, some unbelievably inhumanly, in 1942.

BUT so were a lot of people in 1952, 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002, before we even invaded Iraq.

Only for some of those years they were dying in places we didn’t care about, or notice, or our media didn’t.

Yes, these times are tough in many ways, for mother earth, for those who felt and feel compelled to join our various armed forces, or who feel they have no other option, and for Iraqi civilians—as well as civilians in the Congo still trapped in a war that seems endless and under-reported because it’s officially limited now as opposed to the open-ended killing that was going on there for years and was equally ignored for the most part by the media in the USA and therefore most of us.

Etcetera.

Life is tough, there’s illness and betrayal, losses and failures and set backs and disappointments and reversals ad infinitum, BUT, there also are achievements, turn arounds, days of good health and tiny successes, sometimes even big successes, open heartedness, kindness, honesty, goodness, relief, even joy and harmony and peace.

I like movies and art and books and music and all that creative stuff because even as a kid it gave me a way to not only comprehend the variety of life experiences and perspectives, of its ups and downs and the balance there seems to be in all creation, BUT they also give me a means for staying in touch with what I share with all creation, as well as the aspiration to express that commonality by refining human expression to as close to perfection as possible, so far—the opera singer’s perfect high note, the ballet dancer’s perfect spin or leap, the movie actor’s perfect expression of grief or joy or relief, etc.—even when the creators of the art I’m digging aren’t aware that’s what they’re doing.

Sometimes it isn’t even their intention, or I’m the only one who seems to be getting something from a particular film or song or markings on a canvas or in a book etc.

When I was a kid I was sometimes teased or ridiculed or even abused for my love of the arts. Male children, where and when I grew up, didn’t give much importance to those kinds of things. Movies were mostly an excuse for a chance to kiss a girl or more, on a Friday or Saturday evening, though often it was more about throwing candy at each other, or goofing on the Hollywood clichés and pretensions, or looking for a fight or new girls to impress.

It was considered “faggy” where I came from to be too interested in the arts. Sports seemed to do it for most males. But for me, it was the arts, and when I watch new or favorite old films that still hold up, or read poems or novels or memoirs or look at paintings or sculptures or listen to songs or recordings or go to dance performances and the rest, it doesn’t give me “hope” because that’s about the future, it just centers me in “the infinite possibilities” of this very moment, despite the hard times.

Which doesn’t mean I can’t work to change the things I don’t like about the present, here’s the inevitable BUT, I can’t pretend that the reality of this moment is anything other than it is, as best I can understand it. And accept what is real, now, while working to change it

As my old friend Hubert Selby Jr. would put it to me, you can’t have up without down, right without left, hard without soft.

He’d point out I had a choice, if I was looking for pleasure, I’d better expect an equal amount of pain. But if I wasn’t looking for anything other than being present in this moment, I could take the pleasure, and the pain, of it, as all part of the same thing, being alive, right now, working for change or not, tough times or tender.

Or as experience has proven, most often both.

3 comments:

The Kid said...

Yes, Nero, how dare you fiddle!? (The person who made that comment must not be familiar with all of your blogs.) Well said, Mike. The poem “Refusing Heaven” by Jack Gilbert expresses similar thoughts quite artfully; as does Levin’s character at the end of Anna Karenina. To eschew pleasure & play in the face of war, poverty and tragedy is not only impossible – as these “negative” states of being always exist (someone’s always crying somewhere baby) – it’s detrimental to the mental health of our species. To deny our natural needs for, and naturally occurring states of, satisfaction & happiness, only leads us to prolong the unnatural states of war (murder) & misery. Men wage war when their basic needs are not being met. (I include in these basics needs both bread and feeling satisfied.)
Would the person that made the comment to you burden his or her child with a perpetual state of despair because the world is falling apart? Children demonstrate on a daily basis that all states of being are transitory. Anger, sadness, envy – all move through them quickly. They must be trained to hold grudges, to fear and to hate, to worry endlessly.
Sometimes the youngest sibling in a family escapes this training – the notion that one must pick & become expert at certain feelings at the expense or complete loss of other feelings (usually gender divided) – because they are so far down the line they are raised more by their siblings, who exist in these transitory states along with them, than by their parents. I’ve found (now that I live among them again as a parent) that most children exhibit a natural curiosity for & love of beauty – both the boys & the girls. It’s nice to be around them before it’s been beaten out of them, especially the little boys. Our culture still promotes the belief that boys must be made hard, cured like meat, with all the moisture removed, to become men, but we’re making progress. (I just learned of an excellent book on this subject called “The Courage to Raise Good Men” by Olga Silverstein & Beth Rashbaum, that contends that mothers don’t have to sever the bond with their sons to make them into men.) Those who want to put an end to war must actively work for peace; and that includes cultivating a personal peace in their hearts by enjoying life and all the pleasure afforded us as sensual beings. The extraordinary in life is supported by the ordinary – we must attend to both.

Anonymous said...

Just....yes....

Mim

Anonymous said...

People who question your output are one word: JEALOUS.. why don't they put down on paper what they want to say... They still can't. I say break on thru to the otherside. Start your own blog.