Friday, September 21, 2007

The Inner Man, er, Men

We start out in life with the bravado and insouciance of an only child, with no need to share a room with siblings or other pack members. This single-occupancy tenancy is as tenuous as an on-time flight; shortly after getting the metaphorical room to our liking, other tenants are brought in, as though immigrant relatives in an already crowded apartment.

These other roomers in our psyche are thrust upon us by our own growing sense of awareness, the sense I will call the sense of selves, for indeed these roomies we achieve are blood family in the sense that there are emerging aspects of ourself. Moi? you say. Yes, you hypocrite lecteur, mon semblance, mom frere.

By a certain age, we begin fragmenting, way past the RB, which is to say reptilian brain, and into such separate aspects as The Optimist, The Pessimist, The Realist, The Dreamer, Captain Spaulding (of Hooray! fame), possibly a Sir Edmund Hillary, perhaps even a Mother Teresa. Certainly a Hunter-and-Gatherer as well as a stay-at-home Agriculturalist. As we advance through our twenties and into our thirties, our psyche has become the roil and splatter of the famed stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera, that splendid preface to the work of Joseph Campbell. We have become a 365-day-a-year enactment of The Family Gathering. 

 Parts of us know the very secrets other parts of us wish to keep hidden. And it is entirely possible that like crashers at a party, some strangers have come to witness the internecine squabble. Oh, how we envy the multiple personality disorder. We who are less fortunate, know that our multiple personalities all exist; the MPD individual sincerely believes each of the roomers in the psyche is the only one, the only child.

We have, in effect, become a splendid metaphor for The Italian Parliament, constantly resigning, reforming, realigning, beginning tenuous coalitions in our desire to get our psyche to tear up all its credit cards and start doing a strict cash-and-carry business.

As we struggle to accomplish this plateau, we awaken one morning to discover that we have reached yet another--dare I use the word benchmark any longer?--plateau. Welcome to the Plateau of Cynicism. It is a place where we question all reports, all information, all interpretations. Robert Burns suggests" O! Wad some giftie/The Giver gie us/To see ourselves/As others see us/T'would from many a blunder free us/And foolsh notion..."

Nice try. We're stuck with the family, the Us; that is until we come to the conclusion that much as we don't trust,say, Fox News (News?) or the WSJ, disappointed as we are that the Congress we elected to get some work done is as they say in polite company work challenged, we've got to think it through and act for ourselves. I have one acquaintance who suggests that such an attitude makes me a Libertarian. No such luck, JL. The first five letters point in the right direction, but the fork in the road gets pretty wide beyond there.

Dylan Thomas approximates it:
"I, in my intricate image, stride on two levels,

Forged in man's minerals, the brassy orator
Laying my ghost in metal,
The scales of this twin world tread on the double,
My half ghost in armour hold hard in death's corridor,
To my man-iron sidle.

Beginning with doom in the bulb, the spring unravels,
Bright as her spinning-wheels, the colic season
Worked on a world of petals;
She threads off the sap and needles, blood and bubble
Casts to the pine roots, raising man like a mountain
Out of the naked entrail..."

Okay, call it enlightened cynicism.

Call it anything but Ishmael who, by the way, was probably bi-polar, and at least had a sense of what I'm essaying here. He survived his inner Ahab, saw around that hulk of a whale, lived to tell about it.

And there's my point. He was created to survive so he could tall about it.

That's what we do, survive to be the credible witness in a world where Ahabs lurk behind the next whale.


Lori Witzel said...


Even stumbling through a body-clock reset, achey and up before moonset without reading glasses (daggnabbit) this post gave me shivers of delight and recognition.

All of us here, within and without these surface boundaries, think it a grand essay and the nubbin of a larger beautiful pursuit.

Pardon me -- there's a clamor in the psychic kitchen, I think we've run out of cookies or Dylan Thomas, must dash...

(Word verif is so difficult without my reading glasses...)

John Eaton said...

Wonderful, Shelly.

I will go down to the sea again, soon, and lift a mug to the west.

At least 13 ways of looking in, and out, and beyond,

John :)