Friday, January 1, 2010

The bell tolls for you

With one exception, the individuals you joined at this morning's Friday Coffee were individuals you have known for at least ten years, in two cases, for as long as thirty. The one exception so quickly acquitted herself to the communal ease, lack of defensiveness, and inherent interest in Things that within moments of being introduced to yet another newcomer to the group, she was animatedly in conversation with him on the merits of, of all things, hamburger. You notice such things just as you notice your own body language, the almost recurrent nod. By no means a nod of incipient drowsiness, it was a general, overall nod of agreement with what was being said and your own responses to what was being said.


You were just on the cusp of realizing you were in a bubble and wanting to introduce some outlier into the bubble, in the spirit of stirring things to more of a boil. In fact, you had more or less called the one newcomer to the group into the hamburger conversation with the man who runs two of the finer hamburger joints in the area, just to see what would happen. And yes, truth to tell, you did harbor at first suspicions then hopes that the newcomer was a vegan. Thus too much agreement is a vector to boredom.

When there is too much agreement, you want opinion that causes within you the passion of disagreement. You enjoyed that book? You understood her to have said what? The closest acceptable compromise would be someone dropping into the stream of conversation a trout you could not hope to catch with any of the lures in your toolkit. You want the adrenaline of curiosity or argument or the awareness of having been transported to an area where your ignorance is so tangible that nothing less than full disclosure will give you any comfort, and of course you will have to, as quickly as possible, investigate the sources of the ignorance, a lifelong battle that only becomes more pronounced as you struggle to maintain a minimal awareness of Things About You.

In similar fashion there is the temptation to write about characters and circumstances well known to us, known for perhaps much of our adult life, bringing us to the equivalent of nodding the head in agreement with sister and brother chums, risking the boredom of life within the bubble of agreement.

A significant argument about the writing life or any life dedicated to overt expression is the calculus that sends the aspirant on a vector of loneliness that is directly proportional to the individual acquisition of skills, technique, knowledge. Thus the occasional distraction of meeting for drinks, for friendships of a sort, for romances, for immersion in study, all in the spirit of fulfilling what we think of as basic human needs.

The counter to that argument is that all life is formatted in ways that send the aspirant off on some vector of loneliness, making it possible in one extreme for an individual to be in a room filled with acquaintances and yet still feel the loneliness, and further, filled with scenarios to "do something about it."

On this artificially symbolic day of the first of a new year, your resolution gleaned from these vagrant lines is to strive for disagreement with yourselves, persisting in the development of a howling dissent, a love of argument, and an ongoing alert for opportunities for mischief. It could be said that these sentiments are close on the heels of having read another Jim Harrison and, thus, a reach of an identification with some of his unlikely characters. On the other hand, some of the most unlikely characters you know share the same inner landscape you do. They may be trying to get your attention, draw you into a situation where a few polite nods will get you in the game, but where disagreement and mischief hold the upper hand.

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