Saturday, February 26, 2011

Survival

 Sometimes, when you are least conscious of doing so, you become aware of having arrived at an accomplishment you never sought to achieve.

In order to make that awareness more meaningful yet, you return to a moment in the recent past, when someone you'd known for a time, said in self-piteous defense, "I didn't ask to be born."  Because you'd heard and read similar statements, you spoke out, riding a wave of emphasis, expressing the belief that you not only asked, but competed to be born, likening the competition to a race in which you out swam all the other sperm cells to be first at that egg.  However hyperbolic the trope might have been, you often feel a kind of affirmation when, at the end of a lap in the Montecito Y swimming pool, you plunk your hand down on the rail for the purchase to effect a push-off for the next lap.

You did asked to be born, at least to the point now of believing you wanted a part in the process.  Typical hubris from a man of hubris, you might well say of yourself, because now you complete the circuit, more or less providing a metaphoric slap of your hand on the railing of the metaphoric swimming pool in which you swim, which is, after all, life.

You find yourself from time to time as having survived.  You are the surviving member of your immediate family.  Photos of your parents and sister peer out at you from ledges and shelves of your studio where, after a scant two months of residence and the rent for the third still in the mail, you do not quite know yet where everything is.  Thus these photos, one of your father feeding a passel of ducks, another of your father, holding an infant sister on his lap, yet another of your mother and late wife, still another of a group of friends featuring you and your late wife, peering out at you as subjects of snapshots often do, reminding you of a particular time and place.  You have survived them all through no particular conscious volition to do so nor, in fact, to do anything except to endure, to grow, to read, to write, to listen to music, to interact with friends, to present materials as a teacher to students, to edit manuscripts which will cause thrumming, purring writers, clangorous, impatient writers, and lofty, brilliant writers to emerge as more so themselves than when they began the project you are now editing.

Sometimes, as you drive with Sally to your favored park-like venue, Greenwell Avenue at the southern tip of the community of Summerland, you call out to her, "Let's live for ever and support ourselves on novels, short stories and the occasional review.  We'll picnic on the Super Sub from the Italian Deli on De la Guerra Street, listen to Haydn and Mozart string quartets, John Coltrane and Red Garland, perhaps a splash of Maurice Ravel, and not to forget the old CDs of Carmen McRae and Irene Krall."  You both know this is not possible, and there is a sense of communal adventure between you over the mere fact of having survived this far.

You often survive the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, the occasional piece that wants to be written, relationships, classes, attempts to educate yourself, and such afflictions as naturally attach themselves to your growing process.  Lest it sound in any way cynical, you remove falling in love with your laundry list of afflictions, adding it to a string of individuals and things for whom you experienced that remarkable and complex occupancy of your heart, mind, and sundry receptor sites, some of which have no names.

You have survived cancer, with Dr. Koper telling you, "While I was in there, I took your appendix as well.  It looked all right, but just to make sure---" and you have survived the generic and specific bouts of encounters filed under Loss.  You often survive at job situations (unless your impatience--such as at Antioch University--shows you the way out.

As things stand, you anticipate an extended wave of survival in consequence of a splendid momentum to date.  In a considerable and real way, you did chose to survive; it seems to have heard you, or perhaps it has been too busy coping with the unfolding of the universe at large to pay you any particular heed.

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