Monday, November 14, 2011

The Shine Wore off

From time to time, you play a role in a quintessential boy drama.  You were playing such a role one afternoon, when prowling lower Milpas Street for photo ops at two stores where pinatas are hung in gala display.  A complete stranger, all genial smile and twinkling eye, pointed at you.  "XYZ,"  he said.  In recent weeks, your friend, Dan, of Cafe Luna fame, warned you, "The barn door is open."  And, memorable because your former student Debo, a Yoruba prince and a Yalie, is tall and dramatic.  While you were mid seminar lecture, he deftly slid a note onto the lectern before you.  "The zipper," the note said.  "The zipper is open."

Simple fix there, and no serious disruption of the cosmos.  In a more nuanced way, you are touched and reminded by the blog essay of a dear friend.  She writes in the context of having dreams, then aspiring to bring these dreams to life in reality.  She writes of the shine of the dream illusion wearing off.  She is by no means cynical; her focus is on familiarity, its particular comforts and strengths, the potential disparity between dream and reality.

Your friend has nudged you with her essay, which means the essay was a roaring success because you could not deflect its importance.  Because of its relevance, you had to let it in, offer it a drink, allow its contents to seep through in the same way your Bialetti stove-top maker performs the alchemy of turning water and coffee grounds into the viscid pungency of espresso.

Because of her essay, you realize you have been going about for a matter of years with the psyche equivalent of an open zipper. More gapes open than your fly; your persona is exposed.  Your shine has worn, your patina beginning to erode.

A good deal of this lost shine relates to dreams--or at least the effects of dreams.  Much of the time, you are aware of having lost your shine, aware of having outgrown the "Boy Wonder" stage that saw you through early advancements in school, in entry-level writing projects, into the "caught-up stage," wherein you were advancing or regressing on your merit or lack thereof rather than on the mere foundation of youth.  Then, in imperceptible degrees, you moved into the "late bloomer" stage, each of these avatars representing the sandblasting of illusion and certainly of shine from you.

Each of these sandblasting events was an epiphany for you.  You have the integrity of your work to define you, and since much of it has its origins in dream or dream-like states called flashes of imagination or perhaps insights, the work rather than the illusory halo defines you.  A favored quote you might not have otherwise noticed came to you on that remarkable day when, somewhere between Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, you and Christopher Isherwood stopped to enjoy the picnic lunch prepared for you by the nuns of the Vedanta Convent in Santa Barbara.  Isherwood spoke of the need for simplicity in translating the fabled Hindu text, The Bhagavad-Gita, from Sanskrit to English, Isherwood working along with his charismatic guru, Swami Prabhavananda, when he related how easily a line came to him that in essence defined the entire project.  "To the work you are entitled, but not the fruits thereof."  Isherwood waved his hamburger as though it were a conductor's baton.  "Just the right amount of everything in eleven words, including the thereof that imparts a sense of the biblical archaic."

You believe the work is the fruits; if the work is done well, you feel it somewhere in your stride, in your ability to detect the presence of a mockingbird in the neighborhood.

Maryelle, who has been, by your reckoning, cutting your hair these past twenty-five years, is amused when you make sport of the thinness your male pattern baldness has inflicted on the top of your head.  She shrugs away the fun you make of yourself by observing that only those who are taller than your six feet three inches can see the extent of the thinness.  To all others--

You wave away her demurral.  You are not likely to be called Tarzan, as you were in middle school, nor curly when you seemed to erupt with rings and curlicues curlicues curlicues
The shine has worn off and you are the better for it; you have the dreams to look forward to and the work ahead of trying to iron out the wrinkles and bumps that come with dreams.

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