Thursday, June 27, 2013

Eye Contact

Things change.  Ask Heraclitus ( 535 – c. 475 BCE), the pre-Socratic philosopher who, even then, thinking about something as quotidian as baths, observed how one could not bathe in the same river twice.  Ask him and his followers about the mutable nature of things.  The Google of those early days was a wide-spread group of books or scrolls, often with Latin titles that began with the words, De Re, then went on to some descriptive noun such as materials, metal, water, even a generalized matter.

Nothing appears to have slowed the mutable nature of things; they still change, recession or not, global warming or not.  Boundaries change, standards change, measurements change, minds change.  Seemed like a grand idea at the time, but now, there's change.  

In many ways you'd yet to articulate, you've changed.  In ways still not clear to you, you're in the process of changing.  Such as?  Ah.  don't ask.

You were wishing to change in terms of reaching age six in order to be permitted to carry a pocket knife, which you considered the most remarkable tool a boy could carry.  Reaching six and being given a pocket knife for your birthday, change took on a different aspect for you.  Perhaps for the first time, you had mixed emotions about the age process; soon enough, you've be out of sixth grade and grammar school, into what was then called junior high school, grade level seven-b, which for your world meant John Burroughs Junior High School, Sixth Street and McCadden Streets, mid-city, Los Angeles, where you would be known as a Scrub, the lowest plateau of social order, subject to hazing, taunting, and the mindless terrors only a grammar school student could suppose.

While you were thus occupied with the age process, you remained confident you would not change in your affection for licorice cigarettes, Fleer's bubble gum, and Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, grade 2B.  You have not had a licorice cigarette for fifty years, although your late great friend, Barnaby Conrad, once gave you a package of Black-Jack chewing gum.  You've not used bubble gum for at least twenty years, and although you have one or two Dixon Ticonderoga pencils about, you cannot recall the last time you used them.

Things changed in that you did not have to suffer becoming a Scrub at John Burroughs Junior High School.  Instead, you moved from Central Beach Elementary School, Miami Beach, Florida, across the street to Ida M. Fisher Junior High School, where the hazing was different only because Miami Beach was not Los Angeles, and where instead of being in grade B-seven, you were in grade seven-B, section 1, thus you were 7B1 and you were used to doing something you'd never think to do in Los Angeles, you wore short pants.  

Some, but not all of your destiny was interrupted or, if you will, changed, because you did indeed graduate from John Burroughs Junior High School and, as you expected, attended Fairfax High School.  Changes came about because you'd been bumped up along the way, causing you to be the youngest and shortest in your classes at John Burroughs, until a growing spurt took you in hand, enhancing your length.

By the time you graduated from Fairfax, you were far enough removed from the classmates you'd started with to the point where you'd make eye contact in the hallways, but were more in connection with your new peer group.  Without giving those matters much in the way of thought, your interests focused on changing yourself into something you had no concrete vision of, a writer.  You were also interested in such concepts as approaching manhood, where you had a notable role model, your father, and as your college career progressed, other role models to serve as guides.  But still no sense at all of how you'd manage to make the journey, should you have been given a vision of yourself today, to what you are and what you are quite happy with today, although curious about realizing some if not all the changes in store for you.

There are some changes in store for you that you try to forestall with such things as exercise, diet, curiosity, study, work, and relationships.  One thing you may be able to forestall for some several years is death, but in some ways, that has become for you a kind of analog to the peers you left behind you when, at age nine, you were gone from Los Angeles to live in the East, New England, and the South.  

You make eye contact with death and it with you.  You are no strangers; it has taken your grandparents, your parents, your sister, your wife, two of your closest, dearest human friends, and a line of cherished animal friends beginning with the cat, Sam, who left you in about 1970, extending to your most recent departure, who took her leave as recently as April 15.

Just yesterday, you made eye contact again, a mere passing in the hallway, an acknowledgment that someone from your world was gone, a person whose politics were so far removed from yours that you'd come to agree that you'd acknowledge your differences, and talk around them.  

You had no idea you'd be making such eye contact with death, which is and yet is not a complete abstraction.  It is also an aspect of reality, and so you are each aware of the other and you acknowledge its metaphoric ability to bring change to your life at any moment, that in the best dramatic weights and balance, it has the power, you have the illusion.

You have moved on to another peer group beyond the change you made on your return to Los Angeles.  Now you make eye contact in the hall with your work, the area in which you began doing things in high school to get you launched to where you are.  It recognizes you and you it.  You recognize and make eye contact, or try to, with such abilities and strengths as you have, wishing to keep that contact and recognition strong and friendly.

In numerous ways, each vision you attempt to strike eye contact with is a new project in the making, a new book, a new story.  Right now, there are a few you pass in the hallway, wanting to leave the equivalents of mash notes in their lockers.  As you had crushes on girls in the hallways of John Burroughs Junior High and Fairfax High, and then UCLA, you have crushes on a number of books and stories and novels.  Seeing them reminds you of the personalities of the young women on whom you had crushes and of your half-formed romanticism, working its way within you and in effect helping you describe the you you are today.

You walk down corridors of schools in your mind and in reality, greeting student, dream, and faculty alike, greeting ideas and attempting to make eye contact, holding on for that exciting nod of recognition where you understand some form of relationship has been established.

Of course you have effected a relationship with death.  At the moment it is not a fearful or resentful or even defensive one, merely a respectful one.  All your nowness, all the things you have become are too eager for those other relationships where conversations turn into ideas, ideas turn into visions, and you are able to step into those visions for the sweet rides of connection.

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