Friday, April 11, 2014

Homework

A favored moment of your in the Odyssey-ian narrative of Winnie-the-Pooh, delivers itself at the line, "Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders."  This is followed with an illustration:


You think of this trope from time to time, in particular when you find yourself writing or thinking "under the influence of--"  To that delightful extent, you are under the influence--and it is an influence--of the Pooh Stories.

In a real sense, you are living in a forest all by yourself, not so much under the name of Sanders as under the influence of a wide swathe of friends, family, culture; the things you have been told, read, seen, heard, felt, and smelled up to and including this moment. 

You are also under the significant influence of things you have said, done, written, left unsaid or undone as a response to the influences of friends, family, and culture.  

In more formative times, your connections with these influences were to a degree passive.  You let them happen to you, accepted that such influences were passed along to everyone.  You'd seen photos and drawings of young persons such as yourself, in the company of a patriarchal or matriarchal figure, taking the wisdom of culture.

There were times, as your vocabulary for fact and nuance extended, when you dared think negative thoughts about the various cultures in which you were surrounded.  At some of these times, you held strong convictions that the word "acculturated" was synonymous with the term "brain washed."  An example, which will demonstrate degrees of culture, brain-washing, naiveté, and nuance forces competing within you , had its beginnings when you came home from a Sunday School sermon, your influences and questions already beginning to argue with one another at the thought of the anomaly of you attending a Sunday School on a Sabbath not of your culture instead of the Sabbath of your culture.

You asked your parents if it were true that your culture was in fact God's most beloved, as Dr. Sonderling had assured you, or was the culture brainwashed, you among them, as well as your parents.  At the time of asking, most of your acquaintances were of the same culture.  You were well aware of others who were not.  You were also aware of being well regarded by your parents (although considered somewhat of a mischief).  You had no sense of being beloved at all by God or if, indeed, there were such an entity, who went about regarding various of its creations with varying degrees of love.

Have to hand it to your father for setting you on a useful track.  "Kid, you've got to learn to find answers to those questions for yourself and not take anyone else's word for it, because you're going to run into a whole lot of people who are willing to take other people's words for just about everything."  

"But suppose,"  you said, that it was there, all right, like multiplication and long division, but you weren't seeing it.

"Then you keep doing your homework until you get an answer that satisfies you."

True enough, he said that, and you find some comfort in having remembered that influential point, even beyond the time he was no longer present to remind you of it, except in your memory.

Ah, said your old pal, Barnaby Conrad, when a svelte and splendid young lady entered the dining area of the Montecito Pharmacy Lunch Room.  "Ah, to be seventy-five again."

"Keep doing your homework," your father said, "until you get an answer that satisfies you."

There are indeed times when the answers of your homework must satisfy those who grade you.  There are times when your answers must be about you and not them.  There are times when you must be able to see the implications of both as well as the implications of seeing the differences.  The universe was not created for you.  It has forged its own course quite well without you.  Although it has taken some quirky and unadvised turns since your arrival, it has also taken some remarkable, insightful, and amazing bursts of behavior, adding to and ridding itself of species, detritus, and shapes.

If you'd paid heed to the implications you now see in your father's advice, you might well have become sooner what you are today, which means you might well not have thought today to make this observation.  Nor might you have been as happy today as you are.

You have certainly been under a number of literary influences, most of which you either accepted, then questioned, then abandoned, or found as a result of some on-going sense of this all being homework and you at last on a track whereby you seek answers to satisfy you.  What will you do with them?  Try to maintain dialogue with the universe that was not created for me.  Try to see it as the ocean.  Trying for yourself to be the best drop of water you can.

For a number of years, you have sought to know things that influence you because you feel some conversation has transpired.  You are aware of individuals from wide swaths of the universe who feel they have engaged in conversations with things you cannot see or feel.  Your job is to record conversations between you and the things you can see and feel.

One of the influences in getting you to write your job description is Jake, the man to whom you often took questions that produced such responses from him as, "What are you, some kind of a wise guy?"  And also, "Keep doing your homework until you get an answer that satisfies you."

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