Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Vision Quest

Early in your experiences with story, narratives began with the near magic meme "Once upon a time." You were scarcely able to understand why those words threw you into the slipstream of a momentous story passing by, somewhat in later years the way the VW Bugs you drove were caught in the slipstream of passing eighteen-wheel trucks.

All you needed to know was that you were being taken somewhere.  Often, quite often, you were following a young man who was walking along some road or through some forest, whereupon he met an older person who asked of him his destination.  More magic in the young man 's reply, "I am going forth to seek my fortune."

If, at the time, someone had uttered in your presence the word bildungsroman, smarts that you were even then, you'd have said "Gezundheit."  With time, things changed.  You knew what  bildungsroman meant.  You also had a pretty good idea why so many characters who were off to seek their fortunes were boys or young men.  

Girls had a clearer idea.  The likes of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Dana Girls were detectives.  At least, they were solving mysteries as quickly as teams of writers could churn them out to an audience hungry for solutions to enigmas, puzzles, and misplaced identities.

Along about this time, your reading and curiosity took you to the concept of the vision quest, particularly as that venture related to numerous tribes among the First Americans.  However deplorable your anthropology is now, it was then by incremental measure less focused and disciplined.  You were familiar with the notion of boys of a certain age, being sent off into the wilderness by themselves, to walk about, forage, and look for signs, presences of various animals who would become their spirit guides or totems.

After enough of this sort of reading, you began to see the commonality of cultures in which the young searched for connective tissues to the cosmos, and thus the way to their destiny.  At some point, say age twenty or so, you were able to equate the vision quest with the bildungsroman, and indeed, you were seeking yours.  You'd already worked at a number of the sorts of jobs young persons work at, with varying degrees of satisfaction, one of the more pleasing ones being the manager of a parking lot at the northwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Cochran Avenue in that section of Los Angeles known as The Miracle Mile.

You had a reasonable salary, a congenial boss, occasional tips, frequent free hamburgers or hotcakes at a restaurant across the street named after the hamburger-loving friend of Popeye, J. Wellington Wimpy.  This job was the closest thing yet to being paid to read books, because you just that, read on the job.

Time has had its way on and with you. bringing you considerably worse and occasionally better jobs than managing the parking lot which is by now sure to have had a tall building erected on top of it.  You've seen yourself in a number of ways, had a number of visions about your relative place in the world and your relative self.

However crabby or grumpy your vision of yourself may make you sound, you do not feel grumpy most of the time, if at all, nor do you feel grouchy, that first cousin relative of grumpy.  You do understand however why many individuals of your approximate age are in fact grumpy and grouchy, some of their reasons coming from the fact of their no longer being listened to or, in fact, they were ever listened to.

Grumpy and grouchy men of your age may have lost contact with the vision quests they took as  younger men, may not recognize their totemic animals any longer, may no longer be able to enjoy the solace of dreams in which they are ageless, to a major degree unaffected by laws of gravity or friction.  They may have come to a point in life many young persons experience before setting forth to seek their fortune, that point being the elderly equivalent of hating all their toys.  Golf, lawn bowling, pinochle, and other such activities have few memorable take-away moments.  Those are probable causes for grouchy and grumpy behavior.

Your grumpiness is from an entirely different direction, which causes you great ease in recognizing true grumps and grouches or grumps and grouches like yourself.  On your way to seek your fortune, you've arrived at your own visions of the things you care about and the things you do not.  You've found traces of your vision of the world about you and your voice and vocabulary for expressing them, whether anyone else notices or not.  You've arrived at an intriguing balance of comfort and distrust of comfort in your three chosen areas of performance, writing, editing, and teaching.

The sincere and likable grumps you know have found similar positions within the areas of their choice.  You often do not agree with them nor they you, yet there are moments of profound mutual respect.  You can appear to be arguing.  You in fact are arguing, but it is the argument in which each party is bolstering his or her own voice and vision.

You've in effect worked all your life to get here, where you are eager to get at your next project and fearful you've this time bit off more than you can chew.  Being here is not as lonely as you'd imagined; you're anomalous in your finding of comfort in the risk you are undertaking.

No wonder you are grouchy.  You are grouchy about reality, so grouchy in fact that you have accepted your own as the place you write about and dream in as vacation spas from that other reality, the one with the grouchy lawn bowlers and golfers and fisherpersons who are not finding satisfaction where they are. 

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