Arranged in Volleys

(Three in all as of February 2015)

First Volley

There is some connection between God, or gods, and performance evaluations. I am not sure what it is, but my sense is that you only get performance evaluations in a godless universe.

The United States is a country where a shapely woman seen on the news demonstrating for a political cause will receive an offer to pose nude and will accept it—to earn money and in the hopes of becoming a star, of course, but also in the belief that such exposure will help the cause.

Bending over a stream we try to fill our hands with water, and we turn, too, to our memories and can only drink from what has not run out. Of making love to Madeleine I recall the bed in the corner with its little high window, and some of her remarks afterwards, and a sense that it was very pleasureful and a regret that it was only once.

He greatly appreciated the extra service but did not leave a big tip because he wanted to think the waiter had been acting out of affection. (The waiter wanted to think that too, while getting a big tip.)


Second Volley

Is a plant suffering when, lacking water, it can no longer hold its leaves up? Could this be a kind of pure physical suffering, free of any feeling of failure or loss of faith?

Previous generations bemoaned how some combination of science, capitalism, Nietzsche and church killed God. For us to regret how some combination of technology, capitalism and its media, Foucault and AIDS have killed sex.

It has been said that it is impossible to understand the energy of Germans without recognizing that insensibility has been a condition of their success. A source of Americans’ power is our willful misunderstanding of life, people and ourselves.

Denying human mortality and the economic circumstances of at least a quarter of the American population, in the midst of the Great Depression Franklin Roosevelt famously proposed, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The truth is but rarely spoken and less often welcome.

The primary and unrelenting task of an artist or intellectual who has not inherited money is to find a way to support herself. The result of this process will have more influence on her work than any other choice she may seem to make.


Third Volley

“Having dressed myself up to be a sex object, I went out of my apartment and was looked at as if I were a sex object. And there was something in this looking that made me really uncomfortable. Why could I not be seen for who I really was?”

I often experiment on my plants, seeing if little changes in their positions, pots or watering might help them grow more luxuriously. This is not quite the same as subjecting them to toxins in an attempt to find ways to improve my and my fellow humans’ health. But, interestingly, it is possible to learn quite a lot from attempts to help others.

You might marry for social status or money, or take a job with such goals in mind. And as a result you might feel a kind of happiness or satisfaction every day, looking around at your possessions, the size of your home, its view or neighborhood, thinking about the status or money of the people you socialize with. Other forms of happiness and satisfaction might be elusive, since you had made status or money such a priority, but this is not to say that the status or money would not, and perhaps rather regularly, produce positive feelings.

Were someone (berating Freud?) to protest—”The psyche is not so complicated; I at least am not confused about what I want”—it might be enough to set him to making love, and to afterwards ask if he had not heard a dialogue within his head—a will asking “if I should” and “do I want,” and a more reflective self giving its reply, its “Not tonight” or “Why don’t you try?”

It is possible to treat someone disrespectfully or without much kindness and not drive them away. Because they need or think they need your power, your money, your good looks, your companionship. But every instance of disrespect, every kindness withheld or overlooked, . . . It is as if the flesh of the relationship were being stripped from the bones.

Cf., James Baldwin, “Fifth Avenue, Uptown”:

It is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself.

A poet names things, Plato may have written somewhere.
Through naming, I say, we achieve a Pyrrhic victory and a comforting separation,
If not only from things.

There are many who would not have things named —
Or not so starkly, not so precisely, please.
If we can live in the clouds, are we water?


*     *     *

Image is of Blaise Pascal.

Click for pdf:

Two-liners (arranged in Volleys)

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