I have an angst.

And I’m not even sure why, exactly. The vacation’s going fine, in fact personal things generally are more peachy than usual.

Perhaps it has something to do with the material a fellow Facebook fan kindly sent me from Bob & Ray and Tom. Basically a little pamphlet put out by their principal outside writer Tom Koch, in an effort to ensure credit that — wasn’t denied him, exactly. But it also can’t be denied that Bob & Ray did have this stubborn blind spot, never confirming public assumptions that the whole thing was theirs, but never correcting them either.
Whether creative insecurity or professional shrewdness or some combination of the two, I don’t know. But feeling as I do about plagiarism and assorted offshoots I don’t like the idea of my gentle heroes being mixed up in it nohow.

Perhaps it has something to do with downloading Janis Ian’s At Seventeen the other day, and finally getting a good listen to the lyrics… thus getting a harsh reminder of the things nostalgia can hide. Quoting another Famous Wistful Song, Bob Seger’s Against the Wind: "Wish I didn’t know now/What I didn’t know then…"

Or…perhaps it’s just PMS.

At any rate, I thought I’d relieve it in the time-honoured LJ manner: posting emo poetry. I have this iPod app that works like a magnetic word set; the catch is it uses only words from Shakespeare. Does wonders for the artistic ego.

Beauty
that pure drawn
Injury
that thou recievest
Hurt of a
disarm’d self

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“Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

The fragrant velvet of a rose
curled lightly into my hand
This is my offering;
A solemn devotion,
dumb-show of ecstacy
Thine is this twilight hour, thine is the Kingdom

In the pageantry of Eternity I am strange and lost
But I can feel the cool relief of a summer rain
And afterwards the earth smells strong with growing things
the roses will come soon

–Shoebox, age sixteen (and fresh off TS Eliot in sophomore English)

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Yeah, I know, the real happiness is not having to read poetic efforts on LJ. But I really couldn’t figure out how to express today’s subject in prose without rattling on ad nauseum, and probably way too heavy on the nauseum to boot. You takes your happinesses where you find’em, is I guess the motto of this installment.

Put simply, I am and have always been receptive to the myriad graces of the natural world. It is my sure path to spirituality; all logical and scientific arguments aside,I find it impossible to believe that there is no further point to natural law. If only in the fact of our being able to respond to it with such peculiar intimacy, and at the same time, limitless awe.

*****************************************

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage-
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
-and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn-valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude-and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind(and not until)

–ee cummings

On the Conundrum of Beauty

When I was very young
The canna lilies bloomed
To mark the end of summer.

Now they flaunt their blossom
All the warmth and light around
And I am left behind
To write poetry.

…See, kids, this your brain on long bus commutes through the North York suburbs. Always make sure you bring a comic book along to read instead. I recommend the Adventures of Plastic-Man, if you can find it in the trade.

Anyway. Those lines appear here and now courtesy a long walk through the unexpected loveliness of an October twilight – a strange summer evening out of time. My currently brisk and action-oriented psyche doesn’t quite know what to make of this whole weather situation, so I pacified it with the Rock/Psychedelia playlist on the iPod (“One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble/Not much between despair and ecstasy…” ) and carried on.

I have the great good fortune to live not far from one of Toronto’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the old-money part of town. The beauty and serenity of the wide, tree-lined streets is of course a given; what really floors me is the…rightness of it all. This is so manifestly how life should be lived that on first entering it – quite by accident – as a wide-eyed downtown rat just trying to find a way home through the wider city, I quite naturally and un-self-consciously dubbed it ‘Fairyland’.

And so it has remained to me. The funny part is that for the most part, in most important respects, I am still that downtown rat – a sociological liberal, champion of the underdog, sworn enemy of complacency in every form. Except this one. Yes, it’s entirely possible to feel horribly angry and ashamed. that people in, say, Darfur or Haiti don’t have these elegantly untouchable streets to flee along; that unholy numbers of people right here in this city are condemned to be sneered at, lost, forgotten, quietly rot away for want of the contents of  just one of those brick or stone palaces – hell, one of their garages.

But…but…how do you tell the people that already have, that have made such a manifestly wonderful use of what they’ve been given, that it’s a wrong thing? How do you deny yourself a taste, just out of spite or guilt at not having the whole? I was a pretty scruffy little character myself, back in the day…but when I walked through Fairyland, somehow such niceties as the rent being overdue faded away into unimportance, just as long as it was there and I had the ability to understand it, or at least imagine that I did. Foolish, yes…just like the fancies I wove around the canna lilies.

You begin to appreciate the genius of a Jane Austen, who was able to so delicately excise away the foolishness without disturbing the very real worth and beauty. The people – and there have been many of consequence, notably Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain – that accuse her of being shallow, avoiding the real passions…with all due respect, I think they’re missing the point entirely. It’s not that her target is less significant; only that it’s subtler, more elusive. The skill required to detach Fairyland from reality is a very, very meaningful sort of skill indeed.

Anybody home?

“Talent isn’t genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing.”
— Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“Don’t wanna end up a cartoon,
in a cartoon graveyard –
Bonedigger, bonedigger
Lost in the moonlight…”
— Paul Simon, You Can Call Me Al

As you can see, mentally composing this entry on the trials and tribulations of a wannabe novelist has left me just a tad bemused. All I was asking my inner Self, I thought, was a very simple question: What do I have to say? And it just kept on quoting Socrates at me: “All I know for sure, is that I know nothing.”
So I pressed it for clarification, and it responded with the above pearls of. Which was an improvement inasmuch as Paul Simon is lots more hummable than Greek philosophy…but led to disturbing realizations about my own personal place in the Human Experience.

Specifically, I don’t seem to have one.

Now, let’s not get carried away here – my physical existence isn’t in question (at least not this week). I’m talking about my internal structure; the latticework of rich experiences that engender fresh ideas that form bold opinions that power universal insights that ultimately should define my unique inner Author: The Worldview of a Shoe, in Thirty-Four Chapters (Sequels Pending).

The root of the problem can basically be summed up in the following handy reference:

Number of deep, universal, life-changing or -affirming experiences read about in lifetime: Approximately 10,000,000.
Number of deep, etc. experiences actually experienced in real life over same span: 2 (possibly more; but see below.)

As you can see, being a bookworm has its downside… More