This was the first summer to have gone this way: plague, medium incline boulder roll, grandfoolish grand-societal re-opening, redoubled plague, steeper incline boulder roll. Who even has the time or energy to imagine Sisyphus as anything at all?
Hey Siri, calendar check please. Since late May–the 26th. I picked a date just to size things up, snapshot tally, to figure summertime with whatever it’s been now that I’m in a week dialed intentionally to pausing–a rest before the tidals of August wash our way.
Since late May–the 26th.
1,415 vt.edu emails received
911 vt.edu emails sent
That’s a 35.6% reduction, or interruption rate. I wish it was more like 50%.
3 tenure and/or promotion cases to review. One done; two to go.
2 article manuscripts reviewed
1 promotion narrative and dossier sent in (my own)
67 syllabi reviewed for equivalency requests
106 hours in the ENGL1105 Canvas blueprint–I almost wrote blurprint. Blurprint, indeed.
That’s the list. I can see in it some things I’d like to change, some things I’d like never to do again, some things that signal follow-through and commitment, and some things that flag for skewing too too far into the faculty-administrative depths of a WPA position that still feels very new to me. Onward is August’s knowing, mumbling hum, and with August, here’s to hoping sky-high hopeshot, there will be space+time for achieving a healthier balance, like amoebas searching for more podia than pseudopodia.
“The depth and complexity of human memory is staggeringly rich.”
Douglas Hofstadter, I Am A Strange Loop (2007), “Of Selves and Symbols,” p. 86
Picked back up again from Sunday, April 26, 2020.
The time when I woke up refreshed and hopeful on the last June Sunday morning during Year One of pandemic. The time when…and then I read a FB post from an uncle lauding Trump, a badly re-shared (copied/pasted?) Twitter spitshot–aren’t they all?–about heritage and about second amendment and about slighting iffy Joe. The time when seeing that just so happened to coincide with Trump’s being in the news for retweeting a video of clashing seniors in Florida, golf cart-riding white folks shouting “white power” (fascists, maybe? certainly not anti-fascists), the President characterizing them as “good people,” and that this is not a deal-breaker for family members, ooh, balling a hard fist it’s telling. The time when the work of interacting at that site of worldviews splitting wide fork, taking notice of uncles-led sides-drawing, focusing again on what really counts among relational accountabilities.
The time when minutes after taking a Zyrtec generic pollenguarding allergy pill I could not remember whether I had taken one today or was that yesterday. Did I? The time when, upon visiting Michigan to return Is. to her mom’s, they were setting up for a garage sale and there was an enormous second edition Webster’s dictionary and all I had to do was look at it with bibliophilic eyes and ask where did that come from before everyone said “thought you’d want it.” The time when getting a new-old dictionary felt like antiquing except that this dictionary might really get some use. The time when upon reaching the condo, what converges are slightly different dispositions on housekeeping, mine being a preference for tidiness and simplicity, but knowing too that’s then my work, to make it so. Swept and wiped counters and, coarse-side sponge to poly shell, shined the tub and enclosure. The time when I didn’t really think twice about it but sent Ph. a text to let him know I was going to eat the snacks in the cupboard only for him to respond that he meant to but hadn’t gotten groceries, thinking I was being sarcastic maybe, and then I followed again to SMS no really, I owe you, because I’m truly eating these opened bags of chips and also that kind of melted to a giant, rock solid caramel cluster container of cashew and candies, a refrigerated glob that took some handiwork and possibly tools to get out of the jar and into a bowl. The time when it also clicked that yeah, I do tend to have issues with finishing food, always finishing, never wasting, that we’re all still five years-old sometimes and hearing synaptically echoed and haunting the charged scolds of parents, living that compounded static out for a good part of our lives. At least a few years, sometimes more.
The time when the president of the condo association that was megalomaniacal–also pricey!–in its legalistic onslaught emailed again with a personal swat about tone and courtesy, about how and why to be gentler with making requests about plants that were by our [unnamed] landscaping company weed-whipped beyond recognition, about how we really should be more generous with loyal hard-working companies we hire and pay to do good work, even when they do shitty work, oh, and you cannot have the name of the landscaping company so as to post a review, but they will plant a replacement hosta, only weeks later to find out that instead of planting it they just ding-dong-dashed that hosta, leaving it on the porch, never finding its way to the soil and now it’s gone, vanished-gone, never-seen gone. The time when by responding, no worries, we’re all good here, I was read back a finger-wag about how by saying I never saw the plant I was implicitly calling the landscaper (still unnamed) a liar and about how ghastly and gruesome was my position. The time when shew are people going through some stuff and handing off their snarls and with vitriol slashing through deep suspicions about others. The time when the only things left to work with are clearing, forgiveness, and compassion, let’s make a path for you to go forward along another day and that tempest in you, keep its fire, fine, but channel it where rage will not shred what endangered goodness still orbits. The time when the hosta taken down in late May was scarred but okay, finding sunshine and still trying its best in late June. The time when its growing back grew back.
The time when sitting side-yard at the two-storey Michigan brownstone in Lakeview Estates, wobbly chair because the pavers were some years ago pulled up and reset by an amateur (who possibly had not filled out the proper modification forms, though to the amateur’s defense, what exactly was modified in the crooked reset?), their mossy grout restored now, their wabi sabi angles somehow a more honest accounting for time and resourcefulness than would’ve been any more groomed or polished magazine cover sideyardscape don’t trip. The time when the surrounds was still only missing a laughing Buddha statue because that one’s in Virginia and also because the local nursery didn’t order poured form figures this season due to the pandemic. The time when first it was requisite masks for the good of public health and then added to that were the concrete inconveniences of no poured form yard decor and between government and Coronavirus so many precious white-fingers-clutched liberties tottered, they cried. Jesus wept; Buddha laughed. The time when the plants were more than enough in the sideyard, a fenced, angular parcel becoming, three lavender plants thriving over there, three sage varieties thriving over in the V corner, plus a giant anise, another small lavender, a cluster of long grass, a recently transplanted greenstem forsythia, what PictureThis app quickly computes for me as a species of Easter tree, also known as Chinese gold bell, Greenish-flowered forsythia, dwarf cutleaf forsythia, golden bells, and whose botanical name is forsythia viridissima, can you imagine having that name?–a plant from neighbor K, and then there are ferns, double-escaped onions (one getaway from the market, another from the refrigerator), stonecrops (graveyard moss), a giant hosta whose leaves gulp for water and sunshine, and two spearmints–also a chipmunk, skiddish but not too skiddish to dig soil near the lavender plants–also a table and small storage bin covered with algal film and a little bit of bird shit, a lounge chair, a very modest and weathered patio set, a wagon tucked in here by Ph., I’m guessing, but room enough for coffee and a laptop in the shade where there’s birdsong and a power tool intermittently screaming change to straight lines and sawdust from across the street.
Every June 11, calendar taps my shoulder, Do you know what today is?
Of course, I do. It’s the day my mom died. On a Wednesday. In 1997. At the age of forty-eight. *looks back at the calendar, unfazed and unflinching* What’s it to you?
I’ve written about it before, not remembering as much as returning to something temporally recognizable, a time of life and time of year faint and hollow but still capable of stinging, in the orbit of one strange loop. In 2005, making sense of Barthes’ the almost; in 2007, mysterious disappearances, a bona fide insurance coverage, resonant for conceptual elasticity, bearing on the job I worked in 1997 when my dad called out of the blue, bearing on the how death and why death questions that never gathered much in the way of answers. And then, “Have Some Soup,” an entry I still read from time to time when I’m missing her because I came close to getting it right, language being clumsy and unwieldy, minds too for the curlicued circuits of remembering and forgetting, processing loss and processing continuations, pin-pointing a few of the (oftentimes kitchen-based) clicks of “I’m here now,” “I” referring, of course, to “we.” Here we are now.
I went to her gravesite in Missouri last September. And after, posted this on FB:
Of course a Kansas City excursion includes a visit to my mom’s gravesite, what’s a burial site twenty-two years conventionally groundset in a regularly mowed cemetery at the bank of a nondescript Blue Springs, Mo., suburb. Here. Friday. It’s sunny; it’s sunsurface hot, too. Sit, anyway. Bring water. Let time teach that fuzzy edge, what boundary really?, between person and place, a body quickly and slowly (paradoxically quicklyslowly) from that to this, being becoming becoming. And then there’s just earth, prairielike, wind bending grass, or a stone performing durability, a bronze plaque, a few lines, and time’s circlings, bringing me back here without reason (i.e., reason suspended), to visit. And to find a place more than a person, wherever for now along death’s sure reaches.
About that prairie wind blowing the grass blades, what’s especially striking is how each strand stands again, gets back again on its little rootfeet, bowing to the elements only momentarily, knowing strength (and I mean this as really knowing embodiedly strength). Some of that strength, I suppose, comes from grasping intuitively that we only get this for a little while. The calendar nods.
There’s a numerology blinkered all around this year’s deathdate, a numerology that lurks, gazes, hails, beckons. In its rouletted triviality, something is piqued as serendipitous, though possibly it’s a low-grade poetic flit, possibly a nothing-at-all. Let me try, anyway (not that I’ve got the time; busy AF with work, to-do list is a task-lavishing spawnmonster…though the truer truth is that for this, there’s time more than enough). Mom died when she was 48. I was a few days more than a month into being 23. And now, today, I’m that same measure, a month and six days past turning 46. Math math math, abacus beads don’t fail me now, carry the one: nearly half of this life has gone by without her. Carry on.
The implied hmm and huh in this is with what Louise Phelps wrote to me about a few weeks ago as folded time, a theoretical extension of something from Julavits’ The Folded Clock. It’s that kind of interval-ed co-experience of being an age, some age only now (in this moment for me) mirroring some age only then for another. This stirs an ordinary but marvelous experiential deixis. Then and now, then as now. I remember my mother at 46. That’d have been 1995. A year I started off spending ten–offs!–days in North Kansas City hospital, eleven staples or was it fifteen squeezed pla-chunk into the top of my head at the ER before dawn, early January. A year when I also sat scalpel and scope through three surgeries. A year when I stopped playing college basketball days before the start of what would’ve been my senior season. A year–still in 1995–when my mom was there for me a lot. A lot, a lot.
That’s all I mean by the hmm and huh: noticing a life once folded, first twenty-three years with a mom, next twenty-three years without. Onward, onward, grandbabies and (17-year-brood, is it?) cicadas. Onward looping, onward heart.
Can’t especially much sidestep or neglect to mention that this kind of look-back too means I’ve been a parent for twenty-three years, and whatever kind of parent I was ready to be or not ready to be at that age (there were a thousand generous friends and strangers looking out for us all), it’s what brings us to a now, Ph. at 29, Is. at 13, V., Ph.’s daughter, at 1. Another angle on folded clocks for how in a life they keep folding, relational entanglements and relational accountabilities (an idea best-set by Shawn Wilson), brother-sister, father-son, father-daughter, aunt-niece, and grandfather-granddaughter. Sure do believe it to be true, my mother would’ve marveled.
She’d have been deeply, wrenchingly disturbed, though, by this moment. And she’d not have been complaining but acting, perhaps privately and semi-privately (not online), to sew change. I don’t mean the pandemic, though that’s brought to the fore a measure of static and gnashing, privilege and comfort hard-checked, (ever-more-distant) family members grumping and whining about mask inconvenience and how a basic do-unto-others empathetic regard, call it civility or decency or neighborliness, gets twisted social-media-megaphonic into villainy and fascism. I miss her, but I’m relieved too that (were she with us, abacus, that’d be coming up on the age of 72), she is not around to feel the anguish brought on by such selfish nonsense as has been expressed by relatives. Linda? Oh, she’d have been pissed. She’d have drawn lines. She’d have nevermind Costco Kleenex box wept. She’d have marched. She’d have taken down with force some of this bullshit y’all kinfolk are far too casually espousing. Let me be clear: I’m not saying I knew her best, but I am saying I know this much.
Brings me to another very closely related clock-fold thread, more than a mirage in remembering well my mom’s lessons and values, her priorities for parental consciousness raising, justice, awareness, and accountability to others. Recently I’ve seen some flappings-on in certain small-ish-familial circles about how unfortunate (saddening) are the removals of confederate statues, prospective renamings, and so on. I grant that phrase, “flappings-on,” implies critique. So be it. I don’t have the slightest damn to give about the swift extraction of public monuments or public memorials dedicated anyone who tolerated, promoted, abided, or was otherwise receptive to or amenable with slavery. Clear away all of that ugly and traumatizing shit. Those markers are not teaching history. They’re signaling explicitly the persistence of a dehumanizing value system–and that dehumanization disproportionately applies to some (BIPOC) and not others (white folks). So openly and uncritically sentimentalizing or reveling in public markers rooted in the subjugation of fellow humans, it expresses a reckless and unchecked obtuseness. It’s serially injurious, inscribing legacy fear, legacy pain, legacy nastiness overtly into the commons. It’s an asshole thing to do. Seriously, fuck that.
Ok. Counting to three. Gonna take a breath and try it one other way. Clockfold. It’s June 11, 2020. Murders of Black folks at the hands of police officers (Breonna Taylor, George Floyd), as well as documented lynchings (Ahmaud Arbery) have motivated and recharged civil rights activism, all for the greater good, nothing left to lose, and enough is enough. Breonna Taylor was 26; Ahmaud Arbery, 25. And George Floyd, 46, my age, also tall and a former high school tight end, a dad with a young daughter. A dad, dammit. They should be alive.
Four paragraphs ago I mentioned my son and daughter and granddaughter. There is so much more that can and should be said, that is being said, that must be deliberated over, acted upon, sorted out, made better in light of that last paragraph. But up there four paragraphs ago, where I mentioned Ph. and Is. and V., to those in my family singing woe-song about slipping handles on history due to the sociocultural eviction of atrocity memorials, I have only this scenario to offer. Bracket history for one beat to consider whether you would believe it reasonablysafe for Ph. and Is. and V. to drive together to where I live, to pay me a visit, the three of them. Consider it carefully. Their different last names. Their different races. Their unusually different ages. Ph. driving. Their navigating state highways in Ohio, especially southern Ohio, and West Virginia. Consider it. Consider why such a road trip would be terrifyingly precarious, dangerous, risky. And then mull over what you are actively doing to make it otherwise. Give it a minute. Try.
So, here’s where I’ve veered to this morning in the clock-folding. Entirely on (circular) track. I think about my mom often, especially on her deathdate, especially in this particular moment. The personal. The familial. Can’t find in all that introspective deep digging and self-awareness any fire to relate, really? Ask what it would take to make the constant threat and trauma and springloaded trigger-happy state violence–the anguish perpetuated through structural-systemic and targeted dehumanization–personal for you, for those to whom you are accountable.
I’ve continued to draw, albeit more slowly. More than five hours into this-here, Lift #23, something like a masked, anthropomorphized mandala subjected to the annoyances of serpentine figure. A dragonfly knows to conjure and contain fire. And so: Put more care into each line. Erase and redraw. Get it just right. Wabi sabi, too, though, so do not chase perfectionism. Zoom in. Make junctures that touch.
The world’s exhaust and sparks, it’s a noxious lot right now. Just gonna leave it be that. Pandemic and high amperage outrage because George Floyd should still be alive. Ahmaud Arbery should still be alive. Breonna Taylor should still be alive. Feel that heartache. Anger and outrage. Empathize. Listen. Notice those closest who can use a hand, a place to stay, a dollar, a break. Pass forward what few dollars I can spare into the relief of others’ pain. Sit, dwell on ways of sorting through all the more there is to say, all the more there is to act upon, what it will take to forge ahead. Encourage healing. At your pace. Stay focused and patient-persistent and good.
Age unknown. Sitting in a chair and thinking chrysalid thoughts. This, another in the bestiary, Glow #22.
Thinking, for example, about why should Sunday of Memorial Day weekend include an errand to Meijer where mask ignoring nimshits–a trio–followed the same storepath as me, only I was there to retrieve the dinnerthings Is. requested and they were there to loud-talk about which styrofoam cooler to buy. Grocery errand thinking.
Thinking about how President Trump played golf today even as Coronavirus deaths approach 100,000. I have no interest in golf. Too high brow. Too white. Too much money in the players’ pockets. Too groomed. Golf is not really the issue here, of course. Distracted thinking.
Thinking about Ph.’s taking up occupancy at this condo, about how the condo first rented from 2009-2012, then purchased in 2014, then roommated when I took up work at VT, becoming legally brambled, lawsuits and so on. Until now, such a soulful and safe place; a place of growth and healing, and more than anything a portal to Is., without which working in Virginia just would not be possible. Ypsilanti condominium thanking.
Three 10″ lavender pots emptied of their rootwerk and starter soil, set up in the sideyard where much of the afternoon was pruningspent on firebushes, thinning and thinning until the sun shined through, and meanwhile, what gratitude for neighborliness, in that P., former master gardener for City of Detroit (almost certainly feeling pity for the landscaping), brought over a bucket of starter groundcover, plants whose names, who even knows. Sprinkled fertilizer recommended by the clerk at the nursery who I trusted because she had many years and few fucks to give. Fertilizer thinking.
Thinking about grubs and nematodes and the buzzing pollinators at the canopy of the firebushes, and that tattoo from March, painful as it was, Lotus and the Four Pollinators, no butterfly, but there was a bat and hummingbird, a bee and a dragonfly. Can’t have everything thinking.
Thinking about why not have oatmeal for lunch and add a pinch of dried chocolate mint herb from late last summer, about how elevating though the chocolate mint was, it was enough. Sufficiency thinking.
Returning to imagefigure, thinking about whether pupae can feel when chrysalis formation begins or if instead the phenom just clicks into hardshell-coating, whether metamorphosis is sensed, where biochemically such senses might even report, but perhaps later on as memories never principally experienced. Prolly should’ve majored in biology thinking.
Age unknown. Sitting in a chair and thinking wooden thoughts. This, another in the bestiary, Blend #21.
Thinking, for example, about why should Saturday of Memorial Day weekend include a haggling phone call about writing program textbooks. Writing program thinking.
Thinking about how grieving nearly 100,000 COVID-19 fatalities is a big part of the grief–abstract and weighty–but then too there is the grieving in witnessing unimaginable callousness, an audacious and raging (and fear-driven) defiance of basic human consideration, such that social distancing can transform once-meaningful, once-recognizable designations like “uncle” or “brother” and turn them inside out, unrecognizable in values distortions. Some kind of loss is this. Some kind. What kind thinking.
Thinking chocolate is a fine treat. And spicy chocolate, finer. Chocolate thinking.
Thinking about planting more lavender tomorrow. Only, will it take and will it hold or is the soil not sandy enough, is it too dense and wet, maybe. Reverdier thinking.
Thinking about the message on the Everything Blacksburg Facebook Group, about the warning of embankment crumble near Narrows, Va., and about how US-460, eastbound, essential to the Ypsilanti-to-Blacksburg return route, may be temporarily closed. Erosion thinking. Blocked route thinking.
Thinking about deixis and the sly capacities of “temporarily.” Temporal thinking.
Thinking about how licorice spice tea becomes even more comforting, year by year, somehow. Anise thinking.
Again to imagefigure, thinking “I am not Groot. I am not Groot not at all.” Guardians of the Galaxy counter-thinking.
Thinking what kind of mandala, or is it a coronavirus model, lurks outside the window like that? Thinking, too, about Billy, the neighbor kid who in Parkville, Mo., at that townhouse we rented, used to peek into the basement window where Ph. and I were in a large, empty room, playing sockball soccer, full speed into sideways-tipped laundry basket goals, about how that had to’ve been 1999. Windowpeeper thinking.
Thinking planned and scheduled obsolescence is only getting tiresomer. Hear me, Apple. iPhone update fatigue thinking.
Tenth of May, Mother’s Day; therefore, a Mother’s Day drawing, like when I was ten, nine, eight, seven, six. I’d have drawn then for grandmothers, too. Especially noteworthy this time, this Mother’s Day, a meta-holiday (like double-rainbow) for its being the 23rd Mother’s Day since 1997. That’s the year my mom died and also the year when I was 23. As half-lives to radiation (gratitude and shout-out to Marie Curie), are HRRs to the death of parents. Maybe? (Pandemic fills us with second-thoughts…on second thought…on second thought…on second thought.) HRR radiates a couple of ways, a measure of heat, as in Heat Rate Release, a measure of heart, as in Heart Rate Recovery. Visceral equilibrations, change evens out over time, entropy and upheaval labor fatigued, grow quiet. Pain settles. Heat cools. Hearts still.
Decided naw, no need to finesse this into the bestiary series, let it be the one-off that it is, a different brush, layers, a game of forms, rotations, illusions of intergenerational-familial integration that never really were especially integrated. But my mom, she always knew that and helped me understand with okayness the kindness of a particular way–a way I’m still thankful not to have forgotten these twenty-three years since, the lastingness awesome of her parenting, such a last-lasting gift to share.
Another in a series of anothers. One more in a series of plus ones. Added to the sixteen before it, a drawing. The last? Why dither. Into the gallery, or a way of saying “art porch.” Peculiar forms cystic, yellowed diaper hooked (accidentally?), bent toe, bulbous pads where arms and legs bend, are they knees, who can say?, or are they elbows. Nice eyelashes. Nice nostril spirals. Nice lips. Nice neckfolds. Eh. Fangs and other gray teeth, patterned blemishes whose patterns because they are patterns hint at everything is as it should be, shadow cast against a brick-brushed backdrop, all at risk of meaninglessness but for the eyes fixated on what beyond the frame, but for identification, but for light, but for the quickest of knowledges synapsed and synapsing ocularly.
“The depth and complexity of human memory is staggeringly rich.”
Douglas Hofstadter, I Am A Strange Loop (2007), “Of Selves and Symbols,” p. 86
The time when I woke up tired on the last April Sunday morning during Year One of pandemic. The time I yawned over coffee and oatmeal ritual and plucked yesterday’s dried honeydew, apple spirals, and bananas soaked in lemon juice from silicone sheets to make room for something else. The time when I attempted two cracker doughs, one based on lentil sprouts and the other based on mung bean sprouts. The time when the waft of cracker doughs constituted with sprouts more than with any other ingredients and the smell’s description, what word could it be but “disappointment.” The time when there were other ingredients mixed in like oatmeal, onion powder, dill, salt, shredded coconut (lentil batch) and like white pepper, black pepper, salt, lemon juice, popcorn, and mustard (mung batch). The time when flax and chia were in both experimental doughs but those ingredients were mostly for nutrients and texture, bonding and composition and flavor, not scent.
The time when the other three trays rounding out the dehydrator–as the crackers baked (call it “dried”)–where cantaloupe and I wondered if the cantaloupe, cheap as it was for being $1.88 per unit at Kroger last Monday, was any good. The time when the cantaloupe’s hydration–its juiciness–was all wrong when cut open but then I sliced it into narrow strips and loaded it onto trays anyway. The time when the compromise on cantaloupe quality pertained only to one of the discounted cantaloupes but to the other one, actions being louder than words, you said, you’re garbage. The time when I tossed the second cantaloupe. The time when the experimental cracker doughs and cantaloupe slices dried (call it “baked”) into the afternoon. The time when I set a timer for one hour and just before the hour was up I used the pizza wheel to score the approximately square shapes of eventually crackers knowing too I could have used a butter knife. The time when as I rolled the pizza cutting tool, not having had lunch yet, what would I have?, thoughts drifted to the oddness of a world blue, more than 50,000 people dead of Coronavirus in the U.S. this month and the president’s expressions of sorrow, pain, remorse, heartache were imperceptible, or, if we’re going to be charitable, they read to me as insincere, performed, dutifully noted. The time when thousands of people died in a month and the flags stood at full mast. The time when so few people on TV seemed upset, when after scoring cracker lines, there was a moment of wondering at a heart’s generalizable capacity to know or worry or anticipate the sorrow of others.
The time when grey springtime afternoons were swiftly swallowed up by a new blog entry and some reading and a walk to campus to scan a few chapters into PDFs needed for rounding out the promotion packet. The time when, how long would it take for the crackers to be really, really crisp? The time when I skimped on yoga and did (modified) push-ups and situps instead and had a granola bar for a snack. The time when handwriting with greater swellforce than before started to matter and I downloaded iFontMaker and for $7.99 or the price of more than four iffy cantaloupes. The time when I installed iFontMaker and set mind to scrawl a handwriting character set spontaneously as if a rapid prototype blinked from so many years of muscle memory and sinew memory and bone memory and fingernail memory and lunula memory and cuticles and interstice…so many memories, more than translate but the attempt is still okay and the font better than expected so here’s to hoping the crackers will be, too.
I’ve held for what months or longer this excerpt from Ram Dass, posted at Revoked some time before they shed space suit for some alternative astral way of being around. On contentment as method:
In yoga, one of the methods is called ‘contentment’. That’s not a goal, that’s a method.
I can be content this moment, and the next moment I’m moving toward something else. When I am here I am content, when I am here I am content, when I am here I am content. So even though you are going to change something the next minute, that doesn’t mean you change it out of discontent. It changes because it changes.
Contentment as method. Contentment as above-path, quagmire hovercraft; in yoga, yes, I can find this. The good enoughness of a pose right now. The satisfieciency of this, here-now, floor and mat, gravity and breath. With contentment as method, for work (research, teaching, administrating), for non-work and all that it entails, there is in this relief from straining and striving. Go sit on a shelf, goals. Agency is fatiguing and sometimes needs quieted. Contentment says enough, have an exhale and a pause, surrender to the entropy, have a break from so much reaching.
I am teaching a research design class this semester. And too, of course, we’ve been visited by a pandemic, which has meant IRB suspensions, workaround-thinking, making do, resignation to changes that are out of our hands. We shift online. We Zoom. We grant flexibilities such that everyone can to the extent possible adapt and adjust. Lives are different from waking until sleeping again. Yoga intersperses, walking yoga, reading yoga, cooking yoga, Netflixing yoga, and relationship (the most difficult of yogas). And, too, research goes on–wondering and inquiry that sometimes involves others and sometimes involves only writing, processing, sorting things out. I’ve been thinking a lot about the friction (that edge, almost touching) between career and contentment, between inquiry and contentment, between rhetoric (as compositional, making, striving for change) and contentment. About motive(s).
Contentment as method (in yoga) risks hinting at passivity. In one way of approaching this (perhaps too difficult, perhaps needlessly difficult) pose, motive lapses, disperses. Contentment seems to abandon motive, doesn’t it? I’m not interested in sketching an argument with Ram Dass; no jousting at evacuated space suits. Where’d they go? But I am wondering about that something-more, the fire whose heat is felt in yoga as in motive as in inquiry. Contentment, too, draws on some kind of spark that is not exclusively passive. I have enough, yes, and I am enough, yes. This here-now is enough, yes. And then some–always a paradox. Even so, wonder and inquire, reach and breathe.
Contentment as method, it’s qualitatively helpful. But fire as method, too, grasps at something important about how that change happens. Not another definition of agency (we are reading about agentic shift this week, fittingly). Not necessarily fire as raging with destructive force. But a striker strip, a spark, heat and flame and combustion, immolation as method. Fire as method. What does your research turn to ash? What does your research raise up from the embers? Fire as above-path, quagmire hovercraft; in yoga, yes, I can find this. And sometimes in research. The potential and ever-rising heat of a pose right now, in spite of being human.