Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reflections: Some Uncomfortable Truths

I continue to pick up, from time to time, Straw for the Fire, editor David Wagoner’s reassembled gleanings from the notebooks of teacher and poet, Theodore Roethke. I have quoted from this neat little book twice before, here and here. Interested persons will find the relevant links in the first of these locations.

In sections titled by Wagoner, “The Proverbs of Purgatory” (1948-49) and “I Teach Out of Love” (1949-53), I have found several more pithy quotes that I wish to highlight here.

First are two related thoughts from “Purgatory”:

1) The weapons of the weak are too violent.

We don’t need to think too hard about the geopolitical acting-out which regularly tears painful wounds in the security-hungry world we inhabit to see the truth of that statement. But the following, which I feel to be prerequisite to many instances of the emotional violence that we experience in our personal relationships with others, may be less obviously true:

2) The passive are first bewildered, then malicious.

Think only of some of the compliant, non-analytical, hyper-receptive people whom you have known over long periods of time; of how they were routinely probed, mauled, manipulated, and taken advantage of by more aggressive persons; and think of the spiteful, passive-aggressive behaviors which now manifest as delayed reactions to such shoddy treatment, once they have curled up into the spiky defensive postures from which they cannot straighten out to display the true beauty of their rightful forms. The harm we do to others!

And then there is this one:

The Devil today takes the form of noise.

Along with excessively humid heat, one of the aspects of a Midwestern summer that I find most aggravating is the constant roar of mowers, blowers, trimmers, and saws. At any given time during daylight hours, at least one nearby neighbor is doing his yard work. Then there is the jarring noise of TV commercials; the constant, arrhythmic distraction of jangling telephones; the annoyance of seemingly endless, empty collegial talk about irrelevant topics; and worse, those noisy songbirds raucously bragging about their sexual prowess at the first light of an insomniac’s desperate dawn. Satan sent those fucking birds.

Finally, from the “I Teach…” section, there is this:

That’s the horrible thing about being a genius. Everything’s so obvious.

One can only imagine.