Thursday, March 29, 2012


from a letter to S.

Again, I’m a slow correspondent.  Some folks write fast letters and they prompt fast letters.  I prefer letters over which I can linger and come back to.  Letters that prompt a line of thought that I can enjoy following or mulling over are my favorite kind so I strongly encourage you to think, “I’ve sent a good letter because he’s having himself a right-good think over it!!”  In your favor of XXXXXXXXXXX you asked if I have or believe in arch-nemeses?   I found this a challenge because I have no enemies, they are all dead.  Ok, I’m just kidding.  I’ve only encountered a few unfortunate souls who seemed to be actively biased against me.  The first was a fellow we called Lemon Dean; "lemon" because he was so very sour in his disposition.  He didn’t like “queers” and well, we queers didn’t like him.  He snuck up behind me with a length of pipe and hit me with it.  I took it from him and wrecked his knees.  He was on scholarship and lost it since he couldn’t play sports anymore.  He led a sordid and unfulfilled life until he committed suicide.  So, the lesson is don’t hit me with a pipe.  He was a direct threat so he could be met and dealt with directly.  The kind of enemies that whisper and shoulder-gnaw and back-bite are much much harder to deal with since the opportunity to directly confront them usually never materializes and to combat them would require you to stoop to those same kind tactics and ultimately would one really want to get into that kind of sordidness?  I’ve gotten quite good at carrying on as if some folk just don’t exist.   You talk about an unwillingness to compromise yourself in order to make other folks more comfortable around you.  Your noticing this is a symptom of maturity.  I use “symptom” teasingly since a maturing of perspective is NOT a pathology.  Among the good graces of getting older is achieving perspective which is another way of saying, “wisdom.”  I think you’ll find as your perspective deepens and you become more and more yourself in your own skin that the approval or approbrium of other folks has very little to do with your personal calculus of wants and needs.  Here in my part of the United States, the blessedly not str8 folks have a saying:  “Someone has to have 3 F’s to matter:  Are they feeding you?  Are they fucking you?  Are they financing you?”  If they aren’t feeding, fucking, and financing you then they cannot matter more than someone who is providing you with your F’s so they are neither desired nor required.  It’s a brutal calculation but it’s a good place to start practicing assessing the people who are so quick and wont to offer opinions on who you are and what you are doing.  With practice, the calculus will become more nuanced, discerning, and any brutality will only be what is necessary.   we are also fond of saying, "Mama and Jesus love me, so fuck you!" to anyone trying to be hateful, unkind, or just a contrary spirit.
I loved your description of your journey from your parents to your apartment inXXX XXXXX during the rainy season…..i could picture you embarking in a journey across the Caribbean in the back of the taxi on an adventure like something from the more fantastical of Marquez or a tropical Bulgakov.    I wouldn't believe it too fantastical to hear that someone has tried to drive a car from island to island.    Your fear of drowning made me instantly think of the warning in T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” about fearing death by water.  Sometimes, my mind careens from allusion to allusion like that…I have given up trying to make sense of it long ago…now, I just wait to see where I end up on these flights of tangents and allusions.  I hope it will one day give me some insight into how memory might work.  Of course, my friends tell me I need a husband to stop my mind from running up strange trees.   I am content with my host of insanely jealous and possessive imaginary boyfriends.  They are remarkably well-behaved.   You ask if there are modes of death I fear.   Yes.   At work, I often see people lingering in tremendous pain and despair.  I also have a dread of suffocation…..drowning could fall under this but folks say drowning is a peaceful death.  I’m unsure….the lungs are full of bloody foam at the autopsy and it seems that is pretty violent.   My first research mentor in college was married to a man named Jack.  Jack was having tea with his mother one afternoon and she placed her cup on its saucer in her lap, turned, looked out the window and was simply gone in an instant.  That seems to me to be a fine way of passing:  she finished her tea, sat her cup down, looked out at the hydrangeas and roses and simply…..left.  no struggle.  No pain.  Just……gone.  In an interview featured in the documentary film The Examined Life, philosopher and theologian Dr. Cornel West asserts that to begin doing philosophy, to living the examined life, one must prepare to die.  It’s one of the true universals in our human condition. 
At the instance of your letter, you’re listening to Tori Amos.   I really enjoy her.  “Tear in Your Hand” is one of my favorites.  I’ve been listening to Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer-Anderssen) and Gotye quite a bit, lately.   I heard a fantastic recording of the late jazz singer Mel Torme’ on the National Public Radio a few days ago.  He sang his song “ A Stranger In Town.”  It was a very elegant treatise on loneliness.   Of course, I careened into thinking about the theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid’s treatment of promiscuity as praxis of a theology of hospitality.  I’m very much undecided on what I think of her particular theology.  Now, I have to share that I’ve had great fun reading Dr. Patrick Cheng’s Radical Love:  An Introduction to Queer Theology.  I went through a deeply agnostic phase but surprisingly as I became older the more I became certain there IS something…..the majority of the folk in our world yearn towards something ineffable.  I am often struck by it when I hear something transcendent, e.g., Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Jessye Norman’s interpretation of Schubert’s Four Last Songs.  Or, consider the mystery of a thought being inscribed into this paper and then in your hand you extract meaning from these ink tracks.  Also, I think whatever this ineffable something is, it is much more complicated than I could credit it when I was younger. The terribly young (and you’re still so) want nice or just-so dichotomies like Yes/No or Either/Or.   Now, I’m not so uncomfortable with “Maybe” and Both/And  I also finished a wonderfully elegant book called The Professor and The Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa.    The professor is a brilliant mathematician who, due to a traumatic brain injury, has a limited short-term memory so each morning he meets the housekeeper for the first-time.  Despite this difficulty, the professor, his housekeeper, and her young son become a family. 
Work remains a challenge.  A common theme to our conversations at work is how to find a sense of restoration.  In the hospital, you confront the worst.   One of our “old ladies” often says this kind of work will make you tired to your soul.  We’re implementing a new computer system and despite the manufacturer’s representatives telling us it will be a plug-and-play experience it has turned into quite a ball of hair.  I think it is instructive that the system was approved and purchased by people who will never use it.  I tell  myself that it is best that I don’t understand the logic of it because it would mean I was as crazy as they (the management) are…

Well, I believe I’ve sufficiently tried your eyes and your patience and will close.  I hope you and yours are all well and content.