Lonely Impulse

One of my favorite webloggers has been very quiet and I did my usual, which was go into the comments of his last post in preparation of putting in a comment about being quiet, missing him, that sort of thing. Another had already been there, and commented the same, but what stopped me was the response. The weblogger wrote back about getting inspired of this topic or that, but asking himself was he going to a pleasant and helpful person with his writing, and upon answering himself, marked the items as read and went about doing other things.

I thought about emailing the weblogger and telling him he’s missed, and he’s cherished, and we love all his bits no matter if they were “pleasant and helpful” or “acerbic” and even more helpful. But I decided, and this is the reason I don’t name him specifically, that he has to make his own decision about the value of his weblog to himself–I have no right as reader to scold him, as if he’s withheld a lolly by not writing to his weblog. As a reader, the only right I have is to read, or not.

Being a person who also feels friendship with the weblogger, I have even fewer rights. The only right we have is to feel friendship, express it, but we can’t demand a thing in return. We may think we’ve given a precious gift, and as such the other owes us something in return. They don’t owe us a damn thing, and that makes life interesting, challenging, and sometimes, disappointing.

The greatest leap of faith is not based on how we feel about God, all apologies to Kierkegaard. It’s how we feel about one another. Those who study yoga, who sit in silent contemplation of self for hours at a time–they may think they are discovering much about themselves, but what they are doing is creating a walled garden about themselves; building barriers against the binds and ties with others; these connections that we can’t control and that can go from gentle and fulfilling companionship to wild fury in an instance–like the mustang on harness, lipping sugar from our hands one moment, demanding freedom with sinewy strength and desperation the next.

I can empathize with my friend, the weblogger. I’ve felt the last few months that much of what I’m saying seems to be counter to something, or in disagreement with someone–verbally, I’ve been drop kicking the puppies, kittens, and bunnies in our midst. And why not? They raise their butts in the air, they taunt us, demanding kicks. And when I blaze forth in words, the site seems to come alive and sparkle and we’re all engaged and everything seems to click. Most importantly, no puppy, kitten, or bunny was truly harmed in the writing of the screed. When I kick the proffered butts, I send the puppy or kitten or bunny flying higher than it would reach, sitting on the ground looking harmless. And cute. And innocuous.

When the coin of the realm is attention, we all benefit.

Nothing changes, though. I have not built anything during that time. I have not created a great work of writing or art. I have not added to my book, or worked on that new RDF application I’ve had in mind. All I’ve done is fluff what was already fluffy, and polish the shiny parts.

But the attention feels so good! What, you think that for all my talk of disdaining attention I don’t like it? We all like it. Some of us even crave it–like that horse and the sugar. We crave the feeling of connectivity–I bet even the most popular of us counts comments, feeling them, fondling them like sugar cubes in their pockets. That’s an apt analogy, too, because the attention we get is the sugar that also keeps us acquiescent and tamed to the hand.

A fortune I found in a cookie yesterday read:

Your artistic talents win the approval and applause of others.

Emily Dickinson sat at her desk in her home for decades, writing poem after poem, which she would sew into little books and then place into a chest. She asked that they be burned on her death. We, of course, betrayed her to our own good. Most of us, however, write what could be safely burned with little loss. That is our purpose: we are Not Emily. The Emilies need us Not Emily. If we were all Emily there would be no Emily.

It wasn’t just her talent that set Emily apart from other poets. Emily’s writing is unique in that her words are written in a state of being that is absolutely adrift from any other human being. She had achieved a perfect dis-connectivity in her writing. There was no desire to please, or displease in her work; there was no reaching out; no attempt to initiate emotion in others. She was both creator and consumer–the play and the audience. Her writing just was.

Emily found the same state discovered by the Irish airman in my favorite William Butler Yeats poem, An Irish Airman Forsees His Death: she had found her lonely impulse of delight.

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

Should my friend return to weblogging? Well that’s a decision he’ll have to make for himself and one with which we have no influence. I won’t lure him, though, into returning, with hints of attention and promises of continued readership and expressions of kinship. He knows I like his writing, but that may not always be. He knows I like and respect him, but people change and life goes on.

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7 Responses to Lonely Impulse

  1. Scott Reynen says:

    I imagine the duck saying “not going to look…not going to look…” in the first photo and “ooo…new shiny thing!” in the second. Also, it seems to be impossibly balancing on one leg.

  2. mcd says:

    I don’t want to be you when the yoga lobby catches wind of your thoughts…

    I have no patience for meditation… I live deep in the noisy, neurotic hell-hole called my psyche.

    It’s good to have some stuff to read here. Nice photos too.

  3. Shelley says:

    Scott, that’s it exactly. Spot on.

    mcd, thank you for the compliments on the writing and photos. I would hope the Yoga folks wouldn’t be pissed. I would expect that they’d agree with me.

  4. Karl says:

    I need to read Yeats.

  5. If I ever do decide to stop, instead of just falling out of the habit for a while, until something insists that I write it, I’m delighted and honored that I’ll have this post to come back to, to remind me that I don’t want to stop.

    I don’t tell you nearly often enough, but it’s a wonder and a joy to have you as a friend.

  6. Anne says:

    You said “nothing changes, though” but you don’t know what changes for other people when they read what you write or see what you captured with your camera. I read your post against the agile movement and felt so relieved to find that someone else had the same reaction as I did to the picture on their website. I suppose I should have commented but I’m fighting my own lonely impulse, and more, my self-protective one.

    Your photos are gorgeous. I hope you have a contract to publish a coffee table book, because I want to buy it when it comes out. I’m not big on photography, but I am beginning to appreciate it more because of you, and keep wondering how did you learn how to take such amazing pictures?

  7. Shelley says:

    Karl, I can recommend Yeats.

    Anne, thanks for your kind words–especially about the photos ;-)

    I think we have to decide that we’re here regardless of what we accomplish; otherwise, we’ll burn out, lose the joy in the effort. As you found with your own reorganization of your site, you have to find the sweet spot — where it’s more fun than tedious.

    Phil, lovely to hear from you and thank you. You are missed you know. But…your decision.

    *smile*