Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Apropos Reminder

Posted this originally in May of 2011; it still rings just as, if not more, true today:

Quote Of The Day: Dag Hammarskjold

"'To fail' - Are you satisfied because you have curbed and canalized the worst in you? In any human situation, it is cheating not to be, at every moment, one's best. How much more so in a position where others have faith in you" (156).

Work Cited

Hammarskjold, Dag. Markings. Trans. Leif Sjoberg and W. H. Auden. NY: Knopf, 1973.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Looking Up At The Beauty of the Bowers

Mr. Digressius doesn't have the kind of time he used to sit down today and finish this blog post. Perhaps I'll find time to revisit this and complete it:

I don’t know why Edgar Bowers isn’t more recognized as a poet. In fact, I don’t know why poets, in general, aren’t capturing the lights on Broadway advertisements and spots on reality shows instead of, respectively, synapses-lacking models and/or the Kardashians (the only reason to bring back the 80s-era phrase “gag me with a spoon”; it would be quite apropos for the Kardashians; if gagging caused viewers to be diverted from their televised shows and internet-housed exploits, it would be a boon to them; I also suspect the Kardashians have much experience with spoons; all that to say, again, that 80s euphemism for “get me away from this, because I am feeling vomitous in close proximity to it” has some slight justification for revivification). Poets deserve much more of our attention and time. Joseph Brodsky’s admonition still holds true today: “If what distinguishes us from other members of the animal kingdom is speech, then literature – and poetry, in particular, being the highest form of locution – is, to put it bluntly, the goal of our species.” People like Edgar Bowers bring us closer to the perfectibility of our race. The comments regarding the aforementioned bumpos become important when placed in close proximity. Our society devolves as it’s being entertained by weak ideas, visual gluttony, and the foolishness of treating the Kardashians’ and their ilk’s next move as if it is monumental. Watching such things, we’ll never experience the intellectual and spiritual bonfire that is, for example, Bower’s “The Virgin Mary.” That poem is the perfect setting for contemplation. And you can sit around its fire and be warmed by it for a very long time. This is the kind of thing we should choose.

But today I want to talk about two of Bower’s poems about love.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Spartan Style Serenity

This is the kind of serenity we should strive for:

"Not a man in the pass could be sure that the rest of Greece really meant to fight. And if those panicky cities on the other side of the wall did combine, what could they do against such an army? And who could be sure that these lousy Thebans (or Thespians or Locrians, according to your own nationality) really meant to fight? Only the three hundred Spartans were calm, and even cheerful. They were soldiers, and nothing but soldiers, and this was what they were for.

Xerxes pitched his tent and set up his throne. He sent forward a scout. The Spartans saw the horseman coming but ignored him. They were bathing in the sulphur springs and combing their hair."

- from William Golding's "The Hot Gates"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Driving to Eternity and Back Home Again

(Image copyright http://www.pixmule.com/-18-/2/)

Truck stops.

Truck stops are neat places.

I stop at a local truck stop every time before I go to a pleasant municipal building. I live too far outside the metropolitan area to challenge traffic buildup versus municipal building open door time. So I leave at 5:30, get to the truck stop at 6:00 or so, and wait several hours before municipal ongoings begin. And it’s not all that bad. I mean, a truck stop has almost everything one might need: showers, restrooms, all kinds of food, clothes to purchase if you need them, all kinds of implements foreign and domestic for your vehicle, internet (a great way to waste time or, if you’re so inclined, find something purposeful to do with one’s time), hats, umbrellas, movies (tons of movies; if I didn’t already have Watchmen, I would have purchased a copy from them just for the surprise of actually seeing it there), music, cups, rain jackets, gloves, shoes and boots, you can even get your oil changed. You name it, it’s almost there. (No mocha lattes, though. If you drink mocha lattes, you don’t need to be a truck driver, I guess.) I’ve heard lots of kids in the past talking about being raised in truck stops, and, well, at least your basic needs would be met, and if you had a good parent truck driver, you might just well be set.

There are some prerequisites.

You’d have to like country music. You can’t sit in a truck stop and hear much else unless you’ve brought it with you yourself and want to wear headphones while eating or waiting for someone to man the back dock or your scheduled time arrives (if the company you’re going to is like that; nothing burns a truck driver more than not being able to unload early if workers are there and no other truck is unloading or waiting to be unloaded).

You better have an appetite. Those truck driver plates are chock full. Overloaded. And you get free seconds on most meals. I could start to talk about the symbolic nature of overloaded lives and the promise of a happy stomach as a substitute for winning one’s way into a man’s heart and such, but I won’t.

You need to have an open mind for endless conversation. You do have your sullen truck drivers, but typically they talk a lot. They’re not shy and there don’t seem to be many boundaries on topics or inhibitions.

The last time I was here, I heard about a truck driver complaining about the police in Gallatin, Tennessee. I know a few policeman in Gallatin, Tennessee, so this was quite interesting for me. Evidently, if you’ve got a former drug charge that caused you some jail time, the police in Gallatin are prejudicial and come out to you with guns drawn once they run your tags or driver’s license and this old charge still comes up as unsettled. After much brouhaha, this truck driver said, “Well, take me jail if you’re going to take me to jail or let me get the &*^% on down the road so I don’t lost my job.” I feel for the guy to some degree. I know what prejudice can do and the resentment it can build If you’re not careful. Luckily, in my current situation and what it’s given rise to, I divested myself of my anger and resentment rather quickly. Living without it is awesome. I hope he finds the same peace one day.

Another joke I heard, and I won’t tell the full joke for propriety’s sake, but the punch line was enormous fun: “Grandmas’ SOS pad couldn’t get that off!” (And a woman said that one, so don’t get your head full of preordained judgments on men for all of this.)

And don’t make squirt noises with the ketchup in front of a truck driver.

Good times.

But you can also get some history lessons and political banter from truck drivers. One was talking about England being the biggest holder of our debt, and then a Canadian truck outlined ten generations of a Canadian politician. I can barely name the last seven American Presidents. These two guys went on and on to the point where they completely lost me. But they were happy, they were energetic, they knew what they were talking about, and they turned that same energy into evaluating the highway systems and the problems with them.

I also heard a truck driver this morning evaluate our education system. When a friend of his was joking with him and asked why he ever became a truck driver in the first place, his response was: “All my teachers were dumb@$$es.” I guess that says it all. I don’t believe that, but he had the whole place rolling.

Waitresses at truck stops are a unique breed, too. They’re a blend of downhome philosophies of making it through a life of low pay and hard work. And yet they’re always easy with a good joke, and they keep checking on you to see if there’s something you need.

And another bit of truck driver aura is that sexy, pre-recorded woman’s voice that announces, “Attention professional drivers: Driver 106, Shower Eight is now open. Driver 106, Shower Eight is now open.” What an invitation! Truly a moment for “Lol” if “Lol” ever meant anything.

My mother always taught me to accept people for who they are. And so this has been one more exercise in my love for her. These are good folks. The kind of folks that I wish actually made America what it is. They’re definitely what makes America run. They take great pride in the fact that nothing gets inside a store unless it’s brought there by truck. And so, in that, they find their value. I don’t. I find their value in doing the jobs no one else wants to. And from what I’ve seen of young yahoos in pinstripes and patent leather shoes who moonlight as real men wearing the most expensive sports gear on Saturdays, well, I’ll take a truck driver over them anytime. There’s a difference between the arrogance I see in the jet set and the truthful ruggedness in the oil-strained crew, even if they do come off rough around the edges even still.

Postscript: As I was about to finish typing this and wrap this post up. I heard a driver come in and sit down with such a sigh that it made me pause. It’s not the first time I’ve heard a sigh like this in here. Many of the drivers are jovial and talkative. But so many first sit down with such heavy, mountain trembling sighs, that it makes you wonder how the earth was first formed. God bless them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sisyphus Reordained, Prometheus Bound Again

Today Mr. Digressius is sitting and pondering his new much more lonely state. Having now been separated from the typical family situation (although, sadly, this kind of thing seems more typical every single day – I just found out that an acquaintance of mine, much more fiscally and professionally successful than myself is going through a divorce because he’s simply not as physically appealing as he used to be, such is the rumor) though having less time on his hands than he used to, perhaps countered by the absence of much less debilitating daily distractions, well, Mr. Digressius is simply not as time conscious and productive as he wants to be.

And he wonders if he should rededicate his life to literature or if literature may be the only force powerful enough to pull him out of all this. He’s scared of facing the printed page (the opposite of Saul Bellow’s father’s fear, the fear of an empty page, the fear of the completely original writing endeavor, a fear of creating completely, making literally something out of nothing). He’s scared of locking himself in, even though he’s truly locked in to something every day and most of the time now: it’s called work, only so much of it rewarding, especially in the face of the state of exhaustion I’m left in after it; and it goes on week after week after week after week after week after week after week . . . ) And so I ask you: Who are those glorious people who can live like this and produce creative work? And why can I not be like them? (Stephen King said his wife Tabitha would have been a published author so much more quickly had she had a mere two hours more a day to write, had she simply had less motherly duties and trailer-hold tidying duties.)

Sometimes I wonder if I can bear the burden of all I’m being made to do. I talked about Elie Wiesel at lunch today with other people. I haven’t faced that kind of horror, though I’ve faced tribulation the like of which I’ve never faced in my entire life so far. And I thought I had seen serious troubles. I’m working so much that I feel like I’m failing, and that’s simply awful, for someone to be doing and accomplishing so much and being made by circumstance to feel bad while doing it and then feel like a failure when assessing the work that’s been done.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mr. Digressius Can Be Found Here Today:


For those of you interested in the other side of Mr. Digressius, so aptly named Mr. Theologicus, you can find me here.

If I have time, I will pen something literary today. But I just might be enjoying grilled foods and firecrackers instead!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Salvific: An Obsolete Word for Something Not Obsolete At All

If you have never read Anne Lamott's introduction to Jack Erdmann's and Larry Kearney's Whiskey's Children: An Inspiring True Story of Struggle and Redemption, you should. This is the first thing I've ever read by Anne (and I'm going to use her first name, because her presentation of herself is so open and warm, that she just seems to welcome nearly instant camaraderie if not friendship, though I'm almost tempted to say she invites instant friendship did I not think friendship nearly always has to have the quality of time behind it to be the real thing), but her craft is quickly attested to by her gift with words as is her uncanny perception of cogent, powerful, foundational things. In other words, she skillfully writes toward what matters the most. Myself, I usually circle around it and hunker into it like a dog finding a comfortable place on the floor. So I appreciate a writer who gets to it.

Her admission of her own alcoholism is refreshingly disarming in an age of media-touted 15-minute All-Stars of ruined lives. She doesn't try to make her addiction something symptomatic of Hollywood- or Bestselleritis. She's letting you know there's real pain here that no royalty check washes away. It's even more refreshing that she writes the introduction as a thank you note to Jack Erdmann, who first reached out to Anne and thereby started her on her own road to recovery. This introduction is a purely thankful embrace, nothing illicit or fishnet about it.

One of the greatest promises that Anne holds out there is the idea of grace (and I'm glad to know that she is using this in a Christian context because I'm not sure that such a word can truly exist outside it; just as I would not borrow a concept of any other religion that is explicitly tied to it, and I know this will get me in hot water with some folks - though it's not as hot as another bit of water that can be mine, too, if I'm not careful - grace has to be reserved for the context it most inherently originates from). No matter our troubles, problems, or self-fueled addictions or daily enacted (thereby reinforced) predispositions, there is a way out:

"And I saw, in his life, grace made visible. It did not seem possible that this could happen for me, but he reached out his hand as he has to so many others, and brought me into that grace" (viii).

For those bothered by the Messianic description, just remember that, though we can never come close to nor (we'd be foolish and worse to think so) equal the most complete physical embodiment of grace, that is, Jesus Christ, we can nevertheless take heart in the fact that, in our own small ways, we can let Him work through us as we take on that task in our daily lives. We are nothing but conduits, but that doesn't lessen the impact that has for those that are saved or, at least, pulled from their devastation.

Anne may very well still be here and coherent enough to write to this day because of Jack Erdmann. That's a lesson in itself, because Erdmann, recovered also through grace, found a way to, thanks to and in thanks for his recovery, help others stand in a place where they could receive a salvific pass. We'll all need such a pass somewhere along the way, and it's wonderful to see Lamott, Erdmann, and Kearney passing that on.

Work Cited

Lamott, Anne. "Introduction." Whiskey's Children: An Inspiring True Story of Struggle and Redemption. Jack Erdmann and Larry Kearney. NY: Kensington, 1994. v-viii.