Wednesday, March 4, 2020

“the one who can’t help it will always be mad”: Two Ivans, Our Cheevers and Ourselves


The trees of Poughkeepsie and notes in  Don Quixote.


Early in Book XV of the Second Part of Don Quixote, Tome Cecial, a neighbor of Sancho and the squire of Sansón Carrasco, poses a question to Carrasco:
“So tell me now, who’s crazier: the man whose crazy because he can’t help it or the man who chooses to be crazy?
Carrasco replies:

“The  difference between those  two madmen is that  the one who can’t help it will always be mad, and the one who chooses can  stop whenever he wants to.” (p. 549.).
Are Hamlett’s  fits an  act or was he really losing himself as events of his life spun beyond reach?
I’ve always had a hunch it was the latter, rather than the former.
Especially this these days, looking at my his life, my life.
Days of activism, teaching, kids growing up and away, spouse contending for her  own  needs, the mama bear, amongst our family, taking care of the bear cubs, fending off assaults from all sides.
Anxiety started crawling in me the week before as charges ebbed and flowed, before eventually being dropped for my misdemeanor charge for Swarm the Senate.
And then the pipeline action  Friday and then Saturday, blocking the natural gas pipeline Friday, in  which a voice inside said  not today.
Sitting there, something inside said walk.
Direct action need not necessarily mean arrest.
I walked away after the action.
We all have  our secrets  and hopes, fears and worries,  ebbing against each other and the  limits of  ourselves.
I had an image of Julian Assange, hidden away.
And this time, I said to everyone, I gotta go.
Everyone was  talking  about the virus.
Will it bring us together or tear us apart, wondered Donna in her sermon on Sunday at Judson.
I was  still thinking about dinner the night before as everyone told their immigration stories,  migrations,  quarantines, one guest was caught coming from Ecuador.
Another, Luis, watched the Cubans tell his parents they had an hour to leave,
  But his older brother could not come with them.
That was 1969.
Luis was a kid.
His older brother wouldn’t leave for another thirty days, in some ways still the 12 year old they’d left behind.
The sophies choices of our lives tear and pull.
Could any of us make them?
Nick talked about Thea’s parents, wondering if there is anything else left for them in this world after she left two years ago.
Most of us would feel the same way if we experienced the suicide of a daughter.
Why are we here and she’s gone?
What’s the point?
Its not hard to wonder. 
Donna kept on preaching.
Nobody knows.
We will reach for knowledge.
All that’s hidden will be seen.
I’m sitting by Barbara, one of the avant garde artists who were part of the old Judson movement research.
She’s not really Christian, but comes for the community of it.
Ancient Testimony, Luke 8:17:
“For there is nothing hidden that will be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”
Reveal what is hidden.
But what if we don’t know what  it is?
The kids and I ate huevos rancheros before church, reading the papers.
The panic, conflicting information about the virus  is only accelerating.
Wash your hands, eat vitamins, fist bump when you greet people.
Don’t touch.
Let our anxieties come between us.
Fears of getting hurt again.
Repulsion, desire.
Infection.
Friends favor and forget.
After Judson, I grabbed a train to Poughkeepsie to see Rob.
Watching the water on the way,
Reading more Quixote.
Wondering about what will become of us all.
A friend only in town but for so long.
We talk about the trees we see, the way they bend in the light.
The squirrels and the birds, dueling for food, the students, and stories and life here.
Turning 50, turning a new page.
When Rob moved to  New York, he was reading John  Cheever’s letters:
Cheever’s son found the stories of his bisexual father, ushered into the practice by his brother. Childhood memories are hard to shake.
Incestuous moments, unhappy ties, too much drink, Cook pauses,
I  think.
“Have you read “Goodbye My Brother?” asks Rob, referring to Cheever’s best story from the August 25, 1951 issue of the New Yorker.
It reminds me of you and your brothers.”
“Sibling rivalry and queerness,  I like  Cheever a lot more  than Updike,” I reply.
“Leslie told me to read, The Tale of How Ivan Quarreled with Ivan by Gogol.’
“Great story” says Rob, later that night on the way back to the city.
Writes Gogol:
“The room into which Ivan Ivanovich stepped was quite dark, because the shutters were closed and the sunbeam that penetrated through a hole in the shutter was broken into rainbow hues and painted upon the opposite wall a multicolored landscape of thatched roofs, trees, and clothes hanging in the yard, but all upside down. This made an uncanny twilight in the whole room.”
Looking out at the Hudson, the winter, passing Ossining, where the Cheever dwelled,
On the way back to Grand Central.
Reading away:
“No man is friend to his friend:
Their canes are turned  into lances;” writes Cervantes.
“Bedbugs  are passed from friend to friend.”
They certainly are, I think, thinking about family and friends,
The ways we drive each other to fits.
On the way home, where the fears of what was mingle with hopes for what is going to be,
And  what isn’t of those dreams for a break,
Yet, even now wounds and memories dwell.
…. burns burns burns, that ring of fire. 
We love each other and hurt each other,
Over and over, this time worse.
Losing and hurting and confiding and forgiving and aching on and on and on…
Not sure what to do or how to feel or what the answer is,
Sometimes we all lose our minds.
Shortly after turning fifty, my dad had a series of nervous breakdowns when I was living with him in high school.
After each, he’d drive in his car from Dallas to the family farm in Bridgeborough, Ga, where he could be alone for a few days, back at the scene of the crime,  where his dad beat him after  the war.
He wouldn’t call anyone, not even his brother, who endured the same even worse.
“Why didn’t you call,” asked his brother’s sister.
“I’m losing my mind,” he told  her. 
“Well, I just can’t accept that,” she replied.
“Well, I do not give a  damn,” he responded.
I always admired his candor,  but wondered what  drove him to that.
Dancing with Thanatos these days,
Thinking about Spalding’s resting spot,
 I  feel like I know.
I’m not sure if we have an answer, but maybe a replay to Cecial’s inquiry.
“the one who can’t help it will always be mad…”

So will the rest  of us. 





















































































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