Friday, April 01, 2005

Scutwork: Work Done by a Useless person

In Narcissus Leaves the Pool: Familiar Essays, Joseph Epstein discusses athletic coordination. In the title essay, he writes ‘. . . I saw a famous professor from the university where I teach carrying hand weights as he walked home. He was doing it in such a herky-jerky fashion that I could read in every step a boy who had never known physical grace.’ I have known physical grace. I have known deep bodily reactivity and the joy of moving. I had no such joyful reactivity of emotions. Those came in a thick volcanic flow of copious, twitching eruptions. I poured myself out to manage this flood. I call it an unholy compensation for unspeakable emptiness -- a self-wounding to feel something other than nothingness – and I call it the best I could do. Not grounded in reality, I was buried in reality’s former presentation. In my deepest self I have flailed no matter how well my body moved.

I had a nightmare about working at a new job. There was too much – too much work and herky-jerky change. I could not manage. I flailed in body and time. I once dreamed that I could fly seated on disk, dressed in a slick hooded body suit, with fingers tightly gripping the wafer under me. Without fear and with perfectly abandoned elegance, I flew over and under the telephone wires with flying neighbors, past our houses with trees and parked cars flashing below. I swooped in blissful response and exquisite control. All was physical grace and grace of deep psychic peace and harmony.

The sentences resist me like a ball of stiff, dry dough. This new writing is not planning how to live, it is living. Instead of unpredictable heaving up, I write with a new mastery of mind and page that flows like breezes and wind -- an uneven but steady process. I stab the dough with a new intention. It rises, warmed with my intrinsic worth. Resistance bends into a grace of character with an integrity all its own.

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