Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Passing Through Walls

Seeing the John Foxx Quiet Man exhibit the other week had an odd effect: it seems to have stymied and silenced me. My situation isn't that of a "rocker" unplugged, connecting with his inner buttoned up alter-ego. Rather I'm fairly quiet and reserved to begin with. At times it's an effort for me to find my voice, and to sound it above the din, or beneath. I've been turning over the Quiet Man concept, worrying it unconsciously like beads. Why? I don't mean this as a criticism of Foxx or his work. He's certainly entitled to his anima (animus?). I liked the images in his film, the words he read aloud in accompaniment, his atmospheric photos, and his thoughtful manner. But the image of an empty suit, a faceless being, a formally dressed man back always turned, suggests self-willed silencing. But wait. Isn't the character of the English, an island people, self-effacing and reticent to begin with? To come of age as a working class Catholic in a post-industrial city, as Foxx did - doesn't that make one feel marginalized enough, to the point of invisibility? More universally, don't most of us walk around in our de facto space suits all the time anyway, moving through our cities, and our days, barely connecting with others if at all? Aren't we asked to be quiet, do as we're told, for most of all the days of our lives? Isn't it wonderful to express oneself, to make a joyful noise? Isn't that what the world wants more from us these days?

Well yes, and the Quiet Man is a deliberate, artistic, psychic expression of that - so I suppose my brain's turning it over like a Rubik cube because there's an inherent contradiction I'm trying to resolve, a paradox.

I woke up around four this morning and thought to look out the window to try to glimpse the Leonid meteor showers. I pulled aside the curtain, rubbed the fogged glass with my hand, and peered in the direction where the meteors were supposed to be. I stood at the window for what seemed like several minutes but was probably about one since I was getting cold and I didn't see any meteors and who knows what might be looking at me.

This morning my husband reported that he too got up in the middle of the night to look but that the southeastern sky was cloudy and he didn't see anything. "Then I tried to pass through a wall," he said.

This is a reference to The Men Who Stare at Goats, which we saw at the Fairview over the weekend, and greatly enjoyed. I have since copied down the New Earth Army prayer and pinned it to our fridge with a ladybug magnet. I love the message of the movie, explicitly permitting us think outside the box - to create. I am sensing this exhortation all over the place these days. It's like opening windows in spring to let in fresh air and light. Or waking up from a long nighmare.

In his Q&A John Foxx said that he believes that telling stories is about the most important thing we can do. Yes, more and more I believe that too. What if it's our very raison d'etre?

Yesterday as I moved around the kitchen rolling out dough and slicing apples into a bowl, I listened to Tavis Smiley and heard the actor Lance Reddick say, in a careful, measured, wondrous way, the older I get the harder I find it not to believe in the notion of parallel universes. I understood why he hesitated slightly. It's so against the grain of what we've been taught that you don't want your intuited sense to be dismissed as "crazy."

(A word I learned the other day: Perepeteia. I was watching the film, starring Anthony Hopkins and Gary Sinise, of The Human Stain, based on a novel by Philip Roth. As the Sinise character puts it, it's the moment when you realize everything you once thought or believed turns out to be wrong. We're at such a moment now, I believe. A turning point.)

(A ubiquitous TV crawl last year warned of the doomsday spectre of digital conversion and the box required if you still relied on rabbit ears. We purchased the box, hooked it up, and since the dread day of conversion? We've been treated to the delightful bouquet garni of CreateTV, including dreamy roadtrips through Spain with Gwynnie and Mario. Not the apocalypse. Cooking shows. The network's theme song? "Roam if you want to/roam around the world/roam if you want to/without wings/without wheels...")

All these connections, resonances, coincidences - if you attend to them, really pay attention, it's like "passing through walls." The walls are no longer barriers.

The other night in my dream I read words that were written on an unspooled banner that floated up before me like a message in a Magic 8-ball: "Lives are as long as dreams," it read.

I had a very strange childhood. I don't feel that I was permitted to dream for myself. My mother in particular projected her dreams, desires, and disappointments onto her children. I was supposed to fulfill her dream for me. I didn't.

For a long time I didn't know what to do. I still feel that way, though increasingly I feel myself pulled tidally in a direction that I'm no longer resisting.

What's your dream, asked a supervisor of me once, during a performance evaluation. This was on the 30-somethingth floor on Third Avenue in midtown. I don't have one, I said, though an image instantly came to mind of living in a small old house far off in the country with a loving husband, cheerful cats, books, light, music, and cozy furnishings. The supervisor looked shocked. Everyone has a dream, she said. I think that in her script the sort she meant for me to describe related to perfecting a professional skill or aspiring to managerial status. I don't, I said - or at least not one that has anything to do with Skadden. This is a good example of how Quiet Woman has had a lifelong tendency to say precisely the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. My supervisor's eyes narrowed.

Here I am upstairs in an unfinished house in the country with a formerly abandoned cat named Penelope (named after the great actress Ms. Cruz) hitting me up for a game of interspecies soccer, a glorious apple pie that I baked cooling on the kitchen counter, sun streaming in the window, and me typing away. Like Brooks Peters I too have tended to like writers named Penelope. I was astonished when within days of finding the poor young cat in a parking lot, bringing her home, and naming her, his post appeared (I wanted to leave a comment on the coincidence at the time, but couldn't figure out how to on his site.)

Sunday evening, Jerrice Baptiste, on her wonderful radio program Women of Note, played a song entitled Penelope, by Larkin Gayl. It's catchy, I instantly got it, and along with the radio I sang it to my cat. Penelope sat prim and attentive, listening in what seemed to me to be pleased and comprehending amusement.

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