Wednesday, January 16, 2008

sounds kind of awful

the one thing that's been bugging me as i grow older is the desire for completion, a feeling of having succeeded. so far every taste of it has proved momentary.

for example, i felt exhilerated going up to accept a prize for a winning play, applauded by fellow theater folk. definitely could use more of that!

or making it to india. now, i thought, i've tested my travel mettle. of course, i'm dissatisfied cause i feel i could have seen and done so much more. (but the taj mahal was very grand!)

or even surgery this past week. i feel like i've done something adult, submitted to fate, accepted help (lots of it). instead of taking more pills i've headed off disaster and can pee like a two-year-old. oops, maybe that's an example of regression.

still, the nagging continues. i just read this in robert henri's book 'the art spirit':

"Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday, and the struggle is everlasting. Who am I today? What do I see today? How shall I use what I know, and how shall I avoid being a victim of what I know? Life is not repetition."

gadzooks, now that's a challenge. and a particularly american one: you can never rest on your laurels. production is a must. and you have to top what you've done before or be considered a failure. yet i've experienced people's personalities as unchanging, unless there's brain damage. we're unique, despite our desire to conform and be ordinary.

so, there is another way (and it may merely be a redefinition of henri's terms). at the very beginning of 'the tao of photography' by tom ang, the author quotes 'the tao te ching': "To follow the Way removes the need for fulfillment."


now, i've listened to the whole text of the tao at least a dozen times while on the road (stephen mitchell trans.) and yet never heard this line. even in the sixties, visiting the united nations, i wrote down taoism as my religion. how did i miss this quote? perhaps i had to be old enough to hear it.

what does it mean? that's another matter. the way i take it the great sage means that prizes, india, and surgery are simply part of the Way, that the journey is the goal. of course, if i were enlightened, every day would be different!!! i'd experience and recognize the fact no two leaves and no two snowflakes are exactly alike.

alas, i'm not enlightened and don't hope to be. the wheel keeps turning. yet, maybe, just maybe, i'll escape the nagging suspicion i've done nothing of what i wanted to do, though that's what i thought i was doing all along. for pictures of the journey. (i did invent string theory in my 20's, thinking 'everything is actually happening at once. only our consciousness is linear. but never published this, unfortunately, another escape from fame.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

surgery and haiku

ah, under the knife for the first time. quite an adventure. i feel more traumatized two days later than i did at the time.

it was sort of like reporting for duty at the coast guard, only these people were really kind. but again, to lay aside your clothes and wallet, to have a needle stuck in your vein, waiting to be moved into the operating room and reading haiku did make me feel i'd suddenly intruded on another civilization.

one thing learned, things can suddenly get very hectic. patients wheeled to and fro in different cubicles. a new voice suddenly coughing. a doctor talking with a nurse about the novels of john dos passos and the movie 'the african queen.' (this became time travel. those were part of my youth and college. alas, for most people no more.)

finally, it was my turn. three nurses and the anesthesiologist. the doctor. they all briefed me. zoom, i was in the operating room sliding onto another table. the knock-out drops entered my veins. i briefly woke with an asthma attack when they pushed a tube down my throat. but it seemed like it was all happening at a far distance. am i on tv?

things went well i'm told. my prostate now shrunken, a catheter hanging down my leg (another first. unfortunately, the next day when i pulled it out i'd forgotten some instructions. so a new one had to be put in and i'm sitting rather uncomfortably with it now. sorry, i know you don't want to know all the gory details.)

my body seems to be fighting off bronchitis, which i've all-too-often gotten this time of year. strong antibiotics seem to be holding it at bay.

a couple things: get everything you need to do pre- and post- written down. skip a step and you're in trouble. also, get up, if you can, and walk around. a visit downtown this afternoon made me feel more normal. though, i must say, as i looked at 'things' beautiful and otherwise in shopwindows, i thought, 'those are for people who have a future.'

no photographs from this experience, unfortunately. it looked too much like the movies. that said, go to for pictures of my former life. (hopefully, this is not a sex change.)
and many thanks to the doctor and all the others who helped!
surgery and haiku,
the poem that cuts
to the heart of things.