I seek an answer in the shadow of these years spent wandering and lost; in crumpled notebook pages that mark a trail of desperation and precocious notions, sex-crazed teenage dreams stained with cigarette ash and the half-mad scrawl of an anguished and lonely soul wanting only to belong to something worth belonging to, something real. I see behind these quaint reminders that the poet I have become has been now thirty years in the making — even at nine years old there were signs of a kind of infectious madness. Believe me, I have dissected my own work over the years with a sharper scalpel that any high-priced psychiatrist could possibly envision.
There is something that draws me to this earlier incarnation. Something that is antithetical to that which can be defined as an American experience. The experience garnered by growing up in America. That experience is the preponderence of ambition and the absolute lack of lofty ambition.
To give oneself without question or pause to a life of the mind, in a nation that worships the life of the body, to produce, to commerce, to practicality. That is the madness that I see forming in myself at an early age. The curse of having read, by the time I was 12, of the history of the entire world without having the limiting prejudice of American interests being of foremost importance. To wonder, at age 10 or so, what the Native Americans really thought of Columbus, echoed perhaps by Flip Wilson’s line “and the Indians paid not much attention to Chris and his boatload of Spaniards, being busy celebrating ‘Not Having Been Discovered Yet’ day…”
I search the landscape of the American mind, and I find no great philosophy to unify the innermost spiritual quest of mankind, but rather Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney — inventors of practicum to make this world, not the next, the happy hunting ground.
And I wonder about Thomas Jefferson. The line “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” Certainly, it can be intepreted to mean that all humans are created, that is conceived in the same manner — in fact, in the exact manner of any of the mammalian species — by the coupling of a male and female of that same species for the purpose of generating offspring. In that sense, yes, they are created equal. Yet, beyond that simple act of conception, there is no real equality. And it is not that act that gives life — as there are obvious and numerous examples of human coitus that do not result in fertilization. Life is something else altogether; not bestowed by human parents, but rather by a cooperative massing of the energy of the universe into a particular manifestation. Once that manifestation announces itself vocally, it is indeed for the intents and purposes of reincarnation, alive. At any time prior it could, with the cooperation of universal energies beyond the scope of human manipulation, cancel its current mission and await a more fortuitous venture. But that is another point, altogether. As Krishna said to Arjuna at a critical juncture, when Arjuna was bewailing his required task of slaughtering countless relations and other worthy soldiers … you can no more in reality end their lives than you can create them anew. True life and death are beyond your control; you are merely an agent for forces outside your mortal comprehension. But back to the creation of equals. Certainly, in the studies of genetics that have been pursued since the time of Jefferson, it is clear that the concept of equality at creation is slightly in error. Genetics give one a stooped back, receding hairline, penchance for physicality, prediliction for speech, brain size shape and characteristics. Certainly creation as equals requires equals as parents. But that is another story.
Enough of this for now. I will return to this theme later.