Category Archives: Soundings

On pigeonholes

Like legends, they often contain a core of truth. Some are even amusing. As the Canadian first son of an English first son of a German first son I laughed when together my wife and I coined this:

Germans are English without a sense of humor;

English are Germans without a sense of honor;

Canadians are mixed and can’t figure out what they are.

On confusion

A friend asked: “Is there ever  a time when you can look at yourself and say: ‘I know what I’m doing, and these are the reasons?'” I think the answer is “No”, but I’m always wrong. And if it’s “Yes”, how will I know I’m not still wrong? Right now, for instance, part of me says “You’ve never felt better in your life.” Another part says “You’ve never felt worse.” Part wants to curl up and hide, another wants to go out and meet life with both fists. I think there’s a third part, too, a part I have difficulty feeling, emotioning me that the thing to do is not do. Detach. Move aside. Let go. I think I’ll do that . . . . let go. Not do. Now.

On dreaming

Last night I had a dream more real than reality itself. In my dream I dreampt I was having a dream more real than reality itself. I woke from it to find myself in apparent reality. But as I began to relax, I realized with horror I was in yet another dream. Panic-stricken I turned to run god-knows-where , when the thought came to me “Oh hell, if it’s a dream just let it go.” I woke to find myself hovering, even in apparent reality, between dream and reality. It was than I realized that only by totally releasing my directing hold on my mind would I ever escape the illusion. Like the peeled=back layer of an onion the dream vanished and I awoke in a heavy, leaden reality in which I felt oppressed and tired. Better a thousand times such a reality, than the reality of illusion.

On writing

The worst thing that can happen to a writer is that his work will become required reading in a high-school English course. This automatically guarantees immediate fame and total anonymity. Everyone will know his name; no one will read his books.

On maturity

Youth is fabulous, spontaneous, generous, but not all of life. In aging we lose physical youth but gain, if we are lucky, a few compensations. One of these is the ability to appreciate a poem or a wine that youth is unable to tolerate or even understand. Some poetry, like good wine, is best left to age. The palate of youth is soft, sensitive, used only to sweets. The palate of age is duller, perhaps . . . drier, but much more used to savoring. Or perhaps it’s just that, as youth would way, we’re satisfied with less. No matter. I still love sweet sauterne and Rupert Brooke; and chuckle as I read my Auden, and drink my Pouilly Fuisse.

On universal love

It is not possible to love groups, countries, systems . . . only another person, single and alone. Only by such love is the emotion that is love revealed. And it is only in the Eden of such love that the horror of the atrocities we commit on individuals in the name of the Universal Brotherhood or Sisterhood of Love reveal themselves for what they are: the lust to dominate.

On love

Anyone capable of universal love is capable of universal destruction. Nothing is as deluding as the belief that there can exist a real love between an animate being and a general principle. There is only one kind of love that can be called by that name; the overwhelming bond of affection felt by one individual person for another individual person. All else is delusion.

On courage

It is easier to charge weaponless into the enemy’s trench, thrust forward on that fearful shaft of adrenaline, than to face the tiny, almost insignificant problems of living every day. For in that one headlong charge the die is cast, the stakes are Life and Death . . . and suddenly all is clear. In the other, nothing is clear. Not one, but hundreds of decisions are required, not once, but manyfold multiplied by thousandfold . . . and in the end, the stakes are just as high.

On honesty

Honesty is a state of mind, not an act. Truth is something else again. When a person is honest, he or she  says what is on his or her mind, what has been on it, what is likely to be on it. He or she cannot guarantee the future, but intimates it involves a sharing. When a person is truthful he or she simple says: “I do not know.” How simple it is to live: how complex to dissemble.