Monday, March 12, 2012

Ennervation Never Knows

"I can endure my own despair,
But not another's hope." -- William Walsh

The child skins its knee, and the pain is the worst of its life. It moans and keens with all of its mind at the unending and raging pain. The adult cuts itself with a knife while doing a routinely dangerous task, sucks air between its teeth, curses, sends reason to caution the primitive mind, invokes time's wisdom to know that all pains end, rushes to find unguents, wraps the wound, closes its eyes in mastery, and controls the impulse of pain. The older person's night time undressing reveals wounds along the legs, dried blood smears like comet tails from punctures on the forearm or thigh, and fear, a dull fear, comes up, and the older person asks itself when these damages happened, which enemies had struck during the night, and how unprotected it is against the environment, and then its reason and sense of time, stronger now than the senses of touch, say that such things are predictable and inconsequential.

The teenaged boy jostles its friends. They slam dance to socialize, because the little demons that inhabit them will not allow stillness, and looking one another in the eye would be faggy, and they rate women. The most imaginary flaw could cause emesis or impotence, they claim. Else nothing could stop their mighty virility from accomplishing its mission, but they would demand that the waif lose weight and the buxom woman get enhanced.
Their oppositely arrayed army mourn the imperfection of all the boys and perfection of all the imaginary men. Those who breathe are vile, and those who shimmer on screens or reflect from pages have every desire locked inside them. These here are immature -- a just complaint if ever there were one -- but those. . . those understand. Those are prettier, kinder, and listen.

The older person fails to notice. The mate, even the child, was a formula solved some time earlier. Since that time it has remained an integer of certain quantity and an attribute of certain quality. Only the things that are jarring, disagreeable, unsolved show up, and these as things that will not rest, will not allow the natural process to go its way. The woman cannot believe that the man isn't taking things seriously, as he is happy all the time, which means that he is indifferent, and the man cannot believe that the woman can never be satisfied, as things are not in crisis, and they have both formed conclusions. It is now just a matter of time between fights and resolution.

Sorry about that. Rather grand sounding, isn't it? After all, it is the way of us to be fresh and then grow stale, to lose connection to our sense of each thing as time goes on. People speak of the senses growing dull. Ears, eyes, tongue -- each has its own diminishing returns. However, there is also a simple process of ennervation, whereby the nerves running to these senses decrease and our ability to feel decreases. Ennervation is aging, and all of our awareness follows the pattern of the physical.
"I've got a wild man wizard, and he's hiding in me.
Illuminating my mind." -- Harry Chapin, "Taxi."
In youth, a fantasy strikes, and it fills up the horizon, fills in the holes of the heart left by disappointment in strength, attention, love, accomplishment. In youth, we can devote days to exploring our other selves: the knights, the shield maidens, the saviors of D-cup desperate women wearing thin their leather bikinis, the neglected beauty of the realm of power discovered by the lovely man, the radioactive scientist, the battle hardened soldier of either sex, the gang star, the respected woman who wins all she desires by her fire-hardened femininity and toughness, the cowboy, the Indian, and we can write it out in dreams -- visual, poetic, waking, sleeping, and prose.
"Julie Daydreaming," by Berthe Morisot
  As adults, we toy with our psychic familiars, pulling them from the closet in times of stress, embarrassed to be seen in public with them. Older still, we cannot capture even a half hour of what was once whole days of fascination, and we have no patience for reading or seeing another person's dreams realized. 'Oh, that fantasy book series is treacle for teenagers,' or 'That series on HBO is some middle aged guy's fantasy life; whoopee for him,' we say. The truth is that we feel guilty looking in at what we had.
I do not mean to complain of time's many gifts.
"Death and the Girl," Ego Schiele, 1915

 Our greatest desire, when young, and we do not know it, is to be free of the "insane and furious master" lashing us (Republic 329), lust. Our greatest desire as adults is to cease being the half-persons that everyone since Aristophanes has said is the way of sex (Aristophanes says, in Symposium that we were one ball, and we were trying to be gods, so Zeus split us in half, into male and female, and now we spend all our lives trying to reunite). In age, we can call on lust unreliably, but it's there, and the raging fire becomes a steady flame.

When young, a disappointment leaves us screaming our nights away as surely as the scraped knee left us howling as toddlers. Anger goes to destruction. We wish we could escape our own ability to feel so deeply. Time takes care of that, at least for a while.
By practice and discipline, we can tame the winds of youth. There is less to help us feel again when the nerves no longer connect. And, at last, when they reach no farther than the mind itself, there is no place for feeling to go but to the mind itself, and we go back again to our impulse, desire, and wish.

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