“What is it about? And what is it really about?”
I took an Advanced Fiction Writing class during my last semester at UIC as an undergraduate. I had a professor who asked a pair of brilliant questions that I now find myself asking in cases (relatively) unrelated to the analysis of a string of two-dimensional symbols represented visually.
For example, I think about the kinds of lives many of us (perhaps the more fortunate) lead. About the kinds of worries we stomach. About the kinds of goals we etch and sketch. About the kinds of people we sometimes are, and the kinds of people we usually want to be. So I ask.
“What is this life about?” – Me.
And, “What is this life really about?” – Others
For another example, recently my musings wandered to the cartographer’s favorite challenge, love. I think about what people feel. And how these feelings influence who we have become, who we are. I think about that idea that our language, our mind, is so desperate to breathe. I think about the kind of thing it might be, if its being can even be likened to that of a ‘thing.’ And I think about how we go about loving, about loving someone, a romantic partner, let’s say. And how I want to go about doing it. So I ask.
“What is this love about?” – The things that pull us apart.
“What is this love really about?” The things that pull us together.
I think of the rolling storms that often climate the atmosphere of a loving relationship. I wonder where they come from. How to best deal with them. How to prevent them. How to eliminate them, or at least move towards doing so. I think of the storms that come too strong. They stay too long. They feed too much; they don’t let up. And I think of two people, once closer, moving apart. To the point of rupture. Separation. Annihilation. This happens so often, too often. We struggle so mightily to stay with someone, to nurture love, to make our soul a sanctuary for it. And I think we have done that to ourselves. We exacerbate conflict. We fan the flames of the differences that agitate, bother, thoughts of irreconcilability. We dwell on the things between us, instead of dwelling in the between.
There are many reasons why we might not wish to commit to metaphysical union. But, there are really only a few reasons why we would. And I think that is no accident. The things that pull us together are infinitely more valuable. They are fixed, in a way. They are rooted to the roots of our being, expressions manifestly human. Whoever I reciprocally commit to, should I be so fortunate to have the opportunity to do so, I hope to remember to love with this in mind. I hope to defend our union by taking care of its structure, of what it is made of. One might, instead, seek to achieve protection by producing sufficiently large quantities of specifically defensive mechanisms, (metaphorically speaking, of course) like armies, navies, etc. I think to take the latter route is to make a mistake. A people should be its own defense. A Sparta, in a way, that is not a military state, but rather merely contains citizens that collectively regard as a good the ability to look after themselves and each other. When one’s union is defended as such, ‘fighting against’ fades against the magnificence of ‘fighting with.’ The shocks, the disturbances, the storms that come no longer destabilize the metaphysical solidarity. Responses to maladies are unified. The ‘struggle’ dissipates as the devotion to togetherness makes any outcome whatsoever seem trivial by comparison.