There is a pattern of build-up, climax and relief, a sense of what's next. These are found in the world I create as much as the plot that is developed. This is especially true due to the multiple-genre format to my autobiography. No matter how meaningful, how accidental, how significant or insignificant my story is, I can not help but be concerned with the literary. In fact, my guess is that most people never write their story because they are beaten by the literary.
The literary dimension is simply too much for them. They really prefer gardening, or reading, or sewing or one of a thousand things. They are beaten, too, by the idiosyncratic, by the endless sense of life being in transition. Life, too, as we get older, gets longer, bigger, deeper, thicker and, thus, harder to put down.
It seems to elude logical meaning, directionality, obvious and unquestioned improvement. It's all too complex, too beyond definition and the simple story. I used to think, for example, that I was a pretty good guy, one of the better human beings around the place. I was much more blinded to my sins. When I said the Long Obligatory Prayer and I came to the part toward the end where it says "my back is bowed by the burden of my sins" I had trouble thinking what my sins were. Now, though, that I have lived fifty more years since memorizing the LOP in my late teens, and now that I have collected so many sins of mission and commission I have no trouble saying this prayer and finding in myself, in this part of the prayer, a personal burden for the host of sins in many categories of human experience.
Perhaps those who have no sense of sequence or a sequel beyond find the whole idea of writing their story depressing. It is not conclusion; it is continuity. The neat chapters in my life, even my view of the afterlife, are culture-bound and held together by a sub-culture, the sub-culture of my religious beliefs, attitudes and values. Everything collapses into the act of producing the text. That which does not collapse, does not find a place and is left in the home of the nameless and traceless, an oblivion which the world will never locate.
One of the main features of this autobiography, indeed most autobiographies if not all, is narrative and identity. Both narrative and identity are at the core of any coherence that this writing possesses. Peter Brooks, a psychoanalytically oriented literary theorist, puts this concept, this idea, as follows: Mens sana in fabula sana: mental health is a coherent life story, neurosis is faulty narrative. Continuity, in my opinion, is at the centre of coherence. It is one form of coherence and the one that is specifically related to my narrative since it operates in time. Time is unquestionably a basic constituent of narrative.
Continuity is a chronological linkage between the main three temporal dimensions in which we all operate: past, present, and future.
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In some ways this is only stating the obvious. But it is this linkage, characteristic of both stories and narrative identity, that is destabilized by illnesses.
And it is the implicit or explicit assumption of continuity that underlies the experience of disruption as one of the traumatic aspects of illness. In this autobiography, in my own life story, disruption by illness certainly destabilized my life on several major and a multitude of minor occasions. Other major and minor disruptions, and tangents, also occur in this story. They represent a critical core, a certain literary style, in this narrative. Readers will find these tragedies and these turning points occurring here as they do in different ways in all our lives. These disruptions often make one feel a little like those Heraclitans of old who believed one could never step into the same river twice, so profound were the changes that take place in our lives.
In the several periods I have had of lived chaos my reflections have also been chaotic and consequently any story-telling I might engage in confused, if not impossible. Telling this story and even more so writing it, as I am now doing, is a way of taking control, creating order, thus keeping chaos at bay.
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Perhaps disruption,then,is more the rule than the exception. Sometimes narrative can present the burning process of life in too clean a fashion and the transformation that has taken place as too complete. Such an approach to narrative can implicitly deprecate those who fail to rise out of their own ashes. Often, too, we rise out of our own ashes, but descend in some of the quieter, silent moments of despair and anguish and that sense of transformation which we went through evaporates.
The phoenix has risen but just as quickly it descends and wonders if it has ever enjoyed any fight at all. Fragmentation settles in for a moment, a few minutes, an hour, a day. My defense of, my brief reference to, fragmentation is at least partly motivated by the desire to legitimate and respect its reality in my life. Whether my construction of continuity or transformation is an attempt to control the anxiety of disruption, indeed, the several questions bound up with this discussion, I leave these provocative notes with readers to chew over.
One thing that I have found difficult to insert, include, add to this narrative is the whole conception of place. It is important to me in my understanding of the culture, the many cultures I have been a part of. Place is intensely personal but it is also a neutral category that helps in a curious way to define who I am. The link between place and myself, though, is complex. The houses I have lived in and the places I have worked in, the houses, halls and dozens and dozens of spots I have visited, drunk tea in, chatted to people in are all part of the landscape of my life, making my consciousness strangely horizontal.
Section 4: Little did I know, indeed it was impossible for me to imagine, when my homefront pioneering life was in its early stages in the mids, that I would come to live in 37 houses in the years, the half century, from to Many of these houses, homes, are virtually meaningless to me now or, to put it more accurately, my memory can hardly bring some of them back into focus. In other ways, some of these houses seem to serve as starting points, as mnemonic devices, from which I aimed to get somewhere, to travel somewhere, do something.
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For movement has always provided for me a sense of difference between the past and the present. Really, it is impossible for me to even imagine this story without a base, a foundation, in place, in location, in landscape, in land, in the world and its several continents. Much of this experience, indeed most of it in more than forty years of pioneering, was not unlike that which characterized the experience of those in small settlements in North America or Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were morally demanding; there were constraints on individualism.
There was always the capacity to move elsewhere. This latter fact promoted the extension of the Cause even further. Mark Twain has sometimes been considered the first great American traveller. As far back as , at the age of 18, his travelling began.
His was not the safe and secure, the comfortable and easy; he seemed hell-bent on seeking out the dangerous and the difficult. This is what makes a journey; this is what a journey means. So it was to Twain and so it has been to millions of travellers. In our age of the fast track and the fast lane often the traveler is suspended in an airplane as in a space capsule; he or she neither ages nor remembers.
Life starts again on arrival. Torpor, stupor, listlessness, lethargy is often associated with travel-the long trip in the car, the train, the plane. Then there are the forms of disequilibrium: seasickness, nausea, bad headaches, temporal dislocation and spacial disorientation, lost time, other time. Twain seeks out the dislocations and tells readers about them in fine detail.
Space and time are liquid, sometimes blurred or warped or distended. For when we travel we are experiencing a ride of passage. Perhaps, like Twain, that is what we want when we travel.
There is nothing surprising about humans seeking encounters with what seems threatening to their comfort, pleasure, and safety. What might be slightly more strange is our refusal to acknowledge that odd--but important--behavior. It's a title that indicates that he never arrived and never returned, that he engaged in a continuous passage.
That continuous passage, a characteristic he largely shared with Henry Miller, allowed readers to see the three characteristics of passage: danger, trance, and failure, in all of his travels. Incessant movement through incessant dangers, in a dream-like trance and lost to the activities of home are the themes of much of Bowles' writing.
And all of this is a means to an end writes Bowles. It's going "there" and being "there" for which we quite strongly show our need, our craving. It's a craving for the new, for fresh experiences that break or extend our notions of ourselves and our fellow humans as well as our world. It is a notion that begins while we are at home and functions to take us into some other space or place.
We all do. I think that is true of some of us, but not all—and it depends on what time in our lifespan. It was true of my desires for adventure and change back in the early decades of my life, early in my pioneering life. But after 40 years of it, say, to , I yearned for the familiar and the same, the routine and the comfortable.
Adventure was something I came to prefer in my mind, as long as my body did not have to go anywhere. Even here, though, the course of true love, of one's true desires and wants for physical movement and adventure of stasis, never do run totally smooth, as Lysander is want to say in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The only child that I was back in the s, that child of middle aged parents who amused himself by himself, that learned to be alone so much of the time without anxiety and with only his mother around the house is now, half a century later, doing the same thing, amusing himself by himself. All these factors I could apply to my life, especially as I have approached the middle years of late adulthood Writers, generally, come from the middle class, where privacy is more easily obtainable and where solidarity with friends and neighbours is not so stringently demanded or desired. In addition, and finally on this note of the solitary, one's relationship with the divine and happiness itself is often easier to achieve outside of human relationships.
This has certainly been true of my life now that I am in my sixties, but I dwell on this topic in many places in this length y work. There are myths surrounding both and I'm sure future historians will excavate the current historical sites and reveal any inaccurate and distorted representations of the actual situation The various people mentioned in my text are infinitely more complex than those who appear in novels.
If I had the skill I might create these complexities for people to enjoy in fiction form. I could define them, analyse them and give them depth and texture.