Sunday, March 16, 2008


Crushing news. I'll not be working in the fall. I didn't get the job.

"What must we do?" asked Billy Kwan, quoting Tolstoy (who in turn was quoting the Gospel) in Peter Weir’s film “The Year of Living Dangerously.”

John Dewey writes in Art as Experience that an injured organism may retreat into itself, may accept defeat and withdraw from external contact. I imagine a snail curling inside his shell. But Dewey saw another course: the creature may react to irritation by expanding into new territory. What he apparently means is a life-affirming adaptation, not merely lashing out but creative engagement with the world. This is the rhythm of the aesthetic experience couched in terms of an animal’s interacting with an environment which both nourishes and injures. He describes an alternation of undergoing and doing – suffering and acting.

Today, I’m rather like a snail.

One should never wallow in self pity. While preparing to write a review of a folk art exhibit some years back, I came upon an interview with the Mississippi Delta bluesman Son Thomas. Thomas was never a great financial success. Several versions of the story I remember from that interview are out there, but the version I recall was that his family was so poor when he was a kid they sent him to live with his uncle, a one-armed grave digger. They'd sit on the porch from time to time, broke, no groceries in the pantry, no work. "Don't fret, Son," his uncle would say. "The Lord will provide."

A desperately impoverished, African American, one-armed grave digger in Leland, MS before the Civil Rights era -- that's a man with trouble. I'm just looking at a lot more free time come the end of August.

Even if I do feel like a snail right now.

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