Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7: My Keyhole, Edit the Universe, Kim Addonizio, "Eating Together"

Peering through my keyhole I see within the range of only about thirty percent of the light that comes from the sun; the rest is infrared and some little ultraviolet, perfectly apparent to many animals, but invisible to me.  A nightmare network of ganglia, charged and firing without my knowledge, cuts and splices what I do see, editing it for my brain.  Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain:  "This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is."

In her reflections on seeing, Annie Dillard laments all that she cannot see, all that her limited vision filters and obscures.  Trees filled with red-winged blackbirds.  Deer gliding through a copse of trees.  A bullfrog the size of a plate dozing in muddy shallows.  Somehow, the human mind edits the world, allowing us to view only what we can handle, only what is necessary.  To see everything, like a one-celled animal, like God, would be overwhelming.  Too much for our feeble brains.

I sometimes lament things I cannot see, too.  I have a writer friend whose observations continuously intrigue and confound me.  His vision is very different from my own.  Where I see a snowy field of frozen cattails, he would probably see the stubbled leg of a fallen giant.  I envy his ability to make associations like that.

Peering through my keyhole, I see what I want to see.  I try to avoid visions that frighten me.  A house that is in serious need of repair.  A daughter that is struggling with serious anxiety problems.  A job that deadens my joy.  A country run by Donald Trump.  I make choices every day, try to edit the universe to fit my definition of happiness.

Of course, I'm constantly surprised every day.  For example, I planned to finish sending out Christmas presents to distant family and friends today.  That was my plan.  I was also going to wrap up beginning-of-semester work, as well.  Those were the two big things on my to-do list.  That was my vision for today. 

Instead, I shoveled my sidewalk and driveway early this morning.  Went back to bed for a little while.  Had lunch with my wife.  Picked up my daughter at school.  Tonight, I'm going to a basketball game to watch my daughter play in the pep band.  I didn't touch the Christmas presents I wanted to mail.  I did minimal work for school.

When Dillard talks about peering through her keyhole at Tinker Creek, she's editing, as well.  Seeing only what she expects to see.  Keeping her world in a certain order.  That's what we all do.  Every day.  Yet, the universe has a way of intruding.  Forcing us to see the miraculous or mysterious or frightening.

Poets have a way of widening the keyhole.  Seeing things from a one-celled perspective.  Dinner with a friend can become something deeper, a communion with loss.

Saint Marty prefers sangria with his dinner.

Eating Together

by:  Kim Addonizio

I know my friend is going,
though she still sits there
across from me in the restaurant,
and leans over the table to dip
her bread in the oil on my plate; I know
how thick her hair used to be,
and what it takes for her to discard
her man’s cap partway through our meal,
to look straight at the young waiter
and smile when he asks
how we are liking it. She eats
as though starving—chicken, dolmata,
the buttery flakes of filo—
and what’s killing her
eats, too. I watch her lift
a glistening black olive and peel
the meat from the pit, watch
her fine long fingers, and her face,
puffy from medication. She lowers
her eyes to the food, pretending
not to know what I know. She’s going.
And we go on eating.

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