Saturday, February 11, 2017

"But this is human life..."

A friend just wrote me about how he'd been able through a kind of self-talk of reassurance truly to take the heat out of a recurring anxiety yesterday -- which intrigued me enough to write this back:

That seems very advanced to me. That you can assuage that kind of reflexive fear thru self-talk, 'reasonableness'. Although I surely do the same thing when I'm anxious, I don't know how effective it ever is. It's an odd business really. Because anxiety (which seems so dire! really sets itself up as a terror about whether you'll be able to 'go on' or not - therefore usually about money, for me) would appear to be so ghastly an attack, its capacity to rile may have other uses. Donna sometimes likens it to the phenomenon of ponds turning themselves over for no 'reason' - just because it's the nature of ponds to turn themselves over. (I'm surely not describing it well.) I wonder if a lot of what we not unreasonably 'hate' in these internal turnings-over is something the whole system of us in a sense loves, or anyway must have, or anyway WILL have. That sharp sweet Keatsian phrase to which I turn all the time - "to makes us feel existence": perhaps we really MUST feel it, "or else." "Or else" may have a biological as well as existential (what's the difference?) function. Is it possible to temper anything, really? Effectively, yes (sometimes), it would seem: but then we get to that conundrum of free will again. I don't feel like a puppet of whatever is manipulating me into me exactly: but rather perhaps like a puppet colluding with the 'puppeteer' so interchangeably they amount to a single business. I think I've just (again!) described why I can't write anything like self-help books anymore.

“But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are still the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence, and to shew
How quiet death is.”

Keats, Endymion
damn that touches the pulse. "and to shew/ How quiet death is." I always forget that coda, but talk about reassuring self-talk: for me anyway, that last line DOES quiet me down. So maybe language can after all assuage. If it carries sufficiently particular 'tone.' (Henry James.) Or shudderingly startles you awake. (Emily Dickinson.)

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