We all, even the most balanced among us, have our tendencies. I’m certainly more a dog person than a cat person, though I don’t mind cats at a healthy, non-allergy-inducing, distance. I’m also more introvert than extrovert, though by no means a recluse. Most of the time, I don’t give my tendencies a second thought. The world they steer me into seems big enough to satisfy my needs. However, there are other times, usually after an extended period of “most of the time” when this world of my tendencies is not enough, when it does not satisfy my needs, when it just down-right annoys me. These other times have consistently been my ripest moments for growth.
A couple years ago, while perusing what was then the latest issue of Poetry at Peet’s, I suddenly became aware that there were some poems in the issue that I wouldn’t read only because of how they looked on the page. I became aware that my avoidance was based on a half-conscious antipathy of which I had not, until that moment, clearly been aware. I also realized that this experience was not particular to this edition of Poetry or Poetry in general, but that I’d been avoiding certain poems in this way for a long time. When this prejudice became obvious to me, I felt inclined to do something about it. That very day, if I recall correctly, I gave myself the task of looking through other editions of Poetry, as well as other books of poetry, and deliberately choosing to read those poems for which I had earlier felt enough antipathy not to read. As I did the choosing, I became more aware of the contours of my antipathy, it no longer vaguely and blithely flew under my radar. It’s still there, but now I know it’s there.
Another tendency in me that I deliberately chose to address had to do with my consciousness more broadly. As an introvert — or so say the personality tests — I spend more time focused on the phenomena of my inner life — feelings, impulses, ideas, and such — than I do on outward sense-perceptible reality. Whereas I’m fairly deft at explaining nuances of the psyche, the details of the outer world often pass me by. For at least the past decade, I’ve tried to address this deficiency by doing various perception exercises to strengthen my ability to see what’s right in front of me. This past summer, I even worked through a chunk of Dennis Klocek’s Drawing form the Book of Nature, doing many of the drawing exercises he recommended. Recently, I’ve had some subtle experiences with observing nature that seem to indicate that my years of effort have not been completely wasted. The most compelling of these experiences happened this past January at Kirkwood, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I was up early in the morning before others had awoken and was looking out the window across the valley to a range of mountains as it was being gradually illuminated by the early morning sun. As I was admiring the view, I began to notice the blue sky, the mountain peaks, and the wind blowing horizontal plums of snow from the ridge-line taking on a quality different from normal. I had a sort of Aristotelian experience of the various conceptual elements of this vista surfacing in the appearances of their sense-perceptible counterparts. I experienced wind and snow and blue and sky as realities both conceptual and perceptual, as fully real only when both were present. The conceptual seemed actualized and concrete in the perceptual — and the vista took on more depth, though without more space, paradoxically. It didn’t feel as though I was projecting some sort of Kantian categories; it felt as though I was seeing realistically. In this blog I have frequently addressed the importance of integration on all levels for our time, to the point of even implicating my own sadly maligned colon. This experience in the mountains felt like a first little step for me in overcoming the great man-made chasm between thought and things, like a wee act of integration on a most fundamental level.
By the way, certain elements of The Freehoodship project, itself, have been designed by me in order that I might stretch the boundaries of my tendencies to point of their becoming more like universal interests. Today, more than ever, I would still rather fall short of the latter than continue as an expert at the former.