Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cool Hands and Civil Wars

‘What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.’


Communication, or the lack thereof (which, anyway, communicates something all the same), seems so much at the center of each of our posts that I figured I’d just tackle the issue head-on. I want to trace what I see as the major moments of non-communication—moments that occur no matter how honest we’re trying to be in our communication. Here’s what I see, anyway: 1) what I failed to communicate, 2) where we are failing to communicate, 3) how we want (?) to communicate (broadly).

1) I guess the thing that was initially interesting to me about the “mean girl” phenomenon is that I imagine in many instances the girl so-designated has no intention whatsoever toward the person who finds her mean—that person might not even be on her radar, or perhaps is registered as nothing more than a blip on the screen. So, one potential pitfall of communication: it is possible for communication (of a sort) to occur even when one party isn’t consciously transmitting any kind of message at all to the other. (This, especially insofar as I can shift our reading of the definition of communication to include the connecting line, passage, or opening itself—something like the communicating door between two rooms.) Is the mean girl even, really, mean?

2) Here’s the weird space of you and me. I can’t say what I want to say without saying too much. So I’m going to get weirdly cryptic here. We will communicate in code. If I say more than I should, I count on you to tell me so. Insofar as that is possible. Is that possible?

There was weirdness around our conversation about the comments. Weirdness that had nothing, I think, to do with whether this space (of the blog) was invaded, but about what we mean to each other. To what extent is my saying to you, “let’s consider opening this up,” always a statement of avoidance. I mean, I suppose, to what extent am I saying, “We can’t do this alone.” To what extent is your saying to me, “Let’s not go there,” an avoidance of a different kind? And here, I’m on much less certain ground. Because it’s you, not me, and I’m simply guessing. Or making educated guesses, I suppose. Are you saying to me, “I need the space we’re creating”—i.e. I need somewhere safe, that you are implicated in; or, are you saying to me, “I just don’t want to?” My response to you, as your friend, depends so much upon how I read that utterance. I don’t know how to read it. We talk about honesty, and nakedness, but in the last two posts we’ve both done our utmost to avoid each. Or at least I have. Maybe that’s all I’m responding to here—how my lack of directness could create such a situation.

3) (Which is really only still #2.) Truth be told, I could give a fuck about the comments. I see the value in them, but I also see the detriment, one we’ve only avoided by being so unrecognized. We’ve been lucky insofar as the people who’ve commented here share a common goal with us—things tend to get pretty ugly when that is not the case. And, as someone who has been forced to restrict her own consumption of this precise form of media because of the dire misanthropy that was growing there, I’m not persuaded that comments are a universal good. In fact, I think what we’re doing—trying to be totally naked in the context of a real conversation—is a good in and of itself. I will never begrudge a moment of this. Our conversation—no matter how influential to the outside world—has had, is having, a profound impact on my life. I am deeply grateful to you for continuing in this conversation with me. That said, we will disagree. Sometimes mildly, and informally, and sometimes with more serious repercussions. There are two poems that are very much on my mind tonight. I want to share them with you:

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind. (Anne Sexton, “Her Kind”)


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. (William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”)

Can you guess which of these speaks to our relationship? (Lest I be holding out on anyone, obviously I think the Anne Sexton poem speaks more closely to Laura and I than the other.) But, more than that, can you guess how terrified that makes me? Because I have to care about everything you say—even if it’s not what I believe. I suppose I don’t have to, really, but I do. I do. And that is terrifying, to me. I’m trying to keep my hands cool and dry, in the middle of my own private civil war. It’s not so civil, really. And, really, it’s not so private anymore.