I think this evening of limited selflessness. In particular, I think of the concept of "give and take".
I find myself attracted to pondering the contractual nature of things. A dear friend of mine always hunts for ways to "even the score". By constitution, this friend dislikes emotional debt. He never wishes to receive more than he gave. He lacks any obsession or compulsion about it. But he works to even up scales whenever he found such a levelling appropriate.
Today I went for a business breakfast. I rarely do those unless I travel outside this area. A fellow I know referred to me two other fellows who work complementary businesses to my own. We determined to link up for a breakfast, something I virtually never do. I usually feast on raisin bran and non-fat milk in the comfort of my own home.
I digress for a moment to provide what the "How to Write a Mystery Novel" folks refer to as "believable setting". Because we scheduled our meeting for the town of McKinney, a town I know well but do not visit at dawn, I got on the internet to find us a cafe. It turns out, of course, that a website called Mrbreakfast.com recommended a McKinney cafe, with a user review of the coveted "five cups". We elected to meet at the recommended place, titled euphoniously "Bill Smith's Cafe".
When I used to practice in Los Angeles, a business lunch with a client involved tables and chairs selected by decorators coupled with art and wall decor chosen by designers. The menu featured types of lettuce as unknown to my childhood as the 18,000 year old islander variant species of human just uncovered by science, as well as pastas both unique and ineffable. The wait staff always looked like wait staff from Melrose Place, while people dipped exotic breads into olive oil. By the way, I find olive oil a disconcerting alternative to bare bread (my favorite), margarine or honey.
Bill Smith's Cafe failed to resemble Melrose Place in any particular. Located on a busy street, its old-Texas-twang accenture provides an oasis for those who like their eggs scrambled and for the waitresses to call them honey without lascivious intention. Because my guests arrived later than I arrived, and stood beside their English automobile awaiting me after I went into the restaurant, I took the time to peruse the menu at length. I report that every combination of bacon, ham, sausage, eggs and pancake
sum up Bill Smith's mode of existence.
I ordered something I went for years without eating--hot oatmeal. They brought it to me with a little
margarine cup of brown sugar and an orange juice glass of milk. I found the meal quite satisfying, no doubt making me an affable "breakfast with new business acquaintance" fellow indeed.
My new friends picked up the tab for the stunning 4 or so dollars worth of food I ate. This felt natural and normal, as I planned to pick up the tab but for their quick-handedness. It's just a part of the common covenant of a business.
I think of the various covenants one makes. One promises by contract to pay for a house or apartment. One promises fidelity to a spouse or lover. One promises to tel lthe whole truth and nothing but the truth under oath.
I think also of the more intricate interweaving of promises, as in a friendship or a marriage. I discuss now the promises other than the "big picture" promises. I mean instead the promises which I find
indispensable and yet indefinable.
I traditionally fail to worry about the uneven nature of friedships. I regularly give more than I get.
I sometimes take more than I give. I like that parable in the Bible about how a widow giving up her last "mite" shows more faith than rich folks putting in a small portion of their all. I refuse to equate myself with the widow, but sometimes I feel I lack more than a small bit of genuine outflow to give.
I note that I think about being more compassionate, but fails to be as compassionate as I imagine myself capable of becoming. Thus, I feel no "higher ground" from which to pontificate about friends extending themselves more to me, nor any "lower ground" in which I worry about friends giving me far too much.
I fall in the "just right porridge" category, assuming that brown sugar remains available for the porridge.
I worry sometimes, though, that I fail to tell people of my regard for them. My point deviates from the traditional infatuation/crush/adulation/respect paradigms. I mean something simpler--I think that I fail to reach out as well to other people as possible.
I notice, too, that affirmation from others by and large proves less important to me than to other people I know. Yet a contra-indication exists to this "rule". I find that although I by and large do not need affirmation, I enjoy it. Its absence makes me wonder whether I live in a "real" notion of the way things work, or in a faux prison of my own making. I joust, sometimes, with opposing counsel, though such jousting telephonically falls short of my ten favorite things to do list. I dislike the idea that
I tilt at windmills when I strive to make friends.
I keep very few close friends in my real life. I like my friends, but I do better in small circles of friends than with the distressing dynamics of too many friends. My drama reside primarily inside my head, and rarely move out onto the streets and dwell among men.
I like the thrill of interaction. I wrote a long post in this journal about a poetry workshop that helped me define my theory of poetry. It took place in Summer 1980 in London. The group practiced a common covenant, as holy as communion, as sacrosanct as a benediction. The covenant required three things of its promisor--a deep attention to the poem being read, a deep attempt to appreciate the poem, and a deep commitment to make comments drawn from the ambience of the poem rather some pat, divisive critique of the poem.
My theory provides that communication of ideas matters more than sorting out brass from dross. Dross impedes ideas, but such things amount to just mud near a diamond. A diamond never attracts mud, you know. The diamond floats through the mud, unsullied, to the surface. Then you find it on a plowed field and pick it up and name it Star of Gurdon. The diamond shines through, sometimes, even if mud plagues everything. Curiously, a certain quantity of mud proves essential to the volcanic pipe.
I love the truisms. "Never a borrower nor a lender be". "Better to give than to receive". Now that I think about it, some debtors failed to repay long-ago debts, the "loan me a twenty" debts. I let the mild resentment go as I type. I never want to become a calculator of physical and emotional debts, otherwise one opens a bank or a therarpy center.
So many things in life go unrepaid, and, in fact, "repayment" proves a vulgar and unsuitable model for the evaluation of relationships of most kinds outside business. Yet I notice that one lives, in part, to learn how to relate to people. Part of the magic resides in learning to relate to others day to day.
The interchange of ideas and feelings involves an element of exchange.
I think that the puritanical model falls short not because its goal of finding ways to relate to life other than the purely hedonistic always fail, but because the puritan/slut dichotomy fails to absorb the nuance of the cultivated virtues. The virtue achieved arises not from some mystical, physical power of sensation. The virtue achieved in moderation arises instead only from the potential to recognize intimacies of the mind, and to reject the notion that only physical satiation provides a road to intimacy.
I digress slightly when I point out that the two or three most "liberated" people I know in terms of relationship(s) being "open" also prove to be the most insecure people I know in situations of intimacy. I set this forth as anything but an absolute. Such matters vary widely by individual, and widely by cultural upbringing. But the "virtue" in defining intimacy other than in purely physical terms arises, it seems to me, not from the miracle of abstinence in and of itself, but from the possibility for interconnections surpassing merely the fevered moment at hand. Indeed, old-fashioned "vice", "virtue", and "sin" all seem to me to run the risk of capturing one on a cycle not conducive to finding compassion. More mundanely, everyone spends so much time on something that so often is one facet only of life.
So if one recognizes that one relates to at most only a relative handful of people (granted, in Wilt Chamberlain's situation, a huge handful) in ways arising from romance or physical desire,then one realizes that an intimacy of the mind remains the only mode one uses to relate to most people.
Leaving all the theory behind for a moment, though, I find that although I demand nothing like appreciation for any effort I employ to build connections, I find that silence causes me to question
whether the effort to be friendly merited being undertaken at all. Self-sacrifice proves well and good.
But unwelcome self-sacrifice burdens all involved.
I think if I find anything damnable, though, it's my inner desire, usually repressed, to be "liked".
I think liberation from this feeling a hoped-for future path. Until that time, though, I find myself with the measuring cups "Is silence an indicator of withdrawal?", "should I do more (less)?". "The world revolves around me, I know it revolves around me". The navel looks far too charming to get the blame for such self-indulgence.
That holy book features a parable about having a party, and nobody comes. So you go out into the street, and ask people to come, and they say "busy day today". So you just go and get whoever proves available, and they can eat the special smoked turkey legs from Burge's smokehouse in Lewisville, Arkansas. Life surprises you, sometimes. You invest in the mutual fund of what you believe to be a worthy investment indeed, but returns prove middling. A lottery ticket you buy at the donut shop scratches off to a big winner. You think "I deserve less than this", but for once, you get more than you deserve.
But in the moment, waiting, you have that thought--"should I do more?" "should I do less?" "watch this world revolve around me". But I also feel that anxiety--that small feeling that one's confident hopes proved vainglorious self-congratulations. I want to put my mite into the collection plate, but
I fear so often nobody collects.
This shows the virtue of the simple things in some ways. A great spouse, two loving pets, a job unfettered by excessive stress or bosses of any kind. But sometimes I think about being liked a bit more, or actually being a bit better. I remember the first time I painted a model I built with glue and such. A hot rod with a monster in the driver's seat, I splattered the paint wrong and made a mess. I cried and raged about it. I rarely cry or rage now about such trivialities. But I feel, sometimes, that frustration, that one really tried, and yet the paint fails to stay between the lines. Sometimes you wonder if you ever painted anything at all. I dislike breaking my tradition of "being above the fray" of friendship give and take. But I feel myself still a pugilist, boxing for interconnection.