Thursday, October 11, 2007

We've Got So Many Issues, We Need a Magazine Rack

The title is cited from a high school classmate, though I'm sure she took it from somewhere herself. Not to mention, she was referring at the time to Juno in The Aeneid. Such is life.

I've recently concluded that abandonment issues, as a general rule, are stupid. People who claim to have them, and I've certainly been among those people in my time, make the claim as if it were somehow unique, or as if some of the ludicrous behavior that often results were excusable based on the uniqueness or importance or controlling interest of the issues. Somewhere near the end of college, my friend Maddy said to me what would have been obvious to anyone not attached to suffering: "Well, yeah, we've all got 'em, I mean we come out of the womb and we're dependent." That's not exactly what she said—I wish I could quote directly here, as I often can, but it's not happening—but it's the gist of it. Which is to say, abandonment issues are several miles from unique. In Maddy's most practical assessment (which I recognize is itself not unique, but it was the first time anyone had said it to me), abandonment issues are universal.

And we all know how I feel about that word. But if abandonment issues are indeed biological at the level postulated above, it's one of the very, very, very few things in the world for which the word can be reasonably and fairly used.

What crosses my mind is that it's their very universality that makes them stupid, and by stupid in this context I believe I mean negligible. If, indeed, we all have the same abandonment issues, and they all spring from the same fundamental, inevitable source (true inevitability may in fact be as rare as true universality, though calling something inevitable doesn't make me nearly as angry), then it is so relevant, so omnipresent, as to be irrelevant. It strikes me as along the lines of, say, blinking, that only its absence could have any significance, and its absence is likely to involve serious, probably harmful choices that one has made a little too deliberately, while its presence doesn't involve any choices at all, but it is approximately as ridiculous to construct decisions in one's life based upon abandonment issues as it is to make such decisions based upon blinking. It's the same reason I'm impatient with such notions as "our common humanity." It is so bottom a bottom line as to be useful for very little besides walking on.

That, in itself, may in fact resolve my conflict with regards to the word "universal." If what I'm saying here indeed makes sense, I don't need to fight with "universal" anymore. (To be fair, what I'm fighting with is its common usage, not the word in itself; Peter Brook cites Luis Valdez as saying, "'Universal' does not mean pretending to be like everyone else. 'Universal' simply means related to the universe," and if everyone used it like that I would probably be well-contented.) Anything that we so inevitably have in common, in constancy, is so all-encompassing as to be useless to explore. There's nothing to explore, because you can't possibly find anything new about it. If we're to look for true human links, and create from them true systemic changes (I'm assuming by now that we're confident that's what we want), we will gain the most traction from approaching things that can be changed, places where there are differences and choices.

Of course, I cannot but discover the fallacy in there: we certainly can't make changes without being aware of, and somewhat in communication with, the inevitables, the universals. No matter how smart we are, no matter how brilliant the choices we make and the systems we develop, we're still going to have abandonment issues. And they will always make some sense; that is to say, it will always be possible that someone you trust could leave with a piece of you at any time, and though slightly more outlandish it will always be possible that you could be the only person left on earth (or in a room, or in a building, or on a beach, or in a city, whatever works). What I intend to say, then, is while that knowledge is itself useful, it then becomes equally true that you can't make any progress with them alone. They're not useful to fight, because they are so universal that you cannot get rid of them; they are not useful weapons or vehicles, because they are so universal that you cannot change them. Again, we do need bottom lines to walk on, but the point is to be building things on and around and above them; we cannot dig through them and we cannot get below. As long as we know that, it's okay, even productive. We have better things to do with our materials.

Speaking of better things to do with my materials, I ought to be writing a grant application right now, while awaiting the arrival of my houseguests for the weekend. But that thought has been germinating for a while, and the time had come to give it a bit of space.


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