Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Into the stream

It is impossible to remove oneself from the past. This is so whether one wishes to do so or not. Eventually we are drawn into the stream of detail that has made us what we are. As Goldie Hawn (playing the aging, alcoholic actress) quipped in the movie "The First Wives Club" to Bette Midler (playing the frumpy Jewish mother), "Your life, it's so...real!" The reality of the lives of the characters catches up with all of them. As in the movie, the result is often perfectly happy but we frequently find ourselves resisting the flow.

What it is about our individual reality that makes it harsh to absorb is open to endless psychological analysis.  Barring the experts, the reason is usually evident. Reality can be akin to a putrid contaminant - at least in the sense that it is unmistakeable. Few if any of us are adept at dismissing or disguising the truth. Scratches and tears must be confessed.

The good news is that the patina of life affords its own beauty. Though as late as 1933 "patina" came to imply the notion of refinement and sophistication (like the smell of money or good breeding), the word derives from Latin "patina" meaning shallow pan, from the Greek "patane" "plate, dish" from the root "pete" "to spread". The word was the ancient denotation of a film or encrustation (say of bronze) which ornamented oxidized metal. Likewise our private nature and experiences will insinuate our performance in the end.

One of the sharpest realities is that of family. Acquainting oneself with information about family is trying not necessarily because it is unpalatable but because it instinctively commands one's attention and involvement. There are few imperatives more compelling than family. And if you're honest about it, the details are normally about as "real" as those of Bette Midler in the movie. Confronting those realities tends to minimize the authenticity of all else. Once we proceed to slip into the stream of life - the real stream - things move along rather swiftly. Whether the focus is upon one's family or oneself, the motion and commotion are the same.

There is a tendency to mischaracterize certain realities, an unfortunate perversion prompted by a misunderstanding of the elements of life. To imagine that life is as categorical and comprehensible as we might prefer for whatever reason is just further evidence of the contaminating patina. We mustn't ignore that the source of what manifests itself lies beneath the surface. Superficial beauty can sometimes be mere insulation. Getting into the mix is the surest path to exploration of what abounds. That means going with the flow - very often an option which many are unwilling to choose.

Would that life were as simple as paddling the stream!  The vehicle and direction of one's voyage is seldom purely individual. Many of us long ago capitulated to society, religion and politics. Perceiving those powers as strictly evolutionary is a mistake. What however is equally true is that most of us have within us a burgeoning desire to express ourselves - and there is only one way to do that. Like the writer finding his or her "voice", the undertaking isn't always an easy one.

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