Monday, January 13, 2020

Damaged and Misidentified

With respect to dinner the other night, nobody said grace, and those of us waiting to begin fell behind.

Maybe the moral is if you're hungry, don't wait to eat. Or: if you want a little prayer, then pray a little prayer.

Either way I was sick for days after.

Writing clearly intimates not giving up reading on Johnstone, so I go back to Johnstone and carefully read fifteen or so more pages. Are we actors? Are we co-creating narrative? Is it a question of understanding method?

Many teachers get improvisers to work in conflict because conflict is interesting but we don't actually need to teach competitive behavior; the students will already be expert at it, and it's important that we don't exploit the actors' conflicts. Even in what seems to be a tremendous argument, the actors should still be cooperating . . . (Impro 93).

Early January has been a difficult time for years now. I'm not teaching, the writing is not satisfying, reading is not challenging (but see the previous few paragraphs and some recent observations on this site). It's like coming face to face with a toothy demon but declining to be its dinner. "Look, I'm not going to exile you and I'm happy to talk about what you'd like to talk about but no more swallowing me whole, okay?"

Well, a certain gift for taking care of one's own needs has not exactly been unwelcome over the years. Yet loneliness is neither a worthy destination nor an effective way to travel. I mean, yeah, I'm folded into the shape of an apple under quilts writing writing that somebody somewhere's going to read, but . . .

But what?

Two or three days ago when I actually applied for another job it was like falling headfirst into a grave that had been dug for another man. I felt doomed and damaged and misidentified. The tendency in a hole is to cry out for help but if you don't want to be a bother (or don't trust who might show up to "help") then sooner or later you just start digging. Do what where you find yourself does? I don't want to quit teaching but it's fair to say in certain ways I never really started. You get dizzy staring up too long at the light. I seem to remember remembering that.

Johnstone argues there's an answer to this particular quandary but for the life of me I can't work it out (work it in?). He's using a vocabulary that doesn't frame a familiar dilemma, yet the vocabulary itself is not alien. If you don't exile the demon, and you decline to be its food, then the demon has to collaborate with you, is that it?

Well, one writes in order to see what if anything might help. Bring on whatever hurts? There are no promises, and the prayers often fall in love with their prayerfulness. A mirror is useless if all it shows is what it loves to look at. What I said was okay is not okay but it's not okay to take it back. I see that now.

And I'm not sorry. And whatever's next can just damn well come. Imagine Hansel griping that he needs more time to think, and Gretel fretting nearby, as yet unaware that she can think for herself, and a big wind beginning high up in the sky above them.

Sean: it's not a demon, it's a witch. And you're not hungry, you're supper.

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