Abr 6, 2006

Duty

I met with one of the most extraordinary phenomena that I ever saw, or heard of: - Mr. Sellers has in his yard a large Newfoundland dog, and an old raven. They have fallen deeply in love with each other, and never desire to be apart. The bird has learned the bark of the dog, so that few can distinguish them. She is inconsolable when he goes out; and, if he stays out a day or two, she will get up all the bones and scraps she can, and hoard them for him till he comes back.

John Wesley
Diary entry
April 5, 1790


I said that you should have written something like this yesterday, then some greater achievement. But "there were obligations." Obligation! How much have you given to that word? And what drives them mad is when they come too close to you and they see that you would give so much more. Heights always involve vertigo.

You argued: astronauts? They do not do heights, I answered. All the training, the great physical and mental conditioning, all this was meant to take the sense of height out of the body. The man on the moon stares at the walled earth with a feeling of wonder, not with vomit souring his nerves. Where there is no vertigo there is no true perception of height.

You asked if I also feel vertigo around you. I said no, not anymore. Not that I have generated comparable heights (also: abyss). Maybe I am rendered immune by constant exposure? As when I say your name so many times that I forget your face.

You asked if I think low of you now. Not low, just lower than before. It does not have to be a sad thing. Maybe, I am just waiting for depths (or towers) you have yet to show. Or I'm not waiting, and I'm happy I do not need to wait.

What if there were no greater pits, no higher ground? You asked. No vertigo then, I answered, no madness. Could you survive this? A love without madness?

Some more talk - this and that - and we took our different paths to act upon our lives: you entirely involved, I with my eye on you as I do my work.

Obligations. You could have said, "there were things in the way," or the more trendy "there's stuff." You did not have to say or write another word. You act, and in our social class, that must be the greater achievement. I write about you, moving. I write in the shadow of your movement. Either all I write about is your shadow or all my writing is your shadow. When I write about you, I feel like I am moving, like I am part of the dance.

You always assure me that I am. You even tell me that the dance would not be possible without me, because if you stopped and thought about work, the work would not have been done. You even stress my role, how the need for reflection cannot ever be gainsaid. This assurance may be what keeps my madness at bay.

"Dance" is too good a word for obligation, I thought at last, after our parting. You would show me with the unwitting brilliance of your everyday practice that dance was never a word.

When you dance, I forget your name.