“. . . Before that dread apocalypse of soul.”

I may have decided in the past few days (a decision that sneaked up on me) the only way to happiness is to be a recluse. Wandering around bumping into all of you folks is too complicated. The moment I decide so-and-so is likeable enough and generous enough of spirit to trust with intimate details of my life, I discover they really don’t want to be bothered.

". . . as the thunder-roll Breaks its own cloud, . . "

“. . . as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, . . “

And, truth be known, I don’t want to bother with theirs. I want companionship, perhaps even love and sex, but I know what a bother all of that is and how much autonomy any two people have to forfeit for a modicum of closeness.

We all, I am convinced, have the same freakish intuition that whatever pleasure we obtain from being with others—especially with those who try to project their relational willingness with charm and honesty even though we know it’s a ruse—is both vaporous and dangerous.  The danger is not only psychological and/or spiritual. It’s actually physical, too. We can’t get through 24 hours without running into someone literally, making some kind of unintentional physical contact, at best bothersome and at worst (I hear it happens) deadly (especially with cars).

As Ogden Nash observed, “One would be in less danger from the wiles of the stranger if one’s own kin and kith were more fun to be with.” All sorts and conditions of men people manage to invade my space without regard for my feelings. And I theirs.

I used to pray for “all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them” (“Prayers and Thanksgivings.” Book of Common Prayer Online). I think it’s probably still a good idea to pray, if one prays at all, for all sorts and conditions of men people (the 1928 Prayer Book, published 37 years before Helen Gurley Brown took over Cosmopolitan and made the business of relationships absolutelly impossible).

But while people (I’m sure) want to invade my space, I have been known to do idiotic things when I’ve wanted to drag someone into my space—if not my life. I want my dirty socks on the floor in that pile, thank you—and I don’t give a damn if disorder like that makes your skin crawl (but I’ll pick them up for you). And I do wish you’d realize the noise generated by the stuff you watch incessantly on your big-screen TV is driving me to distraction (but, by all means, watch that football game if you like).

I’m tired of this (almost constant) sensation that you and you and you are ripping me apart and taking whatever it is of me you want without so much as a “by your leave.” Or worse, ignoring me altogether.

If a student had written all the above and I were grading it, I’d write devastating (amusing although the student would not get the joke) remarks about “voice” and “style.” Stilted and inauthentic.  I’d tell her to be direct and honest. “Hey, all you people who want me to think you love—or even like—me, stop mucking up my world for no reason. Stop invading my space and giving me nothing in return.” If that’s what the student meant.

I can’t figure out how to say what I need to say—mostly to tell myself—about the distress relationships cause me. I can’t figure out how to write about that unassuaged pain and at the same time give some indication I realize we’re all in the same boat—AND none of us can figure out how to say so. It is an absolute necessity of human existence. This pain of relatedness.

My opening sentence is not quite true. “I may have decided in the past few days (a decision that sneaked up on me) the only way to be happy is to be a recluse.”

The only way to happiness?

The only way to happiness?

Anyone who knows me knows I clearly do not believe that reclusivity (I know, it’s not in the Oxford Dictionary yet, but it will be!) would make me happy. But it couldn’t be more difficult than the uncomfortable and (more often than not) isolational patterns of my life as it is now.

Back in the day, we sophisticated moderns learned to reject almost-out-of-hand the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). She was a religio/ philosophical lightweight of a Romantic Victorian poet whose work scarcely deserved serious study. Where I learned her sonnet, “The Soul’s Expression,” I have no idea.

“The Soul’s Expression,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

With stammering lips and insufficient sound
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling interwound
And only answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height
Which step out grandly to the infinite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground.

This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it,—as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.

“This song of soul I struggle to outbear,” and I “struggle to. . .utter all myself into the air.” But, like Browning, I know that if I did, my self would be shattered as lightning and thunder shatter the clouds that produce them.

“With stammering lips and insufficient sound /I strive and struggle to deliver right/ That music of my nature,” but I know it’s impossible. I can’t communicate the impossibility of not feeling alone. My soul’s expression is as futile as Browning’s. I have no idea what her soul needed to express. I abscond with her words because I don’t have an expression of my own.

Professor M_____ at the University of Redlands 50 years ago said, in Shakespeare class, all poetry is about “kissin’ or killin’.” I think even with family, friends, and—God forbid—a lover, if I managed to “utter all myself into the air,” I would “perish there.” The struggle to stay connected, for me, is all there is. Struggle. Because at all times I feel so unfathomably alone. Even in the midst of friendship and love.

Not a religio/ philosophical lightweight of a Romantic Victorian poet

Not a religio/ philosophical lightweight of a Romantic Victorian poet

One Response to “. . . Before that dread apocalypse of soul.”

  1. Pingback: “. . . A type of that twin entity which springs From matter and light . . .” | Me, senescent

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