Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, November 24, 2006

No thanks

I wrote a rather curmudgeon-y post about things I didn't like about Thanksgiving. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to post it. It seems heretical, almost sinful, to show anything other than genuine thanks on this day. I could get cranky about the usual shortcomings -- extravagance, materialism, veniality, shallowness -- but what do I really achieve? Carping shrinks the soul.

Upon further reflection, I realized that my rant was just symptomatic of holiday depression. There's nothing like a big conspicuous celebration of abundance to make you aware of unhappiness. Not the unhappiness of deprivation -- "boo hoo, everyone else has something to be thankful for, but not me." I mean the unhappiness of abundance: "O my God, I have everything you could possibly want in life, and yet I still feel like I'm missing something."

I don't know if this is merely par-for-the-course existential awareness, or something significant in me. I am a big believer in the spirituality of gratitude; I have a plaque with the Chinese character for "gratitude" in my office. And yet this is one of the days where I can count on being glum for no good reason.

I have a dog, Max, who was very submissively high-strung when he was a pup. I think he must have routinely been pushed out of the feed-bowl or something, when he had no home, because he found it almost impossible to relax with something good. If we gave him a rawhide chew, he would just hold it in his mouth, hiding in his crate and whimpering. It tortured him to have something simple and good, because he was sure it would be taken away from him at any moment. Sometimes I think I'm like Max: consciousness of my blessings becomes a curse, because it only increases anxiety of immanent loss. It's easy to see the self-inflicted neuroticism in the dog; much less so in oneself.

It's not enough to have a lot; it's not even enough to have enough. The only peace to be had is when you feel perfectly content with nothing at all.

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