|Clasped Hands of Rob't and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, by Harriet Hosmer (Metropolitan Museum)|
"Connection." Caren sure nailed it today. As if reading my mind. Friday afternoon. I went straight from researching a story next to Midway Airport to a Wicker Park coffee shop, to meet an old friend I hadn't seen in years. In town, briefly. We both smiled at each other, and toed the corpse of our old friendship. But the thing never stirred. We didn't really have anything much to talk about, and then I stood up and went on my way. Maybe the problem, as Caren suggests below, is that we were never equals. That could be it. Anyway, this helped.
By Caren Jeskey
“so he said: you ain’t got no talent
if you didn’t have a face
you wouldn’t be nobody
and she said: god created heaven and earth
and all that’s Black within them
so he said: you ain’t really no hot shit
they tell me plenty sisters
take care better business than you
and she said: on the third day he made chitterlings
and all good things to eat
and said: that’s good
so he said: if the white folks hadn’t been under
yo skirt and been giving you the big play
you’d a had to come on uptown like everybody else
and she replied: then he took a big Black greasy rib
from adam and said we will call this woeman and her
name will be sapphire and she will divide into four parts
that simone may sing a song
and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
and i’ll show you a hungry person
"Poem For A Lady Whose Voice I Like," by Nikki Giovanni
“There is only connection when there is equality,” observed my British pal Pat. Yesterday morning we engaged in an enjoyable video chat with a couple of other friends. Only one other person made it past the third hour.
I finally cut myself off to write this so I can send it to Neil before too late. This way, he won’t have to pad to the computer in his socks at 3:45 a.m. — I think that’s the regular waking time for a newsman — to weed through my weekly (sometimes stream of consciousness) musings. research about the dangers of isolation, which “causes a cease in brain activity, as the stimulation of thought and action leads to the firing of more neurons in the brain. Without that, we are left with nothing but a state of stress.”
Living in solitude means one must actually leave the house to have human contact, unless you want to make your neighbors uncomfortable and overly chat to them over the fence. (Now that I’ve finally landed on my feet back home in Chicago, I’ve started dating again. I decided I want the company of a man to do the dishes with after coffee, croissants and crosswords on Sundays, before we head out to kayak and fossil hunt).
Virtual connection, a la Pat and company, is the next best thing to flesh and blood. He sat cozily in a low-backed armchair, long legs crossed in that elegant European way. A knit cap warded the cold off of his balding dome. There was give and take in the conversation, but Pat really has a voice worth listening to, both for its content as well as lyrical timbre.
He addressed a recent piece I offered here on EGD recently. On Camus, Pat said “he observed an absurdity in the human condition, but also wrote from a depressed state of mind as German tanks rolled into France.” Camus also posited that the myth of Sisyphus reveals that acceptance of the mundane nature of living "allows the sorrow and melancholy of life to become bearable," and perhaps even enjoyable. Finding intrinsic value in work itself. You probably know that this king of Greek mythology's fate, a punishment for cheating death, was to push a boulder up a mountain repeatedly, only for it to roll back down and need to be pushed up again and again, each time.
Then we laughed at Samuel Beckett’s more playful idea that one can decide the purpose of their life, and it can be absolutely anything. Waiting for Godot, perhaps.
The sun eventually set over Pat’s left shoulder through sheer lace curtains. “Is that the sun setting? Or a streetlight?” I asked. “It is the sun.” He sat up straighter and chuckled gleefully. “A reflection on the window across the street,” a phenomena of physics adding a bit of joy to his dusk.
Another Zoom friend mostly listened but then piped up to offer up a song suggestion, Sunshine on Laith. I found the Scottish Proclaimer's song on Apple Music and offered it to them via nifty little vibrating oscillator circuits embedded my bluetooth speaker. We all swayed along, eyes closed, and took it in. A Standing Bear protest poster hanging on another friend’s wall prompted Pat to request Buffy Sainte-Marie. We all sat back and contemplated her deep voice singing "Now That The Buffalo Is Gone."
I envisioned Pat in his UK town down the road from Roman ruins, and again realized how young we are in the U.S. An adolescent mess these days, it seems. Pat conjured up the image of a wagon wheel to remind us that all roads lead to Rome. This picture created an instant sense of connection with the rest of the world. Someone then chimed in that the Earth is not, in fact, round, but an oblate spheroid.
It’s comforting to know how little I know. Sometimes I can be just one of the gang, keeping each other company. Equals sharing ideas.