the captain’s block: words of introduction on a 9th

Today is a 9th. It is the 9th of a September. It is a good day. It is a good day for starting this thing, for letting it become whatever it will be. It is, as it is, an appropriate start.

By way of introduction, I must offer a confession. This project is a revival, a retrieval of a sorts, of something I’ve either lost or buried along a way. It is, it will be, for the most part, occasional observations and bits of something like a dialogue. I imagine something like vignettes appearing here, something like those monologues that happen in dialogues that last into the morning. I do not know who will be my interlocutors. I do and do not care. I have a lack of such conversations in my life these days, and this is perhaps an attempt to address this lack, to offer to a silence monologues from myself desiring dialogue with who would respond.

Communion is and is not lacking. More often, the communicants are elsewhere. Lord, have mercy. I know I have been elsewhere far too long, or at least far too frequently. Wherever there are others, there is the opportunity—the imperative, even—for sacrifice. Like all others, I have little to offer but myself. Like all others, I have nothing greater to offer than myself. But this is exactly the problem: the draw, even the desire to sacrifice at times overwhelms the call to love. I have been more willing than ready to sacrifice myself and, as a result, what looked to me like love has often been the very opposite: fear. The fear of being left alone, the paralysis of the ego striving for happiness rather than excellence, for fruit rather than cultivation, for a future rather than the present. Pretending at love, I have refused love, have lived—and in many moments I still live—in a sort of fear. I play dead. Perhaps we all do. I play dead, sacrificed, as though to force all passers-by to something like pity. I hate being pitied. I loath it. When what looks like virtue shows itself as vice, what happens?

Humility is a vacant thing unless practiced. Humility that is not practiced is only pride that just happens to not be self-aggrandizing. Oh, I think little of myself well and often enough, but I think this usually at the expense of thinking of others. What I thought was humility, meekness, readiness to self-sacrifice, love, what I thought was these was only the fruit of an ego caught in its desperate desire to stand above all others and the no less desperate desire to not be alone. Lord, have mercy.

These things and more I have done. I have not learned. I am learning. I have heard it said that you’ve only fully learned something if you can teach it. Can I teach you myself?

 

A Captain’s Block.

This project is nearly two years old, nearly two years old but only born today. All this time I have been perhaps pregnant with it. I don’t know. It is different now. We all are. Two years ago on October 27th we left Hillsdale, Michigan for Seattle, Washington, the three of us did. Two of us are here still. The third is teaching overseas. Home has and has not happened here. Love has and has not happened here. Hope has and has not happened here. Communion has and has not happened here. I have been terribly absent for most of the last two years. I have been present sometimes, yes, but usually only briefly. There was a period of about four months earlier this year when I was quite present. No, it was more like three months, if I’m honest. I started to go away again around mid-April. The earlier part of the year happiness happened quite a lot and I forgot about the past and future, remembered often that they are not the present moment. There were times earlier this year when I was happy, happy like I was on the best of nights at the Donnybrook. There were times between then and now when I was rather miserable, miserable like I’ve not been since the aftermath of the night at the Tower and that time when I agreed whole-heartedly with Sartre. Hell is other people. Things are stabilized by now. It is the 9th again. It is a good day. I am beginning. Some days that is all that’s needed for happiness and love and hope to manifest.

The project as it was originally intended had in mind the record of a ship’s captain. The captain’s log. I named my car, a 2006 Ford Taurus, The Ship of Fools when I bought it just before being received into the Orthodox Church in 2014, in reference to the poem Atlantis by W.H. Auden. Needless to say, Seattle has not been Atlantis. It has however, sometimes, been home. The title also has in mind that ever so obnoxious mood that strikes writers from time to time. The writers’ block. So I called this “The Captain’s Block.”

The definite article bothers me. I wish it said “A Captain’s Block.” Why so? Because I am not the Captain anymore than you are. I am a Captain. It is a thing.

This is becoming an embellished sort of introduction. Forgive my taking of your time. I should not expect you to die for me. That expectation is ruinous. I will not expect it in the future. Only I will hope for it. Perhaps then there will be something like love. In any case, I mean to write here with some frequency in hopes of entering into what conversations I have yet to respect with a response. These are monologues in that late night dialogue we are having. I’ll try not to be too longwinded. I don’t want to own this conversation. I have taken too much already.

 

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