19 January 2006

New Antiques

(To Melissa)

This class scares me because it is going to change me.

I am scared of change because lately intellectual change seems to alienate me from people that I care a lot about. It seems to give me a different language to speak and a different hierarchy of value that takes a lot of digging to understand. A lot of ideas that I just hold on to, and pull out to sound intelligent. Do any of these opinions inform my actions? Are they going to change me in an existential way or simply a shift in biases? And does it matter?

We were talking last week about intellectual furniture—the things you put in your soul house—and how comforting it is when you encounter someone who has the same furniture as you. You understand one another, you can talk without tripping, you can go on without backtracking and explaining. Recognition. Unison. And then there is room to embellish, explore, they can show you new rooms, new ideas, they can introduce the colors and the artwork, because you understand their framework.

This class is going to give me some new furniture. A few rooms worth, some end tables and lamps, some odd shelving. Most of it old, antique, forgotten by most people. I sit there dazzled, at first, and then slowly begin to wonder if all these new thoughts are just clutter.
Where will they go? Will they actually change how I live? Will deciding what I think about what conservatism ought to be and has been change how I will live today? Knowing this will make me more sure of myself, and make me more impenetrable, give me some new terms to throw into conversation, alienate me a little more.

Sometimes I am tired of being an intellectual girl, with so many deep seated opinions and such a clutter of mental furniture. There is a lot to bang your shins against, if you stumble around my head in the dark. There is a lot to either agree with or talk me out of. I am full of allusions and metaphors that mean a lot to me but don't to most people. So they divide me.

And yet, at the same time I love it. These are the thoughts that make me feel small. The edges of my world are distant, and the walls I've built for myself are thinning, evaporating. The world
feels larger today because I feel more ignorant--full of questions, full of new thoughts. My heart is full.

I wore a red hat and black boots and didn't feel the wind today (but it was blowing). I had coffee at noon and came back here feeling hungry for life and unafraid of the unexpected. Eager. Curious. Tapping my feet beneath my desk, reading my poetry textbook, distracted by my own contentment with the moment. Lighthearted enough that pausing was difficult. Such moments always feel transient.

There are a lot of people I wish I was taking through this class with me and you are one of them. We could pick over these chairs and tables together, look at the cracked vinyl and the yellowed padding that shows through, decide if they're worth keeping. What is the value of thoughts that do not translate into action? Maybe these thoughts will change me and make me act? Or maybe they will push me further away, separated by barriers of terminology.

1 comment:

melissa said...

i loved your line about antique furniture. these days i find it takes an extra amount of discipline for me to fully engage an idea of which i think i have a rudimentary understanding, especially if i have a better understanding of new ideas which relegate the older idea to near irrelevancy, a historical artifact. however, the idea of acquiring antique furniture and grasping an "antiquated" idea more fully reveals the richness one can gain, a quiet product of dedicated study. (I am thinking here of ideas that are old and somewhat tiresome-- like Hegel-- that i would rather relegate to the status of dust-collector on my shelf. however, i don't know how little i probably understand kierkegaard if i don't know his Idealist context very well).

write about what you are learning! i want to listen in. :)