To Gratefulness (first letter)


We’re spending more time together lately, but I’m having a hard time admitting it. I loathe the personal transformation hustles and their boot-strap cons, their shameless abuse of your sovereignty and denial of structural inequality, collective responsibility, etc. Some of my earliest memories are about what I didn’t have, what was withheld from me but taken for granted by others – also an urgent sense of danger and weakness in not calling this stuff out. I fell in love with revolutionary rhetoric in adolescence despite the spectacularization of each phrase and sentiment, the evacuation of context and intention, singularity, meaning, within the existing economic order: Be reasonable! Demand the impossible! Am I giving up in my old age? Am I unwittingly ageist in asking? I feel embarrassed. I’m also embarrassed about being embarrassed.
I’ve come to believe it’s OK to be with you in turmoil. I don’t have to ignore the absence of justice in the world to be your friend, unguarded and trusting, loyal. I’m never settling. Surely one can be thankful for staying hungry, being principled, for struggle. Granted, there’s another concern that emerges eventually anyway, one I’ve never wanted to deal with (at least not until I started writing these not sent letters). In embracing you and enjoying it, in articulating that pleasure, giving it voice, in describing each beautiful moment, every cherry blossom, teardrop and sunset, one risks possession by cliché, a de-politicizing deference to sentimentalism, the production of suffocating provincialisms, “self-expression” as a lobotomized, hegemonic reflex…
Here I am with you anyway, trying to think this through, thankful to discover what I don’t know, what I haven’t figured out yet, what I am feeling from moment to moment. The indulgences provided by these not sent letters are absolutely necessary. It’s not about want or desire. This is survival. You have to wrestle with poeticism to stay alive. Maybe this is a fundamental purpose of Art.
Thank goodness.