I slept 13 straight hours last night. It’s quite an accomplishment for someone who usually averages about 6 ½. After about 2 hours, I took a nap. Heal body, heal. Throughout the remaining hours of consciousness, I had this nagging mantra tapping on my back. It said, “Do not give up on one day.”
I graduated college as an English Literature major. I remember a guy saying to me, “Oh, the sell-out major of the masses.” Was it? I didn’t know that. I started out as a Russian major, a language and culture that I was obsessed with for some unknown reason since childhood. Eventually I switched to English Literature (I’ll save that story for a later time). I can still remember walking across the Quad sidewalks at the University of Illinois and asking myself, what is it you really love? What is it you really want to study? The answer was literature. I think I slid through the birth canal with a miniature book clutched in my tiny, bloody hand. I read incessantly--a practice that continues to this day—with the myopic eyesight to prove it. The innate love of the written word was further flamed by my American Literature teacher in my junior year of high school. I would go on to have her for a Rhetoric teacher my senior year—she was tough as nails, and we were terrified of her. Nevertheless, I think I learned more from Miss Driscoll, than any other teacher. From her requirement of mandatory memorization of huge passages from Shakespeare, the Declaration of Independence, and her grilling us on the most complex grammatical structures ever formulated, nothing struck my heart more deeply than when she would--almost trance-like—recite beautiful poetry. Her love of words, her care to pass them on to us--a bunch of mostly bored, horny teenager--was a gift beyond compare. Well, at least to me it was. And so in a search to return to something that I loved, I changed my course of study and went after something highly impractical and wondrously thrilling to me.
Are you still with me? There is a point. What I originally loved in high school was American Literature—Nathanial Hawthorne and all his symbolism; Emily Dickinson’s piercing observation--and specifically the “naturalist/transcendentalist” poets: Emerson and Thoreau. In college, I loved their contemporary British counterparts: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Carlyle, John Stuart Mill. I loved these creators’ views of self-reliance and hope, at least I interpreted it as such.
But what keeps running through my head now in my convalescent state is T. S. Eliot's, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I really had no great affinity to the “Modernist” poets, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. They were confusing and depressing to me at the time. Comprehension is now mine or as the saying goes, “with age comes wisdom.” At 21, with all of life in front of you, you’re not thinking about being old and having opportunities slip away (“TLSJAP.”) By midlife, you realize things didn’t go quite the way you thought they would. And in order for you to maintain your sanity and not sink into a morose land of disappointment, you’ve got to cling to what is now important to you. So, although J. Alfred Prufrock is measuring out his poor life in coffee spoons—in little pinches of not really living, but rather just barely getting by—I don’t want to do that. So dear readers, I’ve taken you through this great labyrinth of thought to say, what’s important to me is this little project I’ve set for myself, and no matter how unwell I feel, if I stop for one day, I feel I might have a loss of commitment to art, something in my life that makes it feel full like a huge coffee pot and not a tiny coffee spoon.
1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock