some ponderings regarding "a portrait"

– “It seemed strange to him at times that wisdom and understanding and knowledge were so distinct in their nature that each should be prayed for apart from the others.” (Joyce, James. “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Time Inc: New York, 1964. 163) Man, I wish I’d read this sentence in time with my thesis… I was wondering about the distinction myself. Thank you, Joyce, for proposing a similar dilemma.

– “His destiny was to be elusive of social and religious orders. The wisdom of the priest’s appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.” (Joyce 178) The idea of “his own wisdom”… very interesting concept, that for all of us, there is a personalized wisdom to seek out there (or in here *knocks skull*)

– “Words. Was it their colors? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue… No, it was not their colors: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and color? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language manycolored and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose?” (183)

I love this sentence! especially from “he drew” onwards.

– “Now, as never before, his name seemed to him a prophecy… he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. What did it mean? … a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being?” (186) Joyce sure knows how to write those epiphany moments.

This evening I was thinking about how difficult it is to keep the big picture in mind. So much of our daily lives–going to the can, eating oatmeal, running to get to the bus stop on time to get to where we’re going, fumbling a cellphone in order not to miss a phone call from a family member or friend, staying up too late because you’re trying to read and understand and gain knowledge about the current events and workings of the world–if you had the *big picture* in mind all the time, it would be incredibly difficult to do these things. At least, for me. When I proposed this to Corey, he told me that when I ask him what he’s thinking (as girlfriends tend to do to boyfriends, after long periods of silence in bed together), when he says “nothing,” he really means “everything,” or the universe (i.e. the workings of it). I told him that I found this hard to believe, “or maybe I’m just too wordly.” I dunno. Maybe I am.

It’s all about balance, I guess. I’m such an incredibly emotional roller-coaster person anyway… so much about my day-to-day life, hour-to-hour even, is about me trying (sometimes struggling) to master my emotional energies; to maintain (as my counselor at Reed once put it) a middle ground, as opposed to crazy highs and lows. Maybe that’s what I need to focus on, the “worldly” concerns of my own emotional-mental life. The rest of it just seems so big… thinking about this feels like a balloon inside my skull that is getting blown up and starts pushing up against the side of my cranium, threatening to pop.

I really like something Jess said to me once, though. She said that in all her traveling and all her experience (ha! that word, again), she felt that her own personal “self” was the greatest and most important project to work on. We can’t save the world or even sometimes solve the current problem we’re grappling with, but as human beings, we are all always works in progress, you know? I like this idea because it takes away the fear of being too self-absorbed… instead, maybe micro over macro?

anyway. I’m mailing my ballot tomorrow, and then, as my sister oh so sagely put it, “the fate of the world is in other people’s hands.” The fate of my own emotional and mental state, however… !

“Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” (281)

“reality of experience!” Whatever *that* means……. another plane ticket bought to go here, to go there? Let me know if you find out, Stephen……

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Filed under books, experience, future, pondering, thesis

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