Friday, June 19, 2009

from the age of genius

I don't normally read the New Yorker with pen in hand, but last week's issue contained a piece by David Grossman entitled "The Age of Genius" on Bruno Schulz, a Polish Jewish writer who was shot by an S.S. officer in the streets of the Drohobycz ghetto in 1942, that required note taking. Some of Grossman's passages describing Schulz's writing are so poignant and profound I'm determined to read both writers. Last week our dear neighbor's and friends were harshly yanked from their idyllic dreams of summer with the news their ten year old daughter has an advanced brain tumor. We are all standing vigil in love and prayer as we approach surgery next Tuesday. It doesn't take such circumstances for the excerpts below to ring loud and ring true. In fact, I hope it doesn't.

"Reading his works made me realize that, in our day-to-day routines, we feel our lives most when they are running out: as we age, as we lose our physical abilities, our health, and, of course, family members and friends who are important to us. Then we pause for a moment, sink into ourselves, and feel: here was something, and now it is gone. It will not return. And it may be that we understand it, truly and deeply, only when it is lost."

"The Age of Genius was for Schultz an age driven by the faith that life could be created over and over again through the power of the imagination and passion and love, the faith that despair had not yet overruled any of these forces, that we had not yet been eaten away by our own cynicism and nihilism. The Age of Genius was for Schultz a period of perfect childhood, feral and filled with light, which even if it lasted for only a brief moment in a person's life would be missed for the rest of his years."

"In "See Under: Love," I struggled to bring to life, if only for a few pages, the Age of Genius, as Schulz had suggested it in his writings. I wrote about an age in which every person is an artist, and each human life is unique and treasured. An age in which we adults feel unbearable pain over our fossilized childhoods, and a sudden urge to dissolve the crust that has congealed around us. An age in which everyone understands that killing a person destroys a singular work of art, which can never be replicated."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can't get there from here

During the years I lived in Boston I occasionally wandered up the coast from Massachusetts to Maine, stopping at picturesque villages, artist colonies and fishing towns along the way, finally reaching the rugged coast near Bar Harbor which remains, after many years and many vistas, just about my favorite spot on earth. Atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, I had a 360 degree view of surrounding hills and numerous inlets, lit pink and silver at sunset, and a prime seat from which to watch the first rays of the sun kiss the shores of North America each morning. Once in awhile I managed to hear snatches of an unadulterated Maine accent and learned what every local knows: "You cahn't get theyah from heeah."
That phrase has stuck with me for the last two decades, popping up like a cartoon bubble in circumstances ranging from getting lost in a city to offering relationship advice to a friend. Currently, it's taunting me as I ponder the divide between the two halves of my brain. I've been exiled in the left brain for so long I've been granted permanent resident status and my right brain no longer recognizes my passport. Tabula rasa, blinking [?] screen, a shaken etch-a-sketch. I am swept of ideas.
Recently, I heard Terry Gross interview Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, who after a stroke was marooned in the right side of her brain. She describes in her new book, A Stroke of Insight, the euphoria and connectedness she experienced while her left brain was defunct. She didn't know where she ended and the wall began. She had no edges. She was totally in the moment. Because the experience was so blissful, she almost couldn't tear herself away from the experience long enough to dial 911. After 8 years of effort she retrained her left brain and regained its capabilities. Had her stroke happened in a different part of the brain, as it has with other people, she might have been stuck on the left side with no right brain function where compositions are reduced to their parts such that one cannot hear a song but only the noises of each separate instrument. One can recognize details but not see the big picture.
Taylor has learned to remain in that state of connectedness despite the fact her left brain is back on board, aware she can navigate a path of synthesis between brain hemispheres and retain her euphoria.
Which, it appears, I cannot. If you have some Evel Kneivel type solution for getting to the other side, please forward. It's really boring over here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Click to watch the TV spots!

Within 24 hrs. Samantha "graduated" from elementary school (complete with gowns and surprise guest Carl Edwards making a few remarks at the ceremony!), turned 11 and had her first commercial go on air. Her little sister finished third grade and stars with her in the spots for Big Surf. Click the link above to see my stars.