Ruminating on Robert Frost

May 25, 2012 at 12:09 am (Uncategorized)

I think that it is in my nature to enjoy beginnings, and dislike endings. I would  venture that a lot of people out there feel the same way I do on this matter. Not everyone…sometimes people are afraid of new things, and others can’t wait to wait to throw things away just to be done–though that necessitates a beginning, doesn’t it? It’s all a construction of the mind, then, beginnings and endings. Sometimes we feel as though we’ve turned the page to a new chapter in our personal novels, but it’s a false reality. Your novel, your reality, is just a footnote in the large tissue paper bible or dictionary that is everything. It doesn’t make what you are or have any less beautiful, but it does require that you, or I, or any individual are not the center of everything else. In the moment we rarely are looking at big picture, though. I know of some people who would be bothered by this notion, as if being infinitesimal somehow diminishes your existence. The spectacular part of life is this phenomenon of interdependent co-arising; that nothing can happen without you, and you cannot happen without everything else. We’re all tied together in a giant web of existence. It’s not a philosophy (though choosing to think and act upon that reality might have repercussions in how you see the world), it’s just how things are. In the larger sense, anyway. As I mentioned, though, this isn’t the picture we usually choose to see. It isn’t the picture I tend to choose to dwell on, even though I acknowledge that it’s there.

What I’m trying to get at is that there aren’t really beginnings or endings. That they do not doesn’t mean that we don’t choose to perceive them, though. And man, I love beginnings. They’re so raw, so exciting, so pregnant with possibilities. I have my head in the clouds at times, and at the beginning of something (a new job, a new location, a new relationship) I feel as though I can see all the possibilities ahead, the exciting peaks of joy I will soon be experiencing. Firsts are beautiful things in their ways, because I think we tend to stay in the moment for them. We aren’t living in something else, because we’re too busy just doing it. With my recent breakup and with this new job working on some of the legislative campaigns up here I feel as though I might be on the verge of having all those wonderful beginning feelings again.

The flip side of that is that you need endings before you can have beginnings. I’ve mentioned it before but breaking up kind of sucks, especially when it wasn’t the outcome you were hoping for. I don’t really want someone new, but eventually I’m sure I’ll find someone else and it will be wonderful. Or it won’t. But being an optimistic I have a hard time convincing myself of the latter possibility. With this new job I’m excited to be working in the political field and actually be getting paid for it while making more money than I was in retail. I also worry about money at times, and whether I should be more frugal or make different money choices, or whatever the case may be. It’s natural to worry, but I’m just ending what I’ve known for a while now to pursue something different and there is a little part of me that fears change. It is overwhelmed most of the time by the side of me that is exhilarated by the fresh and the new, but that voice of fear is a persistent little bugger.

I think one of the things I’m trying to get better at, and the thing I have seen many of my peers struggle with is that fear. Of beginnings, of change, but especially of failure. It can paralyze you. Going out on a limb, being creative, striving to do something different—those are all virtues we pay lip service to, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road often we take the safe way out. I know I’ve done it many times. I would rather do something unspectacular than take a chance on something special and make a mistake. You’ll never hit a home run if you never swing for the fences.

I’m not exactly sure how I was indoctrinated into this culture of fear. It’s just always been there. I can remember, in first grade, how we were talking about the Galapagos Islands. And I loved animals. LOVED them. I would read books about them and incessantly watch the discovery channel (this was before they branched off into reality TV) and obsess about dinosaurs and things that lived in the rainforests. We did a unit on butterflies, where we had caterpillars in our class in a terrarium and they ate leaves and then built cocoons, and then one day in the spring they started climbing out and turning into butterflies….it was the coolest thing. We also, right before I moved to Camas, went out into the San Juan Islands as a field trip on this whale watching trip, and the orcas swam up close to the boat and it was spectacular. Anyway, we were talking about the Galapagos. Which I happened to be well informed on as a precocious albeit slightly arrogant 8 year old. So my teacher starts talking about sea tortoises and I feel the need to raise my hand and explain that there is no such thing as a sea tortoise, that there are sea turtles and tortoises are land animals (yes, I was that kid). My teacher turned to me and told me that I was wrong, that there were sea tortoises, and to sit down and be quiet. I was mortified! I couldn’t believe that I had been so sure. So at some point before that the fear of being wrong had been instilled in me, because it embarrassed me to such a point that whenever I thought to correct someone in a position of authority for the duration of my academic career I thought about that moment. I still think about it. Never mind the fact that I probably caused my teacher some level of embarrassment in correcting her as an 1st grader who I have no doubt in her mind shouldn’t be correcting someone with a college degree (though I have friends who are Ed majors, I know what you’ve done!).

I do take some small solace in the fact that etymologically speaking I was right. How do you like them apples, Ms. Ratske? 

 

Let me finish with one of my favorite quotes of all time:

“You’re searching, Joe, for things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings. Ends and beginnings — there are no such things. There are only middles.” -Robert Frost

 

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