Friday, October 30, 2015

Esthetic revelation


The girls are down for a nap and I have a moment.

What will I do with my moment to make it a MOMENT?

First I will read. I pick up Elizabeth Bishop's “PROSE”

and turn at random to a letter in the middle and read,

“I’ve always thought one of the most extraordinary insights

into the ‘sea’ is Rimbaud’s L’eternite: ‘C’est la mer allee,

Avec le soleil.’.” Wala!  I don’t read French, but I do know this 

line in translation and even used it as an opening 

quote of a poem written for my daughters, plucked 

it out of a New Yorker article on Rimbaud in translation:

“I have seen it. What? Eternity. It is the sun matched by the sea.”

(The word “plucked” by the way I use here because I just read 

Nicholson Baker’s meditative novel on rhyme,  “The Anthologist” 

wherein he points out that “carpe diem” correctly translated is “pluck” 

the day, not “seize,” a notable distinction. “Seize” would be “cape.”)  

I kept reading the Bishop, my interest piqued by the Rimbaud. She 

writes “This approximates what I think is called the ‘anesthetic revelation’.

(William James?).” I was intrigued and did a google search 

for “anesthetic revelation.” I arrived at a wikipedia page not for William James 

but for one Benjamin Paul Blood, a 19th century character. I read,

“After experiencing the anesthetic nitrous oxide during a dental operation, 

Blood concluded that the gas had opened his mind to new ideas 

and continued experimenting with it. In 1874, he published 

The Anesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy.”

(The first time I had nitrous oxide at the dentist I experienced this,

a rushing backward away from all current reality into somewhere

other, I want to say nether, and was filled with a bright euphoria

so intense that when the assistant took off the mask I took her 

and kissed her, passionately. Oddly, she kissed me back, as if

swept up in my ecstacy.  Reality quickly came back to me

and I acted as if nothing happened and, funny enough, so did she.)

The Wiki article also pointed out that Blood admits never lifting a finger

in anger and that his entire life had been fun. Fantastic.

Finally I read that Blood also patented a successful swathing reaper. What? 

I had a moment of recognition, a super-recognition.  A revelation

(perhaps more esthetic than anesthetic) wallops me between the eyes. 

First I have to back up and tell you that there is another Adam DeGraff.

If you google me, you’ll probably get him. He’s a virtuoso violin player

who’s YouTube video of himself playing “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”

has gathered (plucked) over a million views. He is me. “I is another”

wrote Rimbaud. I recently noticed this Adam DeGraff had given

a TED talk and watched it out of dopplegangerly curiosity. 

Surprisingly it was not about violin playing at all, but rather

about reaping, literally, reaping swaths of grass by hand

as opposed to using a lawn mower. Adam said he had found his thing.

There is something about scything swaths of grass that just 

makes me happy he said. And this is what I remembered when I read

about Ben Blood, the happy farmer, who must’ve also loved to reap,

and who must’ve found there, like the musician Adam DeGraff, the secret 

of the trance. I sent the other Adam DeGraff the Wikipedia link for Ben Blood.

Imagine his surprise when he gets an e-mail from this other Adam DeGraff

all about reaping and anesthetic revelations. I went back and looked 

at the Wikipedia page again. I noticed Blood also just happened to be friends

With Lord Alfred Tennyson, another poet I love and a circular link

back to Bishop. It then became clear to me that this entire moment 

was a poem waiting to be written. Therefore I am quickly dashing it off, 

before the babies wake up so I will remember.  (So far so good.)

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