Friday, 10 August 2007

belief part one

Today's entry starts with Ruskin and ends with my non-friend Kathy (not her name) from eleventh Grade. (Not her picture over there -- that's a real Kathy.) Whole lot of Kathys in my high school, but this girl was not one of them. Funny about names -- every time the teacher calls out Montana today, a quarter of the class puts up their hand, but you can't buy a Kathy. I once asked Ed if he knew where Montana was on the map, and he said, What do you mean, map? She's in the bathroom.

Sorry, that's where we're ending. John Ruskin, the influential nineteenth-century art critic and sexual sad sack (supposedly so grossed out by his wife's pubic hair that he became a lifelong abstainer from sex with anyone but himself) says that Art requires that you believe in something whole-heartedly. He is theologically sound (Faith makes the miracle), and, on an anecdotal level, I can assure you that my best stuff comes when I can believe in what I'm writing. But there are, I think, various levels or stages of belief. Stage One would be Enthusiasm, which I see as I love it -- whatever it is. On the whole I like Enthusiasm. Listening to someone who really enjoys fishing, say, describe their latest fishing weekend is kind of fun. I don't know one end of a fish from the other, but I'm happy to listen to someone talk about a topic they fully understand and appreciate. Their love shines, and brings out a good side of them. They are taking me on a journey and I am happy to go with them. I'll nod, knit my brows, even ask useful questions. Can you fish sitting down? I'll say. Or, What's the dumbest name for a fish? (Cause there are a bunch. Once at a restaurant I ordered crappie just to say I did. And did you know that half the endangered Chilean sea bass you see on the menu is really Patagonian toothfish? Which I would order in a heartbeat, but doesn't sound like something you'd pay 30.00 for.)

Anyway, next stage of belief after Enthusiasm is Zeal, and here things start to go awry. I love it is great, but Zeal is stronger than that. Zeal is I LOVE IT MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. If Enthusiasm is kind of sexy, Zeal is Enthusiasm on drugs -- still good looking, but there's something a bit off. The anecdotes become boring, or scary. The weekend fisher turns into the Ancient Mariner, who stoppeth one of three. I once left a shirt button behind, turning quickly to escape from the rest of a discussion of the awesomeness of Nirvana (the rock group, not the state of being -- which this zealot was far from achieving.) The sad thing is that zealots often get their way. If you want something so badly that you can't think about much else, you are way more likely to get it. Worldy somethings, that is. Not Nirvana, or even love or happiness or good teeth, but money, promotion, political power, stamps, sexual partners ... whatever you can quantify. The planet is run by zealots.

Finally we come to the third stage of belief. After Enthusiasm and Zeal, we reach ... but you know what? I have to stop here. I promised Ed I'd go for a walk with him, and he's waiting. I'll get back to the third stage next time. Now, I said I'd end with my non-friend. Only way to do that is to drag her name -- Kathy -- in out of the blue water. That'd be a cheap trick.

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