I oblige, with needlessly reserved happiness

October 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

Dear              ,

I am, I think, okay. Thanks for asking.

Like so many, though as yet not nearly enough, I’ve been following the Occupy Wall Street situation closely, and have been tempted occasionally to write about it. But thus far only tempted. I spent much of this afternoon reflecting on my resistance to actually doing so. I’m certainly not opposed to such writing. On the contrary, I know quite intimately its value. And yet, for all this, I feel as though my doing so, no matter how few might actually read it, would feel like a kind of confession — or barring that, a rationale — or, maybe, even an explanatory alibi — for why I’m not doing something more than writing. Writing, after all, it seems so small, and comes at no cost to me but by time. There’s no reason always to valorize sacrifice, of self or of other, but neither are all expenditures of self & attention the same or equal. Nor should they be, I know, but knowledge can be sometimes so easily trumped by instinct, and not always for the better.

It’s an interesting thing, this movement. And it is that, I think, a movement. People seem to be hedging a lot when it comes to saying as much. “If that’s what it is” — I see that appended to its more or less definitive descriptions. So many seem so skittish, burnt perhaps by past enthusiasms that, so we’ve been led to believe, went nowhere. But movements don’t necessarily have to go somewhere in particular, and not even somewhere particularly good. Lurches forward, up or down, or whatever direction may apply, can be followed, almost immediately, by a backward collapse — even here, would not movement have occurred? Even a drunken collapse from a curb is a kind of movement, if not particularly productive.

But who measures all these gains & losses, and on what scale was it tipped? How do we determine the value of all that we’ve paid in self & attention or measure the valence of our movements? There is always a “who” and a “what” attending these determinations, unavoidably so – decisions & calculations like these are always made, such is math, science, & life – but tentative measurements these, all. Hypotheses awaiting law, or at least theories, whose order often comes long after all manner of misdemeanors have already been paid & successes applauded. Our analyses & theories, all valuable in a way, some more than others, but all of them most truly of value (though, heaven forbid, not true in any sense that matters, if things are to get done) only after the fact. Like everything. It’s just that some, as in life, if less so in math & science, are so breathlessly reporting and opinionating, we start confusing our conversations with what is being talked about. And there is a difference: there has to be, I think, or at least hope, otherwise words don’t mean a thing. I’m no innocent in any of this but at least have the proper sense & decorum to write so dizzyingly about it all as not to be read at all.

You ask for my thoughts, and this is what you get. I can’t even bear to re-read what I wrote. But you asked, and because all that I write seems to need an addressee, I oblige, with needlessly reserved happiness.

Related in a way, today I was also cleaning out  my inbox and delighted in the discovery of two “Word of the Day” emails that I’d overlooked. Two words, the first of which I’d not read or written in quite some time but knew all too well, with an awkward intimacy, complete with break-ups, subsequent conversations, and surely future flings; and the other of which held for me the purest kind of ignorant curiosity. They were, respectively,  Weltschmerz & Bandersnatch. The discovery seemed very significant at the time, though considerably less so now. But, well, that just brings us back to the question of weight & value, progress, regress, and everything in-between & other. I’m unsure why I tell you of it now, but here & now, as I close, it simply feels right to do so.


§ 3 Responses to I oblige, with needlessly reserved happiness

  • tom clark says:


    Well-said assay into the as-yet unsayable shape of the formless dimensions of… whatever this is.

    Maybe neither active nor concentrated enough to qualify as a movement? — more like a unison expression of revulsion, static but visceral, against something so “universal” in our present socioeconomic/historical set that, like the tentacled phantasm in Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, it gets into every orifice, even (especially) when we’re not looking

  • Brad Johnson says:

    Tom . . . that is, like the best eroticism, a very haunting image. & I like what you say about revulsion. I think, though, I would still maintain OWS is a movement of some kind. A lurch forward or a disgusted reeling to the side, maybe both are indicative of a vomitous heave, but each will does the job of at least getting you out of bed to clean up.

  • tom clark says:


    Must admit it’s hard for me to “comment” on what is or may be happening in America, as I skulk anxiously through its shadows… but a couple of nights ago, waiting for the Bus That Never Comes, amid the silent, abandoned, ghostly downtown passages of “our town”, I saw a guy crossing the street carrying an “Occupy — (name of town)” poster.

    I said, “huh? Where?”

    He nodded back over his shoulder to a tiny urban mini-park, featuring an ATM machine and and the usual cast of loitering derelicts, homeless and other spectres of the night. Pretty much downtown as usual.

    I said…”you mean… THERE?”

    He said, “right”.

    And disappeared into the non-occupied darkness.

    I’d never have known

    (And indeed the following day I didn’t/couldn’t get out of bed.)

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