Fall foliage fills the day with color. Rich reds and yellows appear all around me as I drive around town collecting tools and parts, a would-be repairman. Maria Montessori’s been on my mind lately. I’ve been reading a handbook she wrote for American parents and teachers, originally published in 1914. Her approach to teaching, the famous Montessori Method, involved introduction of didactic material into children’s playhouses. Good to a point, I suppose — but I’d rather be playing multi-dimensional chess. Fredric Jameson likens our present reality to the latter in his new book Allegory and Ideology. The game is one where “a number of distinct chessboards coexist simultaneously with distinct configurations of forces on each, so that a move on any one of these boards has distinct but unforeseeable consequences for the configurations and the relative power-relations on the others” (191). Similar games appear in Sun Ra’s Space is the Place and Brian C. Short’s novel New People of the Flat Earth. “We live in just such a world,” Jameson writes, “just such a totality” (191).
Crows and helicopters fly overhead on a sunny but chilly afternoon. Squirrels scramble along branches of trees, pausing, waving their tails in greeting. I sit with them for a while, the neighborhood’s lawnmowers and leafblowers heard in the distance. Afterwards I join Sarah for a walk, the two of us visiting a colleague along the way. We talk again about names and the weeks ahead, pausing now and then beside piles of leaves.
Like a needle dropped gently atop an LP, or an iron pressed briefly upon the arm of a shirt, so I happen upon The Soul of Mbira, an album in the Nonesuch Explorer Series.
Deep stuff. Afterwards, the rain upon my window. An mbira is an ancient African instrument consisting of keys mounted over a bridge on a hardwood sound-board. Thank you, fellow Explorers, for beaming this my way, like music from another galaxy, gourds and voices resonating across space and time. Nonesuch released the albums of field recordings in the Explorer Series from 1967 to 1984. That in mind, I agree to see a movie with some friends. Get out and explore a bit, I tell myself. Watch Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and then stand on a sidewalk in front of a bar debating its merits with friends.
My students seem less televisual than they were in the past — though perhaps we’ve just steered conversation elsewhere, constructing through our shared readings a shared grammar. Reading allegory trains us to think allegorically. Texts assemble into vast systems of meaning. We become acquainted with what’s happening. A world pregnant with hope and possibility.
I’m overflowing with love, surrounded by tall beautiful trees. Together let us learn and grow. Spread joy, pleasure, happiness, accepting past wrongs. Whatever doubts one had of oneself, past disappointments: consider these confessed and forgiven. Rewatch the “Earth Angel” scene from Back to the Future. It remains for me a favorite moment from childhood: Marty revived, harmony restored with a kiss.
Sarah and I discuss the name thing. The act seems weighted with all kinds of symbolism. It’s a commitment to a different future. Taking the mother’s father’s last name while with the first name honoring matrilineal roots on the father’s mother’s side of the family. What does it mean to relinquish a given name? It’s not like I have to become Mr. Mom or anything. Should I rewatch that movie and report back from Michael Keaton’s 1983? Should I shift into third-person? Or is that the same as reducing oneself to another’s shadow? Does the Author worry he’ll be rendered anonymous? Author as ego-dissolved invisibile man? But I do wish to practice poesis, don’t I? Are those things related? Is the poet one who, operating on language, practices a kind of wizardly freedom, not legislating so much as renaming certain things anew? Hard to say. But of the names, whichever we go with is the one that sounds best.
If reality is a conversation, how would one get with it? With whom would one speak? Upon what platform? With what language? What would one say? Classrooms are one such platform, papers and comments another. Most of the hours of my days involve papers and books, with occasional musical accompaniment: albums like The Soul of Mbira and Gene Clark’s No Other. “Is it possible,” I wonder, after hearing the latter, “can we really be all alone and still part of one another? How do we find the right direction, we would-be pilots of the mind, pilots of the General Intellect?”