Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/03/2009

I may not hope from outward forms to win the passion and the life…

A bridge to somewhere?

A bridge to somewhere?

One of those mornings when writing is necessary but there is nothing to write.

I use the expletive “there is” on purpose—it is one of those forbidden constructions in my (students’) writing, but I use it here to indicate that I am not the subject of this writing. I am an object with no antecedent, so the place holder “there is” fits perfectly. I feel pretty much like my favorite photo of the construction of the Dallas “High Five” freeway interchange. A bridge to somewhere with a gap that prevents continuation of travel. My mind works that way more often than not (or is it “naught?”) except when I am writing. I don’t much care if no one else would find my writing sensible, or even if I will find it sensible tomorrow. When I am in the process, it makes perfect sense to me. In fact, most of the time it is absolutely brilliant.

On a morning like this (I have been up and writing since five, and it is now nearly eight) I end up starting and stopping, going here and there for an idea, not able to stop, but not able to go, either. The unfinished “High Five” bridge, the perfect metaphor. My mind flits from subject to subject, and Google becomes my best friend as I check out idea after idea to get started. Every idea tries to bridge the gaps in my thought, and the ideas simply fall between unconnected spans of the bridge to nowhere. And then I stumble on one of the poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge of which I, in my hypergraphic state, am convined I have an understanding that none of my professor collegues, even those who specialize in Romantic poetry, can attain.

Dejection: an Ode (April 4, 1802).
Stanza II
A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear–
O Lady ! in this wan and heartless mood,
To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo’d,
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
Have I been gazing on the western sky,
And its peculiar tint of yellow green :
And still I gaze–and with how blank an eye!

Really. I did stumble on it looking for something else. And it started this writing immediately.  “Grief without a pang?” Not this morning. I’m not depressed. But I know the experience so well: grieving without pain, a “stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief.” Undifferentiated sorrow at everything, but nothing for which to feel the pain, no source of the darkness.

Is the “Lady” nature, creativity, joy—or as the original version of the poem says, Coleridge’s mistress Sara Hutchinson? Does it matter? The Lady is some great joy that the poet has lost.  He gazes upon the reality with “how blank an eye.” And that’s my continual experience. Whatever happens on the “long eve, so balmy and serene,” I all too often have only blankness, even if I am writing. Especially if I am writing because writing is absolutely necessary, but I have nothing to say. Hypergraphia at its most distressing? Is Dejection an Ode? From brain disorders, Bipolar or Epileptic? Or simply too early on a Saturday morning to be up and trying to do anything?

Why must I write? And (not a non sequitur) why must I be alone, isolate for days on end except for forays into the work world three days a week? Why do the bridges of my life seem to go nowhere? The misfirings of my brain’s Temporal Lobe conspire to render the world unnatural, unreal; and the depression without mania of my brain’s lurching back and forth from one kind of Bipolar awareness to another, always trying to escape unreality (can one prove a negative, escape that which does not exist?), makes the company of others (even if they do exist) so difficult I want no part of it.

And yet, I am not depressed. I have the grief without pang. I am functioning perfectly well this morning except I have to write but have nothing to say.

It were a vain endeavour,
Though I should gaze for ever
On that green light that lingers in the west :
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.

Is the finished “High-Five” any more helpful, any less daunting, than the spans without connection?

Is the bridge to everywhere more useful than the bridge to nowhere?

Is the bridge to everywhere more useful than the bridge to nowhere?


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