WE ESCAPE FEAR - Photos by Stephen A. Miller of our performance Tuesday at Littman White Gallery in Portland. Art by Hiroshima-native Yukiyo Kawano and poetry by me, a nat...
1 week ago
Up to now, most of the monologue I’ve seen about translocal literature is restricted to the relationship between the author and his (yes, his) narrative text: observations of a street scene in Prague by a long-time former resident (the author)—the locality itself becoming protagonist to the poem. This either reduces the self-sufficiency of a piece alone on the page—i.e. it is the author’s biography that makes a piece translocal or not—or it limits it to narrative surveillance. Certainly not all poetry is traceable to a particular mise en scéne, nor is all prose a story. The very pivot of translocality would indicate that there are many, many kinds of localities, and we need not focus solely on where our (or the author’s) feet are standing.
How do they invite (or force) interdependence between a string of vocabularies from two (or more) languages within a single stanza? How is the distance in the line of poetry crossed in a translocal sensibility? How is this distance ever crossed?
So, a health care story for you.
Last week I was having real difficulty in breathing (because of the summer pollution and pollen). I had a little bit of asthma as a kid and here in the summers sometimes I need very rarely to take an inhaler... maybe 4 or 5 times for the entire summer.
Anyway, I called my doctor on a Thursday afternoon and found out that he was out that day but could see me first thing in the morning. Not bad, but I knew I would not be able to sleep that night and had a class at 9 on Friday.
So I called the "emergency" docs (SOS Medicine). I talked to a first response doctor on the phone, told him the problems and what I normally do. He said that sounded correct and would send a doctor to my house. The doctor arrived 30 minutes later, did an "over the top" examine and wrote me the prescription for the inhaler.
I went downstairs to the drug store and bought it.
So the cost?
Emergency house call: out of pocket 40 Euros ( 23 will be refunded by my French health care and the rest by our "private" insurance).
Medication: 5 Euros, fully covered. Out of pocket: zero.
My cost for French health coverage: about 400 Euros per Year.
Our cost for the "private" insurance: zero, part of Laura's job (if not they cost about 20 Euros a month)
I had surgery for a hernia in December.
Five doctor visits, hospital, anesthesia, recovery, meds, and post op.
Total cost : Zero!
Having a baby:
Doctor visit (mandatory!) once a month
5 days post-birth hospital stay (private room)
In home check-ups (3) to make sure mom and baby are well
Lots of pre and post birth meds
Total cost : Zero. In fact, you get about 600 euros when you are confirmed to be pregnant and then receive about 300 euros per month after the birth.
There are some things specific to talk about with your students and others. Hope that helps!
This book comes at readers from all angles, literally, with its energetic mix of innovative narrative, informed cultural criticism, and good old-fashioned character development about life among the drinking classes. Hansen’s absolutely contemporary questioning of individual identity spins out through a story about some ordinary and ornery people whose mundane lives are paradoxically compelling and often shocking. The characters are always thinking even if they don’t think they are, and the result is a novel in which boredom, pain, humor, and the unexpected swoop through the rubble of what everybody seems most sure about. In a way that keeps readers guessing right to the final word, ....and Beefheart saved Craig shows how philosophy and getting through the day are much more tangled up than so-called common sense often suggests.
What does it mean to be distracted? What does it mean to digress?
Looking around, it's hard not to conclude that distraction is a bad thing. Perhaps more than ever, the supposedly civilized human mind exists in a constant state of distraction. It's practically impossible to focus on anything. At any given moment, there's something else waiting to grab your attention. It's not just a matter of entertainment, a question of what to do with free time, whether to watch movies, exercise, go out for dinner or drinks, take drugs, develop a hobby. It's that focus has become increasingly impossible even in the work one wants to do. We never seem allowed more than a little time to concentrate on anything. Now that jobs have become so unstable, how much more time do people spend thinking about what their next job will be? It's hard to focus today on the job you were hired for when you know you may need another tomorrow. Besides, it's hard to focus on things one needs to do on a job when those things always change too; here's the new computer system, the new rules and regulations, the new competition. And maybe we shouldn't even speak about those whose world is not so simply divided into jobs and entertainment. What can we say about those who think of their real work as something not a job, that can't be defined by wages and possibility for advancement, but by the chance for creation? What can we say about those who see entertainment, however entertaining at times, as simply a displacement of a more significant human value, which is play? How does one play anymore, if one means by play the chance to participate in games that might change who you and others are, whereas entertainment is simply the things you do in the time you have off from the work you don't want to do? How easy it is to be distracted from that creative work that is perhaps the same as creative play. You want to create, but your bank book is empty, or you have to go to dinner with someone you don't like. So creation will have to wait.
Looking around, it's hard not to conclude that distraction is a good thing. Perhaps more than ever, the human mind is constantly in a state of tunnel vision. I must organize my present, future, past. I must have goals I can clearly express to others. Anything that doesn’t fit the pattern, that can't be immediately centered around the goal at hand, must be rejected, denied, eliminated. If the need to function increasingly takes up all human time, then anything that lies outside that functionality gets perceived as being in the way. In such a situation, distraction becomes a necessary reminder that human life is about more than functioning. Distraction points out how much lies beyond the state of tunnel vision. Distraction reminds us that the things we're trying to forget might be the most interesting of all, it reminds us that some things can never be organized or unified in the name of the goal. Here I was trying to develop a new credit card, but somehow I find myself listening to music. Distraction reminds us that the urge to unify, to control the world in the name of what we intend, can never be the whole story, that it’s crucial to have one's mind wander, to recognize there are things one does not know, to understand that perhaps we are most alive when we are discovering, not when we are controlling.
Some thinkers will have it that all these distractions are leading to a world where people never take any significant action, because they are buffeted relentlessly by this and that. To these thinkers, human beings are becoming dangerously fragmented. These thinkers want a way to avoid fragmentation, so people can be returned to feelings of unity.
To other thinkers, the attempt to impose unity, to see everything in terms of the tunnel vision of the goal, has made the world unlivable. To these people, fragmentation is the savior of a world that has become too controlled. They want fragmentation to break down the illusion of unity.
It's hard not to see that both types of thinkers have a point. But I can't help believing that both of them also miss the point. Because the question seems like it can't be whether one is pro-unity or pro-fragment. Rather, the question seems when does unity help us, when does fragmentation help us? And the question seems also, isn't it true we will always have unity sometimes when it doesn't help, always have fragmentation sometimes when it doesn't help?
One can hardly be in favor of a world, for instance, in which someone's mind is bouncing from one thing to another so fast that they can't think, work, love, even tie their shoes. Similarly, one doesn't want to live in a world where people are so obsessed with their goals that they kill everything that doesn't fit the picture.
Perhaps we've all known people who digress because they have no idea what they're saying. Such people don't even know they don't know what they're saying; people who knew they didn't know what they were saying might be interesting to hear, because one could hear them discover what they're saying. But people who don't know what they're saying, and don't know they don't know it, are at best boring, and at worst deadly.
But perhaps we've also known people who seem so certain about what they're saying that they're not believable for an instant. Such people don't digress; they know, apparently, everything already, and all that remains is to tell us about it. But their certainty makes them blind, for whenever they come across something that doesn't fit with what they're sure they know, they can't see it. People who think they know everything, and who ignore anything that differs from what they know, are at best boring, and at worst deadly.
People who don't know they don't know what they're saying, and people who think they know everything they're saying, turn out often to be the same people.
What most interests me, here, is the idea of conscious digression. Conscious digression prevents any simple unity between things. It doesn't try to make the world add up to a new tunnel vision. But it is equally not the chaotic words of people who can’t help anyone because they're so busy being distracted they don't even know when someone is listening. Conscious digression suggests there are times when certain things might almost be unified, that, if no exact unity exists, similarities do, and those similarities matter. But it also suggests that one must not make too much of similarity; one must remember to digress precisely at that moment when it would be a mistake to tie up all loose ends.
A narrative of conscious digression would be one in which there is not one story but many, but those stories would be related. But it would also be a narrative in which the moment one tried to say it all added up, that everything was similarly headed in the same direction, one would find that the pieces didn’t fit, that some things could not be made to belong. Even when things did belong, they would not belong in order to tell one story with one meaning, but to say that many stories together might have many meanings. There might even be a central story, but it would not be the only story, nor would it be one that could exist without the others. And it would not be a story easily made complete.
Now that I'm thinking about all this, it reminds me of something else...
But I digress.