Memories are the stuff of stories – the unchangeable past meets the fleeting present to confront an unknown future, with a moral or a sentiment (loss, sadness, good thing missed and unappreciated until it’s too late, lessons learned but only in perfect hindsight, and once-upon-a-time dreams unfulfilled or dashed on the harsh, unforgiving, jagged rocks of time).
We write once-upon-a-time tales about primitive themes – what was once perfect, great or good is now lost to us and imperfect, distant and gone. Primitivism is more than sentiment, it is a way of viewing time, the world, people, and ourselves, and complaining about or assigning blame, for the difference and distance we perceive between a romantic past and our troubled present.
And it’s a lie.
Once-upon-a-time isn’t necessarily a lie. But primitivism is almost always a lie.
That stream has passed; it’s not wrong or evil or sin that time is time, biology is living, the earth is turning, or life is different. The idealized past is possibly the greatest corruption of the greatest gift – memory, by means of a moralizing that accuses as virulently as it accepts.
The solution? We try to ignore the past. That doesn’t work (remember memory is always with us). Pray for selective amnesia? It comes easily or too suddenly or harshly or sadly to be a genuine blessing. Or, we may make an agreement that although it may be otherwise, we will live with the wink-and-a-nod of the second naïveté – the born again trust of immaturity after suffering the harshness of modern hopelessness. It may be otherwise, but we agree to trust what others refuse to believe; not because it can’t be otherwise but because one can’t live with the nothing of a vacuum – the void of life without value, meaning, and hope (but often without reason, evidence or proof which makes it impossible to affirm, love or trust). Thus, we make an agreement – a covenant, about that stream (thank you, Heraclitus – the weeping philosopher) which can never be stepped into twice – all is in change, nothing remains the same (the opposite of primitivism to be sure, and so much better).
That stream – the one that’s never
the same stepped-in twice,
at the same bend, with the same
sameness – will not refuse my dabbling
toe; she will yield to me, and I to her,
not out of pity or sheer desire,
but because we have
agreed not to continue the charade
of indeterminate, transient mockery
that idles youth, corrupts good
and haunts the aged.
There are nouns after all – persons,
places, things – that are, not because
of forms but in sentences which are
like streams with dabbling toes
and bubbling eddies, shapely bends;
so inviting and seducing, calling
with her come hither of comeliness.
Yes, the waters flow, the bed and silt
are stirred and is upset by every touch
of my foot but I step into the flux
and flow nonetheless, I stoop to
cup her cool waters and sip contentedly
for she yields to me and I to her,
but unhurried, unchasing motion
in symbiosis as we move together
in rhythm – our panta rei –
joined freely in flow.
Let those who scold and chide
these many, many years continue
their fluxing prater of fuel and flame,
for we, my stream and I, have come to
an understanding and will agree to
agree that this day we are the one;
her cool waters are as real as
my weary step – sensations rippling
in her as much as me,
as tangible as the rush and tingle which
tickle my limb and stir her bed in swirls
of sediment twisted awake from slumber
dancing along current and wake we have
made together in our covenant today.