i’ve been thinking about our last exchange in the comments, murph, the one about looking at old photos of ourselves. remember the sentiment i expressed in an early letter upon returning to the neighborhood where i used to walk dogs? i should go easier on that guy, i thought. he was just doing the best that he could. this is where my mind goes. and this notion from matthew of being well pleased, hoke? i’ve been thinking about this as well.
it’s strange to consider your insistence at the start of these letters that i learn to better love little wuck; or to think on your years-old assertion, murph, however more humorous in tone, that a young wuck would be horrified to meet his older self, what with the cigarettes and the swear words and all. isn’t the me i need more affection for the one sitting here, writing to you? i want to ask. it’s no great task to muster affection for my younger self when i see him in a photo or when i walk down a street he used to frequent. i can see he’s a good kid, just doing the best that he can. the closer my orientation to the present, however, <quote-01>the harder i am on myself<quote-01>.
the local ball field has reopened. i’m on the other side of the fence now, sitting in my beach chair just off the third baseline, a shallowly positioned ball boy. a trio of teens take turns guarding penalty kicks between the orange cones in the outfield while an older gentleman does arm circles near home plate, taking the occasional empty-handed swing. puffy clouds extend above the horizon of buildings, their movement nearly imperceptible, the sky’s palette rapidly changing as the sun goes down.
you’ve noted here, murph, how time and distance have bolstered our affection for each other. if only they did the same for my <quote-02>relationship with myself<quote-02>. luckily, i hear your voices throughout the days you’re not with me. i am comforted to know that wherever i am, you are somewhere too.
i had an initial zoom meeting with a third therapist today, not having found whatever it is i’m looking for with the first two. <quote-03>he spoke to what he sensed was my hesitancy to claim adulthood<quote-03>. my initial thought was, fuck you, bro. i showed a bit of testiness when he later said, i don’t want to get hung up on this word, adult, to which i responded, well, you’re certainly using it more than i am.
he’s australian, in his 50s, and wears glasses similar to the ones i wore on orange. we began our session by discussing what i hoped to get out of therapy. i reached for a zizek quote, a common critique of the practice: the goal of psychoanalysis should be to no longer need psychoanalysis. i’ve heard seinfeld reference therapy’s self-perpetuating nature as well: why start taking a medicine you’ll continue to need because you’re on it? the therapist questioned whether zizek had been through the process in a tone that implied he was familiar with his personality, if not his work. i posited that he didn’t seem to be the type to struggle with his relationship to himself, to which my therapist gave <quote-05>a thoughtful, inconclusive head bob, side to side<quote-05>.
have you guys heard of the lacanian variable-length session? zizek is big on lacan. in this method, the analyst says nothing. <quote-06>the only tool at their disposal is the point at which they end the session<quote-06>. could you imagine? <quote-07>so my dad had a bunch of friends and they liked to watch dodger baseball together. i’m told one of them baptized me in a river when…/ thanks, that’ll be all. i’ll see you next week.<quote-07>
casey has been in therapy for years now and seems to be getting a lot out of it. therapy was one of our many topics of conversation after listening through the new dylan last week. i half-jokingly asked if he ever expressed an insight during a session that his therapist found of value, and if so, did he then ask his therapist to pay him for the session. casey said he didn’t think that was the point. i maintain, however unhelpful, that this would be my <quote-08>impulse<quote-08>.
as much as i, like zizek, enjoy zeroing in on exact points of paradox, it seems like a willingness to play--a willingness to toss around the thoughts and feelings one normally wouldn’t reach for, and without the fear of dropping them--might be required for therapy to be of any value. <quote-09>casey suggested simply speaking of the things i’ve yet to tell anyone. hell, he said, the more private, the better<quote-09>.
perhaps i am reluctant to allow the therapist their chair, preferring to compete with them for their role as my analyst. perhaps this is my problem.
i’ll tell you what though, dylan’s problem i have a better handle on. it’s like this: some artists we know through their work and some we do not. dostoyevsky we know, shakespeare we do not; beethoven we know, bach we do not; picture kahlo’s self-portraits, then picture rembrandt’s. dylan, for me, falls categorically into the latter camp. on rough and rowdy ways, he asks us to accept a sort of vigilante-personae through sweeping claims of bravado, and i just can’t do it. the character is too unpalatable--too untrue.
casey’s critique was simpler: lyrically lazy, he said.
to put it another way, i find dylan’s canon to be void of agenda, and wonderfully so. the lines themselves are of sole interest to him--little gems, happened upon and artfully assembled. any meaning, any message, comes from the listener’s relationship to the patterns within the work. the plot is there, the moral is not. the patterns are the thing.
remember earl, murph? the <quote-10>louis jenkins poem<quote-10> about the seals i sent you years ago? i first heard it performed by mark rylance in the play nice fish, a collection of jenkins works as assembled by himself and rylance. you found the poem beautifully formed and sharply insightful; you went on to comment, however, that such finely wrought wisdom is best served through character, at least for today’s literary critic. you likened it to the current lack of enthusiasm for steinbeck vs the growth in popularity of faulkner--steinbeck whom we feel we know, faulkner whom we’re sure we do not. keep the plot, ditch the moral. as if there’s any doubt whom the tiddlywinked turtle in the grapes of wrath is meant to represent.
the mark of a great take is that it merits further listening, our bassist once said. i love this. i love the seduction it implies. what is the lyric that merits further listening, that continues to dazzle beyond the initial surprise? surely the melodic aspect of a lyric does a lot of the heavy lifting here; however, i’ll offer that moral ambiguity is as seductive a quality as any.
it feels true. but what does it mean? let’s hear it again.
in the final verse of i’ve made up my mind to give myself to you, track four on the new dylan--you can go ahead and add it to <quote-11>the list of his popular wedding songs<quote-11>, alongside to make you feel my love--he offers us a rare and refreshing moment of unsurety on the record, an invitation to relax, if you will. in fact, as i think of how to answer the therapist’s question, what do i hope to get out of therapy? i wonder if the answer isn’t peace. <quote-12>i’d love to learn how to be at peace with myself<quote-12>.
my heart’s like a river, a river that sings / just takes me a while to realize things.
the sun’s down now, but the folks in the park are playing still. i’m reminded how casey and i used to play catch on the blacktop at fermi playground across the street from my apartment, usually after rehearsal and a few drinks. more often than not we’d lose sight of the ball in the darkness between the street lamps, but still we persisted, our baseball soon entirely scuffed by the pavement.
one time we were out there and a few teenagers showed up to shoot hoops. one of them came over and cockily asked whether either of us could catch off-speed stuff. sure, i said, stupidly. so long as you tell me what you’re gonna throw. as he loosened his shoulder, his friends shouted at him from across the way. you a third basemen, foo. you ain’t no pitcher! stop pretending! casey, a baseball novice, stood behind the gate at my back to watch for movement should the ball have any. the whiskey must’ve had me out of my head, because as the kid wound up and let fly, i, squatting, somehow caught the pitch at my chest between my ankles. i played it off. yeah, he’s a third baseman, i confirmed to his friends across the way, sending them into fits of hysterics.
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