It’s cool when Baader-Meinhof brings something fascinating into your life and you start to see it everywhere, like the many ways in which Regina Spektor is ubiquitous on the internet, yet you just found her (Chance really should be ashamed of himself for cutting her from the album). But when it’s something inconvenient you start to see everywhere? Torture.
I can’t remember whose argument against cynicism I first encountered, but I had no idea so many existed on the internet. It was when I heard Krista Tipett say it that it finally hit home.
“You can choose to be hopeful, which is a far more courageous choice than cynicism. Cynicism is really easy. It’s never surprised or disappointed, and doesn’t lift a finger to change anything.”
Ah! I said, and didn’t recover for the rest of the day. I read that at a time when I had all but lost hope in the country being anything but bleak. But from Krista’s word on, the internet brought me a barrage of things that showed my cynicism to be lazy, useless.
Yesterday morning, I read a post on On Being titled Don’t Let The Cynics Get You Down, and it had this:
“You may not be a visual artist. But if you’re one of those “crazy” people who sees hopeful possibilities in a world that others claim is going to hell in a handbasket, don’t let the cynics do eye surgery on you!”
The post also had this wonderful poem that I’ve spent the last twenty four hours going over and over in an attempt to brand it into my mind.
Monet Refuses the Operation
by Lisel Mueller, from Second Language
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
This poem speaks to me in many ways, not just to my near-descent into cynicism but to the process I go through in writing and creating. Now I’m going to start telling myself: Ife, don’t let anyone do eye surgery on you; you’ll open other people’s eyes.
Featured Image: La Pie de Monet via Wikimedia Commons