Things Fall Apart; The Center Cannot Hold

Musing Late into a School Night

Musing Late into a School Night

“It is not the fault of abstraction that few people can really think abstractly, any more than it is the fault of mathematics that not many people are good mathematicians,” a modern logician tells us, adding that correct abstraction is one of our most powerful, necessary, and efficacious modes of thought. It is a form of emphasis, as A. N. Whitehead said, of expressing what one wants to without being involved in everything else.

Robert Motherwell, 1950

Days and days have passed without my posting to this blog, as a tempestuous world of details, deadlines and appointments has swirled about me with little-to-no respite. As the hour draws late into a school night, I am pleased that tomorrow’s promises have been met and I am not yet sinking into sleep. In this comfy chair, I enjoy this serene moment, this gift, this opportunity to hear classical music playing softly with the lights of my study turned low, a cup of hot tea steaming and a volume of exquisite reading open in my lap. I snatched tonight’s blog title from a 1921 poem of William Butler Yeats that I have always loved: “The Second Coming.” When life swirls about me the way it is now, I frequently know that sinking feeling of a center no longer holding, and details flying away from the tidy files and compartments where they had been formerly placed.

For over a week now, I have scribbled countless words across the pages of my journal and plucked myriads of notes from the strings of my guitar when not tending my daily duties of the classroom. And all of these endeavors have felt sublime. But my mind has never strayed from a dogged desire to understand my centre, my archē, my Grund. I have resisted posting to the blog, I suppose out of fear that these words would be interpreted as whining, complaining, or musing over some kind of winter of discontent. This is not what is happening to me. What I am feeling is not despair, just a desire to know, a compulsion to understand. Maybe it is something that comes with age, I don’t know. All I can say is that I find these thoughts intriguing and cannot dismiss them, nor do I want to. I find more satisfaction these days reading the queries of restless minds seeking to know more intimately this precious mystery of life, and at the same time seeking ways to express these notions more creatively. Through music, through painting, and through writing, I still reach for these sublime heights, and am grateful to know this urge, this procreative urge, as Whitman would have it. The past week has been filled with studies of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Dürer and Grünewald in art, along with William Carlos Williams and Walt Whitman in poetry and Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Neil Young in guitar work–all of this has been soul stirring for me. Sometimes I wish I could walk away from the daily appointments, retreat to the mountains or a monastery for a few weeks and just let my thoughts explore these mysteries without interruption. But that is fantasy.

I’ll bring this to a close now, hoping I haven’t planted the notion in some of my readers to send mental health experts to my door. I think I’m fine, just not yet satisfied, still searching, still wondering–but very happy to have the strength in me to search, still.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never really alone.

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6 Responses to “Things Fall Apart; The Center Cannot Hold”

  1. letspaintnature Says:

    Sounds like a lovely mountain/monastery fantasy which you should never let go. This work, eat, sleep, repeat, thing is overrated anyway! 😉
    Thanks for sharing your feelings and a part of your soul.


  2. Xraypics Says:

    “Things fall apart” at first I thought you were quoting Chinua Achebe, whose book I was fascinated by for some time as a student and have had to read again and again since. It took me a while to realise you were quoting Yates. Thanks for the stimulus, now must I sit down and read that properly too.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you Tony. I don’t know Chinua Achebe’s work and am intrigued by what you wrote. Apparently this book moved you in special ways. I owe such a debt to all those writers who cared enough to put their words into publication and enrich folks such as I.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Xraypics Says:

        Thanks David. At the time I was interested in the West African writers like Wole Soyinka, and reading a lot of plays. Achebe must have touched a spot.


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