How’s Everyone’s Sanity and Balance Doing?

I feel a need to check in with whoever’s there. Coming across this sketch I did from exactly two years ago, and a thorny late poem by William Carlos Williams really drives home for me this sudden urge to connect with … something.

I tried to have only two things in mind back while I was nervously sketching this while listening to news about protests against common sense Covid-19 protection, namely:

  1. to think about anything other than myself and everything else that was worrying me even sicker than I was at that time. Which time? Well … chronic illnesses — especially ones causing cognitive damage — make that one kinda tricky to pin down. These were some of the unravelings happening within my “edge of one of many circles.” Past the palm at the edge of that mind the “de facto” stabilities of most things I had held my exterior to hold were collapsed or collapsing.
  2. to see how my new Canson Mix Media 9*12’ sketchbook behaved with different charcoals and inks.
GA on my mind

Many of these worries were universal, like Covid-19 (and the ways it was then being dealt with) or Climate Change (and the ways it was then being dealt with) or, say, systemic racism or the continued growth of a Trumpist fascist state (and the ways …)

A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.

James Baldwin

Other worries were more individualized. For me, the growing disability and ferocious pain that Multiple Sclerosis was doling out had eclipsed itself on every frayed fiber. There were a few times that I looked deep down into myself and swore to remember that “yes, it really was this indescribably agonizing!” so a future me would not forget when/if things ever moved past the present state.

Georgia
Georgia continued – pen & ink

That was two years ago

  • That was before George Floyd.
  • It was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the new (hot) Cold War arrived.
  • It was before attitudes about vaccination against covid insanely became ferocious ideological and political tenets.
  • It was before almost two million (and counting) people had died of covid.
  • There hadn’t yet been a coup attempt on the Capitol and the illusion that America was not in an existential crisis was still generally held. Now democracy itself seems impossible to sustain going forward.
  • I hadn’t realized that even while having long been deeply impressed by the first part of that quote of James Baldwin about a society needing to assume that it is stable, I had no clue how blind I was in failing to appreciate the crucial remainder of that sentence All this while being an “artist” no less.
  • Oh yeah … my then lousy condition has continued to worsen.

The ways so many things have fallen apart since April 2020 — when I made those sketches — make the worried existence of two years ago seem charmingly naive.

William Carlos Williams wrote a poem in 1961 titled “Poem” where emotionally and spiritually he was also confronting the clash of madnesses of the then not too distant past with the even more terrifying madness that followed through his present; he might as well have written it today.

William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams

Poem

William Carlos Williams

The plastic surgeon who has
concerned himself
with the repair of the mole

on my ear could not be
more pointedly
employed

let all men confess it
Gaugin or Van Gogh
were intimates

who fell out finally
and parted going
to the ends of the earth

to be apart, wild men
one of them cut
his ear off with a pair of shears

which made him none the less
a surpassing genius
this happened

yesterday forgive him
he was mad
and who among us has retained

his sanity or balance
in the course the
events have taken since these days


Here’s to looking forward to a day when this poem is not applicable to that day’s then present.

In the meantime, given that the instability of everything is making itself achingly clear, I don’t know that an artist is needed to fill that role right now. Rather, I’ll just keep being aware that my search for something stable under our violent sun is futile and keep on creating images anyway.

Cheers 🥂