Sunday, June 14, 2009

Liam Presents His Parents

Some of my posts today were already mostly written. I have been interrupted by life a bunch with the writing. That is good. I haven't had the discipline to get up early and say something. So whenever I can I write something and save it, but don't "publish" it till I have more time and energy to edit it to something not completely embarrassing. About once a week I'll be in an extremely transgressive mood, and save but not publish something so sarcastic and ranting that I'm embarrassed to even have it on my computer. I never erase these. They will live forever as testaments to my fickle and explosive nature. Markers of the puerile beginnings of one man. Sort of like a little black diary.

Alas, you're thinking. Andy, your little black book should be bigger. There is wisdom in that, for sure.

I've been reading my sister and brother in law's blog, Life With Liam. Man, I cannot tell you what a gift they are providing me. Their personalities seem so alive in their writing. Liam and even his sister, Claire, come so alive, in the words of their parents. Both Angie and Gary write, roughly alternating, when they are inspired to say something. This activity of blogging is so interesting, in the ways in which it differs from a phone call, a letter, or really, any form of metacommunication out there. On a somewhat different subject, but similar point, I remember my brother, Geoff, six years ago put a huge List Serve (collection of emails around a particular subject, something like an old school Internet bulletin board, I guess.) from the website Beer, Beer and More Beer on a CD for me. I didn't have an Internet connection in my house in Elletsville. So I took the CD, which my brother had written in a file language that could be read as if it were on the internet by the Explorer application in my computer.

Anyway, there I would be, in my room, reading Emails off a CD my brother made for me. It seemed like a milestone, in my life, in a way. Writing and communication in a huge flux. Night after night I enjoyed reading about beer that way, and the silly little conventions groups of people develop when they want to inspire the sensation of community. One night I saw an Email from a guy in Bloomington. So I looked his name up in a phone book and called him. "Your not going to believe how I found you." I told him. He lived six blocks from where I sit today. Can you guess what we did together? We met through Beer, Beer and More Beer. So, we made beer together. My first partial mash I had ever done. The guy wore a white coat in his little brewery. He was a meticulous technician, and had detailed logs of every brew session. I tend to enjoy people like this. Not to the exclusion of others, just as artifacts of nifty architecture in the human neighborhood.

So Angie and Gary's blog, while supposedly about Liam, also happens to be a new way of loving their family, themselves, their kids, and this thing we call life. They reveal their humor, and heartbreak, and passion, and all the while tell you, "I didn't know what to write about." Whoops!

I think most people are completely paralyzed by the notion of getting out there with your ideas and feelings. They want to, just like anyone wants to somehow discover that some number of people have taken a few minutes each day to inspect the contents of your head and heart. It is among the things we live for as people. But most of us find ourselves vaguely contemptible, or as my sister put it, "mere shell(s) of [our] former selves." A blog in this context can seem a vehicle straight to the public gallows, where you can be punished for what nobody yet has discovered.

Oh well. There are gigantic benefits, rather hard to explain to people, in being publicly spanked as I was years ago, for being a very bad boy. I do not appreciate my past behavior, and I am truly not making light of it here, but I have noticed that it seems pretty damn difficult for the most principled folks I know to feel like they are worth listening to. And that is not only a shame (given their actual value to the world) it also means that those with the broadest voice, tend to be the least among us (including, possibly, myself.) This explains somewhat to me why the communication arts world is such a shabby part of the public furniture. Blogging, when done by the likes of my sister and brother in law, seems a remedy to the newspaper, radio and televisions self regard.

When they write an entry that seems to be about my nephew Liam's having a meltdown or something, you can't imagine a better way of someone describing how to be a better steward of love, understanding, and patience. You are literally reading how to be a better person, and laughing with mirth at the humor and heartbreak. You are also feeling the anxiety and discord that our reflexive Western standards of Independence have us all under the thumb of. My sister and her husband cannot pretend that they are always OK. Or that they know just what's going to happen. Their tone (or writing voice) is frequently a sort of Captains Log, on a journey, where no one pretends what's happening isn't within an arena of real danger, and adventure. At times this makes things rather more exciting then some people might think they can afford. At times I think of my Sister and her husband as people who did not necessarily ask (say, God, on their hands and knees) for a large dose of wisdom, mainlined in their warm sticky veins... But here it is, their own personal, interactive experience of what really matters, down close to the bone, every God Damn Day. From what I can tell, of the people I know, this makes people either very sick, or enormously thoughtful. Closed minded people describe it as saintly. That word is rarely a compliment to its receiver.

I don't know much about Angela and Gary. You could write half of Lewis and Clark's journals about getting to their house from where I sit, or if you're really vociferous you could write half of Least Heat Moon's River Horse. Either way, you're hundreds of pages of experiences from Bloomington. Flying to Portland is a magazine article by comparison. Or a blog chapter. It is expensive to leave home, to fly, to entertain oneself or one's family, ect. Until recently I couldn't even really afford a few days at that level of spending, so I am really embarrassed to admit that I truncated what could have been a better relationship with an entire family, until recently, due to a cold economic calculus. Happens all the time they say. My sister doesn't look at it that way, I know (she told me recently.) But, it helps to know the cost of not changing, in case your wondering why I don't think I'm the best Uncle that ever lived.

As Robert Boyer would say it, "There's some things you'll go ninety years and never do." Call it an accident.

So this blog of Angela and Gary's is an opportunity, for all of us. We get to hear the words of two parents who are marked by our culture as stained with a lack of normalcy. And whereas, the typical response of a culture is to turn away from the different and alien experiences of people who can't regurgitate the archetypal babble of an excited parent, with Liam's blog, we can choose to focus more tightly on the basic experience they bring us all on how to love a deserving, important, unique, and wonderful human being. How often have you clicked on a link to learn that? Sometimes, perhaps we have.

Angie and Gary want to know if I wouldn't mind enjoying them every day.

For the love of God, the answer is yes.

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