Tuesday, July 15, 2008

FROM YONKERS TO THE BRONX: A CRISIS OF MEANING AND AESTHETICS

Denise Beck-Clark

Sunday evening of a day that I couldn't help but think of as "a great beach day." But, when I thought that this morning, as I sat writing at my computer, I had to remind myself, as I have on so many recent days, that I haven't really gone to the beach in years. Going to the beach is something I did in my youth, and yet I still have the knee-jerk reaction, during the summer, to think of days as good beach days or not.

Another revelation I had recently is that now, at the ripe age of fifty seven, I'm no longer so sure summer is my favorite season. Don't get me wrong: I Love Summer! But it also brings along with it a certain melancholy, a sadness, that I can't (or don't?) take advantage of it. While I am creating meaning for myself by helping people with psychiatric problems, and by writing my books, stories, and poems, other people are out doing what I think I should be doing: swimming, sailing, hiking, sightseeing, traveling, and just in general enjoying the warm weather.

It seems as though the meaning of summer as I knew it as a child is etched in my brain, as it's taking me so long to rid myself of it. To rid myself of the sense that I'm missing something, that I'm somehow not doing what I should be doing, while I am doing all the things I really should be doing, as mentioned above, in the form of my day job and my early morning, night and wee hour jobs. Is it possible to really do everything? One has to have a super sense of time management to be able to manage that. This is something I have to admit I lack. As it is, the bags under my eyes give away the precious lack of sleep that I choose to live with. How else to have meaning in my life when there are only twenty four hours in a day? When I made the life decisions to have a child, to be a social worker, and, followed the life calling of being a writer, I also made the decision that I'd give up things like jumping up on a balmy July Sunday, and instead of going out and having a great day (as the TV meteorologists nauseatingly insist!) I stay inside and do what needs to be done, and occasionally, in small doses, enjoy something less meaningful, like the weather.

So in the end, opting for meaning wins. But there's always a small, and often not-so-small, ache in my heart, that I'm missing so much aesthetically. Fortunately, outside my window where I write are trees, and as I am now, I can watch them blow in the hot summer wind, and I can watch how the summer sun lights up some of the branches, and if there's a thunderstorm and the sky turns dark I can watch that too. And even great good fortune is having a terrace, from which I can feel the July air, and at night, I can watch the moon in all its phases, and even see some stars.

Meaning, aesthetics? What's more important? To me, the answer is both, but meaning is the cake and aesthetics is the icing. Thus, tomorrow, though it may be a perfect day for the beach, I'll go the Bronx, and sit in my noisy office under the el, watch the cinderblock building being constructed across the street, and park my car in a urine-soaked garage. But before I go I will write, and while I'm there I'll improve some people's day, if even just a little. I'll derive my meaning for the day, even as semi-consciously I'll mourn that I'm not sitting in white sand, inhaling salt air, and swimming in the sea.

___

Denise Beck-Clark has lived five plus decades in and around the New York City metropolitan area. She is a struggling, published writer, and a dabbler in photography and drawing, who derives meaning from her art, as well as from her work with the mentally ill. The struggle these days is about having it all: meaning, as well as an aesthetically rich life. Denise can be reached at Sisyphus199@aol.com.

2 comments:

riva said...

Is not a day at the beach, not a day filled with meaning? I know of nothing more healing, more filled with meaning, more filled with life, than a day at the ocean. I'm sure you would counsel your clients to take the time to touch into their inner most desires.

Anonymous said...

In response to Riva: When one means meaningful, often one means meaningful in the sense of that which is (more) meaningful(to an uninvolved third party assessing the matter or an involved party receiving the benefits from the person seeking to be meaningful,) if meaningful means that that which IS meaningful, meaning helpful and constructive to others who are in need, is the goal that is met at day's end. It's often how we're programmed. I, therefore, found this piece to be very...
enlightening.
I've confused myself and am going to the beach now.

Pam