A Look at “The Examined Life”

I finally found a journal — one of the infinite stream of tedium series in my studio called The Examined Life, that’s been worth looking into. It’s from 1999/2000 — 20 years ago. That was the time I began reading Goethe. Goethe is all through that journal, a kind of thought conversation with this amazing man, writer as I discovered things in my reading.

At the beginning, I was in the middle of reading Faust and had not yet delved far into Goethe’s words about his life. But it’s clear from this journal that his work had shown me how to think about my own life with more clarity. I wrote:

Who can say…the passage of time, the chronicle of the stray thought, repeated over the years, the one truth we know and the question for which we find no answer strike the rhythm of our blind dance, the ache of our despair. The glorious morning when we remember — once again — who we are. Over and over and over again, we fight for ourselves with ourselves against ourselves. Life is only part crucible. We are perfected on an anvil with the hammer of our hope. (My words to me at age 48)

Now I think my anvil was hope and the hammer disappointment

2000 was a strange year for me. Among other strange things, in the pursuit of love that had been offered, I went to Italy only to find the man in question wouldn’t even talk to me, but left me in the hands of his family. It was an internal nightmare from which I attempted to awaken by walking the streets of Milan and looking at paintings. It was a fairly successful stragedy and not one everyone has access to. But I was angry and lovesick.

Love has always been problematic for me. I understand why now much more clearly than I did 20 years ago, but it’s always implied the loss of autonomy and a kind of surrender. It is something I wanted desperately (for a long while) and something that terrified me. As witnessed in the infinite volumes of The Examined Life have always searched for it while simultaneously dreading it. In this installment of The Examined Life I record the turning point.

“…That is why I prefer the study of nature which does not allow such sickness to arise. For there we have to do with infinite and eternal truth that immediately rejects anyone who does to proceed neatly and honestly in observing and handling his subject…” Goethe

Goethe had suffered the same love sickness I had. He ultimately gave up on GREAT LOVE, and found someone to spend his life with, but I think it’s different for men than it is for women.

2000 was also the year that I finished the original version of Martin of Gfenn, a 97 page first-person novella. I was pitching it and found an agent for it. Ultimately it didn’t work out — publishers turned it down because it assumed too much knowledge of medieval Zürich on the part of the reader. That was fair. That led me to study, opening a whole world to me.

There is a rejection note of a type we don’t see any more.

This installment of The Examined Life is the first interesting volume so far.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/rdp-tuesday-eggplant/

19 thoughts on “A Look at “The Examined Life”

  1. I write an occasional journal where I respond to the book I’m reading and I think that some day when I read them again I’ll see myself stretching and growing mentally and emotionally. Your words back then were beautiful –

    “The glorious morning when we remember — once again — who we are. Over and over and over again, we fight for ourselves with ourselves against ourselves. Life is only part crucible. We are perfected on an anvil with the hammer of our hope.”

    I imagine there’s lot of gold to mine in those journals. Happy digging!

  2. (second try) Thank you for sharing this transparent and vulnerable post. The paragraph beginning with “Love has always…” is especially poignant because you were/are right: women compromise (give) and men gain – it’s been the story since the beginning of time and although we all want love, some of us are not willing to make those sacrifices of self for a kind of “love” that is only superficial and transient at best. I don’t know about you but I do not regret “going it alone”…And I agree with Cara Sue about the poetry of some of your writing/thoughts.

    • Thank you. ❤ I regret the time I spent trying to be married. I regret my lack of self-acceptance and self-knowledge. It cost me a lot of time and a lot of life. I was willing to make the sacrifices, but they were not in my nature so it never worked. I began to wake up when I realized the sense of relief I felt when I unlocked the door to my own place and no one else was there. I knew myself well enough as a very young woman to tell my friend I wanted a man for whom I could leave a note that said, "Gone to Morocco. I love you" and he would understand. My friend said, "That man doesn't exist." I don't know if she was right or wrong.

  3. I guess knowing yourself, understanding yourself, is in my humble opinion the first step to being able to enjoy life and others and especially love. I learned that lesson too late. such is life! Although I have been far happier more joyful and relaxed since I made that discovery. Just saying!

  4. I admire your self awareness. I knew from an early age that my passion was animals and I was lucky enough to be able to follow my dreams. I was also lucky in love and found a man who supported my dreams as much as I supported his… In that respect we are whole people apart and together.

  5. You write beautifully of the internal push-pull I also experience: I want/should be in a relationship; I’m so glad I’m not in a relationship.
    For years I joked my ideal relationship would involve a duplex. I need my own space!
    Now, even that would be too smothering.
    Love the drawing. Love the wisdom.

  6. I don’t know if you are quoting Goethe or your own observations, but this so absolutely resonated with me—like the striking of a big bell:

    “Over and over and over again, we fight for ourselves with ourselves against ourselves. Life is only part crucible. We are perfected on an anvil with the hammer of our hope. “

    • I’m actually quoting George W. Bush who somehow couldn’t say “strategy.” I thought his mistake was profound and I co-opted it as being accurate to life as I know it. 😀

Comments are closed.