Charle’s Simic’s MYSTICS: a prescription for the blahs?

What I’m calling the blahs may be the blues, or maybe a cousin of the blues. It presents itself as a general abatement of interest, gratification, and faith in the offerings of the world. It is a state in which the monotony of equivalence holds sway. Roethke in his poem Dolor talks of “duplicate grey standard faces”, as well as the “endless duplication of lives and objects”. Pessoa’s word for the blahs is “tédio” (tedium). Sometimes when I think I’ve got the blahs quite bad, I read a few entries from The Book of Disquiet, and accede to virtuosity of the Uber Blahmeister:

It’s not only the emptiness of things and living beings that troubles the soul afflicted by tedium, it’s also the emptiness of the very soul that feels this vacuum, that feels itself to be this vacuum, and that within this vacuum is nauseated and repelled by its own self.

THE PRESCRIPTION: CHARLES SIMIC’S MYSTICS?

Here’s how Simic takes a crack at the blahs:

MYSTICS

Help me to find what I’ve lost,
If it was ever, however briefly, mine,
You who may have found it.
Old man praying in the privy,
Lonely child drawing a secret room
And in it a stopped clock.

Seek to convey its truth to me
By hints and omens.
The room in shadow, perhaps the wrong room?
The cockroach on the wall,
The naked lovers kissing
On the TV with the sound off.
I could hear the red faucet drip.

 Or else restore to plain view
What is eternally invisible
And speaks by being silent.
Blue distances to the north,
The fires of the evening to the west,
Christ himself in pain, panhandling
On the altar of the storefront church
With a long bloody nail in each palm.

 In this moment of amazement . . .
Since I do ask for it humbly,
Without greed, out of true need.
My teeth chattered so loudly,
My old dog got up to see what’s the matter.
Oh divine lassitude, long drawn-out sigh
As the vision came and went.

If the poem speaks to you in some way, you might decide to take it for a walk and start learning it by heart, this could take up to a week or more, but even if you memorise just a few lines of the poem, its medicine will begin to take.

If you want to do some making in response to the poem, consider using its DNA to fashion your own blah-beater. Notice how the opening lines of each verse offer footholds for this slippery, empty wall of blah we might also be wanting to scale.

STANZA 1 – SUPPLICATION

STANZA 2 – TUNING INTO HINTS & OMENS

STANZA 3 – MEDITATING ON THE ETERNALLY VISIBLE

STANZA 4 – EXPRESSION OF GENUINE NEED

Here’s how the self-cure works: take a sheet of paper, or your notebook and copy the first three lines of Simic’s supplication:

Help me to find what I’ve lost,
If it was ever, however briefly, mine,
You who may have found it.

Now, without looking at the poem again, connect with some of your past and future selves, noting the thoughts and images that come up. Remember, in a quantum universe, all the various iterations of us, past-present-future, exist in a kind of eternally present “superposition”, accessible at any moment. The poem is offering you a chance to step into this moment. Think about a future you, which is to say an older-person-you (what are they doing?); now you as child; also a younger-you, every iteration standing outside the blah-oppressed self. Write a line or two about each of them.

Now copy the next prompt:

Seek to convey its truth to me
By hints and omens.

Again, without looking at Simic’s response to this, think of hints and omens you may have had, or might need to be more aware of.

Now you’re going to meditate on “what is eternally invisible/And speaks by being silent”. Write down these lines and then let your imagination respond to them.

Or else restore to plain view
What is eternally invisible
And speaks by being silent.

Finally bring your own supplication to a close in a way that feels right for what you have written. Simic asserts the legitimacy of his request. Maybe we can do something like this too?

In this moment of amazement . . .
Since I do ask for it humbly,
Without greed, out of true need.

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