Sunday, September 10, 2006

Yes and No

Today Allen and I talked a little about the inevitability of death and how bereft we would each feel without the other. It's a talk most married couples have, I think, and there have been some beautiful poems written about it (but I'm not up to doing that). Since our talk, I've wondered how I might have put into words his importance to me without falling back on all the old cliches.

I've been keeping a separate rather secret blog here at blogspot for a few weeks that I call "Meditations." It's a storehouse of observations and quotes pertaining to my current reading and thinking. It's not enabled for comments and I've not said anything about it because I doubt profoundly that anyone would be interested in it. There's no continuity to it and no commentary. But it does provide me with a place to hopefully find a way of threading together various ideas. I also keep a hard copy of "Meditations" in a little black notebook.

One idea I've been exploring for a long time is writing as a sacred act and as a way of knowing the deepest aspects of ourselves. I began "Meditations" this summer after doing a lot of reading on Theodore Roethke. I've also been picking through letters recently of van Gogh and Edvard Munch. Much earlier, I'd read the letters of Dickey, James Wright, and James Agee.

I went to "Meditations" tonight and reread what van Gogh said about the eternal yes and the eternal no.

Vincent van Gogh writes to Theo of Tersteeg, an art dealer with whom he'd had several unpleasant encounters. Vincent tells what he believes Tersteeg thinks of him and of what Tersteeg has come to represent to Vincent:

[Tersteeg thinks to himself] "You are a mediocrity and you are arrogant because you don't give in and you make mediocre little things: you are making yourself ridiculous with your so-called seeking, and you do not work."

Vincent goes on to say, That is the real meaning of what Tersteeg said to me the year before last, and last year; and he still means it.

I am afraid Tersteeg will always be for me "the everlasting no."

That is what not only I, but almost everyone who seeks his own way, has behind or beside him as an everlasting discourager. Sometimes one is depressed by it and feels miserable and almost stunned.

It's what Vincent says next that makes me think about Allen:

But I repeat, it is the everlasting no; in the cases of men of character, on the contrary, one finds an everlasting yes, and discovers in them "la foi du charbonnier."

For me Allen has been the everlasting yes. He has supported my writing completely, with a believer's faith, since the start. "La foi du charbonnier" means believing in something with a kind of religious acceptance, believing without "thinking" too much.

There have also been many Tersteegs in my life, and sometimes even now when I go about my "seeking," I can hear them deriding me or laughing at me. This is why it's so important to have someone who believes in you. It's so much easier, then, to fend off thoughts of the Tersteegs.

I write this not so much to call attention to my relationship with Allen and not to be depressing with all this talk about death, but to say that we all need that person in whom we find "La foi du charbonnier." I think for Vincent, it was Theo. For me it is Allen.


Erin said...

What a beautiful post! I enjoyed reading about your relationship, and also about the eternal yes and eternal no. I'm thinking now of the yeses and nos in my life.

Erin said...

Oh, yes--you asked about my upcoming interviews. I've just applied for a promotion within the company I'm already working for. I'd be doing similar work to what I'm doing now, but with more responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Love this post, Theresa. Saturday my mother called about the death of an uncle. I do not have an operational car so can't travel three hours to attend his funeral...when I mentioned that my brother, a wealthy corporate executive, could get a couple of days off work at full pay to attend, my mother treated me to a screaming fit. She has decided not to tell my brother about the death, because he and his work are too important and cannot be disturbed. (Meanwhile, no problem disturbing me and then dumping on me for not having the financial resources that he does. Talk about your everlasting no.) I do not have an everlasting yes in my life. My ex came closest. And yes, I need one. Badly. Teagrapple.

beths front porch said...

Theresa, what a beautiful, profound love letter to Allen. Please let me know if you ever decide to share "Meditations." I would be interested in it. Beth

Cynthia said...

The everlasting yes... I have to remember this, and if you ever do decide to share your Meditations, I'd love to peek.

ggw07 said...

This is one of the most significant things I have read from you- For an artist to have another person say, "Yes," to all the struggle, is tremendous- It's most valuable when you're wading through crap to get to something worthwhile- the ultimate intimacy that defies death. I'm almost superstitious, and avoid stating my similar good fortune. Fiercely defend this-

Anonymous said...

Yoko Ono seems to be an everlasting yes. She met John Lennon when he viewed her art exhibition of the word "yes" written on the ceiling in tiny print at the top of a ladder. I'll admit I didn't get it at the time, but now, after a lifetime of no and rejection, it grips me. And she created the Yoko Ono Yes Box, which is shown (among other things) on an unofficial website of her work. I think she may be the embodiment of yes. Would like to know what others think. Teagrapple

Theresa Williams said...

That's a good point about Yoko Ono being Lennon's Eternal Yes. I'm with you: I didn't understand it at the time, either. But I can see it now--The YES box, OF COURSE!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Theresa! They both (Lennon and Ono) created art that was ahead of their time, although his was more immediately accessible for me. And what a couple. Who would not want to be that much in love? Teagrapple

Nelle said...

I had so many nos in my life, particularly from my ex. When I met my present spouse he was such a positive force in my life who told me often that I could do anything I wanted to..and do it well. There is nothing like having someone who believes in you, without reservation. I feel blessed.



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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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