Pots of Gold

I’ve been going through an intensely creative phase lately. All poetry. Averaging nearly a poem a day. Reading Kerouac. Contemplating Maslow. Both now having stirred my interests in Buddhism. They make me want to retreat to the mountains and meditate. I remind myself that I’ve got a hiking trip coming up next month. My own little mountain retreat is on the horizon. Kerouac is right when he says, “This is the beginning and the end of the world right here.” When you’re out there, way up high, where the air is thin, surrounded by nothing but the most enormous stillness you’ve ever seen.

The more I read Maslow (now, sadly, closing in on the completion of his oeuvre), the more I wish he was also a poet (and that he was still alive, so I could ask him 850 different questions about this self-actualizing business and how I might properly test this theory on myself). I wish, too, that more scientists–Maslow included–thought in metaphor. If only because I find myself with a too-strong desire to rename all the clinical things. To make a particular state of being beautiful if it feels beautiful, happy if it feels happy, like a spoonful of sugar if it’s sweet, or solemn if its experience is so. But, there is so much to learn from an exercise like this. It occurs to me, more significantly, that to conceive of my own emotional states (particularly the complex ones) in terms of metaphor allows me to more clearly explore and express their nuances, their shades of meaning, even briefly to detach myself from them, to make them a thing apart from my innermost self, a picture I can paint, a thing I can refine with my own words and imbue with my own meaning. But, I’ve already discussed that in The One-Two. The kind of detached seeing that allows for self-definition and little acts of self-appreciation and enjoyment.

Maslow. The most significant four pages of his journal, to me, hinge on his discussion of just this kind of seeing. The kind of seeing, or awareness, that allows us to revel in the minutiae of our daily existence, irreducible amounts of ecstasy. “The basic life-functioning pleasures of just living, breathing, walking, sneezing, kissing, etc.” The little miracles of life. The most rudimentary, even rugged, forms of awe. And, to my mind also, for that reason, the most elevated. No pretension. No fluff. Nothing overblown. Nothing taken for granted. Just little pots of gold. The simple pleasure of experiencing oneself. Maslow struggled to name it. “Body pleasure” and/or “functional awareness” as a precursor to other, higher forms of self-consciousness. But, he never came up with just the right metaphor for the experience. “Self-finding” he called the pursuit of this type of awareness. I prefer self-fashioning, of course, but, perhaps the finding comes first.

It’s a humble kind of vision. The kind that transforms everyday activities, even challenges–including the occasional sacrifice and the absence of creature comforts–into opportunities for pleasure. Into the little pots of gold hidden at the end of every rainbow. Maslow knew it, too. He called them “function pleasures.”

Stress the unjaded palate of the self-actualizing person, of the peaker = retention of the most basic, biological, body pleasures & sensory pleasures = a kind of versatility = the ability to enjoy the finest wine and Dago red, the finest cheese and local cheddar, great food and meat & potatoes, & even bread & cheese.- A.H. Maslow

My man. (I’m smiling, if only because bread and cheese are two of my favorite foods, and the mention of Dago red always takes me back to grandma’s house at Christmas time.) It is this kind of versatility that’s necessary for balance, for self-expansion, for what I see as a well-rounded personality. A sense of self that’s strong enough, rooted enough not to have to cling naively to status symbols or other emblems of one’s worth. It is sometimes the absence of finer things that cultivates taste. Indeed, a periodic neglect of the finer things may be a prerequisite for the cultivation of taste (and personality, which, I am beginning to think, are practically one and the same).

I must stop myself here because my thoughts are returning to the mountains. To the heft of the silence. To an occasional fondness for roughing it. For forcing oneself to pare down. To be alone with the bite of the air, with the rush of the water, with the cool breeze and the sweat, the pack on your back, and the dirt beneath your fingernails. All little pots of gold. All part of a grander celebration of life.

12 thoughts on “Pots of Gold

  1. Beautiful! I, too, wish most scientists spoke in metaphor. Truths transformed into poetry. There is nothing quite so stirring and life-altering as recognizing the facts of life buried deep within a story you’ve ready 100 times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kerouac, the mountains, metaphor, the simple pleasure of experiencing oneself. Reading experiences with On The Road return to me, the essential role of metaphor in the psychoanalysis I have been immersed in now for two years, and your post also brings to mind what I have just experienced, seven days at our cabin, in the silence, without access to the Internet (that was my choice), when I enjoyed the simple pleasures and surprises of everyday living in their most basic forms. And, as always, I enjoy reading about your passion for the work of Maslow. I relate to that so much with my own favorite thinkers, and I admire that you are able to write about it with such emotion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! As I’m (sadly) finishing up with Maslow, I’ve got my sights set on Carl Rogers next—“On Becoming a Person.” We’ll see…But, yes, sometimes I think I live a kind of metaphorical life in addition to the literal one. A kind of patchwork of meanings. And, it’s the metaphor that makes it all magical. I hope you enjoyed your trip. Disconnecting can be a necessary and invaluable experience. Now, I am not familiar with the role of metaphor in psychoanalysis. Sounds quite interesting though…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! “On the Road” changed my life in much the same way when I first read it years ago. That’s when I fell in love with Kerouac. I, too, always hope to find other truth seekers…every once in a while you’re lucky enough to bump into one or two 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You couldn’t be more right!!! I just got the original On The Road scroll and am super psyched to get into that. There’s something about those old beatniks that really transcends the mind, body, and soul. Nice to see that a few of us help to keep that generational thinking alive!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah! Do you know how tempted I was to pick up a copy of the scroll when I saw it in Barnes and Noble the other day? (I went with “Mexico City Blues” instead.) Enjoy it! It’s true, I fell in love with the Beat poets back in college…and they still feed my soul.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oooooh Mexico City is a good one!! Yeah, that original is a massive book and it’s such a nice copy too. Something about that era just mesmerizes me, I can see why you find it appealing for sure. Ginsberg is another one 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel a little silly quoting you to yourself, but you do such an excellent job of saying what I haven’t been able to communicate with your precision!

    “It occurs to me, more significantly, that to conceive of my own emotional states (particularly the complex ones) in terms of metaphor allows me to more clearly explore and express their nuances, their shades of meaning, even briefly to detach myself from them, to make them a thing apart from my innermost self, a picture I can paint, a thing I can refine with my own words and imbue with my own meaning. […] The kind of detached seeing that allows for self-definition and little acts of self-appreciation and enjoyment.”

    I’m very excited to go read The One-Two.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s