As a connoisseur of high-brow literature, I have read “A Visitor for Bear” aloud about 10 dozen times. In it, Bear tries to make his breakfast only to find Mouse pop up in various places in his kitchen. Each time, he throws Mouse out and gets back to the business of making his breakfast, only to find Mouse pop up again in a new location. This leads to frustration, followed by despair, followed by begrudging acceptance, followed, ultimately, by the warmth of joyous friendship as they share breakfast by the fire.
There happens in me a struggle between the poet and the pragmatist. The poet in me wants to market the moon (link); read, think and see beauty; live life for love; get lost in my lover’s eyes and arms; and generally seize the day. It despises my higher (formal) education, my day job and my parental responsibilities. It yearns for carefree freedom, new vistas and constant change. In short, my poet yearns for a life that is a never-ending series of ever-higher highs.
The pragmatist in me helps the kids off to school. It goes to work every day, reading and analyzing slight variations of the same boring things. It reads Bloomberg, the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal. It goes to the gym. It eats lunch. It returns home and helps the kids with their homework and bedtime routines. It manages some down time for itself with a book, a television program or its equally tired wife. Imagine standing on a highway in west Texas, the same gray dullness stretched out to infinity in either direction, with nothing on the wayside to entice one’s notice. My pragmatist appreciates the engineering and the effort required to build the flat, plain road.
“I see life’s beauty!” the poet exclaims with passion in his voice and in his eyes. “I give life to your eyes…” the pragmatist dryly notes, not looking up from the evening paper. Each is frustrated and pushed to the edge of despair, being chained to the other.
The poet is learning to accept the sacrifice and generosity of the pragmatist whose work makes life possible; the pragmatist is learning to accept the poet’s yearning hunger for beauty that makes life worth living. Neither existence is possible without the other.
After the frustration and despair dissipate, begrudging acceptance can yield to joyous friendship. And I can get back to the business of making my breakfast.