BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

Physiology


PHYSIOLOGY: DEFINED AND DESCRIBED

Part 1:

Physiology is the biological science of the function of living systems. In physiology, the scientific method is applied to determine how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells and biomolecules carry out the chemical or physical function that they have in a living system.
Human physiology is the science of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of humans in good health, their organs, and the cells of which they are composed. The principal level of focus of physiology is at the level of organs and systems within systems. Much of the foundation of knowledge in human physiology was provided by animal experimentation. I apply some of this science of physiology to my poetry and prose, and readers will find the application of ideas from physiology and anatomy to what I write in much of the content below. For a history of physiology and some relevant links go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physiology

Physiology is closely related to anatomy; anatomy is the study of form, and physiology is the study of function. Form and function are also part of the anatomy of poetry. Due to the frequent connection between form and function, physiology and anatomy are intrinsically linked and are studied in tandem as part of a medical curriculum.
Human physiology dates back to at least 420 B.C. during the Golden Age of Greece, and the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. The critical thinking of Aristotle and his emphasis on the relationship between structure and function marked the beginning of physiology in Ancient Greece, while Claudius Galenus (c. 126-199 A.D.), known as Galen, was the first to use experiments to probe the function of the body. Galen was the founder of experimental physiology. The ancient Indian books of Ayurveda, the Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita, also had descriptions on human anatomy and physiology. The medical world moved on from Galenism only with the appearance of Andreas Vesalius and William Harvey.

Part 2:

PHYSIOLOGY AND BPD

An understanding of physiology and anatomy has been important to me in life, but it was not until I retired from a 50 year student-employment life, 1949 to 1999,  that I began to seriously study these fields. Due to the wide-ranging nature of my interests, interests reflected in the more than 80 disciplines and sub-disciplines on this website, my knowledge of these fields will remain that of a generalist. Since the early 1980s, and more so since 1990, after I became fully compliant in relation to the medication I took for bipolar disorderBPD), I have had less difficulty knowing where I was in the process of mood swing, psychological orientation and general understanding of my mental health issues. My body chemistry and the relationship of that chemistry with brain functioning---which is involved with my BPD---is very complex.  I make no attempt to describe the chemistry, the anatomy and the physiology in the story of my life-experience of this disorder.  Over the years I have grown used-to the various plays on my emotions, my sleep patterns and my mental activity during the pre-medication phases and the post-medication periods of the medications prescribed.

During the mood, the recent medication, transitions, though, the swing to a mild elation or euphoria in the first decade of the 21st century was new, refreshing and quite pleasurable. After an initial period of a few weeks of instability and highly variable sleeping patterns and problems that mild euphoria was a delight. During that transition, though, there were a variety of symptoms, but I feel no need to outline them here. For those wanting a detailed outline of my 68 year experience of BPD, they can google: RonPrice BPD.

HOW THE BRAIN WORKS: AN ELECTRO-CHEMICAL COMMENTARY

The work of neurophysiologist Joseph LeDoux, among others, informs us not even the brain is, strictly speaking,“rational” or dispassionate in an “enlightened” sense. Examining the relationship between the “thought-imbued intensities” of the amygdala, “an almond-shaped brain located at the base of the cortex,” and the prefrontal cortex, the mind constantly exhibits irrational impulses. Impulsivity has been a problem assoicated with my BPD. When receiving signs and stimuli, the amygdala reacts “quickly, relatively crudely, and with intense energy…below the level of conscious judgment and feeling.” This has been, in part at least, the cause of many of the problems assoicated with my BPD. The prefrontal cortex, in turn, receives such signs “more slowly, processing them through a sophisticated linguistic network in a more refined way and forming a more complex judgment.”

One could say, hopefully without characterizing LeDoux’s analysis, that the amygdala manifests immediate, intense, and inexplicable “prethoughts.” Such impulses are not derived from rational deliberation, nor are they built on a series of core beliefs. With immediate vigor, they “just” happen, which then allows the prefrontal cortex to “organize conceptually sophisticated translations of these intensities and feelings.” Thus, an essential part of a properly functioning mind is irrationality or, to be more specific, pre-rationalism.  For an extended discussion of this topic go to the electronic journal Nebula, V. 4, N. 4, December 2007. The article "The Postmodern Condition as a Religious Revival: A Critical Review of William Connolly’s Why I am Not a Secularist," by Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe, and Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief is found at: http://www.nobleworld.biz/images/McIlhenny2.pdf Go to this link for more:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/jun/26/how-the-mind-works-revelations/

LIFE'S CONTINUOUS COMPOSITE WHOLE: ROOTED IN MY PHYSIOLOGY

The spiritual, mental and emotional autobiographies of the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived have never been recorded. For many thousands of people in the last two centuries, though, a detailed, a scanty, a fascinating or a tedious record has been left.  In recent decades writing biography and autobiography has become somewhat of a popular sport or discipline. In the case of a very few people, like the French novelist Gustave Flaubert, the preservation of documents about the self has been carried to the point of mania. Gustave Flaubert Put the Microscope on the Physiology of His writing experience.

Thanks to Flaubert, the student of the individual creative process has a microscopic view for perhaps the first time in history of the development of the creative process in one individual. My own particular poetic narrative presents what I am to myself, how I see myself and how I have lived with this self for nearly sixty years. Flaubert was and is a model for me in terms of this microscopic view of my writing. I go about this exercise with a certain style. Style to me was what it was to Flaubert "the rendering of content in a form in which both style and content would be one."(1) Style is the filter, the means, of rendering externality.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Benjamin F. Bart, Flaubert, Syracuse UP, 1967, Preface and p.340.

Style is, ultimately, a matter
of the precise words used
and their arrangement in
some structure, some form,
some continuous, composite
whole, a physiological-anatomy,
in the cultural repository of history.1

Content, the work, came to me
insensibly over several years
so that, now, it is the work of
my whole life. It is always on
my mind and I am always in
the act of preparing for it.

Even my rests are rests
for the work lieing ahead.

(1) Some of Flaubert's view of 'style'

Ron Price
13/4/'02 to 5/4/'13.


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HONEY POSSUM

It is essential to study the eco-physiology of animals if we are concerned with the extinction of species. In southwest Australia, near where I lived for more than a decade, this subject is particuarly interesting.-Don Bradshaw, Professor of Zoology, University of Western Australia, The Science Show, ABC Radio, 6 December 1997.

Did I get this right: the honey possum
can copulate for thirteen hours and has
five percent of its body weight in testicles?
Sucking nectar with its hairy, elongated
snout from the Banksia blossoms is perhaps
the key to its survival--and the Banksia's.

We seem to know a great deal now about
the sex life of animals and plants
which has been going on for 100s of millions
of years making incredible variation everywhere.
And the sperm, in us, duplicates itself:
An immortal lifeline of genetic continuity, a
perpetual living flux, a turbulent continuum
of interrelatedness, abstraction and catalysis.

Ron Price
6/12/'97 to 5/4/'13.


MY WIFE AND PHYSIOLOGY

I have been taking medications, off and on, since June 1968. My latest meds, April 2012 to April 2013, are settling in just fine.  I am sleeping 7 to 8 hours per day out of 10 to 11 in bed...a normality I have only had in recent years.  My wife is an excellent doctor, and knows much more than I do about anatomy and physiology. She directs me in sound ways toward all sorts of good things in the health sphere.  She has had many more medical difficulties over the years than I have had.   She has learned a great deal in the process and I now benefit from her learning.


                                     ONE OF THE GREATEST PUZZLES
 
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of the world, can alter. -Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p.155.
 
How is it that the same looking cells-
with the same genetic blueprint-
early in the development of the human
embryo become different tissues?

It’s one of the greatest puzzles in biology.
The recipies are genes; the cookbook
is the chromosomes and the chefs the
protein molecules on DNA which switch
genes on and off mysterious ways.
 
How is it that the same looking people
with the same basic human physiology
for the first phase of their existence-
some four score years and ten-have
such different life-soul experiences
after their separation from the body?

It’s one of the greatest puzzles in
the history of religion,  philosophy
and theology. The recipies are the
specific theologies of the afterlife;   
the cookbooks the Holy Writings
of the great religious traditions
and the chefs the prophetic Teachers.
 
Ron Price
4/1/'96 to 5/4/'13.
 

THE ANATOMY OF INFLUENCE

MEMORIZING: The Major and Minor Leagues

The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life is a new book by Harold Bloom.(1) Bloom(1930- ) is, arguably, the most famous American literary critic; he is also the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies for the Chelsea House publishing firm. Bloom teaches two classes at Yale: one on the plays of William Shakespeare; the other on poetry from Geoffrey Chaucer to Hart Crane. Some of his writing has reflected this teaching, from Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998) to The Anatomy of Influence (2011), which he has called the summa of his career.

Bloom says that his theory of literature “was the offshoot of his own reading habits, principally his freakish capacity for memorization. He discovered this ability to memorize in childhood, and it never left him. In the early 1960s, after hearing the prolific American poet W. S. Merwin’s poem Departure’s Girl-Friend, a poem of some 40 lines, he was able to repeat it verbatim.  “Even now,” he says, “I possess almost all of the poetry of one of my favorite poets, Hart Crane, by memory.”

The ability to grasp poetry in this way is rare, but not unprecedented. Bloom’s hero, the English author Samuel Johnson(1709-1784), had this ability as well. “His memory was so tenacious,” Boswell writes in his great biography of Johnson, “that he never forgot anything that he either heard or read.”  One of Johnson’s schoolmates remembers having recited to him 18 verses which, after a little pause, he was able to repeat, varying only one epithet, by which he improved the line.”

The scientific study of memory is part of cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary link between cognitive psychology and neuroscience.  Some principles and techniques that have been used to assist in memorization include: rote learning, mnemonics, mnemonics link systems, peg systems, cramming, vedic chants, and oral traditions.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Sam Tanenhaus, Harold Bloom: An Uncommon Reader,  in The New York Times, May 20, 2011.

I had a good memory as a student
in primary and high school & was
able to go to the top of my class...,
but I was not in your league, Mr…
Bloom or Mr Johnson, or, or.........

I had to work to get that information
and those facts into my brain for the
future use usually in exams......99%
perspiration and 1% inspiration. I am
in a minor league, a minor poet but,
as the years went on and my interests
widened and deepened, I was able to
develop an architecture of information
in which to place a burgeoning quantity
of details as I headed through the stages
of adulthood and into old-age and its 3
phases: 65-74, 75-85 and beyond......if I
last that long, say, beyond 2024 & 2034.

Ron Price
26/6/'12 to 5/4/'13.


                            LET THERE BE LIGHT
 
In the third verse of the Book of Genesis we can read of God saying: "Let there be light!" Until the slow and complex evolution of the eye, and particularly the cornea, this light could not be the transmitting medium for any living thing to view the world. A convenient beginning point for the beginnings of sight is the Cambrian explosion of some 550 million years ago when the 'monopolizing grip of the algae was broken' -Ron Price, Textbook of Modern Biology, Atlas of Anatomy and Cosmos by Carl Sagan.
 
We were blind until that great explosion
when life's new burgeoning produced some
of the earliest stages of the cornea's half mm
thick, five-layered pack, humours and that
marvellous mix of rods and cones after three
billion years of darkness. Light was finally
transmitted to an inner being, the world seen
at last, after endless bacteria, algae and that
granular protoplasm which you can Google.

Receptors in molluscs: squids and octopuses,
arthropods with their mosaic of lenses and, then,
breathtaking new adaptations in rapid succession,
exquisite organic molecules in elaborate machinery
of the cell, its labyrinthine and subtle architecture &
nucleic acids refining the mixed-focus lens--cornea.
 
Ron Price
29/5/'98 to 5/4/'13.

                      POETRY REINCARNATING
 
The crystal is so constructed that it always tends to maintain itself in stable balance, automatically restoring its shape whenever it is forced a little out of line in any direction. In effect it “wants” to hold onto the exact anatomy it has got--and maybe annex more of the same sort of structure if offered half a chance. -Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life, Houghton and Mifflin, 1978, p.386.
 
This poetry tends to maintain a stable structure after I have given it its initial form. Virtually all of my poems keep their precise shape, although one day I may ‘force’ some of them into another ‘direction’. My poetry tends to “want” to hold its exact anatomy, although in the process of construction “more of the same” is often annexed onto it.  In the last decade, 2003 to 2013, I have more frequently than in previous years edited many of my poems. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 5/4/'13.
 
Some of this poetry exists like a rock or a grain of sand,
like pumice floating on the seven seas, or sand taking
to the air and migrating in mysterious patterns. Some
of this poetry grows like some rocks which change shape
or glow or get crusted with sulfurous dust in my files.
Dozens of species of rock, like this poetry, change
in size and composition; sand is born of processes of
disintegration: weathering, freezing, expansion and
contraction with progressively smaller particles settling.
 
They settle as ideas crystallize into finely phrased forms.
In the same way that it takes a river a million years to work
its sand a hundred miles downstream, it would take my words
a trillion years in eternity to so find the mystic tongues which
find utterance in speech and the mysteries concealed in a single
melody. Some of my poetry is so rough it would take a million
miles of a river’s raging torrent to polish its millimetres of quartz
crystal to some kind of spherical smoothness for the sense of touch
by the beach when I’, by myself or with some friends or family.
 
These poems, like sand, will come to rest in some vast ocean bed
and sleep for eons, before getting metamorphosed like a new butterfly
in some mountain and, born again, they will flow back to the sea in an
eternal recurrence along the river of life: poetry reincarnating itself.
 
Ron Price
21/4/’96 to 5/4/’13.
 

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF MEMORY

Part 1:

There are endless ways of telling one’s story. For this reason poets and writers like Roger White and Bernard Shaw may be wrong to think that the passive nature of their lives disqualifies them from even attempting to write their autobiography. Roger used to say, in his letters to me back in the 1980s, that he did not think it was possible for a biographer to make anything at all interesting out of his life. I think time will prove him wrong. He, like Shaw, thought his life was in his writing, or as he once put it, quoting Rabindranath Tagore: “the poem not the poet.”
 
If one does write autobiography, as I do, one can not tell one’s whole story no matter how one tells it.  As I look back on that relationship I had with that delightful young woman, Kit Orlick, in the early months of 1965 just before my father died, I recall with fond memories the physical delight I had never before tasted. I am disinclined to reveal what parts of each other's anatomy we caressed and for how long and where and when.  It's not that I think the event, the experience, does not matter; on the contrary, it mattered a great deal then and, in retrospect, it still 'matters.'   While one tells one’s story, as Montaigne said, one’s story makes oneself and there is so much of tedium, chouder and trivia in life which one simply edits out, out of pure necessity.  If you put it all in you’d have a mountain of garbage that even the most assiduous reader could not plough through.

My life takes form, takes on structure and I take pleasure in mnemonic delight as I write; it is a fascinating process.  It feels to me a little like sculpting or painting must feel like to the artists in these fields.  It’s part of the magic of writing autobiography.   As William Spengemann emphasizes, autobiography is synonymous with symbolic action. Writing is symbolic action. The implications of this idea revolutionizes  the experience of writing autobiography. One sees the whole exercise in metaphorical terms. While not possessing the freedom of the novelist or the facticity of writing history, autobiography does contain enough freedom and enough truth to give it the best of both worlds.
 
Part 2:

“Autobiographers”, Brian Finney notes in his introductory words to The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography in the Twentieth Century(1985, p.21),  “appear to have as many different conceptions of what constitutes the truth about themselves as readers have different expectations of them.”  So, in the end, what I write about those intimacies with Kit Orlick nearly 50 years ago is in my hands, in my head and, as in the life of a conversation, one decides what one is going to say to whom and when all of one's days. And it is no different with the written word, with the autobiographical word.
 
If parts of our nature are unknowable, if our degree of confessionalism is in our own hands, if others see us quite differently than we see ourselves, there is going to be only a certain aspect of the truth and only a certain degree of it that opens up for the autobiographer.  Even if autobiographies are lies, as Shaw said; if they are not to be trusted unless they reveal something disgraceful, as Orwell hypothesized; if they reveal one’s mendacity as Freud emphasized; if they focus on our personal myths as Jung would have put it--they at least pursue the human, the personal, story from within. Even if autobiography is a caricature of sorts, it cannot deny the tyrannical power of basic facts, however interpretive or subjective. There is an inevitable and, to some extent, naive trusting in memory. And there is always the question of what one wants to disclose, its timeliness, its suitedness to the hearers. There is tact and frankness; there is a judicious etiquette of expression and there is the relaxation of restraint.. There are words which have "the influence of spring" and there are words which are "like unto blight"[1] and cause the blossoms and flowers to wither.
 
There is both historical veracity and artistic creativity, then, in autobiography. The self-portraiture, the process of writing, transmutes one’s life into a verbal artifact. It is difficult to reveal one’s private self to the world; some aspects of that self are better left unrevealed and an ambivalence regarding the revelation of some of that inner life is, it would seem to me, unavoidable.  Each person has his or her ambivalences, areas they want to evade, be diversionary and euphistic.   Evasion, euphistic language and diversionary tactics are all part of a process of saying what one wants to say and not saying it all.
 
Part 3:

George Orwell talks about a certain amount of exaggeration in the process of selection and narration and a type of meaning that emerges by the way one retrospectively chooses to order events. In the process of his own analysis Orwell attempts to come to grips with his buried and not-so-buried motives for writing his autobiography. Subjective self-discovery and the capacity for objective reportage are related; factuality and self-awareness seem to walk hand-in-hand. The reader, too, can often correct the unperceived distortions of the writer when the autobiography embraces fully this subjective element. For the reader and writer become more intimate through this style, this tone, of writing.
 
Memory is notoriously unreliable; it is like a minefield; it is also the great artist, as Andre Marois once put it. Some see memory as a pandering to the ego; some point out that being told by others what happened is not the same as one’s own account: so that all one really has is memory. “There have been episodes in my life” says A.E. Coppard “which not even the prospect of an eternity in hellfire would induce me to reveal.”(ibid.,p.46) But even then it is very difficult for the writer to hide his true nature. I see all of my own effort as quite a transparent, honest exercise, an exercise which is conscious of a good degree of probing, conscious of style, language and form. I am conscious that my own life has nothing of the great adventures and incredible stories that are at the heart of many autobiographies. Hopefully it has an interesting yarn at its centre and material that will be useful to the Baha’i community as it unfolds its contribution to the globe in the decades ahead.

I hope, in aiming to achieve something useful, that I have not poured out a pile of dirty laundry, that I have at least kept the pile tactfully small. Vanity is as common as air and I trust this ubiquitous folly is at least kept to a minimum in the process of all my navel-gazing. The desire to give the reader pleasure and contribute something original and probing lies in the matrix of my motivations to write. Moliere said that what he tried to do was correct men by amusing them. I would like to be able to achieve this, but I am not conscious of much success. I  hope I get better at this style of writing, at this comic autobiography.  At this stage of my life writing, an autobiography seemed to be something I could do, something I would enjoy doing from among the options one has available in life, something for which there was a place in the burgeoning Baha’i literature of this new millennium and might even find a place in the decades surrounding the emergence of the third century of the Baha'i Era.
 
Part 4:

I trust, too, that my writing is not characterized by that romantic flavour that Frank Harris writes with in his My Life and Loves published in England in the 1920s in all its 1100 odd pages. There is romance in my life: a sexual aesthetic, a sensitivity to the beauty of the feminine, of nature and of the intellect; and I trust that it is not removed from the real world, that it is simply part of my experience and not over-emphasized in my narrative, just a part of the intentional and unintentional revelations that add complexity and fascination to the text. The theatrical, the dramaturgical, is present in my work, but hopefully not unduely so. The mock-heroic, the lofty sentiments, the literary and thematic exaggerations and postures I hope are not overly done, stretched too far with too much religiosity as George Moore tended to do in his Hail and Farewell.(1911)
 
The following poem explores this issue of sexuality, of sex, in more detail.
 
TAKING THE HEAT OFF
 
Sylvie Hill, in a MA research paper submitted to Carleton University, discusses sexual frustration and artistic failure in James Joyce's portrait of Stephen Daedalus. In my lower moments, and I have had many over the days, months and years of my lifespan; and even in my not-so-low moments I identify strongly with the portrait painted by Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Although I have never taken recourse to prostitutes to deal with my sexual frustrations, I would present a far from complete portrait of myself if I disregarded how sexual tension has affected my life as an adult. My carnal urges do not occupy much of my attention now in the evening of my life, but self-control has been an important part of my life since as far back as I can remember. And it has not been an easy ride.

This process, this entanglement in a labyrinthine pattern of sexual desire, has been partly a result of my bipolar disorder and several mental health issues, as well as the medications I have taken and now take for my phsiological and anatomical problems. It seems to me that my sex-life is one of those subjects best kept in the private domain, at least for the most part. My wife, either my present wife(1974-2013) or my first wife(1967-1973), would not appreciate my private revelations. I wonder, though, how much of my motivation for writing is sexual, a sublimation of my sexual tensions in writing. Is my poetry, then, like Dedalus's, "too individualistic and does not speak to anyone but myself.?" Such is some of my inner conflict in relation to my writing. The Universal House of Justice provides many wise and comforting words of understanding in relation to sexual topics. -Ron Price with thanks to the Universal House of Justice, Letter to an individual believer, March 8th 1981.
 
You advised I concentrate(1)
on developing my virtues,
on serving the community,
on God and His attributes,
on living a full Baha'i life in
all its aspects, not to let this
personal problem claim too
great a share of my attention,
not to overemphasise its
presence & its importance.
 
Such wisdom:
takes the heat off,
makes me feel human,
overcomes a thousand years
of ignorance in one simple
letter to an individual believer.
 
1 ibid
 
Ron Price
25/3/'02 to 5/4/'13.
 
THE ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
        OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIRS

Section 1:

“The truth is”, J.D. Bereford tells us, “that my single pleasure is in continual retelling of the story of my own intellectual and spiritual life.”(ibid.,p.68) Beresford’s creative energy goes into interpretations of what is going on and that is the case with me as far as I am able. Frankly, I do not have that singleness of pleasure that Bereford seems to get. This autobiography has occupied a good deal of my time since the mid-1980s, but it is only one part of a multifaceted life. It is clearly not ‘my single pleasure.’
 
For some writers their creative effort goes into discussing others since others are part of their corporate identity. I do not do this well, at least not yet. Perhaps I got too discouraged by some of my earlier experiences with short biographies that I wrote about people in the Northern Territory of Australia.  Alan Sillitoe says a writer makes art when he trys to make truth believeable. Given a certain shapelessness, plotlessness to life, the autobiographer strives to give form to an episodic enigma, to create the artistic illusion of conclusiveness, beginning and middle. Finney suggests this form is best defined in inner terms. For the main problem in autobiography is how to deal with yourself: not too high flying and smug on the one hand and not too humble and self-effacing on the other; not too confessional on the one hand, not too restrained, too moderate and refined on the other.  Comedy is one way out of the dilemma. Understanding, wit and verbal skill is another way to hit some solid ground that is winning, genuine and communicates effectively.
 
Section 2:

Freud argues that the spheres of sexuality and obscenity offer the amplest occasions for obtaining comic pleasure. I don’t think I have yet achieved much comic pleasure in writing about these domains of life. Perhaps when and if I produce a second major version of my autobiography I can find the necessary humor to obtain the pleasure that Freud alludes to. I have always found it difficult to find sex through love; over the years love blossomed and I stopped looking for sex. I became quite happy with a little. I’m sure I could deal with this feature of my life with more artistry. Perhaps one day I may find both the desire and the opportunity.
 
Finney states that the history of autobiography is “the history of self-awareness”. (ibid.,p.117). The breakup in the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries AD led to St. Augustine and a more changeable, less static conception of self-statement.  The Renaissance led to a concentration in autobiography on the private self, even a creation of a self, especially through an examination of one’s formative, one’s earliest years. This has been especially true in the last two centuries where autobiographers drew their very breath from the past and the mysterious origins of their authors' lives.   The imaginative experiences and insights which come from memories and the process of private excavation help the writer make his story interesting. What and how things are excavated from one's life is, to a significant extent, the basis of the richness and pleasure derived from an autobiography.  It is a challenge, a difficulty, inherent in the genre itself. 
 
In a world of sensory stimulation, continuous entertainment and panem et circenses writing an autobiography that will hold the reader, many readers, is a high challenge. I’m not so sure I have acheived this goal. I take refuge in my poetry for its inevitable coterie of readers and for its expansion on themes I have difficulty elaborating in prose.
 
Section 3:

“Childhood is important” wrote Jung late in life “because this is the time when, terrifying or encouraging, those far-seeing dreams and images appear before the soul of the child, shaping his whole destiny.”  The autobiographer reaches back when he can even into the life of his ancestors. (ibid.,p.127)  We begin in the magic circle of our childhood, reaching out into the world in ever-widening circles as man breathes his own life into things in the act of observing himself and his environment. This I have done in my poetry and in my Life Story but not in the narrative of Pioneering Over Four Epochs which does not really begin until that magic circles begins to enlarge. Sometimes, I am only too conscious, the light of nostalgia is falsifying, sometimes illuminating, but always it tells something of the observing self and my adult preoccupations. One lives the early years, everything, over and over again.
 
Infantile amnesia, or what one author called the sweet darkness of one’s earliest years, is the time when the formative events and influences occur. I have no memories before the age of four. Freud argues that affectionate and hostile images of the father are born here and persist all one’s life(ibid.,p.140).  This is an aspect of my life, these earliest memories, that I could develop one day in my own story. It is here that the dominating parent is born, the excessively pietistic influence, indeed much that is both positive and negative in life. And one can learn a great deal by examining the etiology of these influences. One can, as D.H. Lawrence suggests, shed some of one’s sicknesses by such retrospection or, as Clive James once put it, one can get out of the prison of one’s childhood.  Both Frued and Jung argued, though, that we gain only a partial understanding of our early life and indeed of life itself. There is an inevitable incompleteness, blindness. There are countless subsidiary happenings that don’t get in to our story due to the genre’s pressure to create shape and meaning, and to be bony and bare at the perifery outside that shape and form. George Bernard Shaw admitted this when he wrote that his “story has no plot and the problem will never be solved.”(ibid.,p.164)
 
Section 4:

Autobiography, then, becomes like a monument to defeat or an expression of acceptance of defeat. Sometimes it is simply an oversimplification of the complexities of personality that defeat any therapeutic aim of the writer. The wholeness of personality, the realization of its totality and fullness,  Jung argues, is impossible to attain. It is only an ideal. 
 
Much of modern autobiography has grown out of religious introspection and the soul’s struggle with despair. Protestantism made the individual responsible for his own spiritual development and this resulted in an inner conflict and search for wholeness amidst psychological aridity, neurosis, depression and endless analysis as well as the joys and pleasures of life.  History has now given us nearly half a millennum of Protestantism with its emphasis on the individual. Democracy, too, growing obtrusively and unobtrusively, perhaps for two and a half millennia has been a seedbed for autobiography.  The historical story of this literary form, autobiography, is long and detailed.  It is not my purpose to provide such a detailed examination here.
 
In the twentieth century ‘religious’  became ‘psychological’, at least for millions.  Perhaps, as Jung states, “the spiritual adventure of our time is the exposure of human consciousness to the undefinable and indefinable.”(ibid.,p.208) An autobiography like my own is the account of that exposure.
Finney notes Roy Pascal’s view that the brief half-century from 1782, when Rousseau’s autobiography was published,  to 1831 when Goethe’s was written,  “there was a feeling of trust and confidence in the spiritual wholeness of the self.   There was a meaningfulness, then, that disappears from later autobiography”(ibid., p.209).  Modern autobiographers seek to recapture this trust and confidence, but for the most part they are not successful.  Some, like Powys, achieve a measure of success by sheer verbal exhuberance and shapelessness in an attempt to capture the evanescent quality of life(Powys, Far Away and Long Ago, 1934).   Here is how Powys puts it in a confessional autobiography that is moderate in tone, but delightfully revealing in parts:
 
Section 5:

It is most important in writing the tale of one’s days not to try to give them the unity they possess for one in later life. A human story, to bear any resemblance to the truth, must advance and retreat erratically, must flicker and flutter here and there, must debouch(come out of the woods) at a thousand tangents(ibid.,p.221).                                                
 
Writing so much of what I do in poetic form I achieve this flicker and flutter here and there, the thousand tangents. But I would not want to use Powys as my only model because he derives a satisfaction from parading his neuroses, phobias and darkest fantasies, his sacred malice in the form of caricature and excess, as if he is a magician and a near mad-man. What the reader gets, some may see, as the idiosyncratic outpourings of an egocentric and demented eccentric. Of the many tendencies since those peaceful years from Rousseau to Goethe this is but one of the many subjective approaches to understanding of the self. There is some darkness, some of the mad-man in my poetry, my autobiography; but I think it is far from a parading of my neuroses, my eccentricies, although I'm sure some will disagree. The writer takes this risk in the world of autobiography.
 
Erik Erikson says autobiographers are concerned with the present, the past and the historical context of the times in which they live.  Some writers show a fear of narcissistic self-indulgence in writing their account and, like H.G. Wells and Arthur Koestler, spend a great deal of time on the context of their times. I feel I have erred by spending too little on my times.  This has not been out of fear, but the simple difficulty of balancing the three time frames and all that autobiography can contain. It can contain so much and, in the end, overwhelm the reader--and the writer!  For years I held back myself from writing anything to publish because I was frankly overwhelmed by the massiveness of the content that always loomed ahead of me: gargantuan, amorphous, unmanageable.
 
I like Koestler’s emphasis on directing his writing to the unborn, future reader; directing the many levels of truth, the many subjectivities of his life to a future age.  Certainly a large part of my own motivation for entering this field of autobiography is for a future age, for those not yet born.  But even as I say this, I feel a certain pretentiousness in even admitting to such an interest.  This seems to be Koestler’s central drive. I think, too, that for some autobiographers, like Storm Jameson, writing is an escape into words, an escape from society, a society she did not feel at home in. This is partly true of me as I have got older. She says that noone can write the story of their life; there is an inevitable impersonality, a partial and unavoidable lack of control for the author. Perhaps that is why each autobiography is so idiosyncratic, a work of art unto itself. We are each unique, each idiosyncratic, each a child of God. My story is just one child’s account.

 
                   SOME MORE ESSENTIAL THOUGHTS ON AUTOBIOGRAPHY
 
Part A:
 
A man is a teller of tales;                                       All men are invisible to one another.
he lives surrounded by his stories and                   Experience is man’s invisibility to man.
the stories of others; he sees everything                Experience used to be called the Soul.
that happens to him through them,                       -R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience
and he tries to live as
if he were recounting it.
   -Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea
 
 
This whole autobiographical exercise is like being an artist or poet-in-residence. The finest work you produce is yourself. The life you live and the life you tell are inseparable: in some respects they are twins, in other ways they are like friends, members of the same family or, indeed, hardly comparable. As we live, we organize and reorganize our story; we create ourselves as we go along. Charles Hartshorne, a process philosopher, says this is the ultimate reality: self-creation, making ourself, self-construction, self-fabrication. Your life story happens on several levels: the outside story, the story at the level of existing, the events; the inside story, is your interpretation of these events, your meaning, your creation; it is what you do with what happens to you. The third level is the level you project to the world. This level for me is my autobiography. The fourth and final level is the impression my story creates on others. It is their reading of my story, my life as I write or tell it and their reading has a thousand meanings from something profound to something quite meaningless.
 
Beyond these four levels, as Gregory Bateson argues, life for most of us is an improvisatory art; we make it up as we go along.  Although it may be that the world is in-between stories, the Baha’i feels he is part of the new story, part of mankind’s one great story, the grand symphony that this world is, as Joseph Campbell calls it.  My own story, told in many forms in this autobiography Pioneering Over Four Epochs, is an attempt to relate my small micro-world to the grand opus, as it is enviseaged in the Baha’i literature. It is also a linking of past, present and future in some story-form, some alluring sequence. “All serious work must be at bottom autobiographical” says Thomas Wolfe: novel, poetry, autobiography, essay, etcetera.  And we continually edit this story, we continually confer meaning and purpose, thus rescuing our story from randomness through some simple narrative lust.  But, as I said above, for the Baha’i there is still a master plot, a master theory, within which our life is but a sub-plot.  However tedious, mundane, routine, repetitive, boring, uninspiring, smoothly ticking our life may appear there are tensions and conflicts which never go away and which, unresolved, are one of the major sources of our meaning and purpose. The reader of autobiography, of my story, gets a neat package, gets some equilibrium, with passions spent, even though life is not so neat.  The equilibrium is dynamic and passions are far from spent.  Life often appears in the end like a daydream, “bearing the mere semblance of reality.”
 
Part B:

There is a pattern of build-up, climax and relief, a sense of what’s next. These are found in the world I create as much as the plot that is developed. This is especially true due to the multiple-genre format to my autobiography. No matter how meaningful, how accidental, how significant or insignificant my story I can not help but be concerned with the literary. In fact, my guess is that most people never write their story because they are beaten by the literary.  The literary dimension is simply too much for them. They really prefer gardening, or reading, or sewing or one of a thousand things. They are beaten by the idiosyncratic, by the endless sense of life being in transition.. Life, too, as we get older, gets longer, bigger, deeper, thicker and, thus, harder to put down.  It seems to elude logical meaning, directionality, obvious and unquestioned improvement.  It’s all too complex, too beyond definition and the simple story.
 
“This world is not conclusion”, says Emily Dickinson, “a sequel stands beyond”. Perhaps those who have no sense of sequence or a sequel beyond find the whole idea of writing their story depressing. For me, Emily’s words are so appropriate to my own story and I weave that “sequel which stands beyond” as best I can into the texture of this life. It is not conclusion; it is continuity. The neat chapters in my life, even my view of the afterlife, are culture-bound and held together by a sub-culture, the sub-culture of my religious beliefs, attitudes and values.` Whatever the chapters, whatever the sequel, the origin and end of autobiography converges in the very act of writing.  Everything collapses into the act of producing the text. That which does not collapse, does not find a place and is left in the home of the nameless and traceless, an oblivion which the world will never locate.
 
The various people mentioned in my text are infinitely more complex than those who appear in novels. Although they are known to me more intimately than the myriad strangers in my life, than my friends and associations, these ‘best known’ remain enigmatic, elusive, shadowy, incoherent, contradictory. None of them occupy the central place in the story, though.  It seems to me that the Baha’i Faith occupies the pivotal position. As central person, my role, my circumstances, my character changes. I am especially conscious of this for I am storyteller, character, audience, narrator and reader all at once. My identity then is quintessentially biographical not biological. It is the answer to the question: what is your real, inmost story? What took place in those 64,000 hours, 4000 days and eleven years of real autobiographical data? According to Lewis Thomas this is all we have after the trivia are eliminated. 

The past develops like a plot; it thickens. That is why I can write a poem about an early childhood experience and then write it differently next year. Raccontio ergo sum. I want things to come out right, I suppose; I’d like to be saved, especially from myself, my lower nature. Thus, I am religious in my persistence to tell my story, to create and define my world, to write a Grand Unified Story.  I am also trying to get back time but, alas, it is unredeemable. The memories I draw on connect what happened once upon a time with what is happening now in a process of synthesis which is quite mysterious, quite delightful and often immensely frustrating. At the core of the frustration for me is what I feel is an inability to make my story live as much as it lived in the act of living it. I read the words and they often seem flat, beyond reification. I am also conscious of just how brief the entire narrative is: some eighty pages. The poetry is one simple, yet effective, way to overcome these frustrations. It conveys in quite apt, quite fitting, quite emotionally satisfying ways both my personal experiences in pioneering and the heady days in these earliest years of the Universal House of Justice’s assumption at the apex of the Baha’i administrative system.
 
Part C:

“Without forgetting” says Nietzsche, “it is quite impossible to live at all.” The autobiographer must forget a great deal and use it, perhaps, as Graham Greene says “as compost for the imagination.” We define our world very much by what we forget, by the nature or type of personality we have: gloomy, poetic, sentimental, joyful, melancholy, etcetera. Mine I might call Priceland.   I’m not conscious of the type of land it is, not yet;  I’m too immersed in creating this land at the moment. We also define our world against what we might call a gestalt of pastness which is partly a prelinguistic darkness. Writing explodes this darkness and creates a new gestalt. What goes on the page flows mysteriously out of the incomprehensible moods of the present. Whatever anecdotal brilliance is created is derived from these moods, from simple literary skill and from a host of other factors.   It is these moods, this multi-factorial writing situation, as much as anything, which creates whatever wholeness comes into existence in the text. This wholeness draws more on the present, then, than it does the past.
 
I do think my life has a certain direction, integration sub specie Baha’i Faith.  Obviously, too, there are contradictions between my personal goals, aims, purposes and what I actually do to acheive these. Until I die, though, I will try to make a comprehensible story of my life. I will try and tell if faithfully, fully and solely. For I am conscious that the extraordinary lingers just behind the ordinary and I want to bring it out in my life and in the lives of others when it can serve as some form of meaning therapy, what Victor Frankl calls logotherapy.  My imagination has been feasting for years on a diet of rich and diverse experience and rich and diverse ideas. This richness is in a narrow range of activity involving: people, places and books. “Rich”, “diverse”, “narrow”, I could add other adjectives, adjectives which suggest a certain epistemological ambivalence. The autobiographical act, like life itself, generates this ambivalence. It also generates lived facts, lived events, as artefacts. This poetry is part of, an expression of, these lived facts in these darkest hours before the dawn while the Arc on Mount Carmel is being completed.
 
I should say something about self-deception,  since there is in narration an inherent straying away from what actually happens, however slightly or innocently, a quiet but discernable progression from fact to fiction.  Self-deception, lieing, secrecy, forgetfulness, confusion, gaps: they are all part of the story and our processing of the story. Everything we communicate, some analysts argue, is an orientation towards what is secret without ever telling the secret.  As Henry Miller puts it: “I am I and I have thought unspeakable thoughts and done unthinkable things.”(1)   We aim in our autobiography  to monitor our hearts for self-deception.  We aim for artistic coherence and ethical satisfaction as we attempt to integrate, analyse and identify the countless versions of our story and their inevitable secrets.  This is unending work-poetic work-and it is central to self-creation. In other ways the self-deception is accidental, incidental. As Yeats put it: “I have changed nothing to my knowledge; and yet it must be that I have changed many things without my knowledge; for I am writing after many years and have consulted neither friend, nor letter, nor old newspaper.”(2)

                             There were three men went down the road
                             As down the road went he:
                             The man he was,
                             The man folks saw,
                             The man he wished to be.
                                     -Source Unknown 
 
Part D:

Our ultimate aloneness in the universe is a truth which some find frightening. This aloneness is a part of the core experience in writing autobiography, part of its very raison d’etre.  It may just be that one of the best routes to self-forgetfulness, which ‘Abdu’l-Baha says is at the heart of self-realization,  is through self-understanding on the road travelled by means of autobiography.
 
 
(1) Henry Miller in “Confessions and Autobiography” Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical,  editor, James Olney, Princeton, 1980, p.122.
(2) James Olney, “Some Versions of Memory/Some Versions of Bios: The Ontology of Autobiography”, Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, editor, James Olney, Princeton UP, 1980, p.262.
(3) Quoted in The Stories We are: An Essay on Self-Creation, William Lowell Randall, University of Toronto, 1995, p.345.
(4)  Baha'u'llah, quoted in The Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Baha'is of the United States of America, 29 December 1988.


Ron Price
17/1/'96 to 5/4/'13.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE PERSONAL

Part 1:

There are a multitude of sins of omission or commission which should at least get a mention in an autobiography. John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, in his last book of lessons worth passing on, suggests we should all cultivate a streak of vulgarity. I’m not sure whether this is a good idea or not, but there are several ‘irregular inclinations’ which have been part of my life for years. Mortimer describes the vulgarities of several famous people and the sins, major and minor, of the Mozarts, Shakespeares and Leonardos. Whatever vulgarities I possess, they are at least in good company. Besides smoking for thirty years, from the age of 20 to 50, and emiting a great deal of gas, probably from eating too fast; having a temper, which is now for the most part controlled as I head into the last decade(70 to 80) years of my late adulthood(60 to 80); various sexual irregularities and impulses, obsesssions and inclinations which surfaced from puberty onwards and were a source of both pleasure and anxiety; I could list of number of other natural inclinations associated with my anatomy, my use of words and my emotional and mental life.  But for fear of disturbing myself, perhaps some sense of shame, guilt or simple embarrassment, I hesitate to make the list any longer than I have already made it.

I’m not sure, either, whether exposing readers to every sordid detail of my life, to the contemplation of what has been vulgar, excessive and coarse would be either edifying or useful to readers. Such an exposure might be colourful, if I could frame these traits in a humorous context. It might take me off any pedestal readers might be inclined to place me as a result of any reverential tones they find in my now lengthy literary opus. The contemplation of the weaknesses and incapacities in my life might appeal to those inclined to heap opprobrium on the broad canvas of my days and darken the picture of my hours and the photos of my years. I have done enough of that myself and would not wish such an exercise on my readers.-Ron Price with thanks to John Mortimer, Where There’s A Will, Viking Press, 2003. Mortimer wrote this book when he was over 80 with,as he said, one foot in the grave.
  Mortimer(1923-2009) was a British barrister, dramatist, screenwriter and author.

Part 2:

The approach I take to the criticism of others, and the one I would enjoy being taken to my work, is the one based on Matthew Arnold's precept of letting the mind play freely around a subject in which there has been much effort to understand. I have certainly taken much thought in creating and outlining a perspective on my life and I have enjoyed the free play of other minds and their perspectives in my effort to understand. -Ron Price with thanks to Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ,1957, p.3.


PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BRUISES

In the 1990s I wrote a book devoted primarily to the poetry of Roger White. In that book I added special chapters to focus on a small selection of his letters, on his books of prose and here in this chapter which I have given to the magazine Orison on some of his other activities involving writing and poetry. I have done this to place his poetry in the wider perspective of a creative and imaginative life.

In a book celebrating the first hundred years of Hansard in Canada's parliament, John Ward wrote that Roger White was "acknowledged by his colleagues as one of the finest shorthand writers ever to serve his country." He also served as the official reporter for the Supreme Court of British Columbia. These were some of the skills White brought to the Publishing Department at the Baha'i World Centre where he was editor-in-chief of several volumes of The Baha'i World in the 1980s. He wrote the lyrics for 'Songs for Solo Voice' by Jean South in Luxembourg and the text of a book Forever in Bloom: The Lotus of Bahapur. Indeed, I am confident White had many other talents and abilities that are not mentioned in my book, devoted as it is to a study of White's poetry not his life's activites.

In 1989 White gave a poetry reading in Haifa. He had been at the Baha'i World Centre for eighteen years by that time. The evening's program was called 'Lipstick and Bruises.'  I place this commentary on his poetry reading, his performance poetry, due to its title involving as it does: Bruises.  The anatomy and physiology of our lives contain many psychological bruises. Our physiology gets intimately affected. For the remaining part of this chapter discussing as it does this evening with Roger White go to:
http://www.bahai-library.com/books/white/
 

MY MEMOIR

My memoir is, in some ways, about a man thinking. This introspectivity to me, though, is but another form of action. As I see it, "we can no longer separate the active and the contemplative facets of our lives. Practicality and mysticism possess a oneness of vision and form."(1) So too is this true of smooth surfaces and the ruffled edges in life. They both can be pressed into cultural and autobiographical service and they are inherent parts of the warp and weft of one's life. I am currently, in these years of late adulthood, deeply involved in action. And those who have ascended, it is my belief, “labour to assist me in this world.”(2)  I have been praying for their intercession for more than thirty years and they have been praying for me. Such is my belief, my assumption.  Will emanates from soul. This memoir is an example of the knowledge of self and it is, in the main, an inherent gift. This power of will shapes my destiny for good and ill. In the process, although I seem to have only some control over the path my life takes or what tests and calamities befall me, I do have control over how I will respond to my circumstances.(3)  I can find out how well I am doing, to some extent at least, by means of the guidance and standards set forth in the authoritative Bahá'í texts as I aim to awaken myself to the truths governing the total integration of the physical and spiritual aspects of reality.

(1) Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, "Artist, Seeker and Seer," Bahá’í Studies, Vol.10, p.16.
(2) John Hatcher, Close Connections, Bahá'í Pub., Wilmette, 2004,
p.215.
(3) ibid, p.224.

UNSCRIPTED, FLAWED AND PLAUSIBLE

There is a predictability in the wonder of our ordinary lives, lives that are unscripted, flawed and plausible. We live vulnerable lives that can not be edited so as to emerge in celluloid safety, technicolour’s manipulation, or predictable victory. The movies are not life. Life is not the movies. The movies won’t provide the orienting narrative you seek, although they can play a part, nor will the old narratives of political and religious orthodoxy although, again, they can play some part. This new age requires some new metaphorical orientation to physical reality. -Ron Price with thanks to Roger White “A Toast to the Hero”, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, pp.105-106; and Donald N. Levine, Visions of the Sociological Tradition, University of Chicago Press, 1995.

They rode their trikes and bikes,
played cowboys and Indians,
hide and seek, always on the run,
endless hours of monopoly, cards,
snakes and ladders, with cold drinks
from the fridge on hot days,
getting dried out by the heater
on wet ones. It seemed to go on
forever, the days never ending:
Wild Bill, Davey Crockett,
Ned Kelly, Hop-along Cassidy.

Then someone moves away,
an older kid stops playing,
gets a summer job, a girl friend
gobbles him up on sultry afternoons
for sultry afternoons. They all merge
unobtrusively into separate worlds
and are seen no more, last traces
of light on the hills, sweet light of the sun
gone forever onto life’s darkening plain
and its well-meant assignations.

Your taste now is sugar on my tongue
as I bring you up in memory’s coloured
lanes where we played and played
in timeless pastures, fields and streams
and had no idea that our minutes,
our hours would one day feel like
the warm light of an eternity
that I can nearly measure now
and that I can run through my brain’s
celluloid edited of all pain and youth’s fears
to emerge with just the simple, predictable,
wonder of my ordinary life: unscripted,
flawed and plausible.

Ron Price
12 January 1998

WORDS THAT CHILL AND BURN

A frequent comment of people who visited Thomas Hardy, the famous English novelist and poet, was how unremarkable the conversation was and how unimpressive Hardy himself was. Emily Dickinson withdrew from life to her upstairs room and lived apart from a cultural tradition that no longer sustained her. Both writers tended to distance themselves frm the social scene, watched it from the outside. Both died, as it were, to the physical reality and regarded themselves as a spectre even when they entered into a room to pay a simple good morning.-Ron Price with thanks to James Persoon, "Dover Beach," Hardy's Version, Critical Essays on Thomas Hardy's Poetry, G.K. Hall & Co., NY, 1995, p.99; and Karl Keller, "Notes on Sleeping With Emily Dickinson", Feminist Critics Read Emily Dickinson, editor S. Jukasz, Indiana UP, 1983, Bloomington, p.76.

The temperatures of other minds
is like a roller-coaster.
I stick some words in at a point
and watch them fry like in a toaster.

Some words take their minds quite high;
I've watched them all these years.
Then you become the entertainer
with its hail and many cheers.

I find now, after much puff and smoke,
that words can chill and burn me.
My brain often feels cold and raw
like fish in the deepest sea.

Moderate words from lips of guests
can fit into my thermostat;
I find the lever, set the frame
and go to verbal bat.

I've done this for so many years,
it requires only will.
I know so many accents, voice,
but prefer silence's sweetest fill.

One day after this cool home
has filled me with pure drafts,
I may seek out that roller-coaster,
its absurdities and laughs,
its delirium of fever
its chink of frozen bone.1

Ron Price
18 July 1998 1Roger White, "Conversation", One Bird, One Cage, One Flight,p.119

POETIC EJACULATION

I was listening this morning to the experiences of Australia’s national rowing team on the Huon River south of Hobart in Tasmania. I could not help but see the similarities and differences between my own experience in reading and writing poetry and the experience of the rowers. Team members talked about rowing as a drug; it was an aesthetic, emotional, physical, psychological, social act, the major source of the identity of the rowers. This could also be said of the way I see writing poetry. Of course, it is not physical in the same way as rowing, nor is it social. Camaraderie seems to be an important part of rowing as a sport. The camaraderie in writing poetry is essentially intellectual: with dead poets, dead authors, as well as the living, with one’s own memory, imagination, comprehension, with the living when one come’s out of one’s isolation chamber, one’s solitude. There is also a struggle; for it is not all easy and pleasureable. There is a battle side, a fight, a fight with one’s lower nature, the insistent demands of the self, the sensual, one’s abasement, one’s weaknesses, one’s sicknesses, trials and ordeals as a human being. -Ron Price, “The Sports Factor,” ABC Radio, 8:30-9:00 am, 11 August 2000.

I paddle, row, dip my oars in daily,
down the river I glide,
across the waters,
churning they slip and slide,
over and under, round and round,
popping up from below,
pulled up with effort
yet effortless with repetition
so many times they come up
from below, a pleasureable repetition,
coming together in pattern and meaning.

It turns me on.
I go to it quietly
at any time of day or night;
the adrenalin pumps in;
I can feel it warming me;
detumescence comes quickly
after the build-up, sometimes,
leaves me tired, stretched,
ready for my walk in the bush,
or just go to bed and sleep.

The rushes are steady;
again and again they come;
I come: words on a page,
like sperm and seminal fluid:
the stuff of life, reproductive;
its only purpose fertilization,
pleasure, release, movement:
its journey only begun;
was it wasted this word-fluid?

Its message only just unfolded
from those seminiferous tubules
into the epididymis of my brain
which I can empty by four poetic
ejaculations on a very good day.1

1 sometimes I find I can not hold the simily/metaphor. Here the comparison of writing poetry with rowing changed to a sexual comparison.

Ron Price
11 August 2000