It Ain’t That Barbie Doll


There is an essay in the new American Scholar by a poet named Christian Wiman (I’d never heard of him, but he is the editor of Poetry magazine, if that means anything to anyone out there) that is basically a description of Devastationalism and his subsequent deliverance from it. I wouldn’t normally read a journal essay by an academic poet, especially one relating how he found the “meaning of life,” but I was lackadaisically skimming through the magazine one evening and Wiman’s piece hooked me when I realized what he was actually writing about. And though there is the to-be-expected ick-factor, the ratio of insight-to-ick is quite impressive — around 90/10. Here is the key paragraph:

“It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy,” Weil writes, “in order to find reality through suffering.” This is certainly true to my own experience. I was not wrong all those years to believe that suffering is at the very center of our existence, and that there can be no untranquilized life that does not fully confront this fact. The mistake lay in thinking grief the means of confrontation, rather than love. To come to this realization is not to be suddenly “at ease in the world.” I don’t really think it’s possible for humans to be at the same time conscious and comfortable. Though we may be moved by nature to thoughts of grace, though art can tease our minds toward eternity and love’s abundance make us dream a love that does not end, these intuitions come only through the earth, and the earth we know only in passing, and only by passing. I would qualify Weil’s statement somewhat, then, by saying that reality, be it of this world or another, is not something one finds and then retains for good. It must be newly discovered daily, and newly lost.

Of course this made me curious to hunt down Wiman’s poems, but, hater that I am, I’m still worried that I’ll, um, hate them. Anyhow, you can read the entire essay online here.

And to balance things out, something a little more altogether fizzy, on the outlandishly deviant drinking habits of Antarcticans from an interview with a guy who works at the South Pole:

Sometimes the Air National Guard guys have a keg-tossing contest outside the bar at McMurdo Station. One time some folks held an exorcism for one of the machines that kept breaking down, where they drank whiskey and played songs for the machine. And this one guy came up with the idea to have a bunch of Depends adult diapers sent down so that everyone could stand around drinking beer and pissing themselves. I didn’t make it to that party, but a friend of mine did. He hooked up with this amazing woman after the party. He picked up a chick while wearing a diaper!

This guy apparently wrote a whole book about living and working in Antarctica (“Big Dead Place”), which is currently at the top of my to-do list. The interview comes courtesy of the ever-incisive Modern Drunkard magazine, and you can read the rest of it here.

Or of course, you could always go to the Raytheon website and simply apply for a job in “Polar Services” yourself.

2 Replies to “It Ain’t That Barbie Doll”

  1. “I do think, though, that poetry is how religious feeling has survived in me. Partly this is because I have at times experienced in the writing of a poem some access to a power that feels greater than I am, and it seems reductive, even somehow a deep betrayal, to attribute that power merely to the unconscious or to the dynamism of language itself.”

    I have long wondered about that feeling, and have hoped for an explanation as to why, on a visit to Poet’s Corner, I burst into tears far more helpless and meaningful than anything I’d ever felt in a church before.

    I don’t think a gig at the south pole would answer my question, though.

  2. Maybe, maybe not — but you can see how it might be tempting, no?

    At any rate, I am one of those who believes wholeheartedly in that tapped-into-the-power-of-the-universe stuff; things we can intuit, occasionally with crystalline clarity, but which we are cursed to never quite get ahold of. It’s all about the process, right? and one must savor those moments of connection.

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