A Puzzling Pass

It happened. After skimming the library’s super-cheap pile of discards for sale this afternoon, I decided, without much mental wrangling, not to purchase a 25-cent copy of a two-volume Paul Goodman book. Only a few years ago, I would’ve considered this a mind-blowing find, snatching it up, paying, and absconding as quickly as possible, before the previous owners realized what they were losing at such a paltry price. Now? I don’t know; I’m still sort of flummoxed by my indifference, by my assumption that, even with the righteous cultural criticism Goodman could level at any number of societal foibles, I won’t want to deal with his sort of Rousseauian insistence that, say, kids know best how to bring themselves up, and will totally embrace learning to read if left to their own devices. I’m still vaguely ashamed that The Paul Goodman Reader and my well-marked copy of The Empire City are enough for me, at least for the foreseeable future.

Am I becoming less radical in my old age? I don’t know; maybe only coming to the realization that I was never as much of a mutineer as I had assumed, or am so in a different way. The beauty about piling on the decades, at least so far, is that the need to hold onto and display proofs of one’s independence or hipness– or whatever the category label may be– in this case, a need to pledge loud solidarity with a pretty insightful thinker who actually tried to live out his convictions– just doesn’t really matter that much anymore. It’s not the same as “letting oneself go”– but rather, clearing out the overstuffed pigeonhole set aside for What’s Important and/or What’s Worth Spending Your Time On, in order to really get at and, well, live to the full, what remains once the peripheral concerns have been refiled in some more appropriate place.

I’m still clearing out that pigeonhole– but today’s little episode felt just a tiny bit liberating.


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