Everything 101

President Obama Don Quixote Charging the Windmill


What is the name of the house you build inside you? I don’t mean the rhetorical house–the one you speak of when called upon–I mean the pithy, timbered house of thought. Mine is cautious optimism. I am not better than the man or woman whose inner house is cautious pessimism. This is simply what I have become and neither nature or nurture can explain it. 


I’m in mind of this because I met someone recently who was so pessimistic he gave off a virtual odor. Worse, he tried to take me down.  Generally I think people who don’t know the names of their inner houses are more likely to try dragging you into the parlors of their psyches. Maybe this sounds like fin de siecle psychoanalysis but so be it. Post-modernism and performance theory can’t explain everything. 


Do we have a name for courage, declension of our social variables, consistency of progressivism, a commitment to human rights–all understood as the materials of mental architecture? It appears we do not and the daily news grows worse and worse. But I say the answer is to be “at home” in the time you live in. As the poet Robert Bly says in his poem entitled “Early Morning in Your Room”: “If you had/ a sad childhood, so what? When Robert Burton/Said he was melancholy, he meant he was home.” 


Sadness can be a part of optimism. The very idea is one that contemporary Americans don’t appear to understand and this has consequences. One of them is what has come to be called “neo-liberalism” –a term that stands for rhetorical progressive values that are veneer all the way through. Neo-liberalism also tends to enforce single issue political values. But sadness can be a part of optimism, can’t it?


It matters what you call your house. I thought Barack Obama was right to call out the GOP for accusing him of engaging in class warfare by saying, essentially, “If that’s what they want to call it, then let’s call it that.” Sadness can be a part of optimism. Neo-liberalism probably can’t. The president made his choice. I admire him for that. 





Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

0 thoughts on “Everything 101”

  1. The GOP call asking the very wealthy to pay their share of governing expenses class warfare — in fact their overall rhetoric is war mongering pure and simple. Many of their supporters are confederates-at-heart still licking their wounds from the Civil War. The big, bad government would not let us keep humans in bondage and subjugate an entire race of people — woe is us!
    My mother recently gave me an interesting perspective on the GOP. She was raised in Kansas City, and for the bulk of her conscious youth, Franklin Roosevelt was president. She grew up in an environment where virtually everyone she knew reviled FDR.
    Moral of story: Great presidents in no way are universally admired. Barack Obama has his work cut out for him, but I’ve never witnessed any politician who is so well-prepared for the job!
    Side note on cautious optimism: Yeah, it’s better than profound pessimism. I myself prefer realism to either. Here’s the poem: Robinson Jeffers, Rock and Hawk.


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