Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Passports and Identity

Yesterday I sent off an application for a new passport, as I've done a couple of times before. Some things never change, like place of birth, date of birth, name.

Other things, however, change radically, most notably the photo that identifies me (or do I identify the photo?).

I noticed this (was shocked by this) when I dug out my last passport to send in with the application.

Fifteen years later my hair has gone grey. I'm heavier. There's a psychological weight captured by the photo as well. Things happen. They take a toll.

I guess I'm glad they do. I can't even think my way back to being the happy, naive young man depicted on an even earlier passport from 1975. And he certainly couldn't have imagined being the much-traveled, liver-spotted man I have become.

A passport is designed to facilitate bordercrossings. Mine are littered with visas to the former German Democratic Republic and the former Yugoslavia, countries that no longer exist, with borders that have changed. They are stamped by officials in Peru, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria, the United Kingdom.

With my new passport, I can return to some of these places (although I'll need Euros now, instead of Francs and Marks), but as the photo witnesses, it won't be the same person returning. And that's okay by me. I've worked hard for the experience that comes from books and languages and teachers and students and friends and children and grandchildren, for the values and tastes and quirks and knowledge of my own frailties that make me who I am today. I'm grateful for the range, for the reach, for the depths and the heights.

And when the new passport arrives, I've still got some new borders to cross.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Goalie's Anxiety

"The goalkeeper is trying to figure out which corner the kicker will send the ball into," Bloch said. "If he knows the kicker, he knows which corner he usually goes for. But maybe the kicker is also counting on the goalie's figuring this out. So the goalie goes on figuring that just today the ball might go into the other corner. But what if the kicker follows the goalkeeper's thinking and plans to shoot into the usual corner after all? And so on, and so on. . . . When the kicker starts his run, the goalkeeper unconsciously shows with his body which way he'll throw himself even before the ball is kicked, and the kicker can simply kick in the other direction," Bloch said. "The goalie might just as well try to pry open a door with a piece of straw."

The kicker suddenly started his run. The goalkeeper, who was wearing a bright yellow jersey, stood absolutely still, and the penalty kicker shot the ball into his hands.
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, Peter Handke (translation by Michael Roloff)

Crossing disciplinary boundries can be like trying to pry open a door with a piece of straw. Or, the ball may simply land in your hands.

(photo by Zarko Radakovic)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Third Time's the Charm

So, after the ongoing disappointment and those harsh words about editors and the ever-present self doubt, my review of The Eyes of a Flounder finally appeared in this month's Catalyst. Check out the magazine:

It's worth working/writing through the discouragement.

At least it feels that way this morning.