When we are young, we change. The hurtling forward into growth exhilarates us. We learn at full gallop, disastrously adding new ideas before old ones have taken shape. We are gluttons, and the table is richly laid out and endless. Our Apollonian and Dionysian sides eat together—the only rule is More, and more we do have. We learn and learn, good gods I hope we do, like gods.
Some people, most people, grow up, and cast their lot on one side or the other. Apollonian selves dream into an idea of logic and order—think a sonnet by Shakespeare, glorious in its arrangement of rhythm, rhyme, and idea. This is Apollo brought to earth, walking firmly on the ground. Dionysian selves trumpet feelings and instinct: Ginsberg’s “first thought, best thought” is as much a dictum as can be borne.
Rule three thousand one hundred and sixty-two: if you are one, do not marry the other. And do not ask about the other five million rules.
And recognize that just because one is Dionysian, do not think there is a lack of rules about how to go wild. A little Apollonian memory slips in. You need to party like this, or you aren’t really partying, dude. On the flip side there may be a wild inconsistency built into that Apollonian logic—call it hypocrisy if you feel like it but know that wildness finds a way.
A few people never settle into one side or the other. The two halves bristle within like ions in a storm cloud. Ambi-valent: charged in two directions, fire in both hands. We don’t grow up, but out, finding hidden paths through the forest, wanting one last opinion, and reassessing as we charge into conflict. Yelling at our superiors and demanding a reckoning. Being schooled by our students and admitting our blindness. and always, always learning.
I bemoan my ambivalence; I cherish my ambivalence. It’s a dirty little secret about my life. I hate being fenced in, and I love the elegant symmetry of a well written novel. You point out chaos, and I will chart the forcelines that create paisley swirls. I want to love someone and build a life with them and I want them to dance right out of the picture on their own. I want to lead the way, and I am happy to chase comets.
Oh, it’s the worst. And the best. Or the other way around. And the other way around.
Some folks tell me that I’m too strict, or not enough of an adult, or that I have too many rules, or that I don’t follow their rules. Dude, this is how we party. How am I a teacher? How could I be anything else? How can I not shake up my life and take my daughter along for the ride: reassuring her, giving her the foundation she needs, and teaching her that when the earth shakes, the ground still loves her. And that everywhere I am, I will love her.
My youngest brother has told me many times that I am too serious. And of all the boys, I am. And not. My wildness is serious, and my seriousness is wild. Flip a coin, and watch the light glint off side after side after side as it tumbles through the air. Heads or tails, the glinting wins.