To Gary Nix and Mike Girard
Dear Mike and Gary,
It’s a little after six in the afternoon on a summer day as I sit down to write this letter at a desk before a large second-stored window, but the light already has turned gray with the approaching end of the day because of the heavy cloud cover. In a June week spent in my new home far to the north of the San Francisco Bay Area — to the north of my home state of Massachusetts; even, a glance at the map tells me, to the north of Toronto, Canada — I’ve only seen the sun one day.
This is not a gloomy beginning to a new chapter in my life, however doleful it may appear as a beginning to a letter to my two old friends in sunny Pasadena. For the new chapter in life couldn’t have a more promising beginning: I sit at a desk equipped with file folders, bookcases, electronic typewriter, filing cabinets, enormous space, suburban levels of quiet, and a truly awesome level of affection and solicitude from a loving woman who assembled this entire study area even before my arrival. My friends, it is just because I look for the positive in what is negative that I begin with what is gloomy. There’s quite a bit that is good about my present circumstances, but I don’t trust that to contain things of lasting influence. On too many occasions my own talents, my own capacities, have proved to be insufficient to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities given freely to me; so it may yet be again, nor have I reason to believe that the process of disillusioning failure will ever stop short of a modest and unremarkable grave.
No, although I am aware, even in my own family, of the possibility for accomplishment to be based on the extension of positive aspiration in the direction of a desired goal, the experiences of success I have managed to wrest from life have been those of the meaner sort of satisfaction of having overcome daunting obstacles to accomplish banal objectives.
My greatest chess game was played against a player of no great skill who happened to be locked in the solitary confinement wing of Lompoc penitentiary at the same time as I; but, while he played on a board with pieces and called out his moves, I beat him while staring at a blank board.
On this inverted order of things I welcome the loss of the sun for the inevitable loss it will mean to me of carnal enjoyment, the better to focus on the riches of the spiritual world, attainable only so long as I freely choose to enjoy life in a perpetually cloudy city.
Who knows whether the solipsistic, quasi-masochistic enjoyment of the loss of bright sunshine will not be the greatest of my mean accomplishments? Or whether poorly-structured letters which endlessly belabor minor imperfections will eventually be my most prized legacy to posterity?