Tanya Holtland, “seven.”

The visible war, it says. In the visible war / we look. War carries distinction, division, and destruction. It should be difficult to look at, to contemplate. We look for things to improve / the invisible faculty.

Rejection feels a morbid exercise of the imagination, like driving by a car wreck. Things are mangled, disfigured, hard to separate. Rejection isn’t limited to crushes that aren’t reciprocated or breakups. The same feeling comes from family members who must have all the attention and will give none. Political and religious cliques where you’re never quite welcome no matter how much you do. Rejection is a way of understanding “the visible war.” Through its violence, it places a self in opposition to an other.

We look for things to improve the invisible faculty. How does studying hurt, embracing “the visible war,” improve us? Can it improve us?

seven. (from Requisite. h/t Hannah Vanderhart)
Tanya Holtland

In the visible war
we look for things to improve
the invisible faculty

hold to the heart of the matter—

we may love
each other
and the oceans 
may go on forever and a wave
is still a thing that runs out.

Even now, I think of how much fun playing general is. I’ll put in place a strategy, a set of ends and directives which can be rendered in rough outline. But they can’t be made fully visible until resources are committed, until things actually happen. A silly example: the gaming moments I’m most proud of recently are from Skyrim, where I thought up an archer build to try and one-shot opponents before they see me. I was sure I would die a bunch with light armor, no magic resistance, low health, and a bow which takes time to fire a shot. But because I was aware of those things, I’ve barely died as the archer has become more and more powerful, reaching near invincibility if played correctly. Strategies involve an awareness which makes you feel like you can deal with anything.

From pain, we hope to know and become strong. But the poem breaks this idea with what seems an imperative. Hold to the heart of the matter. This sentence dangles in the middle. It doesn’t speak to improvement necessarily, but to commitment. I want to know so I can feel empowered, but this is a trap. I am prone to forget that I feel powerless because of what must be done. Empowerment only matters if I am loyal.

The emotional basis of the development of an intellectual power makes me wonder what’s truly at stake. The invisible faculty doesn’t concern awareness or control. Even rejection doesn’t feel as fundamental. We must learn from pain because that’s all we can possibly know. That’s where love resides. We may love each other and the oceans may go on forever. Love is infinite, the universe is infinite, knowledge is infinite. But a wave is still a thing that runs out. Our lives and loves are just that wave, which will cease. Learning from pain is the only true faculty we have, and it’s tempting to think it can be improved.

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