This week author and philosopher Mary Clark writes about her journey to find her niche in writing and life:
In the 20th Century, we had two very influential women philosophers, and controversial as well: Hannah Arendt and Ayn Rand. Then there were the feminist writers and social scientists: Joan Tronto, Margaret Urban Walker, but the friendship I had with an elderly Bohemian male, PJ, played a pivotal role in my life and my profession. Tally: An Intuitive Life is the story of that friendship and shared occupation.
In my late 20s, after graduating with a degree in psychology and then publishing a community-arts newsletter, I started work at a poetry program in New York City. These occupational adventures were connected, intuitively, although I was not aware of it then. I was interested in human behavior: why did people do what they did? In my writing, I peeled away conscious and unconscious layers and contemplated the nuances of my motivations, thinking, and emotions. Studying psychology, the patterns became more comprehensible, along with being exposed to the labels and varied interpretations. It all came to a dead end for me. Academic education failed to address the fundamental issues of life. What I didn’t know was that I was interested not in human behavior, but in human nature and all the great philosophical questions.
Yes, I read Nietzsche and Kierkegaard while still in college. I studied Hegel, Kant, Goethe, and others. After college, intuitively, I began to read on my own: novels by Balzac, Colette, Gide, Camus, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Gorky, Lermontov, the diaries of Anais Nin, the Village Voice, Susan Sontag, and Gore Vidal. The Existentialists held my attention for some time. Then there was art: Bunuel’s films, Bejart’s dance group, and Judy Chicago’s paintings. There were rock groups that dared to explore the borders as well. Here I found the beating hearts of real people, in real situations, facing the terror and joy, boredom and excitement, of living.
I was on a quest for wisdom about the levels of life: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Still following an intuitive directive, I read (re-read) the Bible, the Koran, the Bhavagadvita, and Idries Shah’s The Way of the Sufi, among other religious and spiritual books. Who didn’t read Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet? Very little spoke to me. Some are great cultural tales; others are ethical guides, or both. Some of the poetry, though, fastened to me neurologically. In fact, all the great poems I’ve read have done this, although I can’t quote them. No, it’s more a matter of influencing my intuition.
It was difficult for me, as a woman and outside academia, to find intellectual companions. I was searching for a way to reach out to people who were also interested in philosophy, psychology, nature including human nature, and literature. So I began an alternative community publication featuring articles, cartoons, poems, and short stories on books, music, film, dance, and environmental issues. There was another side: the paper covered local issues as well, usually the positive, such as a new affordable senior residence. That community-mindedness was a natural part of my interest in the world and the ways human beings treat one another. Unfortunately, it was not a money-maker!
I moved to New York’s West Side and eventually came to the poetry program at St. Clement’s Church. Through its director, I met PJ. Everything I had done was connected by an intuitive thread. I moved from friendship with PJ, to care giving, and back to friendship, and then to more. In my blog post, Occupational Integrity: a Life Profile, I show how PJ traced the intuitive thread in his own life.