The person one becomes is the result of innumerable factors, including hundreds if not thousands of personal relationships. But only a handful of those relationships are memorable.
One such relationship for me was the several years I knew Harriet Zinnes. I was a student of hers when I enrolled in a modern poetry course that she was teaching at Queens College. I took another course from her on Ezra Pound and a third, I believe, on the writing of poetry.
I was sort of a working-class jock in college – not the type of person I’d ever think Professor Zinnes would take an interest in. But she did, and we became friends. Perhaps not close friends, but close enough that she would talk to me about how it was to be a poet and a teacher.
I felt that she believed in me – not necessary as a poet, but as a person with potential.
I lost touch with her after college, but I’ve thought of her thousand times since then, particularly when I thought about poetry and teaching.
I have mentioned her in my essays now and then. Recently, I got a note from her daughter, who had found one of those essays online. She said that her mother had just passed away at age 100 and that there would be a memorial in the spring. I will be there.
Here is Harriet Zinnes’s obituary from the website of the Colorado Review, where she was a frequent contributor: https://bit.ly/2sNsyoE
Believing inequality, as this essay makes clear, is a challenge. A challenge that leaves the believer with a perpetual conundrum – what is equal here is not equal there… and what is equal now is not equal then… and what is equal from one perspective in not equal from another.
The essay touches on the philosophical problem but doesn’t offer an answer, because there isn’t one. Once you accept the proposition that equality is a good thing, you are lost.
The fact is that nothing is equal because of relativity. And even if two things could be equal for one moment in time and space, that relationship would change in the next moment.
Nothing is equal and nothing wants to be equal.
The very nature of being human is the instinctive desire for inequality. Some want more. Some want less. Some are willing to do more. Some want to find ways to do less.
We should stop fussing over it. Inequality is not a problem. It is the natural state of nature and the natural desire of the human heart.
A conundrum (Kuh-NUN-drum) is a confusing and difficult problem or question. As I used it today (see “Worth Reading,” above): “Believing inequality… is a challenge. A challenge that leaves the believer with a perpetual conundrum.”