Tuesday, November 19, 2013
MISSION TEN: Mortality
The depressive mind considers the experience of life as one caustically colossal waste of time. In simpler terms, it just ain't worth livin'. The trouble with coming out of the illogic-locked isolation of this specific mental illness is that reality doesn't suddenly change its tune when you do. Even when escaping one's madness, a body still has to accept the fact that there are all kinds of authentic and unimagined phantoms congesting the human landscape. These same threats send a depressive person deeper into their chasm of existential reluctance, but so too can a sane person be driven mad by the senselessness of it all. The question is, how does one carve out a niche of semi-lucidity in this cluster-fudge called "Life?"
Today I heard about the new gang initiation game called "Knockout." Apparently, young recruits are encouraged to punch or beat a random pedestrian as hard as he can, the goal being to knock him down. At least one elderly gentleman died as a result of one such attack. This situation alone gets the mind spinning. How could we live in a world where meaningless acts of violence are being committed? Why is human life so easily dispensed with? How does one gain control of a society gone haywire? Once the mind starts confronting these issues, other questions are raised: where does this rage come from, how are we responsible, how can we fix it, and most importantly, can we? Can you combat these things without merely feeding into the years, centuries, eons of hate and misunderstanding that sit at the source, in turn breeding more?
Any train of thought like this-- be the topic war, rape, the death penalty, poverty, abortion, religious hypocrisy, political corruption, economic hemorrhage-- would set me off on a mental tangent in the past. All is lost... Woe are we... Just because I'm happier these days doesn't mean that these same feelings and reactions have abated. They still break my heart. As a sensible, rational human being, you can feel quite powerless in a this quagmire of "What now?" The contrast between my past and my present is that I no longer surrender to my own powerlessness but accept it. I broke my back trying to change the world before. I was sure that with enough passion, enough gusto, enough integrity I could rewire the circuitry of mankind's mania and make it right again. Failing at this caused a suffering in me that I can't describe, but certainly one that everyone can understand on some level. Not being heard when your words bear the most meaning, those articles of truth closest to your heart... The result is more than a bruised ego. It is cracked ribs, a broken neck, paralysis, unbearable pain, and the inability to cry for help. It's Hell.
Released of the pressure of playing God-- something no man or woman should ever do-- I now realize that I can't fix everything. Honestly, I probably can't fix anything. At best, I can only influence, at least on my own. You need the force of countless, surmounting voices all shouting at their highest volume to effect real change. One man screaming alone is insane. A crowd? Now that's a threat. Remember the recent blip when we were going to "go to war" with Syria some months ago? The cascading sound of millions of voices saying "What? No!!!" put a quick cork in that one real quick. The almighty government listened to us. We are more powerful than we know. We often forget that we're the ones in charge. So, while standing alone can often make me feel worthless, the knowledge that my own contributory energy does possess an authority that when echoed must be reckoned with, gives me courage.
Still, all this is very "large scheme." What about the minute details of every day life? When you absorb the knowledge of your own mortality, when you accept the infinitesimal importance of your own existence, and when you recognize the fleeting nature of what is sure to lose all resonance once you pass from this earth, how do you live? How do you enjoy living? How do you embrace the present without falling prey to the future, which consequently eliminates the gravity of the experiences you superficially deem so important? How do you operate within your own limited timeline when there is no time, only infinity? You work eight hours a day, you sleep another eight (if you're lucky), then there's the commute, and eating, and getting gas, and grocery shopping, and laundry, and blah blah bleed to death... How does one live, when the word 'Live' is everything and the 'life' around you feels like nothing?
These are heavy notions, but ones I find interesting to contrast in my moments of present clarity with my past indifference. I've never really shied away from the topic of death. Living an unsheltered childhood, I had seen my first dead body-- my Uncle's-- before I'd even hit the double digits. I grew up watching horror movies that exploited the gruesomely accurate reality of death and falsified the notion of my own body's impenetrability. It made the event authentic and impending, somewhat in a good way. I was ready for it, it being the danger of existing. Not at first, of course. When I was around 4-years-old, I was terrified of the idea. Of course, death at that age is something different. A child's mind can't comprehend the expiration of itself, so my personal image of death was basically witnessing myself rot in a coffin for all eternity. The imagined visions of this-- my skin splitting an peeling off, my bones protruding, my eyes becoming dark hollows-- made me quite desperate. I wanted to escape the inevitable, but it was impossible. The argument that I had a soul and would go to Heaven helped nothing. I still saw my own corpse. It haunted me. I couldn't work it out on my own. I remember going to my mother in her bedroom one night and telling her, "Mom, I'm scared of dying..." Her response, in typical Gen. Patton fashion was, "Well, don't think about it!" Simple as that.
The lack of drama she attached to my fear made something lock into place. At first I was like, "Well, thanks for nothin', lady!" Yet, over time, my reason did wear down my defenses to the reality of it. Yes, I was going to die someday. Everyone does. Them's the breaks. Nothing you can do about it now. Suddenly, I stopped being afraid of it, I accepted it as another item on the list of things to do-- homework, graduate, get a job, die-- and while my attitudes toward God, religion, and spiritualism certainly have changed over the years, my humble attitude before my End hasn't. In fact, death had a little too much of an influence on me for a time. At my worst, it rendered everything about me and my life useless. Why fall in love? You're just gonna die, and maybe your loved one will die first, and that isn't something anyone wants to go through, now is it? Why be ambitious and fill your mind with delusions of grandeur? Your accomplishments will mean nothing in the end when they become as indecipherable as one grain of sand from another. Why fill your life up with stuff, materials, cars, largesse? You can't take it with you. What I had developed for myself was a "wait out the clock" situation, my depression pulling me ever closer to the hoped for end. When the clock stopped, so would my pain, the incessant worry, and any sense of failure. Death would render me an equal to all those I had thus far felt so beneath. My own horror story would reach a conclusion, and I would be set free. This "life" was all bull sh*t anyway.
What a chump... Oh well, that's old news now, but as I find myself confronted with expiration dates-- a copy of my parents' Will arriving in the mail for safe keeping, or the passing of my parents' beloved cat, for example-- I've been kicking the whole "meaning of life" bean bag around from my new vantage point. I have made peace with my death, but... I still haven't earned it. I haven't done credit to my impermanence by making something of myself. Not something that will last, but something that was. Just simply was. Being what I hope is an open and receptive being, I don't constrain my personal pilgrimage through life with necessary steps or sign-posts of accomplishment. I just transition. I take life as it comes and take what I can from it. I've become comfortable with this, but is this enough? Have I become too open, too broad-minded, too untouchable? Having distanced myself from the human race for so many years has certainly added to my continued withdrawal. I still tiptoe around the fence, peeking in instead of hopping over. I don't allow myself to get close to other temporary beings, perhaps for the knowledge that I will one day lose them and don't want to deal with the pain, just as I never allowed anyone to love me because I never believed anyone could. You shouldn't start things you can't finish, you know. At least, not on your own terms. Life is too unpredictable for someone with a fragile bent in in their brain.
Even in my current euphoria, wherein I consider myself a happy, wayfaring tramp, I often feel so pulled beyond what is real that I don't even know if I am at this point. I'm certainly more grounded and invested in my surroundings than I was before. I'm present, but I haven't yet committed. I still fear any anchor that will attach me to life and inarguably sink my roots into the ground-- once and for all. Perhaps that's just it. Maybe being a happy-go-lucky, just-passin'-through sprite is no better than being my own maudlin, self-hating villain. I avoid life for the fear that if I actually do live it with purpose, I mean really give in and live like everyone else, instead of dazedly hovering in the periphery, I too will have to die. I too will suffer loss. Thus, I may actually mind dying, because I will have to leave something behind...
You can't see my face right now, nor do you know the long breadth of time that elapsed between my last sentence and this one, but know that I am suffering the effects of some serious nail-on-the-head, life-altering, "oh-shit" reverberations. Christ, the more I learn about myself the more I learn what a glaring human friggin' error I am. And now I'm laughing! At myself. For being an idiot. And it's wonderful. What a dip shit! I always manage to f*ck everything up!
I think that's the answer. I don't know why I'm here, and to be honest, I don't think there is a Why, at least there doesn't need to be. I've outgrown the need for such existential, paranormal, or just plain self-absorbed explanations. For some, these things make life feel more secure. For me, they sit like unnecessary trivia that only serve to confuse things further. What is unknown can't be used as evidence to define my present state of being. So, all I know is, I am sitting here writing. And no one will read this probably and that doesn't matter, because the doing of it makes me happy. It frees something in me. I get it out, and I feel like I've lost 50 pounds. Life is less heavy. Writing words down makes me happy. That is now. And maybe, possibly, perhaps, someone will read these confusing notes someday, and maybe they'll relate to it, or it will ease their tension by alerting them that there are other people just as oblivious and helpless as they. And there... I have given something of myself to the world.
In a moment, I am going to stop writing. I am going to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner. I am going to get in the car and drive, and sing, because it's dark now and fewer passers-by will notice. Then, I will go bowling with my friends, who enrich my life, make me smile, and help to convince me that-- pointless or not-- I am wanted on the planet earth, and I belong among them, and we belong to each other, however briefly. I will drink beer, knock down some pins, curse myself when I mess up, celebrate when I do well, and in these moments I will be too caught up with living to worry about the intense layers and implications of it. And when I have time that isn't robbed by work, when I have time when I can play, I will use it up as fully as I can by wandering off into whatever library, or museum, or mountain trail, or on whatever road trip I can, in order to suck out as much marrow from this brittle bone of a life as possible. To give it meaning. Just to myself.
There isn't peace in the world. The most I can hope for is peace within myself-- making a space to find peace in the peacelessness. This is all we have. I submit to the journey. I submit to the things I cannot change. I submit to my littleness and my hugeness. And slowly but surely, I will learn to fight for the things I want and therein submit to the fact that I deserve them just as much as anyone else.
Yes, I will die. I also submit to that. But not today. Hell no, not today. And for that reason alone, today is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I kiss the ground this day walks on. I make my own tracks within it, certain to disappear with the next cavalcade, but they were there. And so was I.