I wanted to say while the sun is still shining on my life, that I’ve had a sudden onset of a rather challenging problem, which is looking like a neuromuscular illness in the family of diseases that takes away function in particular ways. The scales are still being weighted, and the measures calibrated; that is, the diagnosis is not set in stone or clad in iron; but it’s acting a lot like that kind of visitor. There are names, but I don’t want to burden myself with the details presently. In a real sense, they’re not so important as what follows.
I understand it; me, my nervous system, my habits, the recent deep dental trauma that unmoored a ship that was threatening to sail for years; for decades. I’m not extremely bitter about causes; just reflective, and sad of course, but also, well, surprisingly full of love. (Or, perhaps, just ‘full of love.’)
Those who know me know that thought is my currency, so, as you can imagine, I have many now.
The first is that I love my friends, and have such heartfelt regard for so many of you, in ways you may or may not know; and I am duly chided – or perhaps gently reminded, or ungently, but truthfully – that life is best spent when it is spent giving and receiving love.
I have, of course, been a fighter, for various causes, and mostly for a notion of truth – which to me meant truth-telling, digging into dark corners to uncover and unbury what has been hidden by generations past. This is a strange calling in a mercantile world. The truth has little commercial value – so why did it draw me like a flame?
It was in childhood that I so deeply, firmly internalized the notion that truth was the antidote to life’s suffering. It was my parents who taught it to me, by their detachment from certain details that seemed so obvious to me; why did they not behave in concordance with these realities, I wondered? Because of their limits, their fears, unexamined habits, beliefs and behaviors.
I responded to this – my parents’ avoidance of certain buried areas in their psyches – by becoming a truth-sniffing hound; a metal detector for hidden histories that revealed our current view of – well – anything, you name it – to be a kind of fable that we cherished with our hope, or love, or fear, or hate, or desperation, or simple resigned acceptance because… well. And that question tasked me: why accept what isn’t true?
The answers came in slowly: because we’re a stupid mammal? Because we’re greedier than we are honest? Because we’re earning money doing what’s easy, versus what’s right? Or because we simply haven’t been told the deeper hidden truth – the antidote, the reality long buried by time, habit, industry and commerce?
I selected from among these, tending to believe the “haven’t yet heard” story to energize my interactions. I thought that a truth, or a set of details, more persistently told would jog loose the memory of our deeper humanity and encourage us to be, well…. is it possible to make a circle rounder? Is it possible to make society – or people – “better?”
The trouble with this approach is that it leads to fighting, and being attacked, and becoming beleaguered, and losing faith, hope, and sometimes kindness, and therefore, losing friends. Which seems to go against what I said at the top – that I love so many of you in so many ways: that would include people I don’t talk to much because we disagreed, or I strongly disagreed with something, and drew away, or fought or argued a point.
But that’s activism: and activism is a drag. It’s a drag that we all get suckered into it at times, we all have our version of a church for which we evangelize, and it’s always a bit of a drag.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Perhaps there are things worth fighting for. Perhaps. Maybe.
But what becomes of joy? What becomes of the pleasure of a personal life filled with good friends? For activists, so much of what is personally meaningful (and important) is thrown on a heap of burnable materials in the pursuit of a cause.
I’m not saying this is a description of me now, or of me for some time, but the disease of the pursuit of purity infects us all at times and infected me at times. If we fight an ugly machine, telling ourselves by exposing its gears we can encourage the world to become a better place, perhaps we’re just continuing – perpetuating a cycle of unhappiness learned at home. Perhaps, like me, you were born into an ugly situation and you learned to fight (and so it’s what you do naturally – though uncomfortably at times)…and so you fight. But you don’t gain happiness, friendship, love, warmth, security…you’re waiting for those to fall from the sky when the truth is heard. But do they? (Or, was your job to secure those other things before fighting, or instead?)
So many stories – so many histories, so many Ragnaroks. (Achilles wanted to be remembered for all history; but was he ever simply happy?)
I suppose it’s a long-winded way of saying:
If I had to do it again, if the powers that be granted a full healing, I’d be doing it differently: laughing, loving, swimming, surfing, painting, making music more, worrying over the darker details less.
I’d still be, I imagine, rather enraptured by our deeper histories, hidden histories; by story and myth and how it weaves our world into a mirage that we, by mutual bewilderment and fantasy agree to not disturb (or to not disturb much – there are emotional rules as to how many questions can be asked of our beliefs and institutions – it’s a great game we play with that murky boundary)…
But, I’d have more time for heart, friends, self, laughter, kindness, and even that all important thing, forgiveness for self and others for our chronic humanness (which is another word for “failure to meet the standards set out by the stories we tell of our gods and heroes).
Or, perhaps what I mean is: while I have time, and however long it may be, I’ll be thinking of life as a story whose goal is to experience more love, not less, and not a story whose outcome will ever be something like “a better world” or something as unattainable as “ultimate truth.”
This is a difficult world for one who sees what we do, en masse, in small and large groups, and even individually, and compares it to what we say. It will always be a disappointment to one who, as I have, imagines that if we can only be consistent and honest (as a species and as individuals), we will be happy.
Happiness doesn’t worry about such things; it’s its own animal, and needs to be cared for as much as truth.
That’s a hard lesson for the truth teller. But it is also true.
So, we’ll see what happens. Again, I’m in a process of discovery of something difficult, but in that process, I can see something gentle and loving.
Presently, I can feel a sun threatening to set, and I’m saying a few things so that my thoughts are not in doubt should that world turn.
I’ll try to update as I go.
But, please know, you have touched my heart, you are in my thoughts, I am very grateful to have known you, and to still know you.