Thursday, June 17, 2010

These Things You

"These things you keep
You better throw 'em away.
You want to turn your back
On your soulless days."

Mike Scott/The Waterboys, This Is The Sea

* * *

There is a difference between memory and stasis, a difference between love of where you've been and staying there. The fucked know no such differentiation. I would say this: the only way to honor the past is to let it go. The dead are forever in their dying, but you have only a short time to live.

On January 5th, 1993 my sad, beautiful father died. Cancer and its attendant miseries swept him away six months after his diagnosis. I mourned him daily, viciously for seven years. It was a keening without end. I could not let him go for I had so little of him while he lived. It is the way of some fathers to always be at a remove from their children. Of those the majority are too self absorbed to notice, but others, like my dad, are helpless in front of the mystery of fatherhood, of creation and have no means to express themselves and so linger at the edges of the very thing that fills them with life.

I became the keeper of my father's flotsam and jetsam, the odd objects that he'd touched and had outlived him: tools (especially an awl), a leather bound wastebasket, his Boy Scouts First-Aid tin, a box of bullets wrapped in twine from his 14th year, pipes, a tin of tobacco, and his childhood scrapbooks. I spent my days trying to conjure him again, for I feared not simply losing his presence, but his memory as well.

I could not have chosen any worse.

We fuck ourselves mostly because of love, or at least a wildly immature notion of what love is and is made for.

Listen: We're supposed to give it away. If you keep it, it ain't love.

Do you not know yet? - Fling the emptiness out of your arms
into the spaces we breathe - maybe that the birds
will feel the extended air in more intimate flight.

RM Rilke, "The First Elegy," Duino Elegies

* * *

I fucked myself good by feverishly clinging to the ghost of my father. The birth of my first two children did nothing to lessen that grip as I could only see what he had missed. And then I realized I was repeating his mistakes. I was an observer, a hovering daemon of paternal claptrap. I was anything but myself. The unrequited attachment to the past warps you, turns you into a caricature of your potential, and when you finally feel this disconnect years may have flown.

Wake up!

If fidelity to the past could make the dead live, my father would be having coffee with me this morning. No, let it go. Let it all go. You'll be okay. You can only prove your love by being here, now, attending to the life emerging at every moment.

Death, of course, is the ultimate example, but it applies to broken hearts, children leaving home, and your own fucked up self. The past cannot return. You can either repeat its mistakes and miseries, cling to its happier days, or find your way to the place where grief is a falling leaf, where past happiness isn't an impediment for what lies ahead, and you find that miracle of miracles, you've unfucked your life.

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