Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh They Tell

Oh, they tell me of a home
Far beyond the skies
Oh, they tell me of a home
So far away
Yes, they tell me of a home
Where no storm clouds rise
Oh, they tell me
Yes, they tell me
Of an uncloudy day

Uncloudy Day - Gospel Standard

* * *

So much of what we suffer is self-inflicted pain, a doubling down on the externals that plague us from time to time, or all the time. This self-inducement to misery is the very worst of us for it extends, broadens, deepens the suffering that is beyond our control; it takes what is unjust, or senseless and makes it endlessly cruel.

This drift to self-suffering is the singular attribute of the fucked life.

We take what is difficult or awful or troubling and work it over in our minds until it becomes the whole of our experience. Wounds are kept fresh with daily, hourly assaults on the point of pain so that we never notice the moment when we supplant the injustice of the original hurt with a more toxic version of our own. We victimize ourselves and mistakenly point our fingers outward. These are perfect circles of logic that cannot be broken through argument or love. It takes the accumulated weight of false suffering to bring it to an end.

This the point at which we self-soothe with the truism - "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." We endure and endure and endure the pain of our days never realizing we are the source of that extended pain. We are heroic. We are Hercules at his labors. We are fucked.

* * *

This idea of false suffering is a frightening truth. Lord knows there is enough suffering in the world to hold our attention, but to willingly compound it leaves me without words to express the horror and waste of it.

This morning as I was taking my garbage out (a crystalline October morning) the thought occurred to me that I have but a handful more seasons to enjoy mornings like this and while I do not fear my death I was struck through to the bone with the frightening knowledge that over the past three years I have wasted my time, been a spendthrift in misery and there is no undoing it.

We all hurt. We all suffer the loss of love, the loss of our parents. Some of us lose our spouses our children our freedom our home our jobs our friends. Loss seems to be the permanent state of humanity. And that is simply how it is. You cannot argue with time. You cannot argue with your losses. Lazarus lives only in the Bible and no one makes too much to do about his second and final death.

Grief - the wounding that comes from an absence - has no particular shape. There aren't fixed stages that last a fixed amount of time. We resolve our griefs on our own; we accommodate the new landscape in our own ways and in our own time - sometimes spending years and years pursuing the one thing that cannot be done: rewinding the clock. I grieved my father for 7 years before letting his memory rest. What I grieved was not his death, but the absence he was when he lived and with his death the sure knowledge that that absence was all I'd get.

But is it not the same for you? Have you not suffered too long because the true loss, the true absence was you? Death and divorce, absence and loss are facts we impose our fears and longings and doubts about ourselves on. It is what makes us human, these imperfections against the enormity of time. But stay too long and the right road is wholly lost.

That's a picture of Pops Staples at the top of the page. Gospel and the spirituals that preceded it are all about a time and a place removed from this time and this place and its injustices and trials and tears. I hated it for many years because it put off until the afterlife a way of reckoning with this life. I thought such believers fools to wait. But I had it all wrong. While the song speaks of an uncloudy day somewhere else, those singing about it are right here, right now and while they may not be able to stay the hand of injustice, they can compose themselves to withstand it; they can free themselves from the imposition of loss and absence by living by their faith, by living for something other than themselves and their sufferings. That uncloudy day walks around inside them. One listen to Pops and you'll know what I mean.

To live for your sufferings is to falsely suffer. To live while you suffer is to free yourself from that suffering. Or in my terms, is to unfuck your life.

Life, like death, wants more of itself. Which will you serve?


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