Thursday, February 17, 2011

There Is Most

"There is most joy in virtue when 'tis hardest won."

- Lucan

* * *

I am a dull knife. So little of what I can say is mine to say, but is an echoing of others' saying. But I find I am suited for it. The more I read and write the more I find trails of breadcrumbs from those who've gone before me leading me to their dull knives and their re-purposing of the works that preceded them. Their innovations and discoveries were not in developing wholly original ideas, but in building on and re-imagining the uses for what was there when they arrived on the scene.

Classicism would have been a lovely way to spend a life - steeped in Latin and Greek, a Cambridge don with tobacco flakes spilled onto trousers and hair unkempt for what need did one have of a comb when translating Ovid, etc.

I hope and pray someone still lives that way. Just as it is a wild comfort to know someone has won the lottery, so too it comforts me to know someone is living the life I always imagined I would have.

But I fucked it up and instead of a bookish life I live a life that needs to be unfucked. I would guess most of mankind does too.

You see I have known precious few people who came to their lives complete, formed in the floods and waterspouts of God ready to be their mighty self from the get go. No, precious few are the lottery winners, the Cambridge dons, the souls complete on Day 1. If you believe in reincarnation you'd have to say those folks are on their last go round. Their presumed ease a reward for presumed past torments.

No, we are wobbly monks doubting our faith, failing to live as we think we should, letting ourselves down right when we need to come through. And then we try again. If there is anything noble in a fucked life it is in the trying again. Lincoln wrote, "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have." That seems to me to be the tonic each of us needs and refuses to take until we have gone so far off the rails of our lives that its truth finally soaks into our feeble brains and we find the spine to live with what is at hand.

We many who are fucked are the geniuses of effort, even when that effort is simply to wake and face the mess we've made of things. To us alone goes Lucan's hardest won virtue. We are the creators, the mules, the sherpas, the doers of things because we have to do something to unfuck our lives. The easy talent is an over-ripe banana - its sweetness too sweet. No, we earn our way by paying for our successes with all our defeats. Our goal is not quietude, but rather a using up of our talent, our time, an insistence on being fully awake despite our sleepy incompetence. Trust me, you can sleep when you're dead. There is only now to live.

So, embrace your fuckedness. It is the raw material you get to work with to create your life. We, the fucked, have no ease and we are all the luckier for it. As hard as it is at times only we know the true sweetness of the effort made to build a life instead of simply occupying one. Yeah, it'd be nice if wasn't always so hard, but then what meaning could you wring out of your life?

There is most joy in virtue when 'tis hardest won.

Now hop to it.

PS: Don't think for a moment that any life is without its trials. That's just a literary device. Even Cambridge dons suffer.


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