Friday, July 22, 2011

I Am Conscious

I am conscious of the softness and warmth of my thumb as I draw it across Jean-Pierre's skin. His eyes are closed. There's a booger in his nose hairs. "Into your gentle hands, dear Father, I commend the spirit of your child, Jean-Pierre Levesque…"

- Kate Braestrup,  Here If You Need Me

* * *

The mystery of our days is not that they are short, but that we assume they are infinite. How else to explain our willingness to subvert our essential selves, to live with and as something less than we are capable of? Too often we are simply barking up the wrong trees, chasing lives others want us to live, or lives we have assumed we must live because we lack the conviction to live by what ever light may yet be in our heads.

An old joke: What is the difference between a transvestite and a trans-sexual? A question of commitment.

* * *

Jean-Pierre Levesque got drunk and took his snowmobile for a ride across a frozen lake which gave way and he died under water. He died with a booger in his nose hairs. An anonymous, ignominious death, surely a waste for his wife, his friends, his family. You, too, will be found by someone someday, your death a discovery, a new event for the living to manage. You, too, will be yet another death, another corpse to be removed from the presence of the living. Knowing this, if you dare to know it, how's the whole living thing working out for you?

Life consists of a series of tasks set before you, tasks you are challenged to complete, or at least attempt. Some lives have difficult beginnings: poor health, disruptive, abusive childhoods, hunger, poverty, or plain ignorance. Other lives take on weight mid-way. Others still are burdened toward the end. Some just suck all the way through. There is no avoiding it, and yet we all wear a mantle of pride in our wounds, as if we were the only ones to ever suffer inequity, pain or prejudice.

How's this for a thought experiment: Instead of concentrating your energies on what has proved hard, or unfair you focused on finding a way to live in spite of those trials. You are wholly un-original in having to deal with suffering, disappointment, betrayal, neglect or any other stripe of suffering human beings can suffer. What makes you wholly original and irreplaceable is how you respond to those circumstances.

You dig?

If your life is fucked, only you can unfuck it by how you engage the stuff of your life. I am not of this time. I crave silences more than noise, solitude over the cacophony of company. If I could have a monastery with just myself in it I would, but I am of this time. I am a father to four who need something other than a withdrawal into solitude from their old man. This is part of my task. What is it for you?

* * *

Jean-Pierre Levesque lived a while. Had friends, a wife and then broke through the ice and died. Surely, he was surprised by that turn of events. He didn't mean to die, and yet death found him. Who can say how he lived? Only he knew. Maybe he paid it no mind and just went about his day-to-day without a thought past his next meal, or the next hunting season. Maybe he prayed every night for guidance. Maybe he did a bit of both - enough prayer to whistle past the graveyard he was hurtling toward. But he had a wife who asked that the sign of the cross be rubbed across his head if they found him dead and so that was done for him.

"Into your gentle hands, dear Father, I commend the spirit of your child, Jean-Pierre Levesque…"

* * *

You dig?


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