When the lights they go out
The storm will come
And we shall congregate
The ground, ground will shake
And we shall congregate
And I will help you
'Cause you will help me through
This trouble at the the gates of this heart
- Rocco Deluca, Congregate
* * *
The ground, ground will shake, my best beloved and we will need to walk this road together: in good company, at poor peace, doing the best we can with the materials at hand. Lights go out, storms roll in and we are to weather it - not because of some holy doctrine, or a misplaced sense of suffering and martyrdom - but because experiencing our lives as they unfold is all we have. If there is difficulty, darkness, sorrow, regret then each of those things is to be experienced as well. We fuck ourselves when we hold on to them and wall off experiencing other things, emerging things, this one unfolding moment we have to breathe, to be brave enough to breathe and journey on.
And I will help you, 'cause you will help me through this trouble at the gates of this heart.
* * *
I sometimes doubt my ability to tell you what I know and if I could, would it be able to reach you as I hope it will. I stumble over the distance between experience and knowledge, between experiencing something and trying to tell you any of it so that you might understand exactly what it means. James Agee wrote:
The light in this room is of a lamp. Its flame in the glass is of the dry, famished delicateness of the latest lateness of the night, and of such ultimate, such holiness of silence and peace that all on earth and within extremest remembrance seem suspended upon it in perfection as upon reflective water: and I feel that if I can by utter quietness succeed in not disturbing this silence, in not so much as touching this plain of water, I can tell you anything within realm of God, whatsoever it may be, that I wish to tell you, and that what so ever it may be, you will not be able to help but understand it.
This, if I have a prayer, is my prayer.
We never get there, though. Do we? Our lover does not understand what it means when we look in their eyes and see gladness there, see desire and laughter there. We see it. We are boiled in love for it and what is left for us is a touch, a word, a song we can sing, but it never says it completely and here, too, the distance between experience and knowledge is left to be bridged with such inventions as we can muster: language, symbol, story.
Writing invariably leaves me sad because I know I have not said the thing I hoped to say. I circle the airport over and over in ellipses, a spirograph filling in as much as I can, hoping the pattern is recognized, but always knowing I can't ever get there because my experience cannot be transferred, only partially translated.
You know this is true. You know when you have loved someone so completely that the word "love" is puny and irrelevant. You know when your grief swims over you there is no telling of its completeness. You alone experience it and know its contours. In love and in grief, the ground, ground will shake, so all that can be done, all that we can do is congregate, to be present for each other. And that love, that grief falls to silence as we recognize the impossibility of not disturbing that plain of water and offer up instead the sweet bravery of another breath and journey on together for as long as we are together. This is how we get through this trouble at the gates of our hearts.
* * *
Shall I tell you of love? Can it be done? Can I tell you about a woman who boils me in love, such is the gladness I feel when I am near her? Can I tell you about the sorrow of a lonely death? Can I warn you away from the latter, so you might know the former? Is there a word that can be said, a sentence assembled that tells you any of this? I think Agee's tumbling, spilling sentence is the closest thing to human perfection I have ever seen; I think the color of this woman's eyes are the closet thing to human perfection I have ever seen. I think my mother dying alone is the closest thing to perfect sorrow I have ever seen; and the ground, ground will shake regardless.
So, we are left with imperfection, approximations of the experience of being alive when we try to tell, teach, share what we have come to know in our bones. And we do this out of great love, we do this because we have come to believe it is the best way to express our experience and we are not wrong to do so. But there is something else - not more, just another way: we can help each other through by keeping company, by catching each other when we fall, by being a witness to each other's joy and love and grief through the sweetness of silence, the road shared for as long as possible.
* * *
I write because I once thought I could be understood. Like St. Francis I now care very little for being understood. I just want to understand what it is like to experience life while it is mine to use. This morning, all I know is the road is still mine, the road is still yours. For a little while we can share it and that is all, that is all, that is all.
* * *
Boom. Boom. Boom.