Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I've Been Trying

I've been trying to find
What's been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

- Alexi Murdoch, "All My Days"

 * * *

It is always nigh. It is always being nigh: this one chance to get to the marrow of things, to understand our lives as they are lived, as they are and so settle our minds before our departure. It is always here. It is always waiting for you to see it, to get it and let go of the difficulties that brought you this far. 

The days keep turning into night and always will, so the question that remains is not one of inevitability (how can one question what is inevitable), but the larger and more profound question: have you found what's been in your mind, the very thing that has brought you to your knees, brought you here, brought you every joy and betrayal, every loss and success, every hope to find your place to stand?

Have you?

It is a loaded question and I offer it with no smug certainty that it is inevitable to have that answer come out right. In fact, we struggle for it most of our lives and can die without ever knowing it. But it is possible to have that answer. It is possible to know your mind. It is possible to find your feet. It strikes me that the only useful advice is to keep your feet moving, for you don't know what comes next.

* * *

The wasteland of our days, the arid places where all our effort turns to dust, where we find none of the hoped for rest that others seemingly enjoy cannot be avoided, or parlayed away with promises of fidelity and faith if only, if only this wandering would end. No, the wasteland is unmoved by you. It exists because you don't know yourself, your mind, what to do with the life in your hands. You are ever on the outside looking in and every attempt to find and know love evaporates, every job and opportunity is seeded with its end right when you begin and you move from unhappy place to unhappy place and wonder at the misery of it all. Perhaps you withdraw. Maybe you go searching in churches and temples. Maybe you use your body to dull your pain. All of that activity is an illusion that doing such things will bring you the peace you crave. But that only delays the task before you: crossing the wasteland. 

To cross this empty place you have to go within and listen. 

You must listen for your voice in the cacophony of voices echoing inside you: your family, your teachers, your mentors, your friends, your employers, your beloved, your culture, your faith and sort through them to find your own. Once found, the wasteland does not end, but now you know the way.

This is what I mean by keeping your feet moving–regardless of your circumstances. For you cannot know what is possible beforehand. You can only learn by undergoing it. And the wasteland? It is no such thing. It is where you come alive.

* * *

Every difficulty, every pain can be transformed by your willingness to use it as a means to know your mind. These difficulties can be organic (disease, genetics), abrupt (accident, betrayal), unjust (circumstance, politics) and slow simmering (self-loathing, fear). But I'll argue that each holds within it the possibility - not the inevitability - but the possibility of helping you cross the wasteland. And that, for us fucked fuckers, is probably easy enough to believe, for we are masters of the struggle. 

But there is more.

Every kindness, every act of grace, of love can also be transformed by your willingness to use it as a means to know your mind. What I am calling the wasteland is the sense of being disconnected from your life, yet it is not life that is disconnected and as such it is still filled with infinite possibility including kindness, grace and love. You know this to be true. In the harrowing of your losses, there was someone you held your head, or you found a place to rest it if only for an hour. The wasteland is not outside of you, but is what you have made of the inner life.

To find what's been in your mind you must also include the possibilities of finding and knowing love, of friendship and acceptance. 

It is a great harm we do to ourselves to believe it is all one way or the other.  The days keep turning into night and the point of your departure is always being nigh. What has been hard should make you kind. What has been loving should make you kinder still.

Never give up. Never give in. The wasteland ends when you see it for what it is: a gift to know your mind.

* * *


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