Thursday, May 26, 2016

La Infinitia Liberacion

La infinitia liberacion de no saberse solo
  The infinite liberation of knowing that one is not alone

- Ernesto Sabato
(trans. Clive James in Cultural Amnesia)

* * *

The French word for it,  frisson, meaning that shiver of delight and emotional recognition that sometimes visits when listening to music, or looking at some beautiful thing, or a touch from the right person at the right time, comes close, as does Campbell's idea of "aesthetic arrest", where time falls away and you are held by the beauty of something. Close, but when I read Sabato's phrase (he was arguing against the idea that genius and art were only for the elect and instead could also be found at the street level) I was neither delighted, nor held by beauty. Something more elemental, visceral, ancient held my guts aside to see if I still had a soul, that deep body knowledge, bred in the bone, of truths so old we've forgotten them, and was held there for a moment while the examination was completed and then released.

Ezra Pound once translated an old troubadour poem, maybe it was some Cavalcanti, I can't remember and no longer have the book, but this I do remember, it was about love:

He, caught, then
falleth on the spike of the targe

Sabaoto's statement, too, is about love. We do great harm to ourselves to believe, as we are wont to do, that we are alone. The hellish drumbeat of youwerebornaloneandyoulldiealone echoes all around us. We defend ourselves and build walls against our loneliness by becoming ever more alone. We trust little as politics and religion and economics have all proved fatally flawed. This bleeds into our daily lives with those closest to us: we love this far, but no further. We become tribal or we become hermetic, both doing a nice job of sealing us off from the world around us: the world that is in ruin and always has been, the world of suffering and need as well as the world of unspeakable beauty and mystery.

Sabato tells me liberation is found in realizing the opposite of what our institutions have told us for millennia: you are not alone. Now, you can take that to mean your God walks beside you. You can understand that as being being part of what the ancient Stoics called the logos. Sabato meant only, as surely as the historical Jesus did, that I'm here with you on the streets. We share this road. Our genius, our liberation is found in our connection to one another. Not as lovers, or family or any intimate relationship, but in the broader, wider, encompassing prospect that the stranger is the same as I am. Our details may diverge, but pull aside the guts and our souls rhyme. It is how we serve our highest self and keep what what what matters most in sight: compassion - for it can be a difficult road we walk. This is the fall, the release of pride in our sufferings, the release of guilt over not knowing sooner, and the source of liberation and being able to move again in the genius of our days.

* * *

What drives our isolation, what fucks us deep and true, is a preponderance of the immediate, the circumstantial, the greased grooves of expectation and compliance. It is a hard climb to get any perspective on what the hell is going on, to separate yourself from the welter of obligations and responsibilities and disappointments and know who you are down in the marrow of your bones. You can hardly tell what is foreground and what is background and where you might stand in relation to either. But you climb, you work at it, you try to find a place to stand and it occupies the whole of you.  For six years this is what I have basically written about here, for it was my struggle to know, to stand, to work at it. The seductive nature of always struggling is a ferocious temptation to remain wounded. Pass that hurdle and you have found your feet. You have achieved a remarkable thing: you have become yourself.

But, my friend, there is more to do. The job is only half done. You know that, right?

There is more to do.

Having made that journey, you have to come back to the rest of us. The gifts you can bring are unlike anything here where there is suffering and isolation and the injustice of institutions and the fear that walks about looking for a place, a victim to pour its anger over. To be liberated is not solely to know one's self, but to know and then share it out, to remind those who need it most that they are not alone.

The beloved Mavis Staples sings:

You're not alone 
I'm with you, 
I'm lonely too
What's that song
Can't be sung by two?

* * *

I wish you well.


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