A few thoughts I left just kind of hanging in space last night, I want to try to unpack here tonight. If I can piggyback on something relevantgirl said in her comment–that American Christians are trite because we flee suffering–I’d like to offer a few (loosely connected) thoughts.
I think after six months of this blogging thing, it’s high time I told you what it’s all about. You want to know the real reason I’m here, writing every night? It’s probably not what you’re thinking and I’m sure you’ll be disappointed in me, but I don’t care. The real truth is, I’m trying to escape. That’s it. I mean, that’s not all, everything, the end. I mean, it’s just easier to write to escape than to attempt the other forms. At least I can be constructive while I’m escaping.
And something tells me (the voices, THE VOICES!), that you probably know that and I’m just making a big deal about nothing here. Regardless. The fun thing is, I can’t hear you, so I’m impervious to your protests. And besides, you don’t know yet what I’m trying to escape from. Wait–I’m going to tell you.
It would be easy to say it’s the job, the pressure, the intense responsibility, overflowing in-box, whatever. That’s certainly a factor. But no, that’s only, like, 12.36% of the reason. The real thing I’m escaping, the big percentage anyway, is the insatiable need I have to escape my fear of being a phony. If you’ve read Catcher, you know what I mean. It’s a disappointment, because it means I’m motivated by a negative rather than a positive, but I think after I tell you the rest, you’ll understand a bit better.
Relevantgirl’s comment struck me because I think it applies to me better than anything I’ve ever written about myself. And that’s saing something, because I write about myself a lot. I’m very self-absorbed, though I’m getting better with age. The worry is, that as I age, I’m getting worse at accepting the uncertainty and instability of life. And that is what I’m trying to escape: aging. Trading fearlessness for fear. As I get older, I’m not building resilience, I’m losing it.
Escapism is one of those things that’s publicly frowned upon, but privately practiced by all. Addictive personalities like mine are screwed at birth, but it’s no surprise that even the generally stable are prone to a few treasured fettishes. Escapism is pretty much the search for comfort, the same comfort that makes people into weenies, makes them rely on triteness and cliche, makes them into phonies to those who know real life through suffering. American Christians, by and large, are phonies. They aren’t suffering, as relevantgirl said, if anything, they’re padding themselves against all feeling. They’re getting older.
And maybe now I’m excited because I can finally say something about it without sounding like a typical cranky teenager. But—O, the humanity!—the very thing that releases me to speak, wraps me in its insidious grip! And if that isn’t the very essence of Holden’s dilemma, I just don’t know what is.
Maybe, what I’m trying to do is to catch a few of you before you go over the edge. We can escape together the apathy and the horrible, crushing whispers of Christian consumerism. Through honesty, through heartache, through struggle, loathing, and masochistic tendencies that could get us branded as modern day acetics or monastics, committed in community to the development of our spirits together. Aesthetes who are cognizant and responsible for the darkness we bring in with the light and not shunning it to the invisible corners of existence, but welcoming it as a natural result of the full truth.
Okay, maybe I’m not talking about true masochism. I don’t want to have to put any of you away in padded cells. And loathing isn’t really all that healthy either. But there’s so much to be said for the effort required in struggle.
I leave you with a quote from an unknown source. I like to think the source had realized the full implications of the wisdom he’d found and left his due recognition for someone else to claim. But it’s probably just that I forgot who said it. “Love is suffering.”
The greatest of the commandments is, in essence, to suffer.
Ed: (And then there’s this one, I also like, “If suffering brought wisdom, the dentist’s office would be full of luminous ideas.”)