Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Fractured Reflection

I hear a lot about resolutions and pledges. Perhaps their most dramatic form is that of the conversion experience. The light breaks upon Martin Luther. Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben is killed by a criminal that Peter let escape. Siddharta realizes the 4 noble truths one fateful day in a park. A moment moves and we are forever changed. Now we are the emissaries of God or Justice or Nothingness, as it were. We have hit the other side. On occasion the supposed new status is a result of something far less divine or providential: the force of will. “This time I have made up my mind. This time I’m back on my grind.” Yeah. “I know there’s things in my life that ahma let go, starting tonight.” Perhaps there are statuses that render so cleanly. I don’t know. But I think that for most, and certainly for me, the pivotal turn has a pace more like the whimpering death of resolve than it’s sudden birth.

I want it to be the case that I return from my vision quest fully formed as a man, or that at the signing of the proclamation I get my freedom. But I have come back around to the same status far too many times to be that naive. There are heavy and rusted anchors that hold me to the oldness that I want so desperately to release. And the chain that binds me is elastic. I run at full speed for a great distance along the surface only to inch forward in the murky and deterministic depth. My claims of newness are betrayed when that band snaps back. The convert can feel the backslide coming and yet has already accepted it. I should not be doing this, I think, but I put the night or the bike or the thought on exactly the path that has led to this familiar turn. And when the familiar feels good there is no hope for authenticity. In my surrendering I close of the possibility of resoluteness. It is not a contradiction to be bound so securely and yet be so lost.

Still, the earth is curved and a road traveled long enough can still result in a complete inversion. Or imbue deep meaning to the most basic acts. Like a hair cut. Or a kiss. Or the reading of a long sentence.
Maybe what we call conversion is just the arbitrary selection of a single moment out of the agonizing movement with which I am struggling; A description that looks good in print but hides the world it purports to reveal. Because the world turns, baby. My life has not come to this. Rather, my life is a continual coming to this-ness. You can earmark that book if you wanna, but the words keep changing and it ain’t no page numbers no way.

One day a while back I checked myself for a belief in a supreme being, like God or something, only to discover that that light had quietly gone out. Like an already dim flame from a candle at the end of its wick. I tapered into a new status like a long song fades into silence. Perhaps endings and beginnings are matters of degrees.

Nothing left to do now but put on some Bowie.