I’m writing for my life now. I am trying to be free. I don’t know if it’s working. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I never really have. All I do know is I’ve been trying to say these things for so many years, do you know what I mean? Do you have those things inside of you, like a pain you can’t seem to point to? You can’t just say “it hurts right here,” because here seems to be everywhere and nowhere. That would be so good, though, wouldn’t it? To know the source of that aching, to be able to point to it. Diagnosis would be the beginning of relief. Identify the problem and you begin to solve it or ask for help. I am in pain because I have this wound. Help me, please.
It’s amazing what a name can do—what words can do for all of us. I haven’t met many people who would deny a request like that: I am in pain. Help me, please. We are hard wired to be loving, I think. I know the media tells another story. I know we look into the box of illusions and see a frightening place. I realized I was frightened all the time. I realized I was always feeling threatened. So I did the only thing that made much sense. I turned the TV off. I took control of the image I was being sold. I ignored the mold that I had never once fit into. It hasn’t been easy.
I lack a lot of cultural context, so people find me disagreeable. I am completely incapable of chatting about “shows,” so there’s either substantive conversation, or there’s nothing. Absent the imaginary lives of sitcom characters and TV wanna-be rock stars, people quickly get to talking about their own lives. They usually enjoy it.
I think I am partially writing here because I will miss my students at Rutgers. I think I am also tired of talking to myself. I think there are things I want to say to my family that I can only say on the page. I think I am healing.
My religion teaches that we are all deeply wounded. We are bound up with a disease called Samsara. It is just a fancy foreign word that represents the great delusions of our lives. Not illusions–the world is real enough in the sense that when something cuts you, you bleed—but delusions. The things you think to be true that actually probably aren’t. Things like: it really matters who you have sex with. Or things like: my God can beat up your God—and so on and on.
Our thoughts have been muddied by desires, and our desires have been fanned by an industry designed to do just that: make us really want what they want you to want. And you know what? I am fine with that. I think Capitalism, at best, has been a mixed bag—a lot of good, a lot of bad. Other people can argue about that. The part of the delusion that I attack is the internal tormenter. The committee of voices that point out your failings. The chorus that minimizes achievements: sure you got a 99%, but why not 100%? We all know that.
It was my friend Jason who articulated the committee for me. They sat in judgment of your every move, and when you fuck up, they send their vulture to get you. He sits on the bed post, waking you up, unemployed and hung over. He leans in close and sneers. He speaks to you with the voice of death:
“You worthless son-of-a-bitch, did you really think anyone loved you? Did you really think you could keep that job? Do you really think anyone cares about your silly fucking website?”
The vulture reminds you. It is fierce, but not quite unbeatable. For if you give its words form, if you put them on paper–where you can manipulate their form and interrogate their true meaning—you will find that your vulture is shrinking. My vulture has shrunk to the size of a hawk, and he is accepting my training, for the most part.
This evening my younger brother emailed me. He sent me a picture of me with my nephew. He wanted to remind me that things were good. He wants me to drop the past. He wants me to let myself be free.
I am mostly free, brother, but I have to be a bodhisattva about this. In Buddhism, the bodhisattva is second only to a Buddha, but some would argue that point. I would argue that point. A bodhisattva is a being who finds a way out of delusion, but stays behind instead. A bodhisattva endures to help others find a similar way.
I can’t back away from this now — maybe not ever. I have stories to tell. I have a duty to fulfill. I took a vow. I spoke it in words. And words are all I have.
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