Thursday, January 01, 2015

"The man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood..."

Well, its been a while. I need to inter this thing, I think. Maybe I'll start a new one elsewhere, not sure yet.

You see, the problem is precisely the title: taking a long view was how I tried to keep my sanity for a long time. It appeared to me that a lot of what was wrong in the world was mostly a matter of perspective, and that things needed to be seen in broader context; that "it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world," as Rick put it.

And that is exactly what I did: I tried to keep my perspective, by stepping back from the picture, and stepping back and away, and stepping away, until I had stepped so far I was cornered and unable to move, and so far away from anybody else that even calling for help seemed futile.

I went seriously, deeply, and very genuinely and certifiably, crazy. Delusional thinking was the least of it, and there was plenty of that, but ultimately the details do not matter, they were more symptoms than the disease itself. I had fought it all my life, one way or another, but ultimately I had lost and the crazy had won.

I had no perspective at all, I could not distinguish the big from the small and the good from the bad; all was void and without form, and I was all alone.

The world is not kind to the insane. Among the smaller evils of that, is that I lost everything, everything that I suppose most people think counts in life: all my treasure, my wife and children, my house, my career, my reputation, pretty much every damn thing. I very literally did not have two coins to rub together, and for a while pretty much only the clothes on my back. I was rejected of men and acquainted with grief. I was utterly dependent on the kindness of strangers, and that was often pretty thin gruel. I was thin as a rail and it was almost impossible for me to string two thoughts, let alone two words together-- in fact it was greatly feared I had suffered brain damage at the time, although that thought did not concern me much. I had lost so much more.

The worst of it was, when I had finally glimpsed a way out, I had concluded that it a) required change on a very fundamental level, of who I was and what I thought and what I believed to be true and right; and b) that I was 50 years old and couldn't possibly change even if I wanted to, which I didn't. So I took what seemed the obvious and logical and necessary and deeply crazy step, and tried to kill myself.

Almost made it.

And then, and this is literally true, alone in the darkness, everything gone, naked and without defense, without pride or presumption, as the sun rose I opened up my hands and let go, I made a decision, the last one I would make for a considerable time, that I would accept life and live it and live in it, and see what it would bring. That I would let the water hold me up, and let the days go by. What did I have to lose? For if I had not killed myself, I had I think largely killed the thing that had dominated me my whole life: fear. With everything I had ever feared, having happened, and finding myself still alive, with death itself an option I had finally embraced, and yet which had slipped away, I found I was no longer really capable of fear, or indeed most of the other sins that had bedeviled my life. I was truly naked, and all the former things had fallen away, and I quit fighting.

I did not understand this at the time, but it was forced on me by the circumstances: I finally no longer took a long view.

This is what I learnt in that moment, though I did not understand it for a long time: I only have the now. The past is fixed, it cannot be changed and it is what it is, but it only has the power over me I give it, and I have no power over it: it is futile to live in the past. And the future is unknowable and not subject to my will or desire, it too is what it is, it will be what it will be, and I have no power over it, and it has no power over me; it can neither vindicate nor condemn me, as I once hoped and feared. To live in either past or future is to live in powerlessness, and to live oscillating between boundless black despair and foolish vanity. It is mad.

So I have learnt to eschew the countries underneath the earth, the peoples of the past; and I have seen that the only sure thing about the undiscovered country of the future is death. And I am Lazarus, come back from the dead, to tell you....

That to live in either the past or the future is to trick myself out of living in the one space I do have actual and indisputable power: the here and the now, and over myself only.

And to accept the lesson of the past: god in his wisdom saw fit to give me an itchy mind, so that I am never more than briefly comfortable, and so I must wear the world as a loose fitting garment lest I choke myself. And to accept the lesson of the future: fear is the mind-killer.

The story of my recovery, well those stories are common enough. And, honestly, much of it is greatly mysterious to me. But above all, I know this: I am not cured, what I have is remission, contingent on my spiritual condition. Like a diabetic, I must take my medicine daily.

And this: without the love and support and care of others, my family especially but many others who had no obvious reason to care for me, except that they too had been where I found myself, and patiently guided me out of that cold dark trackless waste, I would surely be dead, and I cannot conceive of a more miserable, lonelier, or vile death than that would have been. I have incurred debts no honest man could pay, and that a dishonest man, which I was, could not not even conceive.

Thats ok though, I've been in debt my whole life, I know how to do that. I will never be able to pay back the principal, but the interest is within my means.

So now: I have regained a great deal of what I lost. Not all of it, by any means, no indeedy, but a measure. Meaningful and challenging work, the trust of my children, and material security; a man can ask no more.

And all the tears have been wiped from my eyes; and there shall be no more fear, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And ultimately above and beyond, I have gained a pearl of  great price, that surpasses my understanding, that cannot be taken from me, that I cannot explain to you or even myself, but only wonder at.

At any rate, I can no longer claim to have any perspective at all; perspective is for spectators, for god perhaps, but not for man. Off the bench and back to the arena, this time with, finally, some understanding of the rules of the game I think. I hope.

This blog is done.

If continued....
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