Harry Hope's Saloon

This blog takes it's name from the setting for O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh -- a lousy gin-mill; a smoked-out, greasy dive where the habitues have all landed, it seems, permanently. Their lives, in each case, are paralyzed by fear and laziness. Like my own.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

All in One Take - Hyperbolic

Tell you the truth: I'm waging a personal battle with myself these days, as a confirmed Christian in the Tolstoyan sense of turning the other cheek and resisting not evil.

Did I say Chrisitan? I did. But I'm also an atheist. I'm not saying, with the agnostics, that one just doesn't know for sure what lurks beyond the veil, and therefore cannot be sure ... I'm saying that religion is a matter of faith and I believe that God, that white-bearded trinity, that all-knowing and all-mighty personification of perfection in the heavens, does not exist. And I think that makes me an atheist.

But then again, I am a Christian.

Some kind of one, anyway. The kind that would fain follow the example set by Jesus of Nazareth if he were taken as a man. I believe in the power of passion and redemption. I mean passion in the Latin sense of the term: passio, root of patient, suffering the world to exist and press on me. And I mean redemption through love - real love, as in curiosity, awe and amazement in the face of that world.

Amor Fati, Nietzsche would say - Embrace your fate! Take the world, good and ill ... this is no rehearsal. This is your moment on stage. What a miracle ... you're here! Do you know, statistically, how impossible that even is?? And what, you want more?? What, another life?! Oh man, Let your heart race now, let it skip, eternally while you breathe.

Let the infection of insult and petty resentment, the plague of fear and mean annoyance, starve and die in your breast. Don't let it boil and incubate. Don't let it spread and touch others. There's your power to make a huge difference. Live now all in one take, and teach through your example ... like Christ. Try, anyway.

That's the imperative ... the only one really worth heeding, I think. Obey just this, and what will follow? Compassion and creativity? Yeah. The sort of deep humanity which is the surest spring of justice? Yes. Intellectual and emotional acuity, a penetrating view of your social and natural environments? Yes, yes, and yes!

Hey. Let me ask you something...

Were you ever young and really in love? Did you then find yourself leaping out of bed ridiculously early, whistling in the shower while it was still pitch dark outside? I did ... every day for a month. I was in high school. It was my first, and so far only, experience with being completely gone, head-over-heels, crazy in love. The gril's name was Denise, but that hardly matters any more. I loved Denise, but more than that, I loved the world that had Denise in it - how brilliant it was! How sharp and distinct its features and forms, how generously it nourished and innervated me. I hardly slept a wink, and never needed to.

We were young, restless, fickle. Denise would break my heart and shatter my beautiful world - but I have the memory of all that pure energy and stunning joy that was just really unabated while my good fortune lasted. With apologies to Nabakov, this sort of thing happening to a boy in his fifteenth summer will mark him for life.

Therein somewhere lies the transformative promise of love.

I would hope I may experience such a transformation again, and this time let it sustain ... transcending, without replacing, the contigency of fickle hearts, gloriously embellishing the shifting consteallions of human relationships. But is it possible? Or have I -getting older - pretty much lost the ability I once had to drink so deeply?

And am I blurring a distinction that ought to be taken to exist between romantic and universal love?

Some of the most eminent thinkers in the history of the Occident have already answered no. Plato, Augustine, Dante, Castiglione (Castiglione?!) all wrote of the sure and steady path from focused ardor to divine rapture - as I think I did once, proceed from love of a single girl, to a passion for the universe that brought her to me.

So long ago.

But today, like I keep keep noting, I cherish my enemies. Today I'm thankful for the ire stirred in me by the Ann coulters of the world, for the one fingered victory salutes from Republicans and hypocritical "family-values" Christians, for giving me something against which to rail. I'm grateful to the the assholes cutting me off in traffic, to the skin-deep groveling gossips trading in offense and insult.

They allow me to participate in the mean little game - while I wait, someday to be transported. I don't leap out of bed; but having gotten up, I always find I have the sinister drive to fight another crummy day.

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