Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lo Siento..

Lo siento yet again for not posting yesterday. I just completely lacked the energy, which I'm also lacking tonight but I wanted to go ahead and see what I could do. Naseem and I just got back from a church service which I cannot even bring myself to blog about just yet. It was all I could do tonight not to walk out of there, run away from the shaking, quaking people speaking in tongues...but I sort of wanted to stick around to see if they brought out snakes and let them bite them, Billy Jack style (shout-out, Ryan Supak). I was actually shaking and quaking myself, and they probably thought I was being particularly moved by the Holy Spirit when in reality I was actually fervently scratching my bajillion bugbites all over my body. During the faith healing part I was really tempted to go up to the front and let them try to heal my bugbites, but then I figured I might get smote for being such a smartass. Oh well.

So anyway instead of paying attention to all the stories tonight about this prayer team that raises people from the dead, I was trying to formulate my blog and add a little order to the chaos of my thoughts. I just finished The Moviegoer, which I referred to the last time I posted as a tale detailing the existential quest of one Binx Bolling as he seeks authenticity and genuine life, becoming tantalized by the beauty of his surroundings while trying his damnedest to avoid falling into what he calls the "malaise," or the everydayness of life that can suddenly swoop down on one and bring about a dark period of feeling like Anyone Anywhere as opposed to a specific Someone in a certain place. Does that make sense? To become Anyone is to lose the unique essence of one's being; while he wants to avoid falling into this trap, he's slightly jealous of the individual who can allow himself to become Anyone Anywhere because he thinks maybe life is a bit easier for the Anyone. Alright, so in light of this, here's what I've been thinking about: it's certainly no secret that everyone is looking for something, and maybe not something in particular, but life, which, I know, I know, couldn't be any more general. Say we narrow it down a little more...everyone is looking for the secret of, the solution to discovering authentic and meaningful existence, and from a Judeo-Christian standpoint, the answer is that what we are looking for is perhaps not something tangible, but something transcendent. But here's the thing: do we think this makes us feel alive? Again, based on the Christian ultimate reality, people sin, and if we didn't sin, we wouldn't be human, so if we define our humanity by our propensity to err, does this mean we are saying to live is to sin? Surely not but somehow we find ourselves doing things we would classify as "sinning" and then we chalk it up to life experience. It makes us feel alive...or it makes us feel alive according to society's humanist standard. We do these things just to feel something, anything, even if it's suffering. We allow ourselves to feel pain because that's how we know that we are living. When something unbelievable happens, we ask someone to pinch us so that we wake up; that short, dull prick proves we are engaging in life. In The Moviegoer, Binx relates that "Christians talk about the horror of sin, but they have overlooked something. They keep talking as if everyone were a great sinner, when the truth is that nowadays one is hardly up to it. There is very little sin in the depths of the malaise. The highest moment of a malaisian's life can be that moment when he manages to sin like a proper human (Look at us, Binx- my vagabond friends as good as cried out to me- we're sinning! We're succeeding! We're human after all!)." It seems that to live life in its truest form, to experience all that it has to offer, to succeed and beat the malaise means one must sin and sin well. The world that is in the malaise, which, according to Binx is just about everyone, isn't even up to sinning, not because they think certain behaviors are wrong, per se, but because they are just too lazy.

Have you ever seen the movie Crash? It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, the year Brokeback Mountain was expected to win it all. I keep thinking about that first line of the movie: Don Cheadle's voiceover is describing this desire for touch, for life, for a valid encounter:"In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something." I think the reason why this small movie resonated so well with us is because it expresses such a true sentiment. We crash into one another just to feel something; we run ourselves into a brick wall just to prove to the world that we are participating in it's little game. We drink too much, we take too many pills, we jump into bed with people whose last names we don't even know, and what happens? We sober up, the high comes down, our lover rolls out of bed and puts on his shoes and walks out the door. How about that for meaning? This kind of careless, life-is-absurd, Nietzsche-Camus hybrid worldview is destructive but not only do we participate in it, we brag about it the next morning. But, my friends, where is the hope in that?

One of my favorite short stories ever is Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-lighted Place." It's sparse, true Hemingway, consisting primarily of a converation between two waiters in a Spanish bodega concerning their only patron, an old man who faithfully comes in to get drunk. One of the waiters understands why the old man comes back night after night; the bodega is a perfect refuge for someone hoping to escape the black fog that envelops the world. Everyone is looking for a clean, well-lighted place in the midst of a moral darkness. It's just that we don't know how to do it properly. We look for all the wrong things. Finally the waiter, in the depths of malaise, concludes that it is all "nada y pues nada y pues nada". He hails "Nada full of nada, for nada is with thee." Nothing is there. All we have is what we can get out of the world; all we have is our search for a clean, well-lighted place in which to pass the time. I think Binx ultimately comes down on this side as well.

So I have been thinking a lot about this and as dismal as this post may seem, I want to leave us on a hopeful note. The world is not nada. Man is not nada. We don't have to crash into each other to feel or live authentically. We don't have to sin grandly to gain validity. We sin because we are human; we are not human because we sin. Life is not absurd. I believe that there is an Unmoved Mover who not only moves but in whom we can live, move and have our being. It's lovely and true. Now if someone can figure out exactly how one might continue avoiding the destructive behaviors, please let me know because while I can label them as unhealthy and enacted in vain, I can't quite shake them. I find myself continuing to get myself into messy situations just so I can have an interesting story to tell later on. I look for a clean, well-lighted place in every dark corner and announce proudly to the world when I sin well. Can someone fix that for me? Thanks. 'Ppreciate it.

Alright, so just when you thought my posts couldn't get any longer, WHAM. Sorry, folks. But I promise the show's over now. I do sincerely hope that someone has tracked with this even in the slightest degree. It may seem a bit like rambling and I apologize. By the way, I got Skype so if anyone wants to talk to me, please do. My name thingy is aliwisdom to me and I promise I won't blather on about my own existential and moral dilemmas. Maybe.

Peace, Alison


Matt Davis said...

Brilliant work, my dear. Simply wonderful. Amazing tension resolved in hope, not despair. This is the good struggle, the tension of working out our salvation. This tension that exists within you is worked out best when you write, so that you can see what already exists within you -- Christ. When is your book coming out? I will be your token snapper when you go on a nationwide book tour, snapping at all the right moments when you do piece readings. But no bongo, I say. No bongo.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the Scarlet Letter. One part really stuck in my head that doesn't actually have much to do with the plot. It goes something like this, 'Somedays, she would laugh anew, and seem intent to prove that she had a heart by breaking it.' I probably messed up the quote there, but it's the same general idea.


Anonymous said...

I really like this post...lots to think about and very good analysis! :) Hope you and Naseem are doing well...this has become my daily regular visit in the midst of my boring work day (except for the days that you guys disappointingly don't write). I especially like the pictures cause it won't quit snowing...:( I feel warm just looking at them!

--Meg E. (Love ya cuz!)

wisdom said...

Beautiful...what does it mean to be human? Some say that it means nada. This take is fashionable, edgy, a rational extrapolation from the supra-scientific belief that we are nothing more than chance biproducts of an improbable chemical reaction in a primordial soup, nothing more than worm food with delusions of meaning. Others say that we become authentically human when we make decisive choices, when we sin boldly. Based on this assertion, would anyone argue that Adolf Hitler--a bold and decisive sinner by any connotation of that term--is the prime exemplar of authentic humanity? I have a different take. The Greek word most often translated as "sin" is hamartia, which means "to miss the mark". Most pop-evangelical expositions of this concept focus on non-compliance with biblical and extra-biblical rules and regulations. I think this exposition "misses the mark". To sin is to miss the mark of being human. Sin de-humanizes. What, then, does it mean to be human? To be human is to live a life of dependent fidelity, to truly, personally, and intimately know and to be truly, personally, and intimately known, to recklessly and sacrificially love, and to be recklessly and sacrificially loved by the One who demonstrated His love on a Roman cross, by the One who calls us to reject lives of lethal self-absorption, by the One who calls us to pick up our crosses everyday and follow Him. Ali, thank you for the provocative and profound words.

ryansupak said...

The contents of A's post are way out of my depth, but I would just like it noted that Jack "Max Power" Wisdom is a total badass who uppercuts evildoers.


Matt Davis said...

"Billy Jack" works, too, Ryan.

Jason Raschen said...

Very very solid post Alison.

I liked Crash. So much that I named it one of the 20 best films of 2005. The fact it won the Academy Award for Best Picture was interesting considering it long history. But that is really a discussion for other time.

I agree with the assessment that we are a disconnected society. I like what Vincent in Collateral says about LA but I think he could be talking about anyplace in the world: “Tell you the truth, whenever I'm here I can't wait to leave. It's too sprawled out, disconnected. You know? That's me… 17 million people. This is got to be the fifth biggest economy in the world and nobody knows each other. I read about this guy who gets on the MTA here, dies…Six hours he's riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around L.A., people on and off sitting next to him. Nobody notices”. There is some truth in that.

However, your and Naseem’s blog just demonstrates that many people miss you two and are invested in your journey. So there is that as well.

I know, not too deep but then again, I’m not deep. I’m just shallow.