Listen. A few weeks ago, it was the anniversary of me changing my career path. A year since I started learning a whole new trade and to dabble in several others. I’ve learnt a lot of stuff but perhaps the most important thing was not a new revelation but rather an affirmation of something I had felt for a long time: knowledge, like many things in nature, is as poisonous as it is healthy. Think of silver or garlic or certain chemicals; the touch of Eir is within these things but too much of them can overload you and reverse the scales. In the case of knowledge, it’s more of a case of Paean than Eir. Knowledge heals the other faculties, just like Paean heals the other gods. It fortifies your resolve, your courage, your intellect, your self-assurance. Too much of it does not reverse the scales but it does become poisonous, supercharging those traits. In short, knowledge easily makes you too much to handle, both in an inwards sense and to your surroundings.
Listen. Whenever I leave places, even if I’ve stayed in them for only a few hours, it hurts. It’s part of how my emotions have always been amplified; I feel strongly and quickly. Naturally, the more time I spend in a place, the more it hurts but there too, the orders of magnitude are much too high. That is, the difference between an hour and a day are closer to what you might expect between a day and a year. It’s the kind of pain that feels like an absence; a routine has died. A familiar place has died. A way of being has died. A template of spending this ever shifting attempt at tight rope walking that is called life has died. This is exacerbated by the fact that I don’t believe in return but long for it, always. Thus, when I physically go back somewhere, it hurts even more; now there are two absences, overlaid pictures, one slightly less fading than the other but both of them bound to one day meld in their yellowed out frailty.
Listen. Staying alive is being suspended. All situations are transitional, especially inward ones; our selves are not some static cores of god-given light, rationality beaming from out of our eyes like lighthouses. We are lighthouses in reverse, not calling to ships in their stability but going towards a harbor in the fog in our instability, returning to where we originally meant to stand but never reaching that place, using light to reach a hollowness in the shape of us that doesn’t really exist other than in the memories of our foundations, the lowest places in us remembering musky dirt, remembering reaching downwards and, with the concrete of our assumptions, grounding themselves into a place that felt like forever. But the place that feels like forever doesn’t exist. All that exists is the yearning, the intention, the stretching of the neck, the impossible suspension between where you were and where you’ll be, a suspension which creates what we call now.
I don’t know what to do with any of this but I know that coming to terms with the poison of knowledge, with the pain of leaving, with the suspension of life, is the only way I can keep living. So that’s what I’ll try and do. I don’t know if this is for you or good for you. I don’t even know if this is for me or good for me. But it’s what I have, it’s the flimsy embankment on which I rebuilt my life after it fell apart. That is, my relationship with these ideas and feelings, not the ideas and feelings themselves, are the embankment. My position towards them is the foundation; a shift of the shoulder, a setting of the chest forward, a reaching of the neck, an intention towards.
I hope you’re doing OK. I love you.
Listen. You ain’t never going back, OK? The bus that is you only unravels the weave in one direction and there is no knot quite the same. So you ain’t going back; that moment you cherish? It’s gone. With it is home gone, the mischievous wind on your cheek, the anger, the feeling of steel on rusted steel, a slight hint of laughter, it’s gone. The only pain in this world is the pain of wanting to go back, of your mind insisting on a U turn when the road is unmarked, falling apart, scrubbed away. This is where religion comes from and literature and music and all else. So, we won’t chuck away that pain, even if we could. Which we can’t. But we wouldn’t anyway because there’s just too much baby in them waters and you know how the saying goes.
Listen. Being in the presence of pain is the most tautological way to describe being alive. It is the basic tension of existing, a proverbial crucifix on which we hang, pressures not just pulling us in either and all directions but in no direction, in an indescribable direction. This might sound like a bad thing and it is, in many ways. But what choice do I have? To grow lax is to die. And one day I will but not right now. Right now, the suspension is all and me in the midst of it, suspended and suspender both.
Listen. So many words have been said about all of these things that I feel pointless writing this. By virtue of logic alone, by the unconquerable power of statistics, it is likely that someone has already written or said the answer. It’s also likely that I’ve read or heard it or both a million times. And yet, to cling to that answer (which even now probably nestles within the backwards reaches of my mind, like a wyrm wrapped around the best metaphor there ever was, Yggdrasil, the language tree) is to cling to return and, like I’ve already said, there ain’t no going back. Cruise control is locked in; this rig don’t break, not for anyone.
Thus, we converse on this, our road, you and I. Friends by virtue of the bus, of the inexorable direction in which our lives always hurtle in. Time’s cruise control; eternity’s flight path; the beginning’s itinerary; the end’s blueprint.
We’re going home baby. It’s going to be OK. I love you.
Listen. There was a time when you didn’t know how to tie your shoes. These days, I do it without even thinking about it, just pausing my daily routine and performing a dexterous task I once didn’t know how to accomplish. Someone taught you how to do that, even though there were no books. They taught you through their skill and their attention. They spent their time on me, leaning in from above (I assume, I don’t remember. My mind isn’t good at remembering times when I was shorter than people) and showing you something that they took for granted. Do you understand how hard that is? If you don’t, try teaching a kid how to tie their shoes. Try to break down a task which you never think about while performing into its disparate elements. Try taking those elements and putting them together in a way that another person will understand. Then you will realize how much people that love you, love you.
Listen. I don’t know how to die and that’s OK. I hope there will be a time when I will. I’m not sure who will teach me to do that; who will take apart the disparate elements of the most obvious action, living, which generates the least obvious object, life? Who loves me enough to put their hands on their own existence and slowing, ever slowing down, take apart the knots that tie their memories to their emotions, their emotions to their actions, their actions to their loved ones? Who will teach me to untie my life? I think it will be you. I think you will one day reach down (from a height of otherness that I can barely imagine) and put your hands around your own life and pull in the exact right angle and with just the amount of requisite force. Then, your life will splinter into shards and I’ll look inside and you, with the calm gentle voice of a distant but loving friend, will show me how all of the parts fit. I believe this will happen although I’m sure it won’t. I can’t wait.
Listen. We learn, alright? We can’t help it. I wish there was some way for us to stop. I wish there was some way to get off of this road surrounded by potsherds, surrounded by the dismantled actions, memories and intentions of everyone else that suffered through this thing called life but there isn’t such a way. Listen, one day I’ll learn how to die and you will too and we will all stop. And that will be a good day. I’m afraid. But that will be a good day. There will be a laying down of burdens that day and there will be an end that day and there will be a road a bit less dusty with the detritus of life. And we can make that day happen, you and I, because we are friends. We can reach in together into the laces of the lattice work called our relationship and we can help each other carry just a bit less. Will you let me show you how? Will you show me how? How to care a bit less, how to cry a bit more, how to feel a love that has no bounds in my heart, how to feel it as a warm fuzz behind my eyes whenever I see you, how to get lost inside your hug? Will you teach me how to lose myself in you and will you teach me how to find myself again? Will you teach me how to be a friend?
Listen. I don’t yet know exactly how to go home but I know you’ll show me the way one day. Take your time.I know that one day you will show me a silver path through a forest and I will smile and take it gladly. And that’s why I love you. Because even though the day has not yet come for you to teach me, I know you’ll one day do it. One day, you will show me the way out and I’ll grab your hand and say “hey. thank you. I love you. Let’s go”.
And we’ll go back home. Don’t forget to tie your shoes. I’ll do my own.