Sunday, April 12, 2009

Remembrance of things past

Readers have probably noticed the lack of posting in recent weeks. I have been getting ready to start my new job, which I began today.

The job is in Georgia, in McDonough--a town very close to the one I used to live in before my divorce. Consequently, when I arrived here last night, I drove down to Griffin to take a look at the house I lived in. I have been getting it ready for sale, and I wanted to see what kind of condition it was in after my ex moved out.

The drive down was a poignant passage through time to the places where I raised my children. I passed the Burger King we used to buy them food at, drove down roads lined with azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. I finally reached the property on the south end of town, right where the countryside truly begins.

When I reached the house, twilight was setting in. It was the first time I have set foot on the property in over nine years.

The house was dilapidated, deserted, ruinous, and the property was overgrown. Long shadows cast by Leyland Cypress trees -- I planted them when they were knee-high, they are now over 30 feet tall -- painted a somber light on the west side of the house. In the backyard, there were ruined sofas and stereo systems on the patio. The picket fence around my garden was twisted and skewed by an overgrowth of bramble. The swing set my children used to play on stood in mute testimony to happier times. The house, trimmed with rotting wood and flaking paint, looked far more like an abandoned tenement than the upstairs, exclusive property it ought to be.

The sight did not make me sad. Instead, I pondered the truth of it. This particular moment in life, where I see the conclusion of something that started in hope and with promise, is connected to what went before it every way. I consumed the impressions of my life from then until now. I see that so much of what happened along each step of the way was imaginary relative to where I stand today.

The future is never what we think it will be; it never takes place where we think it will take place. It always takes place here and now.

As I stand at this moment in time, beginning a new job, I see again and again that I am within a moment of life that is new and that will never come a second time. Moments of lucidity arrived today in which I saw that life was forming itself within the moment. It reminds me of a line from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love In The Time Of Cholera":

"... he allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves." (p. 165)

As I stand in front of this new octave in my life, which is inevitably and irrevocably formed from everything that has gone before it -- both the perpetual creation of life, and its concommitant destruction -- I see that I cross vast chasms of time as I live, forever unable to fully see into the reservoir below me. The impressions I take in send roots deep into the darkness of my psyche, and I am filled with countless things that I cannot remember, but that nonetheless form part of everything I am and will ever be. Here,within the flow of impressions, is where the sacred river runs--through caverns measureless to man.

In revisiting my past here, and standing within the moment of re-forming my future-- which is always now -- I hear voices speak within me of what has gone before.

Not all of them are benign.

The Hesychasts of the Philokalia would tell us that the negative voices we hear within us are the voice of Satan -- and I am not so sure, in the end, that they are wrong. There may be demons in us, but they are our own demons, not any creature of God's creation. The voices sometimes wish us to think that we cannot go on, that bitterness is sweet, that the keeping of accounts and revenge is just.

Every man who searches discovers a negative side within him, and every man who searches must come to terms with the destruction of his hopes and dreams as they meet with the cold light of reality. The test that we have put in front of us is to discover our value in the context of reality, not in the context of our dreams.

As I put it to my wife several days ago, we must discover our happiness within the adversity of life, instead of trying to eliminate the adversity in order to discover happiness. Almost all of us have this backwards most of the time.

So when standing in the driveway of the house that I moved to in 1995, believing in a future for my children-- and my marriage -- which was never to be the way I dreamed it would be, I can look back on everything that took place, stand here and now, and make the determination that I will look forward.

This going forward will not be any easier than what went before. There will be good things and bad things. I will be afraid, and I will be hopeful, and there will be joy and pain. These are the conditions that God gives us. In the end, seeing the wholeness of my life, I can begin here with gratitude for the fact that I have lived at all, and contrition for my inability to meet my life in the way that our creator wishes us to.

Last night, I slept uneasily. In my dreams, a cast of characters from my past (and present) came together at the checkout area of a Home Depot for a meeting: my ex wife, my children, my old girlfriend, and even my golden retriever Socrates, who died many years ago.

My ex-wife asked if there was bread in the house, and I told her yes.

I am left with the faith that in this life, there can be a healing. That healing is not mine to create or to give, but rather to receive. As Mr. Gurdjieff instructed us, we can make an effort to use the present to repair the past and prepare the future.

There is bread in the house.

May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.


  1. Dear Lee,
    Again a great post. You are my favorite writer.
    Wish you all happiness.

  2. The test that we have put in front of us is to discover our value in the context of reality, not in the context of our dreams.I hesitate to comment on such a personal post. Poignantly written, too.

    But, how human of you: a man, a wife, children, a home in the country -- can any real man not fall into this dream? For it touches all parts of his earthly instincts.

    I too have dreamt this way at times. And what a moment -- to return years later, and see/know how it played-out temporally! A blessing to experience this, but still ...

    And you are correct: happiness from within adversity is proper.


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