What I will see

I'm in a composing mode -- in a mood of speaking long and loud. Tonight as I walked home from dinner -- where I had written about reading Nightwood -- I started thinking about my day -- among these philosophers -- within the academy. That's what it felt like -- a step inside the academy.

And what I kept thinking is no, no, I do not belong here, but I will stay. Of course, it is easier to be an outsider.

I kept thinking of what Virginia Woolf wrote -- about the little boys building sandcastles. That's what these classes feel like -- even now at this early time. They feel like little sandcastles that we build. In them we try to place everyone that fits -- everyone we want to fit. We find people to fill our sandcastles and we hope they lend support. But then, in the middle of our mock-courts where we reign -- the sea heaves its deep, inexorable breath and sighs -- the water flows over our building and we drown. I won't say, as she said, that I destroy these buildings, being like the sea. I am not she -- not at all.

But I will say that I don't want to build a sandcastle. I feel guilty, sitting there in class and thinking in my head how I have already tried these different ways out -- I have already discarded them. But some bit of me says no, don't judge, don't be too hasty -- see where this goes. And so I sit and I think and I try to play along. And we speak of hubris and I duly make a note -- not because I need to remember what it is, but because I need to remember that it was mentioned. How could I not know what it is?

Every morning. Every time I wake. Every time I take a step down to the floor and move myself forward along the oiled rails of schedule. It is then that I think of hubris. I think of it every time I am required to be one and not many. Every time I must summon up all my parts into a whole. Every time I must glance away from the mirror that perplexes me -- from the irrationality that mystifies me -- from the error that stupefies me. All of those places where the self gets lost -- that's when I am aware of hubris. I am aware of it every time I think of the I. It is the marrow in my little toes -- I stand upon it, necessarily, even when I have kicked over the traces.

But so I try to keep up with these ideas -- as welcome and familiar as hubris -- as ridiculously obtuse as non-contra-anti-isms. But what do I do? I think about life and living -- about paradoxes and contradictions. About how still do not know how to live my life -- how that is the big question -- I thought, years ago, maybe it was to burn fast and bright then disappear. That was wrong. Then I thought maybe like Aristotle's great-souled man. I still think of him. Then I thought no, nothing definite for definition is not in the realm of the self. I thought no -- to live is to fight to stay upright on the shifting sands of paradox. It is all we can do. And if we fall, well, struggle back up.

You see -- I thought also of art. Sing, muse. Why is it not that simple? I hold art in a safe place in my mind and in my heart because I hope it will save me. I hope with my early-bred Catholic guilt that something will save me. I hope with my mixed-up temperament that art will save me even though I can never commit to a vision long enough to create something. I hope art will save me -- the non-artist -- the philistine who sees beauty in so many places but has no words to tell about it.

I think about how I might instead be doing this professional study of art -- and not philosophy. And I'm glad it's this way. For the same reason that would keep me from being a theologian. I don't want to make a science of what is sacred. And art, in its hazy non-definition, it is sacred. And so I will read. I will write, but never definitively. I will see these books to their ends -- and I will see the same things.

I will see that men and women find horrors in the night and in cafes. That they suffer invisibly and visibly but that it is the invisible suffering that can press the mashed-up self to shatter into the fractures we see. I will see the fear we have in the face of an animal. The fear that we cannot decipher -- for we fear their love and their loyalty and we worry always that even they will betray us. I will see the hope that is secreted away at the center -- that possession we cling to always and to the last breath. I will see the easy ways out -- the skepticism and the loneliness and the fear. And I will know it because I too have felt it. I have felt it because the ways out are taken when the way in -- the way that runs deep -- when it is too difficult. I will see that all our sandcastles have been ruined. I will see that what remains is the hope of building one -- of building anything -- making anything. The hope of giving birth -- to a child, an idea, an event, an artwork. I will see that we hope past all hope that something will remain to testify to the fact of our existence. I will see that this is our last attempt to unify -- the attempt that denies the grave, but more importantly, denies the reality of life. For in death we can find some unity -- some settlement. In death we find repose and we leave behind. And what we leave behind is the only way in to the knowledge of the person who is no longer.

You see -- I've seen these things. They've been impressed upon me, and not in a superficial way but in a way that has marked me for the ages, marked me indelibly. And I speak of them, here in anonymity and elsewhere in intimacy. For there are times when we cannot say what we most need to say. And there are times when what we need to hear is precisely that which we will never hear. And now, in this time of unknown length -- I wonder how much that I must say will go unsaid. For it needs goading and pressing and it needs a smooth space to unfurl.

And I think, now as I'm ending, I think that I'm only 25, almost 26. And I wonder with curiosity and maybe some trepidation -- how many of these things that I've seen -- how many are wrong or false? How many are true? How many will I have to see over and over, in my own life and not as a mere observer? I wonder if this sight is something necessary to living a life -- and I wonder who I will be able to share this sight with.