Here and Now


This has happened before, the feeling I'm immersed in now. There's been a deluge of tears, some physical activity, all prompted by reading and listening. I discovered Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series this weekend, and I discovered Amanda Palmer. But that's not what this is really about.

Lately I am wary of books that I'm not required to read. There are a lot of them, crowding around and offering the promise of some emotion or experience or pattern or lesson. Some even offer fulfillment, for there is something satisfying in knowing that Anna Karenina sits on a list waiting to be read and that once I do I will have accomplished something, even if it's only a secret something. But I'm wary of them because I wonder how they were written. Were they written by someone who is a person I would not like? A person I would think was wrong about something I take to be important? -- about women, say, or about love, or about what is good in life. Of course I recognize these as silly things to be wary of, but the wariness is there just the same. I won't read so many of the books I pick up because what I'm searching for (I think) is confirmation of the understanding that has settled slowly but perceptibly somewhere deep inside of me. Understanding about myself and about what is important in my life and how that has taken on real, certain form for the first time.

So instead I read, when I read, to fulfill an obligation (yet another book or paper on Spinoza -- I have read my way into an almost-total rejection of his 'propositions'), or I read to escape. I thought I would be reading to escape when I picked up Pullman's series -- and I did, but there was something so clever, so brilliant, so longed-for in the world(s) he created and the conflicts that racked them. And the daemons -- I haven't longed for anything so much and so thoroughly in my life than an animal companion who would be my ever-friend, my constant partner, a second self, but not separate.

And so I read them all, and as I ended reading them I was authentically sobbing, happy and sad at once. I always get so sad when I near the end of a book that I cannot stop reading, even though I cannot bear for it to be over. And without thinking much I put Who Killed Amanda Palmer on and Astronaut was playing and all of a sudden everything was just right and I was thinking again in my own way. This was like those many moments I have spent lying on a scratchy carpet with loud music playing, trying to sort out my mind after it has been tossed and swelled by good reading. Except this wasn't the same, and I realized in a great surge of feeling that before when this happened I would write and think but stay locked away inside myself, before I would be alone and I would feel lost and hopeful also because I would feel that I knew something needed doing and though I didn't know what it was, I still got to find out what that was going to be.

But now I know part of the answer -- I may still feel lost at times and still hopeful for the things I don't know yet and will come to understand, but I also now know that I'll never be alone again. And that's an incredible feeling -- an incredible feeling. And when he asked me to marry him -- still in the afterglow of our trip to paradise -- to that place of possibilities that were so close that I could taste them -- I knew with the deepest understanding possible that this was a certain thing, a sure thing, a thing for forever. And that it doesn't really matter what those words mean.