Saturday, February 11, 2012

without hand-holds

Sometimes, on warm and lonely nights when I was a teenager and gripped by the neuroses that only teenagers can know, I would take myself out to a plush, expansive athletic field and stand beneath the stars. It was dark and silent, but the grass was fat and soft and would catch me if I fell.

And I would walk, with eyes closed, arms sometimes outstretched, and wonder and wonder. Surely, there must be some relief. Surely, there must be some meaning. Surely someone must care. Surely, I must be of use to someone. Surely, there must be some benefit in my being alive.

But the stars and grass, while not unfriendly, were not friendly either. Couldn't they hear me, and in that hearing, comfort and reassure? I did not want to whine and call things "so unfair," but it seemed reasonable to ask for some response, some respite, some repose.

The grass was soft and the sky filled with twinkling stars. But it was not enough. I wanted some reason, some underpinning of an explanation, some sturdiness that might fill the soft, warm night with easy-peasy understanding and relief.

I suppose if some God-merchant had been nearby, I might have become a convert. But going alone out onto that soft, soft grass was somehow an imperative: Even then, I was not stupid. If there was no one else to help, then what, precisely, was it like when there was no one else to help? What peace could be found in a world without kisses and conversation, importance and levity? How can anyone explain anything to grass or stars that know what they're about? And if they knew what they're about, without reference to any other thing at all, how could I be so 'cut off?'

Everyone has been where I once went ... or I imagine it's so. Everyone knows experience cannot be shared and if experience cannot be shared, what could 'shared experience' possibly mean? Jesus walked into the desert alone. I wouldn't liken myself to Jesus ... I just pick him because he is a high-profile person and people recognize him as someone -- like him or not -- worth paying attention to. Down the street and around the corner, I imagine Sally or Peter or Don or Deborah know about experience in the same measure as any Jesus or Buddha. It's part of the human legacy ... experience ... and in what way anyone will choose to understand or employ or philosophize about it. Experience is collected and collected and collected and gains a kind of importance: This is 'me' we're talking about!

And then the stars and grass beckon -- the places where, all alone, there is no echo, no response, no social support system, no evidence of the 'me' who had been 'me' up until this very moment when experience cannot be shared. How will I stand on my own two feet when the two feet I stand on are no longer credible and there are only the stars and grass, neither friendly nor unfriendly?

Is this scary shit? I suppose it is. I know it scared the shit out of me. But the alternative of imputing meaning or meaninglessness, of relying on the wonders of what others seem to rely on ... leaves the stars twinkling and the grass soft and a sense of incompleteness in some fragment of being. Trying to escape merely tightens the bonds until, until ... until the only thing left is to turn around and let go.

I think of all this in spiritual-endeavor terms, but it doesn't have to be spiritual. Human experience is human experience. Spiritual stuff is just one of the myriad add-on's. But using the spiritual format, there can be an enormous love, an enormous effort, an enormous number of tears and lusty belly-laughs. Bigger and bigger and more and more meaningful it can all become -- or perhaps I should say must become. Pedal-to-the-metal, nothing-held-back, going-all-the-way until, coming around some do-nothing corner one day, the grass and stars are there to greet you.

And they are, as ever, smiling.

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