Monday, August 23, 2010

Let's Get Lost Again in the Starry Night

“But enough of that for now. Let’s get lost again in the starry night. In the silence that followed, [he] simply lay still allowing the immensity of space and scattered light to dwarf him, letting his perceptions be captured by starlight and the thought that everything was about him . . . about the human race . . . that all this was all for us. After what seemed like a long time, it was Jesus who broke into the quiet.” –The Shack, p. 121

I didn’t have to work today, thankfully, since it was much needed and very self-gratifying. I start school in exactly one week. The statement alone brings all sorts of mawkish feelings and memories and reluctant feelings: am I really graduating, already, so soon, at twenty-one years old?

I am. So get ready, Josh.

Understandably, I’m caught in a flux that’s probably been occurring ever since the beginning of the year, and while the year itself is by no means over, I feel as if the remainder of it is so structured and so planned that to think in calendar dates is now the only mode of thinking at all. Another aspect of a cold, hard world stripped of its polish.

I’m running a breast cancer awareness 5k in September and probably another 5k, too (if I have time). While 9/11 is by no means a holiday—or maybe it is, since my calendar reads ‘Patriot Day’—it is my late grandfather’s birthday, and I’ll indubitably do my best to be with my mom at that time, since his passing—slow, drug-induced, pitiful—has scarred her. As it has everyone else.

My brother . . . my baby brother who has more tractor toys and Spongebob movies than he can count, who used to weigh less than I did while also being much shorter, who wanted toys as birthday presents and never clothes . . . my little brother will be thirteen. And I am very, very uncomfortable with this whole thing. Probably his turning thirteen makes my own growing older a little heavier. Because Jacob’s birthday has always been something prefatory to the year’s end. And Jacob has always been my ‘little’ brother in every sense of the word. But Jacob is growing up, already has a truck and will be (legally) driving in three years. He is almost as tall as I am and probably weighs more than I do. He will graduate middle school next year and will subsequently start high school—a journey over which I mean to pray manifold prayers, not that Jackson County is “bad,” but the mindset that Jackson County is the whole world, limited to hills and to hay, is something destructive and narrow. And I want my brother’s potential to be fully realized. Because I love him and because he deserves it. Also, the day after my brother turns thirteen, I’m running the Haunted Half Marathon. Costumes are encouraged, so I’m trying to think of something feasible that will endure a thirteen mile run and the sweat to ensue. Ideas are welcomed.

November. I suppose this is when things will begin to finally become tangible. Christmas music will begin playing on the first (I’ll make sure of it!), and this year, at least, Christmas is synonymous not with gifts or decorations or all the nostalgia made for some low-grade Hallmark movie, but with my degree. In truth, I am not sure why I have so much ambivalence regarding December 18. To graduate is not to be ‘free,’ but rather to be in some sort of actualizing middle ground. And while I do know where I’m going (at least for the next two years), I suppose I would be stripped of humanity itself if I didn’t feel two hundred different kinds of emotional contradictions, all of them gilded with memories too painful and beautiful to forget or to want to forget. Maybe that’s it. Everything has been leading up to this one point, this one piece of paper. Guarantees were never made, and the only motivating factor was the sheen of pure idea: what do you want to do and where would you like to go? Well . . . everything and everywhere.

Therein lies the problem.

December . . . I suppose December will suffice itself.

But back to today. The twenty-third day of August. I intentionally slept in, grabbed coffee, wrote my emotionally-fueled Ground Zero Mosque blog, took a nap (I deserve it), and ran. The run, probably more so than anything, was most refreshing—more so than the nap, much more energizing than the coffee. If you know me really you know I really run. Probably obsessively but certainly not ridiculously. I’ve made it a point to run one hundred miles a month, which sounds obstinately crazy, but in reality, it’s not too terrible.

But today felt different, and I think the major difference was, rather simply, in the weather.

Whether you believe in global warming or not (and I can’t imagine any literate person who wouldn’t), the fact remains that the world is getting hotter. And this summer in particular has been a fine testament. For the first time, I’ve noticed my grandfather avoid being outside—something I thought I would never see, unless he were, say, terminally ill. My brother avoids being outside as much as do the most active and advantageous of my friends. Myself, I have eschewed running outside at all, if possible, opting for a treadmill, or waiting so late so as to run at 9 o’clock when the world simmers at a more comfortable 85 degrees.

But today was different. Today felt like fall, really felt like fall. The sun bright and pinned minutely against a cloudless perfect sky, so that the light in August crept out in perceptible rays and everything glowed and the wind made everything feel calm and serene and palatable. And I suppose that’s why I’m mauling over the future and the past and again writing—redundantly—about how I’m to come to terms with more change than I think I initially expected.

What I forgot to mention was that I also bought a book.

For quite a while now, The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, has topped bestsellers and has been mentioned as one of the novels which may help ‘define’ my generation. So for those purposes especially, I have avoided it. Many bestsellers today –let’s say most bestsellers today--are geared toward appealing to the sentimentalists (enter in Norah Roberts and Nicholas Sparks) or to the manic pre-pubescent tween girls whose sexual appetites are glorified and exaggerated by pedophiliac vampires (enter in Stephenie Meyer). Let us suppose it has to be this way: Faulkner wrote ‘Sanctuary’ simply to become famous, and earned his money as a poverty-stricken writer sending out manuscripts to Hollywood. Steinbeck lived as one stripped of luxuries. And even today, the lyrical and remarkable Cormac McCarthy has admitted that to live as a writer of serious work is to live as a man in serious poverty.

But I’m giving ‘The Shack’ a try. And so far, I’m rather impressed. It’s redolent of a (and I mean this in a very complimentary way, even if I must be crude to be complimentary) dumbed-down C.S. Lewis novel. Or maybe, a more ‘accessible’ Lewis novel. Maybe like a contemporary ‘The Great Divorce.’ Maybe.

What I do like about the novel thus far is the very open, very naked dialogue between the protagonist and the delineations of God: all three of His aspects, portrayed in ways most people, I think, would be most uncomfortable in contemplating.

So God is an African-American woman (though she admits, rightly, that she is a spirit, and is free of gender, just as Lewis supposes angels are free of gender), the Holy Spirit an elusive, fleeting Asian woman, and Jesus . . . Jesus is the Hebrew who walked the earth some two thousand years ago, scars and all.

I hope to write a little more about ‘The Shack’ later, not out of fan-worship, but because I believe its success is pretty surprising considering the ideas it exudes. I’m not sure if controversy of any sort has ensued.

But since when has good writing ever been free of ridiculous slander?

Harry Potter, The Grapes of Wrath, The Satanic Verses . . .

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