Dear Church of the Holy Abstraction:
Am I being cynical in all of this?
If so, don’t take it personally. It’s not so much cynicism as it is an understanding of death that I tend to forget I understand.
A couple months ago, my close friend P was visiting from California. We were talking about the idea of ‘movement’ for one reason or another, and I remembered a quote from the book I’m working on in which I am referencing the fact that I moved churches numerous times during my childhood because they kept splitting up. So, I got excited to show him this epiphany: Movement is a myth we’ve created to symbolize change.
I expected his mind to blow. A hug would’ve sufficed, even. But instead, he just looked up and said: “Man. That’s cynical.”
I was speechless. Was it? It certainly didn’t feel that way. In fact, when I originally wrote the line, I felt an eureka pang of joy, perhaps even love. It made sense to me: that sometimes in order to gloss over the stagnation of our soul, we physically move somewhere, and that supposedly means things have changed.
I don’t dress in black. I only listen to The Cure on rainy days. I think that humanity can and does progress. But I’m not going to pretend that the laws of entropy and thermodynamics don’t exist. These kinds of statements often lead cynics to say things like, “I’m not a cynic. I’m a realist.” By which they mean: they’re cynics.
But I’m not even sure I’m a realist, beyond the fact that I learned at age four that death happens, and will always happen. At funerals, I don’t cry. But I also get slightly uncomfortable when people refer to funerals as a “celebration of life,” because, of course, it isn’t. There I go again.
Darkness is the place of regeneration. The emotion of love can only come out of something we don’t understand. Oftentimes, that means trauma. The fact that you can love a parent or a spouse during mundane hours where nothing happens is because we’ve made it through some catastrophic argument or tragedy at some point–together.
Yesterday, when N came home, I was busy frantically making a tofu lasagna. In a matter of minutes, I was complaining about something, and before I knew it, I’d realized I was oddly disturbed. Because she’s patient and doesn’t throw things, we soon realized that part of my mania was coming from an entry I’d read on esophagitis/acid reflux (something I’ve had since I was 17). It is referred to as a premalignant condition. That prefix hooked in deeper than I thought. In this way, everything feels pre-cancerous, and the only way to not be identified as premalignant is to die of something other than cancer. Before esophageal cancer, my father had esophagitis.
Then we ate lasagna, and I stopped worrying that every cup of coffee was a malignant harbinger.
So, I lied. Sometimes I listen to The Cure, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor on sunny-days-with-highs-in-the-mid-70s. I am in the light because I am inspired by darkness, because I had to realize that striking a match would move–and change–everything.