Why I am doing what I am doing…
This is a lonely life. There is no doubt about that. I can’t accept that just any old universe out there would see me living the same life. Maybe the alternate universe is simply Heaven, perhaps its a one quite similar to this one, with a few modifications. It could be the next life, with me reincarnated here on this earth inside this universe. I don’t rightly know.
I look up and see the framed photo of my brother as he is holding his 16th birthday cake. He is smiling, but sometimes I’ve looked at that photo and detected hints of him possibly judging me–critiquing my life choices or looking upon me with a kind of withering sadness that I just can’t quite get things right.
Where was I when that picture was taken? Who knows. I may have been in the house, up in my room, fresh home from college. I was working the night shift at a printing house, typesetting and proofing customized invitations and greeting cards. The relationship with my brother was still dodgy–sometimes we would get together to play chess or Tetris or some other game, sometimes we still fought as if he were six and I were twelve. But, now he was sixteen and I was twenty-two.
What kind of world am I living in, where the son with the most potential had his life taken short at such a young age? It would be but four months later from the date that picture was taken that he would meet his end inside the pickup truck I had forfeited two years prior due to a DWI. Believe me, I have gone round and round with God about who was more to blame, me or Him. God is the almighty, the all-knowing and all-loving, but I handed my brother the keys to the tool of his demise.
But, regardless of who is to blame, the sobering fact remains that I do live in a world that just isn’t quite right. I would hazard a guess that most of the world knows and lives this acutely–for them, this world isn’t even close to being right. For someone like me, who is among the top ten percent of the earth’s most wealthy, I can spend what is probably an excessive amount of time pondering why things aren’t perfect–they are merely fairly good most of the time and sometimes quite horrible. In other words, in my pretty great but not perfect station in life, I have a vision of a perfect world that some might not be close enough to for them to see.
But then, what would the perfect world really look like, anyway? Would the perfect world be one where I live a life like Brad Pitt, or would it be one where I live a monastic or priestly life, and become more like Thomas Merton or Father Martin?
I am not exactly sure why I ended up going down this rabbit hole, other than I think that where I was headed was to say that I am embarking upon my studies and time here at seminary to do what I can–and do I what I should have done a long time ago. It can never be perfect or even come close to it.
People often harp about not dwelling too much on the past. I can understand why they do that. If you live in the past, you will miss out on what God is attempting to do in the here and now with your life, and your future will inevitably be the same old story. However, I would argue that like a lot of things in this world, if the action of reflection on the past is done in an ordinate fashion, with a lot of prayer to God for insight, the past can be a helpful and even happy thing to visit.
There was an E who I think was the real me, trying to show himself all the time, and then there was the me who wanted to be cool and hip and trendy who was always trying to push that E away. I think that the real E often did show up during those moments when I put aside my pride and paid attention to my little brother. The real E was never cool–he simply didn’t have the genetics for it. Forget about the fake E’s rejection of God for a minute. If I were to solely base my attempts at authenticity on a non-deist approach, I would still arrive at the conclusion that the real E was an awkward nerd, not a cool rock n’ roller.