I am sitting in the late morning of the first Saturday following the completion of my first semester back in school. I am talking about my first real semester back in school, not all of the dabbling I did in adult continuing education classes and fantasies about becoming an EMT–some kind of superhero who saves lives and wins at life and gets to die knowing he’s very special in the eyes of all the people. Of course, that isn’t me. I am not special unless you mean special in the sense of being a unique child of God. I am not any more special than you are.
The wife and the baby went off to visit one of her friends. I thought I was going to get up and go down to the public library, but then I realized that there is no good need for doing such a thing. I have books that I checked out from school to read on the break plus all of the books I’ve accumulated from Half Price and never read, plus the infinite number of free e-books online that I have access to. The trip to the library would be more along the lines of satisfying an itch to go and worship the idols of books, commit bibliolatry and perhaps feel like I was also being social because I was spending time among other people in a public place.
The time for filling up my head with new stuff or escaping off into pure fantasy can be delayed for some other time. This is the time for reacquainting myself with my own thoughts, with my own self. What is left of me to communicate out to the world, now that I have reached the age of 40 and have written so much? Is there any need to fool around anymore with thinking that I could become immortal, or that the truth about reality is such that the number of universes is infinite to the point where I will get to be whomever or whatever I want to be when I pass out of this one? Is there a universe where each of us gets to be a spoiled megalomaniac like Donald Trump for a lifetime?
God has been gracious enough to keep me alive throughout periods of life where I probably deserved death. I abused myself even as I retreated deep into myself and ceased to care about the welfare of others. I became an island unto myself as much as I could possibly be one, and yet something in me always insisted that this wasn’t quite right. In fact, there really was no way of being on this earth where I reached it and determined that it was the ultimate and only way for me to be. There is nothing infinite about this world, other than my own weak conception of what the infinite might entail. Everything and everyone are finite, and therefore you cannot discover a perfect vocation. A perfect vocation would imply that you could do it forever without ever feeling the need to do something else, and such a state of being isn’t possible in this world.
I have this notion that if each and every single human being sought complete and utter charity in everything they did–all actions were taken with an eye to giving of one’s self–the world would heal itself completely. What do I really need? Do I need this–this act of sitting here watching my thoughts magically transformed into electronic words, represented by a serif font as if my words were worthy of being cast forever in print? Shouldn’t I be contacting all of the local non-profits until I can find one that is open right now, and able to receive me to come and volunteer to help people less fortunate than me? Shouldn’t I be walking the streets with food and snacks I purchased from a local convenience store, and handing them out to the homeless people I meet?
Why am I not out and about doing such a thing? At the very least, I could be sitting here lost in prayer for the peace of the world, focused intently on petitioning God to restore peace on earth as it might once have existed in a remote golden age. Do I need the clothes I wear–wouldn’t a few pairs of clothing suffice for each season? Do I need to bathe every single day? Do I need to eat as much food I as I do, or consume the caffeine and beer that I consume?
I am far from being a perfectly charitable human being. My selfish desires are much more simple and less abundant than those of a wealthy person caught up in accruing even more vast amounts of wealth, but I nonetheless would prefer to keep my flesh at its ease than put it into a difficult place where it must be made uncomfortable in order for another human being to become less uncomfortable. Nobody in this society, aside from those who are capable of mustering criticisms of anyone and anything, is going to deride me for deciding to spend my break in contemplation–reading books and offering up such mediocre bits of writing as this.
At times, I still feel the pull of the possibility that reality could be transformed into something radically different than what it presently is, simply by the virtue of me thinking long and hard enough about the desired transformation. At other times, I am still beset by shards of remnant memories of times and places in my youth when I felt like my life was already over, even though I was but 20 or so. Imagine that!
I would take a day in the spring of my sophomore year in college to sit and mourn the loss of time, as if my life was already spent, and no chance of me ever finding a lover would present itself. Instead of going out into the world and seeking new individuals who would challenge me and truly transform me, I sat alone in my dorm listening to jazz, classical or perhaps alternative rock music from high school and the previous year of college, and sip my pink lemonade and vodka and feel a sweet sort of nostalgic sorrow wash over me until I was weeping for bygone days that had never actually happened.
I could very much put myself into such a state of mind throughout the next twenty years of my life, with each successive time seeing me lament more poignantly and remark about how I was now truly an old an experienced man with my best years behind me. Then, at some point, when I think I did truly pass a point where I had lived more of my life than what there was left to live, I began to see the life ahead of me as utterly precious and valuable, and needing to be spent in productive activity at all times.
What’s more, now that I am 40, I feel myself to be less of an old man than the man I was when I was 20. For, at 20, I simply employed an overbearing imagination to the point where I converted myself into an old man, and at 40, my imagination has become much weaker and less ferocious and I rely solely on my sense of life and vitality that remains inside of me. Of course, when I look into the mirror, I see a much older face, as the Austin sun and booze have not been kind to my skin and my hair. But, when I don’t have to look directly at my face, and I look down upon my body, I see the body of a man still young, still full of much promise and energy.