Long Overdue…Like my library books…
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole person. I guess since my fantasy vs reality post/things that have been going on in my life. How people have a tendency to fall for images…ideals…see fragments of a person and chase after that. When you reach the person, hold them close, you’re left with the actual being. And instead of loving them for their imperfections…their humanness…and identifying our own humanity within theirs…we often reject them. Let go. Turn away. Do it again elsewhere. And I’m not just talking romantically.
At present, I’m trying to love the imperfections. A couple days ago I met up with a friend/colleague who I am in awe of. If I really strip it down, to be honest, I’d have to say I’m in awe of his career. What he’s accomplished in my field. Well, we got into a conversation about Seattle Housing Authorities new proposal Stepping Forward (I really can’t stand the spin placed on program titles – especially when the word “opportunity” is included – if an opportunity were there we wouldn’t need the program). He was for it. I’m against. We had a really great conversation around it, with both sides expanding their views, but all in all, I left feeling disappointed that this man, this man I held up to this God-like status, supported Stepping Forward. He was knocked off his pedastal and became human and I felt disappointment. I desire better for myself. I desire to see a human – fully and completely – and love them for their humanity.
The day after this conversation, I was having coffee with another friend who had recently spent 56 days at a Buddist meditation retreat. And, I quote, he “hit it hard” – “it” being meditation. In our conversation he spoke about the difficulty reintegrating into his life once back. He brought up a analogy some Buddhists used that I’m familiar with. When we look at a car, we see a car. Yet, what makes a car? It’s comprised of various parts, placed together in a specifi fashion, coming together to create a “car”. You have a wheel, tires, doors, engine, etc., yet a wheel, tire, door or engine is not a car. It all fitting together to create the whole is. And when we look at a car, we don’t really see the parts (unless we’re focused in on them for whatever reason – usually because they’re broken), but the whole. People are like this. We are made up of various parts to become a whole. And the whole is what we see. Unlike a car, I would say, we do tend to hone in on certain parts and disregard other parts. In people, we allow ourselves to see parts that we adore. As we get close and must see the other parts, parts we don’t like, that person loses their allure. Yet, this is their humanity. This is what binds them to us.
There is a saying about never meeting your heros – because you’re idealizing and a human being can never live up to the mind’s creation/idealization of them. We’re just idealizing an image we’ve created in our own heads. Why love what is not there? Or why love less what’s there because there is more to it? There’s bad along with the good. And that’s the beauty. At present I am really trying to work on seeing the whole and loving the person for their whole self. For all of their beauty – the inspired elements, the colorful and the ugly – because I know I want to be loved for all of myself. So if that’s my expectation for others, I need to uphold it for myself.
I’ll end with a few paragraphs from one of my favorite writers, Lester Bangs, in my favorite piece of writing ever – his 1979 review of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks for Stranded Magazine:
” What might seem strangest of all but really isn’t is that it’s exactly those characteristics which supposedly should make George most pathetic – age, drunkenness, the way the boys take his money and trash his love – that awakens something for George in the heart of the kid whose song this is. Obviously the kid hasn’t simply “fallen in love with love,” or something like that, but rather – what? Why just exactly that only sunk in the foulest perversions could one human being love another for anything other than their humanness: love him for his weakness, his flaws, finally perhaps his decay. Decay is human – that’s one of the ultimate messages here, and I don’t by any stretch of the lexicon mean decadence. I mean that in this song or whatever inspired it Van Morrison saw the absolute possibility of loving human beings at the farthest extreme of wretchedness, and that the implications of that are terrible indeed, far more terrible than the mere sight of bodies made ugly by age or the seeming absurdity of a man devoting his life to the wobbly artifice of trying to look like a woman.
You can say to love the questions you have to love the answers which quicken the end of love that’s loved to love the awful inequality of human experience that loves to say we tower over these the lost that love to love the love that freedom could have been, the train to freedom, but we never get on, we’d rather wave generously walking away from those who are victims of themselves. But who is to say that someone who victimizes himself or herself is not as worthy of total compassion as the most down and out Third World orphan in a New Yorker magazine ad? Nah, better to step over the bodies, at least that gives them the respect they might have once deserved. where I love, in New York (not to make it more than it is, which is hard), everyone I know often steps over bodies which might well be dead or dying as a matter of course, without pain. and I wonder in what scheme it was originally conceived that such an action is showing human refuse the ultimate respect it deserves.
There is of course a rationale – what else are you going to do – but it holds no more than our fear of our own helplessness in the face of the plain of life as it truly is: a plain which extends into an infinity beyond the horizons we have only invented. Come on, die it. As I write this, I can read in the Village Voice the blurbs of people opening heterosexual S&M clubs in Manhattan, saying things like, “S&M is just another equally valid form of love. Why people can’t accept that we’ll never know.” Makes you want to jump out a fifth floor window rather than even read about it, but it’s hardly the end of the world; it’s not nearly as bad as the hurts that go on everywhere everyday that are taken to casually by all of us as facts of life. Maybe it boiled down to how much you actually want to subject yourself to. If you accept for even a moment the idea that each human life is as precious and delicate as a snowflake and then you look at a wino in a doorway, you’ve got to hurt until you feel like a sponge for all those other assholes’ problems, until you feel like an asshole yourself, so you draw all the appropriate lines. You stop feeling. But you know that then you begin to die. So you tussle with yourself. how much of this horror can I actually allow myself to think about? Perhaps the numbest mannekin is wiser than somebody who only allows their sensitivity to drive them to destroy everything they touch – but then again, to tilt Madame George’s hat a hair, just to recognize that that person exists, just to touch his cheek and then probably expire because the realization that you must share the world with him is ultimately unbearable is to only go the first mile. The realization of living is just about that low and that exalted and that unbearable and that sought-after. Please come back and leave me alone. But when we’re along together we can talk all we want about the universality of this abyss: it doesn’t make any difference, the highest only meets the lowest for some lying succor, UNICEF to relatives, so you scratch and spit and curse in violent resignation at the strict fact that there is absolutely nothing you can do but finally reject anyone in greater pain than you. At such a moment, another breath is treason. that’s why you leave your liberal causes, leave suffering humanity to die in worse squalor than they knew before you happened along. You got their hopes up. Which makes you viler than the most scrofulous carrion. viler than the ignorant boys who would take Madame George for a couple of cigarettes. because you have committed the crime of knowledge, and thereby not only walked past or over someone you knew to be suffering, but also violated their privacy, the last possession of the dispossessed.
Such knowledge is possibly the worst thing that can happen to a person (a lucky person)…”