Monday, May 23, 2011

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

This past week brought many memories flooding back into my consciousness; some good and some bad. It's strange sometimes to think about the person you are now and how greatly your general outlook may differ from your previous incarnation. Memory is oddly photographic but dynamic in that you can retain many other senses along with visual stimulation. I remember a time when I hated being outdoors and would whine constantly about the mosquitos (who indeed love to bite me-- I should feel special, right?) yet now I will labor vigorously in the garden for hours without complaint. I remember wanting nothing more than a low-maintenance apartment, yet now I am apt to enjoy a large house with its little eccentricities. The startling fact is that I have reached some odd state of middle-age. Sometimes in the morning the light filters through the windows and I look out over the backyard, recalling my childhood spent in the woodlands. And sometimes this is such a moving, beautiful picture that I almost cry and am thus almost late to work.

I used to bury my nose in books. I still do, to a great extent, but I think I live less vicariously through them than I once did. I sought to escape from my life because I felt jilted by it. It was as if I was disjointed in some way-- as if my life were a greater abstraction than what my concrete mind could facilitate. Childhood was a brand of culture shock for me and I was ever rebellious in my pursuit of Truth, foregoing the stark revelry of civilization that stood at the brink of madness. I identified with Oscar Wilde and writers like Balzac and Goethe who combined realism with dark humor. I would surround myself with words on a page and the characters that seemed less superficial, more real than the people I met in everyday occurences. Despite the daily dramas of life and the limitations one must run into, there is an anomalous quality of peace that permeates the passing of time. The folly of the human accompaniment to existence is that most of us fail to acknowledge growth and the purveyance of such information is strictly inhibited within a complex social construct.

In some ways I believe we all come full circle. The structure of one's own life is purely metaphorical yet likewise homologous. It is much easier to confuse substance with structure-- ideals with actual experiences. I have spent my whole life questioning my own sanity only to find that perhaps intelligence is simply subversive in our culture. Beyond reason and measure, social constraints tend to euthanize any thought processes that seek to extricate meaning out of events or circumstances. To be self-aware is to balk against the very framework our society has managed to implement-- a universal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Many people don't want to know and don't want to think because it is much easier to pretend. They are able to abstract their ideas and beliefs into something more centralized and easier to navigate, while the rest of us are off floundering around in some degree of self-alienation. I'm not sure which way is more intelligent in the course of life, but I imagine both have their shares of difficulties and setbacks.

In my personal opinion (which may change over time, I'm sure. At twenty-five or even a hundred I simply haven't all the answers), life is more about the journey than the destination. We are here to learn and to teach. We are here to touch lives, reflect actions, and promote continuity. Whether this is our only incarnation or not, I can't really say. But if not, it seems fitting to justify that actions will overlap, lessons will have to be repeated sometimes, and the growth boundary is less in time but more in experience, regardless of life or death. It is we who put limitations on the psyche and time itself. We are the fountainhead of our experiences and adaptations. It is in our personal sphere that we affect the outcome of our lives. It is when we choose not to see this that life becomes exasperatingly difficult. By choosing not to see, we fetter our own growth.

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