Saturday, November 6, 2010

Neurotic City

There is a line from Colum McCann's novel Let the Great World Spin which I often find myself turning over and over again in my mind. I may be paraphrasing a bit, but essentially the line is as follows:

"It takes courage to live an ordinary life."

This is true. Very true. But I would take the sentiment one step further. Living an ordinary life sometimes requires more than courage, it requires compromise, forgiveness, and ultimately acceptance. And even if you manage to find all of these things you are not guaranteed peace of mind or happiness.

Introspection is a restive compatriot, but the alternatives are often just as frightening. For all of the voids I see in my life I know that I would very much prefer to be the deep-thinking, solitary, literate soul that I am, than pretend to care for things and people I do not. Pretending is more punishing than facing the truth and it often requires that one sacrifice what little exists of their sense of self. And my sense of self is already frayed. I'd like to keep what little remains of it for me and me alone.

There is no requirement that I must be someone who people understand. There is not even an understanding that I must understand myself, but I would much rather understand myself than engage people who fail to bring anything to my growth as a human being. Because even if I am no success, even if I have nothing to show for 33 years on this planet, I intend to spend each and every one of my days learning and experiencing something new about this world I live in, and I will commit myself to that until the day I stop breathing. Even if it's only between the pages of a book or in the pages of my journal, I intend to delve.

Life doesn't reward one for being good, and life surely doesn't reward you for being giving. It is what you own and what you can do that matters. That will not change. I imagine I have probably already lived half of my life and I don't expect to own or do much more with the time that's left. What comes of a life lived without some minimal thresholds or standards of accomplishment? Oftentimes one's only consolation is the knowledge that emotional abstraction and intellectual complexity (even for all of your lack of conventional value) are the only things which make you worthwhile. All I have is my thoughts. It is a task to understand and accept that just because we live in society does not mean that we are all meant to be social animals. I feel stifled by the idea of friendships, perhaps it is because of late I have mostly known false friends. There is shame in failure, but there is also no harm in being indifferent. I used to think I was a "people" person. I used to believe that being a "people" person made for a more interesting life. I no longer believe that. But maybe that's because I know I'm not equipped for what's standard in "interesting" and "worthwhile" lives (i.e. friends, love, marriage, children, homes, vacations, all of those things).

I still believe there is good to be had, I'm just beyond believing myself destined for any taste of it. My life is not ordinary. It's something else, maybe something worse. It is dull, diminished, and distracting. But it's mine.