Saturday, August 25, 2012

Behind the Looking Glass

I know that I've used this metaphor ad nauseam . . . but it's been a while.  The point that I want to make is that life seems to be well demarcated between those majority of people, who live in a hope-yet-betrayed world of wishful thinking and the minority of us who have gone through the looking glass to the other side. The passage through the looking glass isn't of the will or an intellectual exercise. It doesn't come through study . . . but through some horrific life experience that destroyed the Hallmark world of wishful thinking. It doesn't have to lead to cynicism but must lead to some place different.

This experience comes into your life intrusively and never invited or planned for. It is totally destructive, like a star being eaten by a black hole where it is dismantled not just down to the atomic level but even the subatomic and were matter is converted to energy and vaporized.

Once we have gone through this portal, you are changed forever.  The mirror is a one-way passage. There are three choices on this side. You can be numb on the inside and cloak yourself with normalcy on the outside . . . so at least you can still communicate with the majority who still live on the other side in the hope-yet-betrayed world.  That's what most try to do and like the movie, the Invasion of the Body Snatchers you can't tell the real hope-yet-betrayed people from the make-believe zombies.

A second choice is total despondency which can translate into eternal depression and self entombment in isolation or even literal entombment through suicide. This is the minor path, but one soul going into this self-imposed hell is one too  many.

The third is where we refuse to allow the pain to go numb, because if it goes numb, we know that we will stop feeling at all and are thus no different than the android. Yet, we try to function and live in a world that makes no sense anymore.  This is the great paradox.  The first time I noticed this dichotomy was when I was at my most severe state of acute suffering and was invited to a Christian dinner party. The main topic of discussion was whether or not the host should put mother of pearl chips in their paint when they redo their dinning room ceiling.  I was smiling on the outside, pretending to listen (I was still flirting with the zombie path at the time) yet on the inside while the voices were ricocheting around me . . . yes mother of pearl or no mother of pearl . . . I was in deep thought planning my own suicide.  If I hang myself, and my wife finds my body, would it traumatize her for life?  Would it be better to jump off  bridge where she would only see me in the morgue or funeral home?"  Yes, I was also flirting with the second step at the time.  But I eventually, by God's grace, choose the last path.

So it is a strange world in which we must live . . . aliens in a land of Oz.  We sit and hear the same ole cliches about if you have a good devotional life, God will bless you and you will be protected from any harm, and you will have perpetual happiness yada . . . yada . . . yada.  I know that I always sound cynical at times like this but I'm really not.  I am content in my emptiness knowing, like those in Hebrews 11, that our hope is yet realized.

During our recent Mountain Climbing experience, it was a Christian group and there was "ministry" woven in around the strenuous physical efforts of approaching and climbing the big mountain.  I loved the people and am eternally grateful that they pulled my tired ass up the mountain. Yet, the times of Bible study were like so many I remember prior to my fall down the rabbit hole, or transformation through the looking glass. I withdraw in solitude. I can't play that game. We are aliens.

Now and then I do run into those who have hoped and have lost. Who have met the Fall of Adam and met it with great intimacy. With those I find a great kind-ship. We are aliens from the same land.  It reminds me of the movie The Doctor (1991) where this arrogant asshole doctor suddenly finds himself with probable terminal cancer.  His world is shaken and he meets the Fall as an unwelcome friend. He finds himself as an alien in a place where he can no longer relate to even his own wife and certainly not with his old friends and colleagues. But he does meet a young woman who also is dying. With her, they speak the same language and live in a world that is of a different stuff.

I am at least happy that my wife and I have shared the same experiences of loss and in that we have an unwavering kind-ship. Maybe she has taken a different path of coping that I have, maybe the first path . . . I'm not sure.

While I would reverse the acts that pushed me through the glass in a millisecond, they were evil and of the Fall, yet I feel more alive now than ever before. Feeling, even feeling that which hurts, is betting than not feeling at all. An still we share in that great hope that some day, some how, all that is wrong will be righted.  That is the true Gospel.

Sorry once again about the typos.


Anonymous said...

Nice piece! You have a talent for seeing the big picture. Personally I think I would love to become "comfortably numb". I guess I don't see yet what is so wrong with it. Chronic suffering takes its toll on a person, and can also lead to an early grave. Problem is, I don't know how to get there without ingesting substances that ultimately make the suffering worse.

JRT said...

I find myself making different choices depending on the fake it or to let my true feelings be known. But the kicker is one of your last sentences. Whatever comfort was lost through my rough times, feeling something is better than nothing. Alive, rather than numb. Numbness is a type of death; I can't sustain it.

AACW said...

Christian Monist, I just wanted you to know that I was so glad to discover your blog, because I can soooo relate to most of what you're talking about.

When I read that director Tony Scott jumped off that bridge near where I live (I had just driven on it to go to church that morning), I wondered if he was suffering from the same type of despair you had mentioned? He seemed to have it all together on the outside, but perhaps no one believed him or would address his inner struggles.

I, too, have gone through the looking glass. It is difficult to come out of denial and realize that most people would prefer to cling to the wishful thinking world, and they shun or severely chastise those who try to point out reality to them. They simply can't deal with it.

But please keep being honest. I think you would appreciate James Altucher's blog, even though he is not a Christian. He honestly talks about his failures and struggles and gives some surprisingly great advice.

Best wishes.

jmj said...

Comfortably numb is probably the most popular route. I'm not sure that anything is wrong with it. Some of us make different choices, I think, based on our personalities. My wife is a comfortably numb person and I think she does much better than me with loss.

I figure Tony Scott had one of those Solomon moments . . . "great accomplishments, yet I'm getting older and going to die as will all my work. It is all vanity!" I've been reading a lot of Hemingway lately (because it is easy to read)and I can start to see inside his head that with the loss of youth and adventure he felt it was all in vain.

I talk with patients every day who have suffered great losses in their past. Some are psychological invalids from that point forward and the others are like nothing happened. Both of those seem unhealthy.

My dad lost three sisters and his mother in one year (TB) his father the next (heart attack) and then he went directly to Normandy to fight a savage war. He was a numb one. He never shed a tear when his brother (his closes relative) suddenly died when I was a young boy. But my mom found him curled up in a ball at the bottom of the bed in the middle of the night sobbing a week later. She pretended to be sleeping and never mentioned it.

PM said...

Funny, Comfortably Numb was the song where I started liking Pink Floyd less. Going from Welcome to the Machine and Have a Cigar to CN seemed like PF didn't want to keep fighting. Of course, it became their greatest success. I agree that once you've gone through the looking glass you can't go back. Nothing looks the same, certainly not politics or religion, but I think we have to be determined to be true to ourselves, and fight for what we love and believe in (not that I mean the partisan fighting or culture wars we see everyday, more like the good fight of faith). As you said, there is no better alternative.

nofairytaleendingforme said...

Wow, great post. You're a great writer. I too have been through the looking glass. I think there's more of us out there than we think. It's not a popular view though and I find myself also adjusting from situation to situation as to my response. Some people just CANNOT for the life of them deal with my disillusionment and so I take the first path with them. Sometimes I avoid situations which will hurt too much and take the second path. And sometimes when I'm hurting I take the third path and just let it hurt and then blog about it :)

Looking forward to reading your manuscript!!

THANK YOU for your blog. So glad to know I'm not alone!!