Friday, July 14, 2006

plumb the abyss of night

"The noble endeavor leaves no true thinker indifferent."

A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life

Friday night at the heart of summer, and indeed La Fête Nationale, and this invisible man intrepidly reports to this archival document known as La Vie Graphite from a very dimly-lit lounge. The place is aflutter with lively conversation, and there are, alas, just a few solitary beverage-sitters. I type by candlelight, and am grateful for some air-conditioning and a very well-chilled Sam Adams. Sure, I've taken myself out countless times, but this feels somehow covert, taking the venue into account. And speaking of context, with the news of current events sinking to further precedents, my own self-evaluations start to look, well, rather petty. Notwithstanding, the sun sets and rises again upon each and every one of us who walk this earth: the privileged, the wage-earners, and the unemployed- all ages and persuasions.

It was Saint Basil the Great who observed that as we find our being and moving upon this earth, our mandate is to reinforce a foundation of faith. He added that we need endurance, most of all, just as the earth needs water. The metaphors are beautiful in the Philokalia, referring to the clay of humility we do best to construct with. Now in my particular context of this wilderness- even in the strange juxtaposition of this fancy lounge- I am brought to ponder the ways in which I have used this time allotted to me. So much of what we are all brought through- and into- this society revolves around the carrot-and-stick of merit and punishment, about "being good and being bad." Indeed, there are moral concepts around "doing the right thing," but now many years away from elementary school, it's the motivation for doing honorable things that stays in my thoughts. That chase for grades becomes pursuits of things like credit and glory. We compete for recognition on so many levels, even the spiritual life is infected by such exacting conditions. My forays in the advertising art field gave me a front-row view of the "hero today, goat tomorrow" view of life. If my motivation, my propulsion for what I do and why I choose to be what I'm about, is for credit and glory, well then I am alas in a chained captivity. It's worth making my driving force that which is neither the hope of glory, nor the fear of punishment.

Now returning to this venue, in which I can scarcely see the keys on this laptop computer, it's actually really good to be here. Invisibility is surely nothing new to me, nowhere as new as blogging! Spending a summer like this is something rare for me, however. It's causing me to really wonder about the human condition, specifically in this society. Self-worth based upon recognition cannot be permitted. And, based upon that premise, I need not be the Invisible Man. My existence is given, no matter the fact that no-one who does not need me for some favor or other will notice my presence. I still am. If, for the sake of illustration, I was stranded in a physical desert, I would still be. Resisting a sense of resolve, as this days thoughts conclude (just because an entry ends, there needn't be some automatic resolution, Deus ex machina), I will take stock that I am, now turning my gaze away from all the coupled inside this place, to the panorama outside the windows with its harbor lights and night sky, and try to do better in living graciously. We all take too much for granted. For various stints, I was once a member of the accompanied, and I may not have thought well enough of those who must involuntarily grovel in the wilderness, shivering in their perceived and/or real ignominy.

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