Tuesday, April 28, 2015

nepal, the plague, and me

Albert Camus is a famous dead existentialist who apparently influenced my thinking a lot, because my former-rock-star friend Chris liked to tell me all the time back in college that I was TOTALLY an existentialist. Which annoyed me back then because didn't I absolutely HATE at the time that existentialist masterpiece-of-a-film, MEMENTO?

Except later I realized I didn't hate MEMENTO, I just found the idea of an incoherent reality that's artificially stitched together in my storytelling subconsciousness to be positively earth-shaking to my at-the-time largely-unexamined weltanschauuung. Which is to say, that long German word that means I don't really know what's going on, but think I do.

Speaking of earthquakes, what about Nepal? 

Tragic, painful, ugly. And dramatic. In a world chock-full of suffering and premature, violent death, it's the sort of thing that grabs our attention because ohmygosh, isn't the earth under your feet the sort of thing you should be able to count on!?!

And also there was a google executive (translation: super-rich-guy) who was killed by the earthquake, and some other people who were perhaps a little more like us, because let's face it we're tribal animals who have a hard time identifying with the "Other."

But then I hear (erroneously, it turns out) that someone I love has someone she loves lose someone he loves very dearly in the Nepal earthquake, and then suddenly it's me and it hurts by only a few degrees of separation, so I can connect, you know? I can care not just in an abstract, life's-hard-and-then-you-die kind of way, but also deep down in the emotion-seat. This, in a week when an old friend loses his mother to a random accident and when wars rage on and riots happen in Baltimore and disease, disease, disease. Poverty, poverty, poverty. Death, death, death and seriously, God, what do you think you're doing, here!?!

I've started keeping a prayer journal. In the morning I write a one-page prayer letter to God because I've tried all kinds of praying every which way, and I never seem able to really pull it off. The first half of each page is all "this is what I'm thinking," and the second half I try to spend saying "Thanks." But some days the "This is what I'm thinking" bit seems to creep right down almost to the bottom.

Also I've been re-reading Camus' novel "The Plague" a few pages at a time, for almost as long as I've been keeping this prayer journal. And Camus is all like (paraphrasing), "We're all living under this death sentence that we ignore until we're forced to face it. But some of us think about it ALL the time, and the only thing we can do is just live our lives with courage, and try to pull a sort of heroic meaning from the muck of our lives: the good, the bad, and the ugly."

And I think okay, sure. That sounds good and all as far as the existentialist, day-to-day person that I guess I kind of am, but where's the hope? It just feels so gray and lifeless sometimes. So bereft of sustaining love and beauty and joy and, yes, thanks.

I want to live with a "Thanks" on my lips, because whenever I don't, it all turns to ash.

Some days I can't see through the ash-cloud-eruption-of-crappiness the world-volcano spews all over everything. Sometimes the pain and the tears of it seem unending.

But I do not want to go gently into that gray half-light.

I want to shine bright color into the darkness.

I want to LIVE.

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