who sees himself in all and all in him.

– The Bhagavad Gita

Please listen. Because this isn’t about me; it’s about you. And it’s about me.

I recently said, in an e-mail to a friend, that I was taking some time to rethink my goals for this blog, because the endless cycle of bravado and breakdown was proving unsustainable. It occurs to me, though, that this is what life is: we’re all teetering, all the time, on the brink, poised on the precipice that separates false certainty from overwhelming doubt. It’s a shell game, this search of ours: we move our fears from one place to another, like Sisyphus, up the hill, down the hill, and back again.

Happiness is an elusive animal. Here I let Edwin Arlington Robinson speak for me:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

In one of my latest posts, I commented that I don’t feel like I belong. On reflection, I see how selfish a statement that is. Who am I, that my belonging or not is what really matters? And what of you? Do you, in the dark moments, in the shadow of gathering clouds and pouring rain, feel that you belong? And if not, where does that leave me?

That’s not as self-centered a question as it seems, I think. Whether you be clod or promontory, we stand or fall together, we fade or remain as one. But we have to understand and honor that connection for it truly to bind us…and by binding us, to set us free. Free from ourselves, in order to be each other.

Let me try to explain.

I have walked in some very dark places. I still do, and I always will. Sometimes, the darkness by its nature obscures perception, redefines sight. When you can’t see past the nose on your face, your face seems to be all that there is. And so I forgot something very important, vitally important. I’m not alone, here in the dark night of the soul. You’re here, too. All of you.

For every face in this world, there is a mask hiding it from view. Masks we’re taught to wear by those who’ve worn them before us. We think we are all different, because the masks make us so, but underneath the masks we wear we share the face that matters. The human face, the face we recognize in one another on those rare occasions when pretense is dropped and the masks come down.

Please understand: I say this not by way of claiming a position of gnostic clarity, but as one whose mask is set firmly in place. If I pretend to be wise, it is because in doing so I may momentarily fool myself into believing I have any wisdom to share. If I pontificate on the “real meaning” of friendship, it is because I myself have no idea what that “real meaning” is. If I claim selflessness, it is because I can just glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m self-involved enough to think that light is me.

Really, the light at the end of my tunnel is you. You are what I cannot live without. All of you.

I will not apologize for my weakness, because my weakness stems from my humanity, and without my humanity I wouldn’t be in such need of yours. It’s like this, see: each of us is a piece of the puzzle, and each of us is a puzzle. We are missing pieces, and pieces are missing from us, at one and the same time. Call it a God-shaped hole; call it a donut hole–whatever its shape, we are each of us incomplete as we stand, and it isn’t more cowbell that we need. What we really need–what I really need–is to see the ways in which we fit together. Buddhists call it “interbeing,” but what you call it doesn’t really matter, so long as you know that it’s real.

Of course I belong. I belong to you.

14 thoughts on “I.M.U.

  1. I like that thought that life is an “endless cycle of bravado and breakdown” ~ seems to accurately cover our immense selfishness that we go through life trying to control (and it’s not a bad thing), and seeing/creating the beauty that is around us even in times of difficulty. Cheers ~

    1. Randall! Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I think I missed one of your posts recently. I need my photo fix–talk about seeing/creating the beauty around us. :0)

      I just wish I were better at harnessing the beauty myself… But here’s to getting better at it!

      1. I’ve been bouncing around too much these days myself ~ always good to have that pursuit to improve. Cheers Vance ~ enjoy the week ahead.

  2. Ah, but obsession is a wonderful thing. Unlike danger or hate, It focuses the mind to a peaceful impulse–nay, an innate drive–to accomplish a task that, hopefully will never end while we breathe. It is living! It is a satisfying pursuit of accomplishment–of obtaining that carrot dangling before our eyes.

    I daily pursue a goal of trying to infect others with the idea of universal empathy and the desire to reject religious and political exclusivity. It is my passion and my life. I love it!

    1. As passions go, that’s a great one!

      I think, though, that there is a difference between obsession and self-obsession, and I tend to fall in the latter direction far too often. It is every bit as honorable to be Alfred as it is to be Batman, even if not as sexy…

  3. Welcome back Vance. You have such a way with words that brings forth the complexities of life, emotions and social interactions. Here’s to happiness becoming less elusive for us all!

  4. So glad you’re back! I have probably set aside false pretenses a little too much over the past year…but I honestly have more meaningful friendships than ever because of it. Vulnerability was a risk, but one worth taking. I used to have so much fear of confessing my thoughts to others because I thought I was somehow the only one to have them. I’ve discovered that people respond with relieved sighs more often than with raised eyebrows—they thought they were alone too.

    1. I find, sadly, that my mask has been epoxied to my face. A large of part of my blogging effort has to do with dislodging it, at least for a few seconds at a time. For every confession I make, there seem to be about a hundred other thoughts and emotions diving for cover…

      Imagine we could all see one another’s true faces, all the time. Could we handle the truth? Huh, Jackie?! Huh?!? :0)

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