What drives me is the knowledge that I chose life. And, in choosing life, there is the choice to feel alive. I am accountable. I am responsible.
Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I am lost in the dullness of a moment, the nuance of a relationship going south. The most terrifying feeling that you are the agent of your own destruction. Sometimes in the loneliness of my cave, I am—for weeks—just getting by. You know you’ve forgotten something, but what? And nobody else seems to be able to remind you.
I don’t think I am driven by justice or curiosity or beauty. These are all things I dabble in when I am alive and sometimes reminders of what I am forgetting. I go through phases of idealism, when I think—“This is your world, if you don’t shape it someone else will.” And I think that I have purpose just by the fact of existence.
But you don’t.
The truth is, most people don’t get to choose to be alive. We are thrown into this world out of our volition and, I think—I hope—for most people, this does not matter. You find purpose later on, you expect to be propelled forward by life as a given. Isn’t that what being driven asks for? What keeps you going? What keeps you alive? Or are you just walking homeostasis? Are you just waiting for life to run out?
I think I didn’t always take too well to the world of the living. When a child is born, it’s almost like grafting a new piece of tissue on a pre-existing organism. You want it to take, and grow and to be a part of what it has been placed onto. You want it to somehow become an agent of good; something new that becomes intricately part of yourself and heals.
Some part of me rejected the world. Maybe I was born with this, maybe I began to reject it later on. Maybe I was surrounded by impending death and I was just curious of what it is on the other side of life. I would lie on my back and look at the ridges of the ceiling, close my eyes and wonder what it feels. I wanted to empathize with my father who was dying, yet I could not.
It’s scary to know that a part of you doesn’t hold. No matter what you do, it tries to fly away from what it has been grafted onto. How to be driven when you are torn into a direction that is not of this world. How to be committed when everything you see, hear and feel is only half acknowledged by yourself. Sometimes more, sometimes less; isn’t that formula infuriating.
At a certain point, life presents you with the circumstances to choose. It gives you the desperation, the freedom and the fog. It brings to the front and center the fact that part of you has always rejected this program you’ve been in sewn onto. It gives you things you don’t want to live through anymore and it gives you the means to reject it all completely. To become whole, and yet nothing. Not everyone gets this choice—not everyone needs this choice—but occasionally it happens. I guess you just have to deal.
Sometimes I wonder if my whole writing life has gravitated in orbit around this one black hole. The proverbial wound from which art and emotion springs forth. That most destructive and productive thing in you.
There’s something ancient about it. That part of you that won’t graft; as ancient as death itself. It’s a beautiful stain that grazed you from the very beginning. The shade that causes you to pause when others move, pause to take another look, take your thought deeper than the reality and consider something darker than what life promises. What drives you, you wonder, the urge to keep looking? Or the task of looking away.
Anyway, I digress. Where was I?
Sometimes, sooner or later, there is a choice. When you sit on the ledge between life and death and realize it is not a ledge anymore. They’ve melded into each other. It can be so disheartening and I can understand why I would want to choose one or other other.
Maybe it is a choice, maybe it isn’t—I think it can be argued both ways. Maybe there was fate involved. But I prefer agency and I prefer to think that, yes, I did make a choice . That stain in me, that part that wanted to leave, I think I re-grafted it. Not to this world, but to the me that lives. To the me that engages, to the me that looks outside of myself.
I’ve found my way to this metaphor before, but—Theseus and the Minotaur. Monster and slayer, the two halves that keep a labyrinth whole and alive. They become dependent upon each other. Life, I realized doesn’t make you feel alive. Wholeness does.
Staying whole takes work. Sometimes I am only one self and not the other, and I feel a sense of hollowness. Sometimes I dwell only in the stain and I simply drift through this world. Sometimes I get scared again and I’m afraid one is rejecting the other and things are going to split again. But I suppose this is why intentionality matter; if you make a choice to be whole you are accountable to that choice. You are a product, not of biology and chance, but of your own choosing. If I made this choice, it’s my responsibility when things fall apart to put it back together.
I think that is what propels me forward and onward. But to where? I can’t say.
Haruki Murakami writes a beautiful line in Kafka on the Shore that I think triggered this musing of spirits and wholeness and living ghosts:
”’….metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me.’”
This blog is filled with metaphor not because I am reluctant to be straightforward, but because sometimes that is the most truthful way to express what I feel.
Sometimes I am tempted to eliminate the metaphor and begin writing more about what I have seen, what has happened, what is news to you. Yet, I can’t seem to do that here. I can’t seem to transform this place into what is real and tangible, forgoing what I cannot explain. The stain. The rejecting graft. The minotaur. The ghost.
I think Murakami has helped me articulate why. Even in this most distant medium of virtual words and indirect exchanges that I don’t know how to acknowledge face to face, I do want to be closer to you. I want to eliminate the distance, if not for an instance.