"There's a bridge I can’t get over
There's a weight I can’t get under
It's a dream I still remember
But it won't come true
If there's a lesson I would learn it
I would cross it now or burn it
There's a bridge I can’t get over
Between me and you"
(The Bridge, Patricia Conroy 1994)
Being a good person is harder than it might seem. It takes a lot of energy, and concentration, in order to focus on knowing what the right thing is and applying it through action. It is much easier to give in to the selfish and defensive manners we all have as humans. The ways of the world around us stand as proof that it is simpler to burn a bridge than to build your own. It is much quicker to give in to impulse than to act by instinct. I often find myself on the thin red line between what I should do and what I really want to do. It is a constant battle for me to maintain some semblance of compassion or control and not flee from the human race to save myself.Sometimes I miss the way I used to be. I was a complete asshole most of the time, but I had few worries or concern. I rarely felt guilt or remorse because I just didn't care. Narcissism, so comforting in our modern world, gave me the freedom to put myself first and left everyone else to their own devices. Sometimes I miss this freedom that I had, and with that freedom, the capacity for more self-indulgent behaviour. I often think it would be easier to return to my lesser days so I didn't have to commit even more to these better days. There are times when I'm sick to death of being the good guy.
I do not claim that I am now without moments of temptation. I am very flawed and have the scars of life to prove it. I am as human as they come. I make mistakes and fuck up like everyone else. For the longest time, I thought my imperfection was the sum of me. The things which the baser part of me relished made up my true nature and I could not escape them even if I tried. When I found a new way to travel, I put them behind me and allowed a spirit to work its way throughout my life. I changed. Something is different, crossed over in me. At times, I feel like a part of me has disappeared. I find it ironic that union with God may result in a ‘born again’ experience. They forget to tell you what dies in the transformation.
I’m not saying God is boring. I'm not trying to justify some return to my hedonism. I'm not even merely ranting out of some need I have to be heard. From the holiest sage to the new Pope himself, I believe we all want to give in to the darkness every once in awhile. Spiritual issues may be the most interesting of topics to me, and a handful of others, but most people don't stop to think in these terms anymore. Sometimes I wonder if anyone ever really did. Was it forced conditioning or in history did people really believe in striving to be something greater than they were? Did they really want to be better, to do the right things, or does it stand in evidence the mistakes men have made? When have we ever stopped the evil that men do?
As a once deceitful and unreliable scoundrel, I will not try to justify or excuse my past behaviour. I crossed the red line by my own volition. As I was once quite wild, it would appear I have been tamed. I make my choices for good the same way I used to make my choices for the selfish part of me, knowing full well what I was doing. No excuse, medical or environmental, can deny me this fact. Now my life seems like a monochrome snapshot. There is a part of me which strives to rise even more, yet I am captured by the thrill a more decadent life has to offer. It is all black and white and rarely, if ever, grey. I may thrive on the spiritual, but there is something to be said for the rush of choosing to be bad.
"Well, I've spent my whole lifetime
In a world where the sunshine
Finds excuses for not hangin' round
I've squandered emotions
On the slightest of notions
And the first easy lovin' I found
But soon all the good times,
The gay times, the play times
Like colors run together and fade
Oh, Lord, if you hear me
Touch me and hold me
And keep me from blowin' away"
(Keep Me from Blowin' Away, Patricia Conroy 1992)
I believe it is important for us to understand not only why we did the things we have done in the past, but the lessons we may have missed had our course been different. We are defined by our experiences. We are shaped by them. We would not be the person we are now if we had travelled a different path. Is it worth trading your identity in the hopes of a better life? I am the sum of all that I have known and would not be who I am now without it. We are a product of our thoughts. What we think, we will become. The past can seem like an easier way of being in spite of any transformation met along our way. Sometimes craving the way things used to be can act to remind us how good we really have it now, even if we long for something familiar from yesterday. Despite the damage it may have done, it can still make us feel safe.
I am not a simple person. This complex weave of spirituality, ego and dissension has brooding, dark moments mixed with heavenly bliss. I once cried out for the bliss. Through tears and tremors, yearning and daring, I would beg and plead for but one second of anything but the way I felt and the way things were. Now that I have put the past behind me and found a better way of living, I find myself longing for the excitement of sinning and the thrill of the hedonism which commanded my attention. I don't want to go back; I just want to feel the freedom I did back when. It is a different beast that my place holds now. Even a handful of the people in my life have expressed to me that they too are a little tired of me only being the good guy.
I’m not discontent with the life I now have. Sometimes I just miss the nomad that I was then. I was carefree in a sense, without regard for others. A free spirit filled with life and passion. I did as I pleased and was loyal only to myself. I had no limits or boundaries to cross. I only existed on the other side of that silly red line. I was happiest in my hedonism so I never let it rest. Now I think of others and try to put them first. I strive to do what I believe is right and this limits the part of me that once was. I often feel like I am boring, a drone of morality and ethics and the like.
I would not want back the part of me that caused harm to both myself and others. I make no claim on the desire to be as I was. I just wish I felt freer. I wish I had moments of mischief like I did in the past. Sometimes I want to be bad, like a dog in the yard. I long for the adventure, and with it the illusion that doing what one pleases is truly living a full life. This desire has little room in my current thinking, but it taunts me, catcalling like a whore on the corner. I hear the summons and I have the impulse, but I cannot seem to follow through. I always flash back and remember that even though I thought I was happy, I never really was. I still don’t like the person I used to be. In the end, I'd rather be a bore than an asshole. I like me now, even in these times of struggle.
"Some people believe they're in control
They got it all worked out
Some people like me think nobody knows
What this deal, is all about...
It ain't nobody's fault
It's just the way it goes
It ain't nobody's fault
It's just the way the cold wind blows
It ain't nobody's fault
It's just the way the dice will roll
It ain't nobody's fault
Nobody at all"
(Nobody's Fault, Patricia Conroy 1998)
My life is mostly black and white. Anything monochrome confirms that you can have it both ways. Everything turns to grey. You have to make a decision, which master to serve. People try so hard to have it all, but in reality you can’t. If you like being hungry but desire an apple, once you’ve eaten it you lose the hunger. We have to trade longing for living. We have to balance in the black or the white. There is little room for moderation when one speaks of surviving God.Searching for God can be a trap, a slippery slope that leads to confusion. We are bound to be as we claim to be if we serve some higher purpose. You cannot fake it. People will know it, you will know it. You either have it or you don't. It screams within you and shapes you, it makes you so. This does not mean one loses their humanity in the process. This is what temptation truly is. We walk a thin red line.
We can go backwards, longing for a past we once hated, or we can go forward trying our best. Trying to be as God has made us to be. Trying as we can only hope we are supposed to be. Trying, this is what counts.
“So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am
about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation
Monochrome(Original Post February 10th 2011)