Saturday, April 13, 2013

Contemplating spring and destiny, which has no beeper

Apr. 13--I'm cheating on David Foster Wallace. It's not that  I don't love him. I do. Sometimes I'm cheating on DFW with himself. But "Infinite Jest" is a 1,000-plus page tome that is gumbo-dense, very few page breaks and minimal places to come up for air.

So I'll put it down and turn to Thomas Merton, whose faith I don't have, but I envy. Merton often carries me from winter to spring, through the last, darkest cold days before short sleeves and beer on the back deck. Merton gives way to Walt Whitman. I try to re-read "Leaves of Grass" every spring.

This is how my reading and mental life goes. Like House of Pain, I jump around. I chase down tangents, at times feeling like a certain writer was put in front of me at a certain time because he or she has something to tell me. That often seems the case.

When I pick "Infinite Jest" back up, I'll forage my way through and come across something like this:

...both destiny's kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person's basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e. almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can't even hear because you're in such a rush to or from something important you've tried to engineer.

And then I sit thinking, "daaaammn," existentially speaking, and I know that I'm with DFW for the long haul, even though it may take some time. But hopefully not a Time [that] came to him in the falcon-black of the library night in an orange mohawk and Merry Widow w/ tacky Amalfo pumps and nothing else. -DFW, because that shit would be crazy.

Apr. 9--My feet prayed today. It was a three and a half mile prayer of thanks. They prayed on asphalt, dirt, gravel, wood and concrete. Their prayer went something like this:

Thank you for another year. Thank you for spring and sun on skin, for daffodils in bloom. Thank you for friends and family and their creativity in helping us live our lives in community. Thank you for breath and sweat, thank you muscles that work and ache, thank you for fields and roads and for a means to connect them all.

I'm not sure whether the people I passed could hear what my feet were praying, but I think they could. After a couple years that included a five-month layoff for an ankle injury, the better part of a year with undiagnosed Lyme Disease, and a recent layoff for being sick, my feet and I will always be thankful for an easy run in warm spring weather, the day after my birthday.

Apr. 13--So prayer seems to be on my mind lately. Not the ask for things kind of prayer, but the Merton-style contemplative prayer. Something like this:

There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves. (Merton, "Love and Living")

That's how it comes together: spring, newness, renewal. Contemplation, whether it is inspired by DFW, or a spring run, or Merton.


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