Saturday, April 30, 2011
Riding the night bus is an exercise in disembodiment. The blue, molded plastic seats conform to no known human configuration. The voice that announces the stops is pre-recorded and GPS-driven. The city flows past, behind glass, beyond a river of cars. Eye contact is non existent. Eyes are closed, averted, affixed to various species of electronic devices. We are home here, we ghosts. We steal glances at one another, asking: who is the more deranged ? We glower at a chattering knot of teenage girls, whose clothing, gestures, postures and glib phrases seem borrowed from some remote and common electronic font of prescriptive desire.
I gaze out the window. It is almost twilight. My seat clutches me by my dorsal spine and ischia, as if to hurl me into the street.
A gigantic sandwich, big as a truck, floats midair, suppurating cheese. I think of various depictions of Christ's ascension, the bodily Jesus midair, headed up. One would think the resurrection would be a disincarnation, a disembodiment, at the very least a reversion from flesh back to transfigured Word. But flesh and blood remains. We don't just read, we eat. We eat our Word. And become -- get this -- one body. Incorporation. Incarnation. Embodiment.
There's no getting around bodies, of course. We have visible bodies that move through treacherous thickets of gaze -- gaze that can construct and destruct, gaze that can threaten and even annihilate. "You lookin' at me ?" Travis Bickel rehearses in his mirror. Eyes that meet perform a subtle and fraught transaction. We wait for moments of mercy: an acknowledging glance, a reassuring smile.
I see you. I will not hurt you. I wish you well.
Friday, April 29, 2011
When I turned 59 two months ago I resolved to stop struggling against and apologizing for my particular way of being in the world. There is some urgency to the task. I must confess that the approach of the next decade of numbers is terrifying. The dislocation of feeling no different than I did at thirty and yet being looked at with the reifying and patronizing gaze reserved for the "elderly" is painful, almost more so that experiencing the gaze that passes right though my papery translucence toward the world's various tantalizing objects of desire.
I am a ghost. I have always been a ghost: reclusive, cerebral, angsty, I tend to live exclusively from the neck up, alienated from the visceral and muscular lower floors of my physical being. I am a noli-me-tangere kinda guy.
This is my neurology, the hardwiring of my brain and the software of my life experience. The world regards it as intrinsic disorder worse than any variation on sexual preference. How can I not love human touch, seek out every opportunity for human social interaction, and pursue the varieties of physiculture that promise mental and physical health, strength and beauty ?
How odd, then, to find myself in a profession that requires constant intimacy and touch, and in a religion that sometimes seems to me to be one gigantic group hug -- with potluck lunch to follow.
No wonder I am so constantly ennervated and depleted, and, even, pissed off.
Now, one can say, as I have sometimes said to myself, "How wonderful that you have chosen a profession and religion in which you can challenge and overcome your limitations, and heal and grow !"
And one can equally say, "How tragic that you have wasted so many years of your precious life in pursuits so utterly alien to your flourishing, happiness and well-being !"
So which is it, then ? The one ? The other ? Both ? Neither ?