Sunday, September 23, 2012

Self-Portrait In Nightshade

There are, I am told and and have indeed witnessed, people of perpetually sunny dispositions -- ebullient, resilient, optimistic, sanguine, cheerful folks for whom the various disasters of life are indeed (as my workplace loves to say) challenges, not catastrophes.  

Then there are folks like me. "Don't call me folks," I snarl. "Shut up," I snarl back.

It's all neurological. Neuroanatomical and neurochemical. And whether so by nature or nurture matters not a whit. There's not much to be done, short of lobotomy, about the anatomy. It is, as Freud said elsewise, destiny. The chemistry is more pliable, subject to myriad interventions from psychopharmaceuticals, to vast arrays of other proposed mood-elevating interventions such as meditation, jogging, hyperventilation, affirmations, worship, shopping, ice cream, electroshock, opiates, gambling and sex. But let's face it:  if the bile is black, there's no real way to turn it sunny yellow.  The black roots will show soon enough.    

"Mood," said the philosopher, "is prior," and he was correct. I have bought another camera, a used Nikon D90, which illustrates this nicely. I love my D70, and have felt vaguely disloyal about upgrading while it still draws light. It, like me, tends to see the world as drab and underexposed, often requiring not a little post-processing to lift its images out of the mud. 

The D90, on the other hand, is a sunny little critter, avid for light, and I find myself dialing down the EV of the camera and pushing the histogram to the left in the images to get at the essential photogravity of things.

Before my recent rather extended sojourn among the Godly I would sometimes find myself reflecting on the nature of gratitude. Not of simple thanks to someone for something, but of the overarching, generalized sense of gratitude that sometimes steals over one, for -- for what ? -- it all ?  It seemed primal, reducible only with difficulty to component parts -- relief, pleasure,   happiness, astonishment, and a sense, perhaps, of not truly meriting the good in question. Religion simplified the experience of gratitude by giving it an object: thank you, God, for the blessings of this life, chiefest of which, of course, being the redemption through and in your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ,  which was the part of the General Thanksgiving that always rankled, that I rushed through, muttering yeah, yeah under my breath. There, finally, was the source from whom all blessings flow, and in exchange for this, well, there was a certain tribute due the Source's Son.

Who would, in exchange, grant unmerited forgiveness for the blackest, bleakest ingratitudes that fester there in the filthy dunghill of our other sins -- original sin, sins of omission and commission, sins of thought, word and deed, mortal sins, venial sins, the seven deadly sins -- the whole nasty lot of sin by which we, hourly, renail the ever-suffering, ever-forgiving Christ to His Cross.

And despite that -- despite the clear message that without the absolutely unmerited, salubrious grace of Trinity, MD I was doomed to perish in my utterly crapulent and leprous wickedness -- I persisted in a kind of frenzied Pelagianism of the three T's of churchgoing -- time, talent and treasure -- as if I could somehow earn a vague and unspoken salvation by altar guilding, pledging, being helpful and crossing myself at precisely the correct moment of the liturgy.

All the while being told that God "loves me more than I can ever know," in a positively Alice Millerian example of psychotogenic parenting. I am a little fiend and they love me anyway. Go figure. 

Where was I going with this ? Oh, yes. Disposition.

D70 vs. D90, nightshade vs. sunshine, introvert vs. extrovert, shy vs. gregarious, pessimistic vs. optimistic. There are born that ways that are deemed anathema in the most liberal of churches, that doom aspirants to failure (or at least exhaustion) from the start. This begs the question of doctrine and faith, both bad and good. I am talking about the mood that is ever prior, I am talking about original doom. Or, at least, gloom.

And I am still licking my self-inflicted wounds, grateful (whatever that means) to have survived.

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