I like this a lot, and it ties in well with the other bit on intellectual honesty.
It may actually be pure myth, that our intellect and our emotions are somehow separate or even antithetical, kind of like how our western, urbanized world view trains us to see humanity and nature as distinct quantities, or the “real world” versus the ethereal mysteries of the sacred.
I think the truth is that they are all the same thing. We intellectualize the world guided purely by emotion; we exist within and as components of nature and not apart from it; reality and the sacred are not divided, but are simultaneous and bonded parts of the same whole, singular universe.
For all these reasons, though I didn’t know it at the time, the one new year’s resolution I ever made was in fact a new-millennium one, back during the Y2K hoax, and a lot of chaos and transition attending my own mortal existence at the moment.
It was but a single word: clarity.
Now here it is, seventeen years into this preposterous, brain-dead, hugely disappointing century: this era of rank asininity and endless addictions to every form of gimmickry, mimickry and self-deception imaginable; a time long-anticipated by “futurists” and sci-fi authors as a sort of amalgam of idyllic technological liberation and impending apocalypse which has turned out to be both, and neither, so far. An epoch of shallowness and grasping mediocrity, of legions of self-appointed personality cults and countless masses of their bovine followers, of too much information and too little insight, too much analysis and far too little blunt acceptance of things simply being what they are.
With that solitary, and apparently prescient, word, I was giving myself an assignment, one I had no idea what it would take for me to carry out, and even less notion of what I would encounter, endure, and do, in the process of learning how to. Those 17 years by any fair count I would have to call mostly ones of failures outweighing successes, of bad decisions far outnumbering good ones; and now, I am referring to myself and not this idiot species I belong to. It isn’t to blame, I am. But part of achieving clarity has been, has had to become, to take and accept and love myself exactly as I am.
I am a lifelong procrastinator, under-achiever and maker of excuses. So be it. I am now and by all indications will remain, a rejected and alienated father. So be it. I never became the writer, thinker, doer, maker of things that everyone just assumed such a talented boy long ago must certainly become. So be it.
But maybe unlike much of the human family, I look back and call my 2016 a good year. Maybe even the best one yet of fifty-six so far. I set goals and achieved them. I paid off my mobile home, my bachelor’s paradise, free and clear. I got new tires on my car, four of them. I got my bathtub installed after months of stockpiling all the parts and supplies I would need. I am on better and friendlier, and more genuine, terms with more good, honest, neighborly people than ever before, and I mean ever. My bills stay paid and my kitchen stocked, business is good (enough) and fits someone as lazy and unambitious as me perfectly, as does my clientele, whom I consider mostly friends more than clients.
How did I get it this way? By allowing it, to be. By parting ways with others’ ideas on how to live, by doing things my own way (and at long last) with no apologies. By accepting that I was never husband material to begin with, and bidding hearty good riddance to trying to be. By owning and bearing my endless, bottomless grief over my lost children, and deciding to live on while bearing it. By seeing how part of that tragedy is my fault, and how part of it isn’t. By looking around at the magnificently ordinary folks in this little town and adoring them as they are, for being so ordinary.
By, clarity. Pessimism, as the author puts it here, may be some part of that clarity, but I don’t think so, not any more. My dad always called it “the way things are”, and I always called him a sucker for taking it like a man, until I decided to. Clarity, became a verb, a term of both action and inaction, and acceptance of the outcomes of both, and the will to live with them.