Is 18 months a long time? No…not really, but in many ways it has been. Long and arduous. And good, yes, but the latter does not nullify the former.
It almost went too quickly, too fully and intensely, that I hadn’t noticed what it’d done to me.
It almost stops and surprises (?) me, but I’ve crossed a line and I don’t think I could go back.
I remember a New Zealander telling me once, with a certain weariness and fragility and even wonder, "Oh, people talked…and you could tell, the ones that had been through the earthquake and the ones that hadn’t."
I remember her every now and then. Her eyes.
I don’t know what it is. Maybe slowly and gradually, until suddenly the blinds fall off, I’ve been confronted. The reality of nastiness, of treachery, of horror beyond words. Of seething evil.
I don’t think I even realised it until much later, when I found myself reacting, responding, feeling and acting in very different ways than I used to. Delayed reactions.
If you wanted me to pinpoint an it moment, I don’t think I could.
The thing about all this is that…it can be rather strange, because now, you find yourself standing on the other side of the curtain. And to see others living – oblivious to the gravity of… – it is a little strange, isolating, frustrating. But how could you cross back over now?
Actually what flattens and sobers my response is this.
It was very foolish of me, I think, to see myself as some sort of, I don’t know, do-gooder-change-agent, as if somehow my life was better, triumphant, while others were still waiting to discover "a purposeful life". I guess…over time I’ve become very uncomfortable with that posture. I now think that was and is quite immature and proud. It’s a posture one takes if one has lived in a privileged bubble and not experienced things. I truly believe that. It lacks depth and balance – and tends to cause one to trot out cookie-cutter responses.
I’ve also realised that things of horror don’t take place between the lines of the daily paper which can be set aside after a 5-minute "oh that’s terrible", "that’s despicable", "that makes me angry". No…you can’t even properly deal with it by muttering a prayer. You can’t…
And these things don’t just take place in others’ lives.
These lurid things take place in every human heart. That’s a very sobering and damning thought.
A realisation dawns, that people are not so different. "Good" people and "bad" people are not very meaningful categorisations. They’re laughable.
Meanwhile, through all of this…I’ve grown to appreciate just how courageous, tenacious, persevering and forgiving people can be. I don’t think I’ve previously appreciated what it is like. I sort of assumed maybe, that they were a separate class. But people who are all these things – they have all paid a price. In other words, there is a very real trade off.
Again, I find that sobering.
I am beginning to see that…well, I think I’ve been wrong. I’ve been wrong to think myself good, subconscious or otherwise.
In these 18 months, I’ve met Good, and the power and Hope it carries within it. Real Hope and Good are of the same essence. Not wish-upon-a-star lets-do-it-rar-rar hope. It is not whipped up or constructed, cannot possibly be.
All of this has presented to me my carelessness, arrogant flippancy and condescending self-righteousness. I guess, it has taught me, is teaching me, not to take Good so easily for granted.
It is teaching me to appreciate more but also to overlook more. Some things shrink in the larger scheme of things. They don’t become less important, but they do become smaller. At some point, I think you do have to say to yourself, I’ve got to stop worrying about smaller things.
Sometimes, though, a good response is just to laugh! I think Chesterton is right: always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do? If you are too serious about yourself be careful one day you’ll discover you’re a joke. (:
Sometimes I think all my writings reek of soap opera. But it is also true that I’ve lost a lot of sentimentality in recent years.
The one thing I really wanted to say is this. It is dangerous to be asleep at the wheel in the way you live.