Sunday, June 03, 2007


I am now reading a historical novel by Kenneth Roberts, set during the Revolutionary War. As in all Roberts' novels, all the really good, important people come from Maine, but people from Vermont and New Hampshire get a friendly nod. The book captures to a T New Englanders' distrust of New Yorkers and "Southerners." ["South" in this case being anything beyond Nowheresville, which even I must admit is well within the range of the Northern US.] That distrust continued well into my childhood, if it has not continued to this day, and it's only the flood of "Southrons" into our hallowed hills that has worn it down with time...

I loved this book when I was twelve (a long-gone day which has somehow drifted closer to the pre-WWII publication date than to me) but found re-reading it heavy sledding for the first hundred pages or so. It has all the ponderous, obvious plotting of a mass-market book:
Oooh -- if they don't get along now, they'll get together at the end... Its prolix heft makes Dickens look almost like a master of reticence. I can't remember the last time I read a novel almost 600 pages long, in type this small. Maybe it's just my growing impatience with things in general, and not poor Kenneth Roberts, that's at fault.

But what makes me cite this opus here is a small paragraph describing the attempted escape of the battered American troops from a vastly superior British force bearing down on them. I dedicate it to all those who believe that life has happy endings, but most particularly to the
Far-Flung Voice:

Before the fog lifted, I thought we had almost escaped. Now I saw we were worse off than ever; and I damned dramas and romances in which misfortunes quickly pass: in which troubles vanish like a morning mist, to leave life smiling and golden, free of care and pain.

Things aren't like that in life and war. In life we struggle, shattered, from disaster, only to plunge headlong into fresh disasters. In war, soldiers fight until they can fight no more, and then go on fighting: men exhaust themselves with superhuman labors and then go on working regardless of weariness.

It seemed to me that if any men deserved to escape, we did -- that if any men had ever earned peace, victory and a happy end, we had earned it; but war and life, alas, take no account of what men earn.

That is, "
alas," simply true. But I hold an equal and opposite truth in my other hand. Our lives, our selves, are incomprehensible, inseparable, mixtures of good and evil, suffering and happiness, in pretty much equal measure. Money may insulate us from some of life's true depth [and absolute money insulate us from it absolutely], but some of it will always track us down. Suffering stands at the center of life; why else would the cross be declared the center of time?

So it is all the more important to remember the filled half of the glass.

And there I am: God alone knows where my obsession with the Goat is going, probably to no good end, but I am receiving, along with the heartbreak and the yearning, gifts without which my life as a gay man would still be taking place between my ears, as it has for half a lifetime. Whatever happens next, he is good enough for me, good enough to me -- and that's good enough for now.

I am able to live a pretty comfortable life, all things considered, and there is a lot to consider. My children have no idea, thank God, how low I've fallen or how much lower I am pretty much destined to go -- and YES, I do know what I am saying here and why. They remain true and kind, all in their own ways. Even
Isis may in time come around. Who knows? It might help if I could stop obsessing about one stupid lunch... which for all the wounds it opened, was a peace offering of a sort: she visibly didn't want to be there, and was there. With that sage observation, I'll stop, but the list goes on and on, really.

So, all you dry-hearted cynics out there, count those blessings.
I'm sure you can find some if you think long enough.

Hang in there, all.
I do my best.

No comments:

Post a Comment