Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Epiphany Arrived, I Think.

You care to know what it is? Why have I been increasingly unhappy for no external reason, even when everything is coming up roses for me? Why haven't I had faith in my own argumentation, why haven't I answered my commentators here and interlocutors elsewhere? What did I really miss from all those Uchicago conversations, and why haven't I had their like here in Berkeley? Why have I grown so indifferent to the Good, the Beautiful and the True, seen less and less Meaning in the world around me, been on the rocks with even my God lately?

Well, even those of you who are my friends haven't known that some of these things are going on, because I haven't talked about it to anybody. Gradually, over months and months, I've become sullen and withdrawn. Why?

In a word: Irony. In another word: Vanity.

I'm really an extraordinarily earnest person, and playing along in an ironic tone is uncomfortable for me. I can do it OK, I'm a clever guy, but my heart's never in it. I really don't care about the folly of others, however well you express it; I just want to look into what's true instead. (And yes, this is why, try as I might, I just can't get into Chesterton. He's a brilliant writer, but his eyes are too often on the very real silliness of modernity rather than on that which modernity misses.)

But coming here, I wanted to make friends with all the interesting and intelligent people I met in the department and at my parish. I wanted so badly to be admired, wanted to be accepted. So I imitated the way everybody talked, their smirking disdain for the fools that surround us.

Some people, I know, mean quite well by it all, maintain charity in their hearts; you know, hate the folly, love the fool. And that's all right, I don't mean to say my friends were being amoral, just that I tried to imitate them for vanity's sake in an enterprise I don't enjoy.

So, my urbane banter- that's not me. My film commentary- that's not me. The constant attempts at cleverness on this blog- those aren't me either, I'm afraid (the good bits of style were all stolen from friends' blogs without attribution). And now I'm sick of it all.

What has it landed me? Well, a respectable spot in the social order, OK, but at what cost? Out here, there are only three friends (by my count) with whom I feel OK being earnest, and for various reasons there's stuff I can't talk about with each of them. And I normally don't even drop the ironic banter. So it's gotten me dissatisfaction, and angst, and embarrassment. Some strategy.

I want to get back to basics, you know? I want to become a Dostoyevsky character, like I was at my best in Chicago. Junior year, that was really the best of my life, before I started trying so hard to be clever, before I exchanged real joy for mere wit, when I didn't have the commentary track turned on in the back of my mind, when I knew instead of opined, when I'd argue out of love, when my faith wasn't tortured by speculating what others must think of my religion.

Why am I broadcasting this? Well, it's my blog, and if I want to be an idiot, I'll be an idiot. Also, if I get it all out here, maybe I'll have the public impetus to drop the bullshit I'm constantly spewing. I was at Mass today (thank God for the Tridentine Low Mass, I can't distract myself so easily from Christ when there's absolutely nothing else to catch the eye or ear) and felt like I was just going through the motions, hoping that I'd get back to an animated faith and love. I started to see that my 'epistemological demons' were deprecating my knowledge of God on the grounds that I feel ashamed of asserting it. And that's just an awful way to lose my faith.

So I think I prayed honestly for the first time in a long while, and I'm going to try and act the way I really am. And I'm sorry, this is an awkward time to be going at this. I'll probably fail at the whole thing very soon, you know? But what else is there to do?

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