Monday, May 21, 2007

In the Mirror

A character sketch

He looks at himself and wonders whether what he has done is really necessary. It has brought so much strife, so much unnecessary grief into his life; his parents think that he hates them and that he has done it in order to do it to them, in order to hurt them. Why does it have to be about them all the time? This isn't about them; it's about him. It's about him realizing that his whole life has been a lie, that the notion of a personal god with which he has been raised was a lie, that a god like this could not look onward and watch the world fall into the darkness and chaos that it is. And at the same time, because he's been so indoctrinated, because he's been taught this since the time he was a little boy, he cannot get it out of his head, cannot free his mind. He is, therefore, rebelling against God. He is no true atheist for he does believe in God; there is a part of his soul that resonates with him and knows him to exist; he has simply determined that it is his duty and his task to turn away from him, to confront him, to reach out to him in anger and to declare that he sees his cruelty and will not watch it any more.

His parents do not understand this. His parents do not understand the hard task he has set for himself, the tragic role he feels he has to play. He knows that it is his task, he knows that in his turning his back on god he is most eloquently expressing his defense of humanity, of all those who have died or suffered by god's hands or by his indifference. At the same time, he laughs at himself and mocks himself, because who is he to assert that he can make a difference, that turning against god says anything or shows anything at all? He sees himself as a hero but he is bound by the pain and by the tragedy; now he has to move onward, to live his life and be happy, but he does not want to. Because that would suggest an ulterior motive, wouldn't it? That would suggest that the reason he turned away from his religion is not because this is his way of fighting against God; it would instead suggest that he is weak, like the others he has heard about, and that he has turned away simply because he wants the opportunities that have been denied him.

And he cannot face that. No, how can he? He alternates between different states of being; at one point in time he feels like he is on fire, so completely raw and vulnerable and at the same time cold, chilling, a commander, arrogant in all his many forms. It is at that moment that he is invincible, unstoppable; it is at that moment that the words flow from his pen. They are dark words but not melodramatically so; they are the words that express the world in which we live. He is Kafka born again and in those moments he knows it. But afterwards, when the sadness sets in, he doubts everything. He doubts himself, he doubts his motives, he doubts everything that he has written; he sees it all as some kind of mockery, a comedy, an exercise in a farcical act of vanity. That is when he tears everything up, shreds it to pieces, frustrated and angry and at times indolent, lazy, leaning into his couch and simply staring up at the ceiling. He concentrates upon one spot, one spot where the ceiling is sagging, and he looks at it viciously or perhaps detachedly because that is where he will focus all his anger, that calm anger that he does not display.

He is not wild. He is controlled, genial, calm, pleasant. Those whom he does not trust see him this way; they see him in his calm manner, when he is being polite but simultaneously resents the intrusion upon his privacy, when all he desires is for others to leave him alone. He will not say as much. This is not to spare their feelings but usually to spare those of his parents, whom he tries not to hurt more than he has to. He cannot help but feel guilty because of what they see him as having done to them. But at the same time he is angry and resents them, because they insist about making this all about them, and it isn't, it isn't, it has never been. This is about him, about how he is going to live, about his own life.

This is about the fact that he cannot surrender. How can you surrender your own will, your mind, all that is yours to some other creature, even something as lofty and frightening as a god? No, no, he cannot do this; he will not. There will be no surrender of his intellect, of everything that makes him who he is. God does not deserve this. A god who could murder and kill his people, a god who seems indifferent in the face of tragedy and pain, such a god does not deserve his surrender. He is arrogant, yes, but he deserves to take pride in something and he will take pride in this- he has turned his back on God. Yes, knowing that he exists, he has turned his back on him. And he is willing and ready to suffer the consequences. No matter what happens. He has thought about this; he knows all that awaits him in the next world. But none of it matters. Because such a god does not deserve his worship, does not deserve his kindness.

In truth, he is jealous of god. He admits this to himself in his darkest moments, when he is alone. He realizes that he wants to be god, not to have all that power, but simply so that he would not have to surrender to a creature higher than him. He wonders, then, whether all that he has done he has done simply in the name of jealousy, and it is at those moments that he is afraid so he calls someone, the girl of the moment, and he tells her to come over so that he can focus his mind on other things and on other matters. They are all distractions; he doesn't love any of them. Love is a weakness, love is a form of vulnerability, love is a way of exposing oneself. And he doesn't want to expose himself; he doesn't want anyone else to see him. He wants to exist alone, apart, a man for himself, the legendary island.

Except that he doesn't. He knows that there are times when he needs others so he does have those he trusts, those who are his equals and companions in philosophy, art, music, theater, in all things that matter and that interest him. He can respect them while mantaining his own self-respect; he judges them by his criteria and they have passed. So the love that he perhaps feels he channels into his discussion; it is not that there is an increased passion when he speaks about the works he loves but an increased level of detachment, a coolness that masks what he really feels and what he really thinks. He appears to be everything that he should be- debonair, calm, collected, working, sane- but at the same time he realizes that he is none of these things.

He has set himself apart but he feels that he has been set apart from the beginning. It was not his choice. His parents inflicted this upon him, his parents forced him to learn, to understand, to comprehend worlds and ideas that have been pressed upon him. He has to lead an examined life; there is no other choice left to him. He has to do what he feels to be right- and yes, why not admit it? Initially, at least, he was perhaps punishing them for what they had done to him. If he had led a more normal childhood, if he had not been granted brilliance, then perhaps it would all have worked out in a more common manner, and he cannot pretend that at times he does not yearn for that because he does. There are so many times when he thinks about the way it could have been, of all he could have had if only his cursed mind did not demand the truth of him.

But it is not cursed, not truly so, because it is his mind that grants him the freedom to choose, the freedom to realize that he has decided God is a tyrant and as such he will turn his back on him. It is also his mind that allows him to perpetrate the farce of existence where he politely passes by many and confides in the few. In time he will become the enigmatic, dark brooding artist with his cult-following of adolescent girls. Not that he wants their respect; no, he is working for the critics, but more importantly, for himself. He has the highest taste, he has read the most beautiful literary works and therefore his writing and his prose is distasteful to him unless it matches those grand creations. He is certain that he has the capacity, now he must simply force himself to find it.

He will find it. There are times when he is so certain that it will come. But there are other times, the dark times, when he feels that he is a failure, that it was all for nothing, that everything he did, all the sorrow and all the grief that he has caused, was pointless. He destroyed others due to his own vanity and arrogance and it kills him. But he would never admit it. He will flash that debonair smile as amusement twinkles in his eyes, projecting a picture of confidence and wholesomeness. It is not for others to pry into his life. It is not for others to know him at all.


Anonymous said...

Is this man a friend of yours?

haKiruv said...

That's an interesting sketch.

Anonymous said...

The Book on the Living God explains all what you describe about this person, his feelings, and his personal struggles in finding God. It frees the reader of all the dogmas and misconceptions that organized religions have created to burden our souls with. If I may say, he is not revolting against God but against all the false images of that he was given by others. He is correct, he is seeking the truth just as Avraham did, just as all the patriarchs and all the prophets did. However, hard the truth may be to face, I can say that the book mentions that suicide would lead a person's soul to an eternity of life more harsh than any difficulty of living here on earth (not as a punishment by God). He need not accept what he does not accept in his heart but he does have an obligation to make the best of his life. There are two concepts about God that are often ignored in Judaism, we focus only on Elohenu. But there is not truth in Elohenu. The truth is found in verses that describe Elohai and Elohecha.