Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Year That God Was Dead

There's a.

There's a. There's a.

All children grow up...except one.

"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." So said Marx in 1852.

"At 12:01 AM, exactly one year ago, I remember I was standing on the edge of Arthur's Court - the neighborhood I grew up in. All the three story houses glowed with Christmas lights brightening up their grand backyards and driveways to accommodate boats and suburbans..."

In the very last moments of December 2008, I stood at the edge of my neighborhood facing a vastness more alien and assuming than I'd ever known, sensing somehow I'd later wish it was a year I could have skipped. Here, in the last moments of 2010, I indeed find myself wondering, but more about 2010.

And yet, both because of my choices and because of things outside my ability to choose, 2009 and 2010 will go down as an interwoven single thread of two strands, as if they are together one year. One terrifying, exciting, incredibly wasted year.

There's a.

Well, maybe not a completely wasted year. In the spring of 2008, I saw the ocean for the first time, the Atlantic Ocean. It was like an encounter with a god, or a black hole, or some cosmically and epically unknowable thing, and in May 2010 I flew over it to England. I learned a lot about myself while I lived in London for six weeks I never could have learned otherwise, and yet I'd never have pictured myself really traveling to and all over England...

"Small wonder that when a gay guy comes along weeks later claiming to have visions and revelations from God about my life, I don't believe him."

Oh. Wait. Because last year, I met somebody who did see me traveling to and all over England. And I didn't really take him seriously because that was prefaced with the phrase, "God revealed you to me..." I do have to wonder if I might have taken that young, black, and respectful guy more seriously if it was with a crystal ball. Or maybe the I Ching. Or...oh, fuck, what's the difference, right?

Because it's December (and, in the story of my life, it's apparently one of "those" Decembers), and it's the last moments of 2010, and spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically, I couldn't be farther away from where I was in the last moments of 2009. Which is to say: I feel I'm almost exactly where I was just as 2009 was moments away from beginning. Which is to say: I don't find myself necessarily wishing there was time to skip time, but that time in fact did skip, and I'm wondering where the fucking hell the past two years of my life went - other than, not to put too fine or metaphorical a point on it, straight to fucking hell.

What does hell look like, anyway? Well, I can tell you what it feels like: there's something, like a blink. Something goes out, then it returns, but slightly different, and it's difficult to see the difference until -

"Even now I try to remember the last three months and everything only comes in snatches. The checks bounced, the record player skipped. There was a power outage so brief you wouldn't have noticed except for that slight delay on all the clocks around the house. Absolutely nothing happened, and everything that did happen occurred all at once."

See, the thing is, when I start to look back, things really do start to repeat themselves. The first time it's pathetic and empty, and ultimately kinda sad, lost and nothing can be atoned for. The second time, though, it's all forced and hammy, theatrical and outrageous, and ultimately like the most banal comedy you can imagine.

"A mysterious alien thing too tiny to see has come from nowhere, invaded my throat and wrapped my body in so much continual pain that I'm prevented from even whispering."

I had such strange resolve when I found that the virus was back again, in my throat. I was weirdly resigned to enduring last year's pain again, even if it had to be for weeks again. And so the only thing that truly disturbed me was not that the sickness might have returned, but that it was over in less than a few hours of its discovery just by a slight brushing away. Like that, I was cured, it was over. That's also what happened last year...but it took much, much longer than a few hours for it to happen.

There's a. There's a. There's a.
There's a. There's a. There's a. There's a. Th -

There's a kind of feedback loop, and just when you start to detect there's something wrong in the way you've been keeping time, reality quickly rearranges itself. You aren't in control. Of anything.

"Go to hell, Everything. You have confused the mother living fuck out of me."

That sounds a little like the way my little brother described Inception to me a few days ago, when he was telling me it was the movie that got him to think the most this year. I've heard similar from many others, and I wish I could say Inception was just as mind-challenging to me. But the funny thing is something far more pretentious challenged me more: the Joaquin Phoenix film I'm Still Here. I think it's a film that will haunt me for a bit longer. Along with other films this year like it, such as Black Swan, it's gotten me thinking about a lot of things I don't like thinking about.

"I suppose things don't seem all too different since the spring. I still write out my musings in the company of strangers who drag their American Spirits and their Marlboros, bitching about professors and bosses. I still improvise fragments of a blues tune in the shower when the roommates are out. I have a Pendelton whiskey in the freezer and a gradually emptying box of Lucky Strikes on my table. I check my mailbox even when I haven't ordered any cartel from Amazon to stick my fix. I measure out my indifference with myself and my life in Facebook sessions and regular size scalding cups of sweetened Americano. These all are symptoms of my summer waste. The buzzing, the static. I spent more time in love with all the distractions and decorations my Visa could afford my boredom."

In the blogosphere and elsewhere, I've heard the 00s called "The Decade of Broken Dreams." I can't help but wonder if we haven't gotten over it yet. As Americans, anyway. But maybe it doesn't matter, because I obviously can't. Obama's in office, and...and what? Wasn't that election time filled with, as Zizek notes, such Kantian enthusiasm for the future? It was infectious. I think everybody had that enthusiasm, and not just for the election - for our own individual futures. A week ago, I was with a friend who made an accidental turn down an old street; apologizing, he said, "Sorry, I guess it was 2008." I replied in joking, "Well, hooray - Obama just got elected." We laughed then, but I later wondered if there's ever anyone else who sometimes catches themselves wishing it was autumn 2008, and you're counting down to November 5th. Because I do.

Zizek certainly has much to say about that, but to me, it goes beyond just a failure of revolutionary tendencies, and I mean on a personal level. If anything, that was this year for me, and what makes films like Black Swan and I'm Still Here so haunting to me: I'm asking myself what happens after the party ends, after the world ends, and after God is dead. Who's excited and hopeful then? If you find there's no God, does it necessarily follow you find there's no Satan, either?

"I could see the beginning of things, and I could see myself in the middle of some eternally marching time machine, with a million plans and every possible kind of lie. And I saw how it could end, everything - the big capital End of everything."

That's what happens - you meet the Devil. And meet him I did, in London. Trouble is, he didn't take "Leave me alone, holy fuck" when I ran into him - he followed me across that gigantic ocean. Back here to Happy Valley, Utah/America, where young people were committing suicide.

There's a........

Ah, right. Suicide stories. Those too. "If there is a God, and He is loving - more to the point, a 'perfect' God, and His command is a 'natural' one, then how did it make any sense that a 'homosexual' even exists? I felt like an anomaly, some hiccup in the Great Eternal Plan, and marriage was a holy recreation of Beckett's frightening endgame. And it felt sickening to literally be a freak of 'nature' every minute of every day. The ultimate concern was not whether or not I could 'overcome' the attractions, but whether or not I could live happily with myself and my choice long afterwards. And, as ever in the Church, we are talking about forever here."

So here I am now, going on four years later. And not a lot to show for it, it seems. Kinda like I wasted years of my life away.

It's just suspicious, and not just the missing, god-shaped hole in my memories. It's the synchronicity. It makes you paranoid, uncomfortable. And it's everywhere. No pun intended - if the Devil doesn't get me first, Nothing will. Nothing maybe already did. Do I even remember anymore? Time has already broken down and in the future, be it twenty minutes from now, twenty hours, or twenty days, this entire entry has already become meaningless.

"But then something happened in the Neverland."

Right. There was that.

Everywhere and nowhere. Everything at once. And then nothing. Last December. I think I like to pretend it was terribly important, and I think I do that because it's easier than learning the real lesson of What Happened, which is the question I asked just before the apocalypse hit my retinas: "What's the difference between all these stories I keep telling myself?" And now I live in a world of the aftermath. Religion doesn't prepare you for this. And neither does atheism. Medicine, science, art - nothing prepares you for what happens next.

There's a bridge.

Ah...well. That much I have figured out, I guess.

There's a bridge. It's black, and cagey. And I'm at the end.

That's what the future looks like. It looks like goodbye. Like a few tears, then the punchline. Maybe birth, maybe death. Like history repeats itself - first as tragedy, then as farce.

All children, except one, grow up. "To die," he once said, "would be an awfully big adventure!" I hope so, Peter. I hope so.