Have you ever felt like a character from Revolutionary Road? I have. More times than I can count. One of the gifts of Richard Yates’ to the world was his ability to look fearlessly at the world. A writer of what I call kitchen sink dramas, Richard Yates had the unique ability to make the most prosaic moments of life seem like the sinking of the Titanic. Which is real. Who hasn’t had an argument with a loved one, whether that be mother, father, sister, son, that has felt pregnant with the question: How do I get out of this one alive? Richard Yates writes those arguments. He lived the way he wrote, too. He lived fearlessly and was unafraid to make mistakes. He lived life like the living itself was an artform that he didn’t quite know how to master, but he was unafraid to try. If you have a perplexing personal crisis, I recommend you give Richard Yates a try. I find he has a lot in common with Jackson Pollock.
So it has all come to this. I woke up this morning as I wake up most mornings now. Recently, I came back from my Seven Years in Japan. At the time, I planned to write a book called Halfway Home. I had spent the most part of six weeks blogging everyday, and trying to cram all of life into a very small box of time. I was living as though the test would be held tomorrow: you know, that test where after death one is either interrogated by God, interrogated by the self, or comes back for yet another shot at this strange and messy thing called life. Do you know that test? I’m sure you’ve at least read about it or seen it captured on camera. What do you take away from the fire? I mean, I’d had this extraordinarily messy relationship with my wife where there seemed so many things to say that had been left unsaid because neither of us knew our lines. I had formed this intense bond with my animal, my child substitute, my little man, my dog, Seraph. Don’t call him a toy poodle, because, for me he was the furthest thing from a toy. Even though he often behaved like some sort of crazy, windup, thing with Everlasting batteries. And I had all of these half formed relationships with people living now halfway across the world. And I couldn’t take any of those things with me.
I couldn’t even take my real stuff. All of the CDs and novels and books and memorabilia that you acquire in seven years of not-quite-living sits unused in an apartment a long way away.
So what do I have now? I have a computer that my father bought me, food my parents buy, a very small amount of savings, two blogs and a self-started charity that very few people seem interested in. And I have a pristine view of trees, blue skies, a million people to meet in a city I once knew well, some sort of ill-defined relationship with my wife, and all the books I could ever read. I have the web, two good fingers for typing (I don’t know how to use the rest), a functional body.
Thank God I am alive. In my next post I might write about all of the wonderful things I am finding on the web. Oh, first, I better change out of my pyjamas, and have a shave. What a glorious Sunday morning.
PS: Last night, I went to an Indian dinner at my parent’s church. The church was hosting some visitors from East Timor. I didn’t know anyone and I felt quite alone. There was a barbershop group singing accapella (spellcheck? who cares?) that really wasn’t my cup of tea. So I went outside, smoked a cigarette, and helped a man do the washing up.
A gatha from Thich Nhat Hanh:
Washing the dishes
is like bathing a baby Buddha.
The profane is the sacred.
Everyday mind is Buddha’s mind.