Friday, 20 January 2017

On the awful sterility of things having to make sense

M has a particular look she gives me whenever I use the expression I don’t know if I did the right thing. We both realise that she doesn’t have to say a word for me to understand what this signifies. There is no right decision, only decisions. You will hurt people, and you have to get over it. Your boundaries are yours to choose and others may not understand them. It is intention that matters most.

Allowing space for my own complexities doesn’t come naturally. Letting go of the compulsion to explain, taking the risk of not being understood or being thought badly of, are gut-wrenching prospects.

But devoting time to things I don’t believe to be worthwhile is killing my compassion. And the awful backdrop of the Brave New World we find ourselves in today kindles defiance in me as much as it breathes melancholy. I feel that we are inclining more and more towards reductionism and its manifestations are everywhere.

I see it in myself at a personal level when I try to bridge divides that in truth are great chasms in understanding and viewpoint. When I pretend to myself that I can understand someone whose words or actions nevertheless trigger a sense of something deeply wrong, for the sake of being open-minded, for the sake of wanting the world around me to make sense.

Denying my need to let go when there are insurmountable barriers to understanding has created a rage that I have swept aside for so much of my life. Wanting to be likeable, warm-hearted, generous, I have pretended there wasn’t something much fiercer churning away inside me.  

But the only way I stand a chance of understanding anyone is by not trying to be understood by everyone. It seems that the stakes are so much higher these days, with what feels like a world spinning faster and faster out of control.

So I have made myself a promise, because I only have so much space and so much time. I will let go of what I have tried, and failed, to understand or connect with. I will allow myself to rage against injustice and lack of respect in all the forms I encounter them, and I will struggle against my own inclinations to be peaceable and accommodating to people who demonstrate them when I know I am doing it for the sake of social convention, or my belief that things have to be in order or make sense.

But I will keep looking for meaning, nuance and new ways to understand this world that overwhelms me with its complexity and its inconsistency. I will seek out art that disconcerts and unsettles me. I will see the beauty and the brutality in people, but I will not interact meaningfully with them out of a sense of obligation; the ones who get real space are those who spark joy or passion.

I will accept that I may hurt people and that the alternative to doing so is living in a world of bland sterility, where I am afraid to say what I believe to be true. I will stop expecting everything to make sense.

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