Monday, August 26, 2013

do not spit, holy place

"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze." 
-Catherine of Sienna

One day I went to a Darty.
I know, I know a darty. (a party that happens during the day. because we need a special name for that, you know)
These things happen.
I am in college.

Sidebar: also, being in college, we sometimes frequent those local watering holes called bars.
Here's the deal with that, folks.

There is a magical time when going to a college bar is just that--magical.
That's when you have a certain number of friends--one or two--that you are There With. As in, you go off and wander about, socializing, talking with the Interesting People about interesting things. Meeting new people, re-meeting people, finally meeting that one person you always creepily knew about, but never actually met.
This is all very good.
But, lo, we are pigeon-livered, and we find extended socializing--unless with our nearest and dearest friends or a bevy of friendly squirrels-- exhausting.
Armed with an inconceivably large summer shandy and the excitement that goes with a bunch of pretty young human beings all finding their interesting selves in one room, the exhaustion of being interested and interesting is staved off for a time.
But it will inevitably catch up with you.
And so, [this is the really crucial step] you retreat into the warm security of the two or three friends who you are There With.
You laugh about how you stepped on the cute boy's toe and looked like an absolute goon, you share stories from the Interesting Mutual Friends you have all been talking to--you welcome an Interesting Person who is floating on the outer environs of your happy little inner circle in for a bit of laughter and normalcy. You create a magic little circle of laughter and friendship, a small beacon of light and joy.
It is in this little happy circle that you don't have to deal with interest, interesting, or interested.
Here is where you simply are yourself.
Albeit perhaps a heightened version of yourself, given the strength, width, depth and breadth of that summer shandy, but simply yourself.
If you're like me, that means you end up snort-laughing quite a bit.
Mostly just because you can--it's a highly entertaining bad habit.

But that is the magical sort of night at a bar that everyone loves--with the people who love it when you snort-laugh, with just the right amount of summer shandy to increase the frequency of the snorts.

I wasn't at a bar.
I was at a Darty.
And so, at this Darty, I ran into an acquaintance I hadn't seen since sophomore year. This is how senior year sometimes works at Notre Dame. You don't see people for entire junior years, because many of your brethren are gone traveling the world and becoming cultured at some point, so there's a lot of interesting things to hear about.
One of my acquaintances had also spent his summer in India.
And so we had a frank discussion about what it means to have a summer in India. It means waking up each day, and thinking: well, maybe I'll get hit by that bus today, or maybe I will eat something that will tear my stomach into confetti-like shreds.
Survival feels like a daily gambling game sometimes.
But you keep on living anyways, because that's what it's always like to live in a world saturated in death.
It's just that we're very good about forgetting about death.
It's easy to forget that everyday that you wake up and every night you go to bed may in fact be the last one.
In India, both of us had found it less easy to forget that.
But we are human, and it is in our nature to adapt.
Those first three weeks, as you gingerly climb onto a over-crowded bus, barely able to find a foothold, you think: wow. I may die.
But you choose to keep waking up and going outside.
And that's the daily action that we call living.
Eventually you hop out of the bus with the closest imitation of easy nonchalance that a Kolkata bus allows.
Every time you alight from a bus, a miracle has occurred--you have made it out alive.
It was a good summer, quoth this boy, but I wouldn't go back.
Before I even had a chance to think about my words, they leaped from my heart and out of my mouth:
Oh, I'd go back in a heartbeat.
I could hardly believe I'd said those words.
Ah, what a piece of work is man.
How soon he forgets the incessant mosquito bites, and the perpetual layer of dirt. How easily he has reverted back into a world with air-conditioning and showers that actually clean you for longer than five minutes.
How soon he has forgotten what it means to be drenched in sweat and smell like a mating chimpanzee.
How finite in faculty.
How easily man can forget.
And yet, indeed Hamlet, in apprehension how like a god!
For those little quotidian annoyances really do melt before an undeniable and irresistible experience of beauty.

The difficult, distressing and annoying, the dumb, stupid, inefficient, nasty, and putrid would have been too much for my sad little heart without that little core of irresistible and unquenchable beauty lying at the center.
The beauty's radiance bubbled over, overwhelming all the distressing and transformed it into something breath-takingly lovely.
And it calls to you each day, so that the words "Oh I'd go back in a heartbeat" leap off your tongue before you know that they are actually yours.
But the core of beauty is not across the ocean or up in the sky--it is right in front of your eyes.
Sometimes its easier to long to return to the clear view from a mountain-top than learn to see in the fog of the valley.
Not every day can be a honeymoon. And not every night at a bar will be magical.
But you make the choice to wake up every day--this is the daily choice we call living.
Rising from your bed is easier, if there is a little sun of irresistible and unquenchable beauty rising in the east as you rise from sleep.

Love on, sings Beatrice, I will requite thee. 

1 comment:

  1. Renaynay! So I decided to spend a little time on your blog today. AND I LOVE THIS! I feel like I've never been able to relate so closely to a piece of writing in my life. Dramatic but true! You're great!