Thursday, October 23, 2008

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin


I have always preferred the company of books. Other than 'Happy Days', I can't really call anything I watched regularly that wasn't sports. 'The World At War', 'Wild Kindom' and George Perot's travel show were things that caught my attention.

Leroy 'Encyclopedia Brown' and his friend Sally Hemmings were two of my 'bests friends'. Between the two of them, they would solve cases often by doing thing that I do, noticing the little things, and finding the discrepensy between people as they are, as they want you to think they are, then finding their main interest for doing something.

People tend to do things that are in their own interests, so the trail was usually 'warm'. It was a matter of finding that thread and pulling until the story unraveled.

'The Inferno' came into my life through a comic book, where they used Dante's work as a storyline. I thought the comic book was good, and finding out that there was a real story that provided the base, meant I had to read it! So I did, and man oh man, I loved it. I would read that again and again, though I prolly hadn't since I turned thirty. There are times where I wonder what circle I am in, and if I can somehow find my way out ... was my relationship with Mookie my 'purgatory'?

In the Army, my barracks in Korea was a stones throw from the rec center, where the library was at. Don't know if anyone has been on Army post, but in my mind, you want for NOTHING. Libraries are LIBRARIES. I have visited colleges that did not have the materiel that some military base libraries have! Anywho, it was there, just looking for a book to keep me company on a Saturday night (which at the time, was a choice thing ... the pathetic 'home alone, undesired, Mark' was checked at the gate when I left for basic training. Hadn't had to be 'lonely' until I got back with Mookie), and I picked up a collection of the works of Nikolai Golgol. I had heard of him, maybe read an exerpt or two. So I took a chance.

His best known work? 'The Overcoat' comes to my mind, but something else may come to yours. But his story about some nameless clerk, a minor, minor cog in the bureacracy of early 19th century Russia and his delusions spoke to me. 'Diary of a Madman', his story of how he became obsess with the beautiful daughter of his bureau's director, echoed what was then a fading sentiment in my life. But at the time, it was still strong. He fantasy relationship with someone far above his social station reminded me that I was always, always, going to be someone who was not in the loop, someone who was always going to be, not for any reason other than who he is, an outsider.

Some teacher gave me Richard Wright's 'Black Boy' when I was in jr. high. Read that and read 'Native Son', which was a good read, but I didn't identify at all with Bigger Thomas. But Cross Damon ..?

Black folks have some serious, serious issues amongst themselves. We reflect each other, and sometimes I think it is the sight of the ignorance, the lack of opportunity, and the inablity to change the arc of their lives, is what drives the black on black crime and disrespect. I don't know of any other group who openly sells hurtful depections of themselves to be consumed en masse for profit.

The irony of all the garbage we (yeah, cause I am not only a commentator on it, but a piece of the driving force behind it) celebrate our 'ignorance' and then want respect from the wider society. You can't have it both ways, people. I have struggled with finding the one path to walk and let branches come of it, rather than walking down a branch that eventually leads to a dead end.

Cross Damon, the protagonist (to me) of the 'Outsider'. He finds himself caught as a smart cat, trapped by the limited expectations of a black man. In a crap marriage, a chance happening leads him to take on a new identity and a new life. But the weight of who he can't be and what he can't compromise in his vision leads to a sad, sad end for him.

So if I hadn't had 'forgiveness' in me by then, I did after I read that book. Make no mistake, I never once blamed anything or anyone for my circumstance, from getting picked on, to marrying the wrong person. I did all that. But I have always believed in the power of forgiveness. In Cross Damon, I saw QUITE a bit of myself in, but he couldn't forgive those around him, he couldn't get over his circumstance ... he didn't know it, but in small, incremental ways, he had given himself over to the very things he fought hard against.

That is why his end was such a sad, pathetic one. I keep him in my mind, to remind me to never, never give up. Everything has been given to me, so that means it is UP TO ME. People talk about 'taking responsiblity', and how to do it, but there isn't a lot of talk about forgiveness, to others as well as to ourselves.


But I have written a few pages. I will pick up from here another time. Meanwhile, enjoy this song by Colin Hay. Real good song, real approriate, dontcha know.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Love how reading was such an important and defining part of your early life. Both Beth and I are voracious readers, it is just that what we read has changed over the years :o)

Tawnya said...

I LOVED Encylopedia Brown books!!! They rocked!!!