Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finding What We Want

I own four leather-bound journals. They're nice: parchment paper and a ribbon page mark along the spine. I spared no expense. I bought the journals in a tumultuous part of my life with the expectation of writing something in them, and I wanted the presentation to mean something. At the time, I had an urge to write. I think I wanted to apologize.

Look, when I'm dead, someone - somewhere - is going to want an explanation. They're going to want to know who I was, where I lived, how I lived, and why I made the choices that I made. Better yet, they're going to want to know what I stood for. I thought the journals could help.

Everybody in my family tells me that I look a lot like my grandfather. Well, my grandfather died when I was 12 so I barely had a chance to know him. And as an adult, I've had questions: I wanted an explanation - who he was, what choices he made, what he stood for. If I'm so much like him, it stands to reason that knowing my grandfather could be an "Idiot's Guide" to me. Could have been useful. Still, nobody had much of anything. Just memories.

Some choose to live in a space outside of themselves: looking in and watching. Kind of like watching television or the warped reflection of life on the rippling surface of a pond. Journals are like that. Instead of living in the moment, you become the archivist of the past; they give you an opportunity to critical debate what you see. What you have, what you don't have... what you could have; where you went; what potential was wasted in the time you had.

A little journaling is healthy. Insightfulness about yourself might spur corrective action. We can learn from our mistakes, take change seriously and make better choices. Yet, too much could be distracting and risking obsessive behavior: re-writing our past to make it more presentable to the future audience; conveniently repackaging facts; absently forgetting what you've got. It is too easy: instead of the journal reflecting on the goodness of life, the journal runs the risk of lamenting the life you don't lead, or, serving as a fantasy to distract us from the life - the good life - we've got.

The journal keeps us from finding what we want by obscuring what we've already got.

Maybe that's why my grandfather never left me any explanations or apologies. No trace but the ethereal of memory. Maybe he was too busy living the life he had and appreciating it for what it was, and I'm supposed to sort it out on my own.


No comments: