Looking Back For ward

Looking forward
Originally uploaded by jason.ting.
Though it’s Christmas season, I watched the film Twilight last week after hearing so much about the story. And much has been written and will be in the years to come as the rest of the trilogy is released in film form. What struck me for the brief moments I wasn’t caught up in the storyline were the complexity of the story itself, and the characters…something more like real life. For all it’s teen angst hints and quips and bad one-liners, there is no way this would have made the silver screen when I was a teenager. It had way too much depth and creativity. Something that was hard to come by in the 80’s mainstream cinema. Walking out of the theater I thought how most of our lives are a mix and jumble of conflicting emotions and encounters with the Real as they bump against the shallow daydreams we make for ourselves.

Later in the week, after various conversations with friends about what they are navigating in their current life, I was struck with a similar conclusion: we are complex individuals full of conflict with joys and sorrows and misunderstanding, and nobody gets out of here without their scars and limps. And, yet, I admit that I keep hoping this isn’t the case. That this truth is now more than ever crafted in the films we watch says something about the state of our humanity.

I know I want for things to be simpler than they are, for people to be more together than they are, and for my past not to haunt me the way it does in unexpected moments. Yet, this past week I was bugged by how every Christmas I get this feeling of alone-ness. Not loneliness. Alone. Every year it happens and finally I just turned around asked “what the hell is this all about?” Quick as that I was taken back to the year my dad remarried. I was 12-13ish, and it was very soon after the divorce. The wedding was in Long Island, NY at Christmas time – on my brother’s birthday to be exact. All my memories about it have always been cold and dark and filled with shadows like some Dickens /Tim Burton story. The impact of that time was so profound that I wrote a short-story about it for a Rhetoric term paper and it was hailed with praise by the professor and staff – thus proving that heartache and pain can make for good writing. In looking back I was able to see just how alone I was during the whole experience. I was just a kid, for crying out loud, and my world had just fallen apart and now I was in a strange land – Long Island – amidst a strange new family that talked funny and absolutely nothing was familiar. I didn’t want to be there, and I am pretty sure neither did my brother – poor kid was sharing his birthday with a wedding day and new step-mom. At the end of it all I came to some conclusion that Christmas will always be like this – alone in the midst of so many others celebrating family. And that conclusion has made it’s way into my Decembers ever since.

The fact is, though, that it isn’t always like that. If God is who he says he is, then I wasn’t alone even though I felt it; and I won’t be alone now. It is Christ’s mass, after all, the absurd reality of Creator joining his creation in all their mucky muck and happiness. If anything I got from looking back at that one Christmas in my teens was seeing things, once again, from Another’s perspective and thus drawing a very different conclusion of what will be. In the words of Dan Craig's "Afterglow," "You're not alone/ Sometimes I don't believe it either/ But it's been shown/that it's the hurt makes the healer/feel like home."

Rabbis call this teshuva - the act of returning to whom you meant to be can change who we were. It cannot change what we did, but it can change the meaning of what we did. In so doing, it can change the future.” Kushner says of this act, ”Don’t make teshuva because it will make some pain go away. Make teshuva because it will send you back to who you were, change it into who you meant to be and in so doing change you into whom you might still become.” And notice that the act of returning doesn’t just impact my self, it impacts “we,” the rest of the world. Very Ubuntu indeed.

We are complex individuals that make up an even more complex whole. We want the fairy tale, but the fairy tale does not come without it’s darkness and the best fairy tales are far more multidimensional than we would like to admit – it only takes a moment in one’s life story to see that reality.

Maybe the saying is spot on: "Not everything that happened is true, nor did everything that is true necessarily happen" - E.W.