“We are poised by the superstition of our ego.”
-Ellsworth Toohey, from Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’
I drive to Port Huron often. The long drives pull me through pasture and rolling farmland to the shore another country, a place were no one knows who I am. For the past year or so on these steady, streaming flights I’ve been listening to the soft, fluttering voices of the Cocteau Twins and letting their ethereal melodies lift the air beneath me, bringing me to a high that can only be compared to feeling of being in love. Yet when I return, I approach home through the mudslide of the declining sun, restless soul pressed into the melancholic spindling of the Counting Crows, barely moving at full throttle with Adam Duritz’s voice as the gravity. I run away in search of some sort of wonder-filled peace only because I have found the still small voice of God there before, yet many times I return feeling shaken from a deep sleep, my subconscious bare and my emotions irresolute.
I did this today. After making the trip more worthwhile by spending a few hours with a college friend and her sires, I drove to a park near the Blue Water bridge, sat my chair in the grass and watched the white caps wrestle with the tiny boats in the St. Clair River. I opened Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead,’ and became consumed with the justification of dynamics within it. Lawsuits about the misappropriation of ideas. People marrying people for which they never cared in order to serve other people. Others losing jobs because the expendability of artistic reason. The selfcentered anguish of life decisions gone wrong. My blood pressure went up, and I got anxious. I realized that I was escaping back into reality. Yet I stopped only to pick up my own pen. Something was circling. Something was moving.
There is a small section in the book where Ellsworth Toohey’s niece, Katie, comes to him in a tearful crisis, wanting to know why all of her noble choices have turned into the unfulfilled efforts and the hatred of others. He listens paternally to her rants of self-centered anguish. When she is finished, her uncle he told her to forget who she was, her name, her soul. He told her to do anything to kill the stubborn roots of the ego. And then only when she had let go of everything she ever knew, the spiritual gates of grandeur would swing open before her. She asked innocently who she would be when that happened. He told her that she actually would not have lost her identity, and at that time if she didn’t think too hard she would truly believe. Then she would be part of something beyond herself. She understood. I picked up my journal and scribbled hurriedly as Adam sang:
“Fading everything to black and blue/you look a lot like you could shatter in the blink of an eye/you keep sailing right on through....you’ve been waiting a long time/you’ve been waiting a long time/to fall down/on your knees/cut your hands/cut yourself until you bleed/and fall asleep next to me.”
I have a friend who can’t understand my masochism, takes a hit of Zanax when things are out of control, yet has this amazing grasp of reality. She doesn’t understand why those of us who have grown up together, desperately endeavoring not to be the one in the every four crazies of our disheveled, fundamentalist beginnings, try so hard to do something which should be so easy. I see both sides of the manic-ness, only to remember the look in Jesus’ eye in the film ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ when the angel came to him and said he could get down from the cross. That filmmaker’s Jesus knew too much. That Jesus made a decision to get down. I am glad my Jesus didn’t. He stuck it out, struck through by metal and wood, suffering with wet lungs and nakedness. He traveled to hell and back, a place were we often flippantly claim to go, to obtain a life beyond what we could offer ourselves as well as procure communion with the living God.
I sat beneath a concert tent a week ago with a friend who is not unlike a unique vintage from God’s secret wine cellar. My friend ferments, bettering with age, and at least once each year I try to pull a bottle of him off the shelf for a tip up. And he thinks that I am cool. As we talked in our lawn chairs, I told him I had noticed a change in him, that his sharp edges were worn down and he was smoother. He said that he was more comfortable in his own skin, and he knew the depths of his pridefulness. He was happy with who he was and was contented in the surrender to his current life status. I spilled my dissatisfaction with the chaotic circumstances that surround my peaceful innerworkings. He smiled as he remarked about how interesting it would be to see where my life would be a year from that night. We grew quiet about how much more there would be to say.
The following is what I wrote in my journal today. “I think my vintage friend has found a secret most ignore or are never brave enough to experience. Eggs must break to have the finest of pastries. Old bricks and small stones become concrete. Self-deconstruction must happen not just to know the compass of your pompousness but to know the “I” before you say “I love you.” Post-adolescent angst, pain, and suffering must happen. The deconstruction of unlearning must happen to everything in order to bring not just a grasp on who you are in your own skin, but the realization of belief in the truth. Being the truth.”
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