‘You’re always staring. What are you starting at? Is it me? No, it can’t be me. What is it? Why aren’t you talking? You never talk. Are you listening? I’m not talking to myself, am I? You’re doing it again, that staring that I hate – stare at me, goddammit! I’m here! You’re not fucking listening, are you? You’re just staring. Stop. Please, don’t stare — just for once, please. What do you see that I don’t?’
I’m letting be —
‘You – Don’t let go of me! You’re not allowed. That is completely unacceptable. No. No. No. Absolutely not.
‘I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to die. I just want to drown. You understand that, right? Of all people, you must. So please don’t let go. Say you won’t let go. Promise me. Look at me — but don’t stare, you’re always staring — and promise me that. You owe me that much. You know you do. After all that I’ve done, you owe me this. So do it, promise me. Do it.’
I’ve decided to let go —
* * *
We are, in a sense, already more than comfortable with the paradoxical self-generation I am suggesting here. As a matter of fact, the related notion of having to lose something in order to win something greater is such a natural commonplace as often to be simply taken for granted. Consider, for instance, the clichés of ‘no pain, no gain’; the romantic idealizations of artistic madness – i.e., the tortured artist, who either commits suicide or dies prematurely, thus solidifying their place as a legend; or the special veneration most ascribe to martyrs like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or, even Jesus. Much can be said, too, of the Hollywood archetype exemplified by George Bailey (played by James Stewart) in It’s a Wonderful Life, who only truly knows himself and the importance of his having lived when he is presented with what would have happened had he, per his expressed desire while weighing the decision as to whether he throw himself from a bridge, never have been born. Do we not have here a story of redeemed identity, in which wholeness is snatched from the depths of a self-shattering loss? The story of good old George Bailey is a modern myth, to which millions of weary Christmas and New Years celebrants each year appeal as a temporary respite from the family and friends who probably are not nearly as compassionate and helpful in the end as Bailey’s; and thus, too, as a ritualistic dream for something better than the oppressive capitalist ideology that Mr. Potter represents, for the personal wholeness, health, and safety of Capra’s socialist salvation in which the value of family and friends is greater than that of money.
More recently, David Brooks of the New York Times employs a similar logic, but to a very different effect, when he describes the politically charged paradox of the most recent U.S.-led Gulf War:
Now, looking ahead, we face another irony. To earn their own freedom, the Iraqis need a victory. And since it is too late for the Iraqis to have a victory over Saddam, it is imperative that they have a victory over us. If the future textbooks of a free Iraq get written, the toppling of Saddam will be vaguely mentioned in one clause in one sentence. But the heroic Iraqi resistance against the American occupation will be lavishly described, page after page. For us to succeed in Iraq, we have to lose. This means the good Iraqis, the ones who support democracy, have to have a forum in which they can defy us. If the insurgents are the only anti-Americans, then there will always be a soft spot for them in the hearts of Iraqi patriots (2004: A23)
In other words, for the United States’ (stated) goal of freedom and democracy to be achieved in Iraq, authentic anti-Americanism must not only be allowed, but actually fomented. What I wish to suggest is that, appearances (and undoubtedly Brooks’ conservative revulsion to my interpretation of his editorial) notwithstanding, we are far more justified in thinking of this ostensibly cynical suggestion, at least theoretically, as a more profound example of theological love than the depiction of self-redemption in, to wit, It’s a Wonderful Life. It is in this sense of love as loss that we can suggest a truly perverse gospel: in which salvation of self is theologically less redemptive than the sin (of the word / of the voice) that sets us free.
* * *
‘You said it at least once, didn’t you? You said it, sometime, in a whisper, I heard you so don’t try to deny it like you always do — you’re always lying, you know that?. You said it or you wrote it — what’s the difference? Is there a difference? You said it – I know you did. You said it and I was alive. The sun was brilliant like Baal emerging from the earth in the east, and the waves, they were calm and we were one island, us against them, and we were singing those unchristian songs you knew by heart to that insouciant city on a hill wearing its sinside inside without a soul in sight.
‘What do you need now? Don’t you see that I have it? Don’t you know that I dream of you every night? I dream of ripping myself open, my chest, cracking the breast plate, howling under the weight of the pain, my heart pounding, blood gushing, all for you, begging you to peek inside, and when you do, you gasp because you’re ready to drown in all the blood and the pain and the love, oh yes, the love. And you pull away with blood on your hands, because I did that for you, pulled myself apart so that you might see, and touch, and taste the blood, all that blood and pain for you — you didn’t know a heart could pump so much blood, did you? You didn’t know this, did you?
‘Do you know I wake up wanting to dream that same dream all over again? I don’t want to wake up. I don’t ever want my eyes to open. I want to dream blind, with my eyes hollowed out. I want only to hear that crack and feel your fingers against me, inside me, pulling me closer, your face against the tear, peeking, staring, at the love that gave this to you.’
Don’t you know it’s all the same —
* * *
[more to come]