Monday, October 6, 2014

The Perils of Augustine, Rousseau, Proust and A Fault In Our Stars - all in one week

Last night, I gave into the temptation to wallow. Brian and I watched, The Fault in Our Stars. From the first few minutes in, I found myself shocked at how different the experience of a camera, as a narrator, would make the entire story. My favorite device the author uses is a book within a book, where the characters encounter the phrase, “Pain demands to be felt.” What could be more true? Perhaps, the corollary that “Love demands to be given?”

When I read the book, on a transcontinental SFO to JFK United flight, I didn’t shed a single tear. Although I prefer to pretend otherwise, books and movies make me cry. I have been known to be the really unstable bawling and sniffling chick with the cashmere turtleneck pulled up to her eyes in 7B (more than once). What makes me different than the typical really unstable bawling and sniffling chick with the cashmere turtleneck pulled up to her eyes in 7B is that I am reading something Stiglitz wrote about income inequality and remain happily married.

There I sat, on my blue sofa, in a ratty t-shirt, shocked when the tears streamed down my face. I discovered one of the reasons I hate crying has nothing to do with losing control, fearing vulnerability, or being told that no one likes a cry baby. It’s that the physical sensation of crying is horrible.

My body heats up. I feel claustrophobic in my own skin. I sweat. This is not polite glowing. A salty stream of sweat stings my invariably slightly sunburned neck, creeping down my chest, where it becomes cold,  forcing me to notice that its reached my navel. My “rosy” face becomes purple and the whites of my eyes turn pinkish red. To complete the image, my nose runs a hot, clear, liquid and I never have a tissue.

The reaction I was having was not to watching two star crossed lovers, but to knowing that people die leaving things unfinished.  All those meals never eaten, songs left unsung, chances to choose kindness missed, sunsets unwatched, babies' laughter unheard. Yet, if we are there and eat those meals, sing those songs, watch the sunsets and make the babies laugh, we bring the lost along with us. We never stop loving people when they die. That is our privilege -  to live with their love. That remains. And it gives us hope.

My apologies, I re-read Augustine, Proust and Rousseau for a class over the past week – this can’t continue much longer. I can barely stand myself. God, forgive us our pretentiousness, we know not the boredom it causes.

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