Today I continue to struggle with the inadequacy of everything I have to say. On the other hand I continue to SAY it. It’s the human impulse, to spurt out our innermost selves, to have them validated by the other, even a fictional other that may or may not exist. You, dear reader.
Paul Simon sang: “Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears.”
Bob Dylan sang, angry:
“Who killed Davey Moore? Why and what’s the reason for?
It was destiny, it was fate, it was God’s will.”
Isaiah said: “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor.”
And Jesus said: “Woe is the child-bearing woman, the woman with a baby at her breast.” (Matthew 24:19)
Why? Because in loving others we always open ourselves up to disappointment, death, grief?
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Here, here. In my heart.
I find it easier and more comforting sometimes to believe that we are all just animals, and animals live and die by chance, by fate, by the exigencies of mutant DNA. Like I am driven forward inexorably not by my own force of will but by biology. Involuntarily, without a choice. Only characters in fiction can say no their biology. Us living creatures, as neurobiology increasingly suggests, are driven forward by the cortical response in our amygdala, forcing us to eat, to sleep, to mourn, to procreate despite the woes of procreation.
I feel this cloying need for other people’s approval and validation and love, but only people I deem worthy, and when I receive it I no longer deem them worthy, like Woody Allen not wanting to be a member of any club that’d let him join. This endless neediness makes human relationships so hard, and my neediness itself seems another trick of my maladaptive evolutionary brain, an evolutionary need for a troglodytic tribe, a community, oxytocin. It’s easiest to think of it that way, that I am a slightly more complex monkey, 99 percent the same as a chimpanzee, pounding away on my cosmic keyboard. My overdeveloped consciousness yet another trick of mother evolution.
Betsy Scholl, Maine poet laureate and my friend, says in her poem “Bass Flute”:
“No talk here of Meaning,
it’s all ing,
raw urge that nudges the wall between
music and noise.”
It is so, so much easier and more comforting to believe that nothing means anything. I used to question how pure materialists survived, because if I stopped believing in God and Holy Spirit and the noumenal I’d immediately off myself, because then what reason is there not to? But there is a reason, naturally, again—sheer biology. The force that through the green fuse drives the flower also drives me away from death, towards survival, all my ancestors, the force of their genetics driving me to live, live, breed, live, breathe my last breath far, far away from here.
It is so comforting that I cannot believe it. It’s too easy. Another trick of the devil, convincing me he doesn’t exist, that he doesn’t live inside of us, inside of me, in my brain, in my head, in my endless rounds of self-recrimination, self-doubt, self-consciousness.
“For the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear; but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind.”
God is here, in the love Karl and I have for each other. In the love I have for my sister, distant in grief and space and time. In the love I have for those who have died.
Today also I make bread, as I do often in winter. Mixed dry ingredients sit atop my fridge awaiting water, kneading, my careful hands. Also awaiting gluten, a needed ingredient for a primarily whole-wheat recipe I’m trying, which requires additional gluten to obtain a light, airy crumb, as opposed to the dense, doughy breads enriched with oatmeal and eggs and milk I tend to bake. It’s funny to me with all the hype about gluten-free that I’m waiting to make bread till I can find a place to buy extra gluten, which is, after all, just the protein in wheat. My mom used to always add an extra tablespoonful to her bread-machine recipes. Sonia and I used to joke around, when we went to the vegan cafe near her house, that we’d order our squash mac-and-cheese “with extra gluten,” but here I am, waiting around for extra gluten.
The gluten is the protein that forms the architecture of the bread, inside which the yeast bubbles are able to solidify, grow, lift. The gluten is in the flour, milled from grain, grown from seed that each summer again sprouts. Winter turns to summer, snow melts to rain, the green fuse drives the germ to awake, to send forth its budding head. Jesus, of course, is our bread, the bread of life, and perhaps the Spirit is his gluten, allowing the God who lives within to bubble and grow.
Each day layers on the next. Again I grieve. Again I surrender. Again I pray: give me today my daily bread.