Posted by: Ascentury | Thursday, 19 February 2009

Slices of flesh

There are rare Moments in life in which one can truly feel the axis of the world tilting, and one’s various lives can conflate into a single infinite movement. The past few weeks I have felt as if I am close to being happier than I have ever been–a crisis of faith and self. It’s the same thread, really, as my last poem.

The funny thing is that it hasn’t come as the result of reading or prayer. It’s grown out of understanding myself better, especially my deepest motives. It’s something I can barely speak of even to those close to me.

But I can write it down.

I’m tired of pretending–pretending to care about things I cannot care about, pretending to cherish ideals I despise, pretending to be something I will never wish to be. I could become that other person–that is part of what frightens me–but I will not. I’ve come to understand myself better, and in so doing I now look back on my life and understand why I was lonely or happy or afraid.

I felt not long ago as a grape being trod upon, swelling and cracking and bursting. I burst finally in a flare of searing honesty, so much that I felt odd for days afterwards that I had laid so much of myself open.

There’s a kind of honesty, I discovered, that takes a lot of courage to have. It requires looking into oneself, and truly dealing with the dark secrets that haunt one’s soul. But it was the most liberating thing I’ve done, and I’m starting to see the hope in the gospel, even as I feel it wrested from my grasp. I feel that I can Repent and as Atropos cut the threads of the past, the continuity with the person who was capable of those things.

Laughing at Myself (2)
Ching An (translation by J. P. Seaton)

Slices of flesh made burnt offerings
to the Buddha.
Just so, I came to know myself,
a ball of mud dissolving in the water.
I had ten fingers. Now, just eight remain.
Did I really think I could become a Buddha
one slice at a time?

To become a son of God thus … it is almost too painful to bear. And yet, that is the path we take every day, for the most part; the preponderance of our lives filing away when we should be chopping.

How long do you give something a chance to bear fruit before paring it away? If a rough edge forces me into a new realization, is it ethical to eliminate that edge? Is it selfish to be too honest?

I’m not certain yet of those answers. But I am drawing closer to a fuller realization and a better life than I’ve ever let myself have. Can it be so simple?



  1. I’d love to hear more about what you mean with “fuller realization” and “a better life”. What is being left behind? What is the source of this new stage for you? It sounds exciting and interesting.

  2. It was the sum of pressures upon me that forced me to realize some things. A couple of them may sound cliché, but there is a huge gap between intellectual knowledge and true understanding–grokking, as it were.

    In the first place, I accepted that I don’t have to conform to expectations others have of me. That’s been an enormous release of stress, and it hasn’t meant that I’ve become shiftless and without responsibility–it has simply meant that I am more willing to say when I’ll do something, and when I will not.

    Secondly, I’ve come to understand that I don’t have to accept everything on faith indefinitely. And it’s been a relief to be able to quit pretending like I have a perfect testimony or absolute unwavering faith in certain principles or leadership positions.

    I understand myself and my motivations better, and I’m willing to accept more of that rather than beating my head against it. I’ve rejected a lot of cognitive dissonance, and felt a cognitive consonance as a result.

    I’ve always wanted to approach truth on its own terms, not on my own, and I feel worlds closer to that. Maybe a lot of my realization isn’t particularly new, but I’ve come to accept it very deeply all of a sudden. Since doing so, I’ve felt less stressed, less overwhelmed, less guilty, and more empowered to make decisions about my life on my terms.

    This all sounds very Zen-Habitsy, doesn’t it? Basically, what I’ve done is internalized things about truth that I’ve always known, and now can live. I’m doing an awful job of communicating this, I know, and there is probably little external change, but I feel it. Think of the difference in Pam on The Office between seasons two and four, I guess.

  3. Man, I am happy for you!

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