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When Punishments are Gifts
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Above: See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. —Isaiah 43:18-19
As the year turns over, much like big, hulking dog does during lazy afternoon nap, I find myself in a fugue-like state.
I am both happy and sad, reinvigorated and tired, inspired and downcast.
In a way, I feel as though the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities reflects my year that was, my days that are:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
Both deep in thought and lost in reflection (and behind on email, as always), I am looking at the same things—my chaotic routines, my relationships new and old—in a new light. Marcel Proust comes to mind: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
I suspect that this is due to a recent crisis about which I shall write when I dredge up the right words and ensure the proper emotional distance. I still have yet to work out what it all exactly means. Put simply, I do not know what I do not know.
What I do know is that the below three quotes have been rattling around in my skull over these past few weeks, playing like a stuck record on loop:
Never let a good crisis go to waste. —Winston Churchill
My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it...but love it. —Frederich Nietzsche
What punishments of God are not gifts? —J.R.R. Tolkien
The common thread that ties all three quotes together is acceptance.
Acceptance is a funny, squirrelly beast. Regardless of your stature or station in life, it does not come easily to us human beings. It exists as formidable—though not insurmountable—obstacle.
Like most things, it is one thing to say “I accept this;” another entirely to actually do so; and another still to truly believe it.
And yet, I think that’s the purpose of it all: to know oneself, love oneself, live as oneself, believe oneself.
I speak from the heart.
If I am being honest, I both loathe and am ashamed of the cross that is mine to bear: Tourette syndrome.
Though I often speak and write about it, I do so via asynchronous conversation so as not to tread the same path over and over again. It is much easier to speak at strangers or a roomful of people, than with someone you pine for, mean something to, cannot live without, about something so strange and raw and emotional.
I know that this is illogical but it veers into the subconscious and psychological. Logic and reason stand no chance in the face of millions of years of evolution. After all, some of the deepest conversations known to man happen with strangers at bars.
The thing is: I would not wish my life upon anybody—it consists of unceasing neurological warfare that is continuous and tiresome and brutal.
And yet, I see my mere existence as miracle and love it more than anything.
The above is a strange oxymoron; it resembles how we are often meanest to those we love the most or how we continuously, devastatingly, despite our best efforts, sabotage and let ourselves down.
It is difficult to hold those two opposing ideas in my one head.
They do not contradict on another, but they chafe—one silently and slowly eroding the other like water does a shoreline.
White Noise is my attempt simultaneously to accept and love who I am and still know that I can still be so much better.
It is my public endeavor to recognize, reflect on, appreciate who I am so that you can do the same for who you are.
It is me being me so that you might be you.
Life rarely changes in a positive or meaningful way without an increase in responsibility. In my mind, this responsibility comes from true acceptance.
No matter crisis or call to action, if you want to bend the trajectory of your life, you must stare good, bad, ugly in the mirror and utter “I love you.”
This does not happen overnight.
Complete and utter acceptance exists as an asymptote. Like perfection, we will never arrive at this ever-elusive destination.
Instead, the point is to expand the purview, extent, breadth of your acceptance slowly but surely. Per Longfellow:
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
A marathon starts with a mile and trek does with a trudge.
Sharing White Noise week in and week out with you, dear reader, feels like an act of acceptance from a writer working his very best at just that.
On that note, a brief poem I penned on the matter.
What Was, Is. What Is, Will Be.
It would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude.
It doesn't mean that you want it.
Doesn’t mean you look upon it fondly or tenderly.
Rather, it is an eyes-wide-open acceptance.
Acceptance is not defeat.
Acceptance is not a dereliction of duty or the coward’s way out.
Acceptance is mere awareness. It is seeing and knowing and loving all things equally, including—and especially—those things that you most wish had not happened.
What a year it was
To be good,
To be grateful,
To be glad.
All is as it should be.
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,