First, what I can talk about. My cousin is dying in Ireland. He has been ill all of his life. We played together as kids when we went over in the long summer holidays my mother had off from her school in Dudley in the West Midlands. I didn't then go over to Ireland for years. Me, I was autistic. Not only that. I had ADHD. I was in my own world[s], always had been. The real world most people live so resolutely inside of could scarcely compete. I wasn't coping. I was not waving but drowning. I couldn't connect to people at all. You begin to realise when it is too late. Not that I could have changed it. Oh, so, what, I could have lived here, could have lived there. Still I would have been myself. The time we met up a few years ago for a wedding, I was stuck in my own world still.
I'll soon be forty years old. So what? Well, I have found a few strategies, found a few things that work for me. I even found a girlfriend, and if it is often hard for me to live with somebody, to give them my time. If I am always obsessed with my latest project, my latest mission, always cursing the time I have to give to this or to that, and still yet never quite managing to either complete anything or be present for anybody in my life, well, I am doing better than ever I did. There are times you could almost say that I cope. I haven't broken even yet. I have always been supported by my parents. By somebody. Now that I am being absorbed into a new family whose demands are always just too much for me, I am being supported by them too. Materially at least.
I text my girlfriend today. She does a lot for me. Organises my life. I suppose I expect her to. I say, I want to organise a mass for my cousin. He is dying. He has always been ill but now it is really the end. I, meanwhile, am depressed. Here I am thinking of the state of the world. I am thinking about the dark forces circling around us all. I am thinking of the things I can't talk about - perhaps you think there are no things you can't talk about anymore; well, you'd be wrong - and how, after months and months of being uncomfortable with something, this latest news had put it all ino perspective and I knew I couldn't do something I had found it hard to say no to, a duty I just didn't feel was right. I am trying to work on my latest project but really what I am doing is fighting with my head in a way I have fought with my head all of my life. And so, fighting against myself some more, knowing it's the last thing I want to do, but knowing, too that it might help, I got out for a run, do a pathetic number of press ups and sits ups and what have you in the outdoor gym in the park, and come home to do some yoga. My girlfriend, meanwhile, has made some phone calls. She has spoken to her Catholic friend who was here ther other night talking about going away on a kind of retreat. She speaks to a Franciscan monk who she travelled away with, alongside her friend, a couple of times when she was younger as part of a camp. He is willing to do a private mass. I tell her she must tell him I am not Catholic. It is not fair for him to not know. And there it is. It is organised.
I have been irritable and burned out of late. I have been working on a number of writing projects, on a web application and publishing platform, I suppose, no less. And then I have been teaching. English and Czech. And I have been fighting with my head. Still the outside world doesn't find its way in so much. On top of it all, we have ran out of marijuana. I have used it a lot these past few years. It helps me to wind down sufficiently that I can speak to the people around me. Years ago, when I did what might have been the only rewarding job I have done - sticking plaster on our world that it was - working with young adults with behavioural problems, I saw how a lot of the kids I looked after were far more functional than I was myself. I would not be diagnosed for a number of years yet, into my mid-thirties. Many of them smoked marijuana. Honestly, though there have been times I have wondered if I have overdone it, it works. What I have achieved on the web application, for what it is worth, might even owe something to stuff. Whatever, I have been finding it hard these past few weeks without it. And then, my father is ill, and my cousin is dying in Ireland, and the twenty years we might have spent getting to know each other went by in a hellish blur.
Sometimes nobody is to blame. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done. With my cousin, that is the case.
With everything else?
I think over what it all means. I think over everything. My mind is a mess, has been a mess these twenty, thirty, forty years, of thinking it all over from every which way. I do this in narrative much of the time, in dialogue. I talk to the Franciscan monk I haven't met yet. I talk to him about Brendan Behan who called himself a 'daylight atheist'. I translate the phrase to him (all these years I have had so much practice in Czech without anybody to speak to). I talk to him about how institutions are only ever as good as the people who make them up. I talk to him about Northern Ireland, about the people around Trump, and the forms of Christianity which seem to lead people to become so hard of heart. I talk to him about the novel I have been busy not writing, and which I worry about; the one where I discovered a relationship to Christianity again in the shape of Dodds, a gay man working for the Underground University in a Manchester (a palimpsest of Prague) in an England long gone totalitarian. I talk about all of these things while I should be planning lessons or talking to my girlfriend or doing I don't know what.
I do talk to my girlfriend. She tells me about a colleague at work who sees things as darkly as I do myself, who understands a little, similarly to the way I do myself. She is possibly on the spectrum herself. Once she was in the Zoo, talking English with the kids. Two men sat talking about Syria, saying how it was all going to pan out, talking about the internet, and the various trends. She said it was one of the most powerful, otherworldly experiences of her life. Prague, still, is the meeting point of the East and the West. Perhaps that has always been known. Certainly, it is about to become significant again. We talk about England and the dark arts as I cook. (I can talk as I cook.) I put the telephone in the other room. The trouble is now, the calibre of the people in the institutions that matter. The trouble is that while once, these were institutions ran by people with conventions overlaid at least on top of some residual sense of the moral codes of Christianity (as little as that meant for some), now it has reduced down to a tiny demographic. At the same time, their toolset has improved by orders of magnitude. By careful what you wish for. These people were able to get precisely what they wanted for a long time. Too long. Now their machine, honed like a precisely-engineered flywheel, is threatening to shake itself to pieces. They are starting to worry at what they have created. But they double down. At least. That is what we see.
I tell my monk it would be good to believe. Of course it would be. I haven't been able to do that. Right now, it feels more necessary than it has for a long while. Occasionally, I have felt the attraction of Taoism. Still, as I told him, the Dalai Lama and others advise that we ought to go through our own tradition, the one that felt, for so long, tied up with too much for me to ever go back. When Larry Siedentop tries so hard to convince himself that liberalism is tied up with Christianity, I can't see it. It seems forced, willed, and tied up with a myriad forms of ignorance. That is not what Christianity must be. I can see that. I can see too that it can give so much. I would love to feel that. But I don't want to be a daylight atheist. I can't permit myself to become a Christian out of cowardice. That is not what it is. I have told him that. And yet, it is somehing more than a gesture. My cousin is dying. I can't turn back the clock. I can neither save him, nor get back the time I could have been getting to know him. And then too, tied up with all of this, this macro malaise. The world we are living in now with all of its hatred and the evermore cacophanous dearth of a moral centre. I must detatch from that. There is nothing I can do. I must resign myself also to that. I must stop fighting against fate.
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