Tonight I downloaded a free DVD player and watched The Royal Tenenbaums.  I hadn’t seen this movie in years, and its immersion in a specific period of time in my life meant, of course, that it brought some very old thoughts and emotions to the surface.  When I was watching this movie for the first and seventh and eightieth time, I was at college, my friends’ marriage was dying, and I was as alone as I have ever felt in my life.  The despair in Richie’s eyes was most familiar.  I used to lie on my stomach on the cool gray tiles of my dorm room and make slicks of tears.

The characters in this movie are all — and this was my favorite metaphor — walking on broken legs, and I spent some/enough days feeling like I was walking on broken legs, too.  Wow.  The huge presence of sadness, and the strange beauty that supports the sadness so you can walk all inside it, were, just as God was, closer to me than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.  I wrote papers, too, rode my bike to coffee shops and went to parties and Sacred Harp singings and talked to my mom on the phone, but the predominant tone of most of my junior and senior years at college was this dark room with shafts of light falling in like the play of light and shadow in water.

I’ve been mostly happy, for a while, now.  What a revelation, is happiness.  What a ray of light, is Marshall.  The long loyalty, the kiss, the lashes on the cheek, the knowing glance, the shock of mutual vulnerability.  But the beauty of happiness, even mostly-happiness, is of a different sort than the beauty of sadness, and we are to suppose that each sort is only a facet of a unified beauty, who is God.  I believed this then, and I believe it now.  How strange to remember all those nights and days, now, when I’ve been watching a different sun set and rise on my days.  I’m relieved to find that I have so much compassion for myself, in that time.

Maybe this time, with its particular character that I haven’t fully understood, will come to a close as every other time has.  Maybe the broken bones of this time (of course there are some) will be set in five years, the way the bones of five years ago are being set, now.  God is teaching me how to have compassion (and patience) for the present time, I think.  I’m such an emotional paraplegic of course but I am, I think, learning this.

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