am dealing with (vaguely incapacitating) self-beratement of quite a different genus this time.* with exams and interviews etc the threat and fears are comfortingly external. one easily palms them off to God and leans into the axiom that there is a Plan being forged, and our moral agency and volition are subordinate to the effectuation of said Plan – this takes the heat off personal failings, which take on assuredly indeterminate significance in the end result. a ‘nasty’ interviewer or a ‘curveball’ essay question at least give us avenues to shake our fists at the Universe; we ‘cheat’ by drawing attention to the scale of our problems and dismissing (imperceptibly) the relevance of our abilities and decisions. in the course of university applications i once agonised over extracting presentable academic references from a tutor who seemed resolutely determined to dislike me but found untold comfort in prayer – the renvoi of the believer. if i was disliked by – or even, indeed, unlikable to – him, that lay beyond my powers to change, and if that state of affairs persisted – well, that must be the Plan, and so by definition could do no violence to it.
but what of failings not so easily attributed? when one has exercised his volition to bring about a repugnant result it never did lie in his mouth to say that no volition existed to be (wrongly) exercised. the notion of reality conforming to the Plan becomes unbearably far-fetched. after a certain point, surely one has to accept that the tracks were not meandering, but that the train has simply derailed, and even if ignorance of this may tolerated in a passenger sitting in coach, it surely shouldn’t be tolerated in the conductor. and thus the interminable ache that pulses with the realisation that we have managed to drive ourselves into a pit with no obvious avenue for reversion.
if there is any room at all for comfort, maybe it’s the fact that the shittier the situation we find ourselves to be in or the shittier we find ourselves to be, the more obvious it becomes that there’s nothing to be done but to trust, yet again, in an extrinsic source. minor flaws invite self-help; massive ones demand prayer – and this no less when the problems we have to address are constitutive of who we are, than when the problems can be pinned on something safely external to us. and if this at least is one thing that we can take away at the nadir of human experience and moral failure then i suppose it could be much worse than this.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
* if this blog seems disproportionately dreary i suppose it’s because positivity is easy and intuitive, and so rarely gives rise to written expression; but negativity demands assiduous examination and unpacking…