Monday, April 21, 2003

I took a nap. It was a good nap. But I had an odd dream, that I was one of 70 children in a single family, in ancient Canaan, and my father made me marry an old, fat, man, who already had 300+ wives, because he would get an entire flock of some sort of special pitch black sheep. I was guaranteed a "night" a year with my husband, but I always sold it to one of the other wives for a handful of figs. The other wives thought I was stupid, because I would never have a son to take care of me in my old age. But when the Israelites came, and wiped all of the men out, I appeared triumphant, with my handful of figs, and no lost sons.

The dream is revealing on several points. First, I've been reading way too much Tanakh lately. I was thinking about Gideon when I went to sleep, and that's why I was thinking of the massive families; Gideon had 70+ sons, not to mention daughters (not that the text does mention them). Second, I must subconsciously be much more upset about the blatant misogyny of Genesis than I realized consciously. Despising the modern feminist movement as I do, I generally don't fret over things like misogyny in the Bible. But I guess it's troubling me; and that makes sense, because I want the Bible to be extra-human, and I find misogyny to be all too human a trait. Third, it really is just like me to sell my sexuality for food. Not only is it just like me to do that, it's actually what I do.

Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, especially if you’re reading this from the perspective of having a Y-chromosome, I think it unlikely the children of Israel will come a-raiding my village, killing off all of the menfolk, leaving me morally victorious and alone. But even if they did come, I don’t think I’d feel superior for it. And if I did, I guess I’d be a lousy human being. Nevertheless, the crux of the dream has interesting implications for my psyche. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, you say? Well, not in my world, buddy.

While I know that this is hardly a new topic for me, lately I've been thinking a lot about alienation. It seems to be one of the main conflicts of my young life, and that's why it presses me so. It seems to me that the natural state of intelligent people is to feel profoundly, catastrophically, disconnected from humanity. I have mixed feelings about my own alienation. On the one hand, I have a natural distaste for the mob. On the other, I see nothing so glorious about Nietzsche’s lone wolf, coming down to prey on the helpless, and mindless, sheep. I’ve written before about my personal, and I think also the generally human, craving for balance: To find answers which are simultaneously of my own discovery and yet also true and universally binding for all people in all times.

As I find myself beginning to really age, though I must blushingly report that I am still a mere twenty at the time of this writing, I feel suddenly much harder pressed to find the binding truths of the universe, quickly, before time runs out. I’m not sure whether my increasing need to focus on the base realities of human existence, like keeping myself clothed and fed, and the knowledge that these realities will become much more difficult and pressing in the relatively near future, is causing my sense of impending intellectual doom. It seems that people who have to seriously worry about old dogs and children don’t really have much time to worry about complex questions of human existence. Or if, perhaps, it’s that I simply distrust anyone over the age of thirty, as the old adage goes, and I do not consider myself an exception to the rule. Or if, perhaps, most damningly, I’ve come to see a lot of philosophy as so much sophistry and I’m disenchanted. Maybe my heart has warmed toward dishes, laundry and electric bills, and has hardened toward that inexact science which attempts to find out how many angels can dance all together on the head of pin, to use an unfair and untrue and therefore, I think, appropriate analogy.

I’m not fond of talking in terms of that modern golden idol, good health. But I do realize that my particular brand of alienation manifests in the most unhealthy of ways. And that fact alone is enough to make me suspect it. Asceticism intrigues me, but I’ve never really been drawn to it. And while I enjoy my own lusty sense of intellectual martyrdom, the pain of the ulcers and migraines it has caused me already, and the knowledge of my own very likely future, stress-related, and therefore self-inflicted, death, neither pleases me nor is readily dressed up into something beautiful or meaningful. And in the meantime, I neither know love, nor even a decent human lust after anyone other than myself. I find it distressing. I know that I’m utterly, and totally imbalanced. What I don’t know is whether or not I’d like to sacrifice my alienation, my individualism, on the altar of being somewhat transcendently better than I am.

As my great-great grandmother, Mary Britt, used to always say, “It’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” And at least I do know my own devils. I find them comfortable, if not even somewhat comforting. And I have to continually ask myself why it is that I would risk, or even destroy, that which I hold dearest to me for an unexperienced and untestable notion of something better, that I simply feel must really be out there somewhere. I must answer the unanswerable question: What self is it that you serve, in destroying yourself, for the sake of yourself?

Tonight, I’ll study Anthropology and German, two subjects which are, in all practicality, utterly useless to me. And I will neither enjoy the studying, nor the end result of having mastered the material. I will sleep poorly, and work my stomach into knots over potentially forgotten decimal points, and in the stony silence of my sterile, archival mind, the lone voice of a wild man, smelling of honey and feverish human sweat, fresh from the wilderness, will cry out to me: "Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!"