Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Conversion stories and the heights of trees, living and dead.  §

I started this blog so very, very long ago.

It’s difficult to remember the person I was then, the things I was going through, the ways I felt about them. I know that it began in a period of deep pain, and deep loneliness.

I know that it has sustained me through many such periods. I’m not sure why it should have been a blog rather than any one or several particular person(s) that should have been my haven all these years. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an introvert—that when I interact with other people, it is never a transparent thing, never automatic, but rather a process, an active engagement in the doing of a thing. Socializing for me is never intuitive, even when I do it well.

I don’t know.

I do know that it’s still here.

Today for the first time I had serious thoughts about starting a vlog. I’m not ready to do it just yet. Maybe I never will be. But I had the thought, and for a moment, the impulse. That’s new. We’ll see.

— § —

I’m fighting. Myself, mostly. I’ve been engaged in this battle for (two? three?) years now. It shows no signs of letting up.

The battle is a metaphysical one, in a way. It’s about what I believe, and about who I will be. It’s about faith and the future and the past and all of the things. All of them.

I fight alone. I suppose the argument could be made that this is a choice. The argument could also be made that it’s a matter of necessity, or even ontology. I don’t know which argument is right. That is, in fact, the crux of many things in my life right now—I don’t know which way is right.

Yes, yes, I know all of the things. All of the advices from all of the persons about all of the thinking and strugglings. To ask others’ opinions. To consult great works. To pray. To look at the stars and imagine yourself to be startdust. And so on.

It doesn’t matter which of these things is the right thing to do. It’s difficult, in any case. It’s lonely. I am lonely—and it is not the kind of loneliness that can be overcome by engaging with others.

It is the loneliness of being on a difficult road that one is compelled to walk. The loneliness of facing the music, of instantiating by empirical obligation the consequences of one’s own being and self.

What am I even talking about? What nonsense, no? And yet—

and yet…

— § —

I live in my dead grandparents’ home. In it I have hanging on the walls the words of my other dead grandparents. I keep the memory of dead friends with me. I have the ashes of dead pets still sitting, un-dealt-with, in my kitchen (how sanitary). Here I am writing on a blog that exhibits in its depths multiple dead versions of myself.

The time, it passes.

The pine tree in front of the house was just a sapling when we arrived. Back then, it was a “we.” Now, it’s just I. Our stay here was to be temporary. Now, my stay here seems of indeterminate length. All of the things are gone. The marriage is gone. The academic career is gone. The pets of that time are gone. The plans for the future are gone. Many of the old friendships are gone.

That self is gone.

The tree, the tree is now twice as tall as the house. It towers over us. Meanwhile, the other tree, the one in the back yard—the one that I climbed on as a child many years ago, sitting in the branches, eating the cherries—the one that would live forever—is gone. I oversaw its end.

I’ve overseen so many ends.

Forty years is a long time. It’s a very long time. I am seeing my body gradually decay. Not only am I unable to do the things that I used to do; I am also unable to enjoy the easy comfort—which I never once noticed for the first several decades of my life—that used to be like the air in the room, but that is also now gone.

It’s all gone.

That is the nature of things. The nature of things is to be gone.

— § —

For three years now I’ve been on the path toward Catholicism. Much of the time, I don’t want to be. I can’t make head or tails of why or how this has become a thing.

For so many years, I was a committed atheist. Now—now this.

I haven’t told anyone. I have started on many occasions to tell my ex-wife, as a matter of courtesy and integrity, and fallen short. If I’m tremendously unlucky, she’ll see this before I manage to raise the issue and I’ll know myself forever to be a coward for being unable to tell her before it turned up on my blog.

It’s a frightening thing, this compulsion that I fight against. This is not the age for such things. I may as well have just said that I’m on the way to becoming a heretic, and a traitor, and a criminal. This is not an age that is friendly to Catholics, or to any Christians.

There is also the small problem of belief. Which is itself a distinct component of my loneliness. After all, when you have the inkling that you’re about to make a choice that the world increasingly rejects, the first thing that your fellow travelers on the path to the Wrong Side of Things ask is what led you to belief.

Imagine their consternation at your explanation that you can’t even honestly say yet that you believe—that you don’t know why you’re here or what you’re doing, yet here you are anyway.

Do I believe? I wish I did.

Instead, I have the worst of both worlds. I am properly a member of neither guild, of neither faction, and perhaps an enemy to both. I vex members of the church of the secular by threatening to defect. I vex members of the church of the holy by saying, as I am doing it, that I cannot promise after all that I am one of them, or that I believe in the cause.

Who am I? Who, for God’s sake, am I?

I am the one who stands under the very tall tree, and says, with a feeling that can’t at all be put into words—even a thousand or two of them—”You used to be a sapling, didn’t you, when we got here? That was the other me, of course, back then, with the other life. But I suppose there’s a symmetry in that because that was also the other you.”

And then, I am the one who stands in silent communion with the tree as we reflect on just how absurd and lonely and confusing reality can be.

— § —

So why?

Why all of this, by God?

Because it is inevitable. Because despite long-held convictions, I cannot deny the metaphysical contours of being that increasingly seem to inhabit every corner of everyday life for me. You can only deny for so long before you realize that if you continue, you are denying yourself for having rejected the unmotivated conclusions of your own faculties.

Because affinities. Because at some point in your life, once you’re done being young and naive, you wake up and realize that you want to be with others of your own kind. And you look around and try to see, amidst the fog—”Where are the people that value what I value?”

And then, once you’ve spotted them, you aspire to join them.

The doing, however—the doing is more difficult than it seems.

— § —

The tree, however, remains tall, whatever else is true.

The tree is tall and the air contains the whispers of every truth that can’t be told, whether you believe any of them or not.

The air, in its generosity and grace, will provide you with life whether or not you thank it adequately.

But if you have any integrity, at some point you’ll do so. Even if you have to do it alone.

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