In the shadow of the building lunacy of the world, The Great Orange Toad, and now, Ontario’s own Neanderthalic, let’s-go-back-to-sticks-and-rocks, Doug Ford, I found myself resorting to further efforts to sort out God. I hurled myself deep down into the rabbit hole of early eastern mysticism. I read The Tao Te Ching, and The Upanishads, twice. I watched Joseph Campbell’s, The Power of Myth, again, and also reread the book. I was now waiting, like a trooper, for a book written by Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, to arrive at my local bookstore. My plan was to take the book with me to Agawa Bay, on Lake Superior, and spend a few days with it, reading, underlining, grokking. I pictured myself in the morning mist, standing, contemplating a passage and easing myself further and further down this most puzzling warren.
This was not to happen. The Book of Hours did not arrive at my bookstore. I stood at the counter while the clerk gave me the news, doing her fresh-faced best to assure me that it would be in early the following week. I needed her to reach across the counter, grab my shoulders and suggest ways that I could cope. I needed her to offer to suffer with me. I needed to be back in tuberculin England during some time of gravitas, wearing, perhaps a dark cape, a suffocating corset, and bloodshot, sunken eyes.
Bit much huh?
I sat in the van for a few moments, trying to rejig my plan. My idea of God was solidifying along the lines of universal energy connecting us all; humans, goats, staplers–you name it. This is the kind of energy you can feel in your gut. At that moment, sitting in my van, I experienced a non-voluntary double-clutch up and out of this most Dickensian, dolorous mood. Yes, I felt a decisive inner redirect towards lightening-the-fuck-up. So, I made the very conscious decision to go with it. If this is what I believe, then tuck in, right?
I drove to the grocery store to pick up a few things–went completely hog-wild and picked up a small tub of raspberry-lime ice cream!
“Oh, if the neighbours hear about this!” thought the dessert harlot.
I left and, in a last ditch, odd attempt to find Rilke’s book, I visited another nearby bookstore to see if they had it. I didn’t expect them to, but if I had not checked, I would have spent the rest of the weekend wondering. Of course they didn’t have it, and I was going to leave, but on the way out, saw a new David Sedaris book, Calypso, on one of the display shelves. I mean, it was all that I saw. The rest of the books ceased to exist. I have read everything of his up to this. If you don’t like him we can’t be friends, because I think he’s brilliant.
Oddly enough, I have an essay of his, pinned up on my wall, over my left shoulder as I write this. The essay, Why Aren’t You Laughing, was published in The New Yorker magazine June 19, 2017. It’s a thoughtful run at how the Sedaris family dealt with, and didn’t deal with, the mother’s alcoholism. The essay is largely funny, but coloured with the complete failure of the family to take control and find a solution. I envied the Sedaris family when I read this, because the kids, six of them, at least had each other, and they did essentially adore their mother. In the years when my own mother was medicating with gin, I felt that our family did not exist. We were just people who sometimes ate together; my siblings, two, were older and almost launched at the time. When mom tipped over backwards in her lawn chair at one of dad’s corporate picnics at the farm, I was the only blood relation to witness. There's about a decade worth of stories, but the point here is that the Sedaris essay(and a whole whack of therapy), brought me up above ground, and was instrumental in harnessing my tsunami-scaled disappointment towards something less dark, less paralyzing. Humour, and the delicate reframing of the tragic into the absurd, can be tremendously freeing.
I took the Sedaris book to the cash register and bought it without even leafing through it. I came back here, put my groceries away, and read late into the night, relieved to be having some fun. It felt good to come up out of that rabbit hole and truly laugh, not worrying about the terrible men fomenting all of this global dickishness, or the very point of it all. I had even forgotten about the Orange Toad and his recent, graceless mangling of his visit with the Queen, so something was happening. Perhaps Sedaris is my key to navigating this most troubling time.
I do believe in my being guided by some universal energy. While I still am curious about Rilke’s book, reading Sedaris was like hanging out with someone who got it. I felt like he had reached through the veil and offered a hug and then a welcomed punch in the shoulder. Why? Because, to my surprise and delight, one of the chapters in the book, the one I left to read last, was, Why Aren’t You Laughing? I had no idea it was included until I was nearing the end of the book.
I read it, then ate some goddam ice cream.