I stood up from my chair in the corner of my room, I get away from the bed I had fallen over onto and move to my dresser to tear up some shirts so I can wrap my arms and stop the blood from being a nuisance. I tie each unenthusiastic bandage around by my wrists and walk to my window. I can still see the lights from the people I would soon be responsible for executing.
I can see the lights of their funeral march. I almost expected to hear singing, but that may have been some wistful longing to know that not only were they unafraid, but that they were happy.
That’s the thing about seeing the truth I guess, once you’ve seen it, you can never un-see it. You knew what really was, by all the logic of the senses, inarguable. For all my hope, I knew that despite whatever they believed, it didn’t mean they would be happy right now. Belief doesn’t exist entirely without doubt, that’s the whole point. It is not knowing.
I thought about my living daughter and my dead wife.
A few months ago, my little girl had come to me asking about love, not in a sentimental way, but with genuine curiosity. She had been young when we lost her mother, but she had known her enough that they would never have to be totally separated by snapping threads of memory.
She asked me how I could know that it was real. She asked me how I could know that I was loved. Even then, I knew my thoughts were regrettable. My thoughts raced over the ideas of feelings, and actions, touch, looks, giving, sacrifice, unity, completion, etc, all of the corollaries but none of the causes. I was dejected in my inability. I knew she wouldn’t be satisfied with something so pedantic.
After all, I loved her.
I had all the reason to and I showed all the signs. I knew the way she made me feel when she ran to me. Even my wife hadn’t done that. Only my daughter ran, away from the world and right to me, at my approach. How can I even describe that, if you’ve never known it? It is a feeling unique in itself to watch as someone cannot wait any longer to be closer to you. It’s the tipping point of love’s event horizon. When you watch as the whole world turns into nothing compared to you. It’s one hell of a feeling.
It’s somewhere in that moment, I think, love. It’s the current the moves in her, and that she moves freely through, right at the instant where everything about her forgets the world because it knows that something better has come.
That’s why I cannot tell you how ashamed I was when I looked at that girl and told her, “Baby, you can’t know.”
But she’s something better than me I think because she’d just looked at me and said, “That’s right Dad. You can’t. That‘s the whole point.”
At the time, I had written it off as something endearing. A story so that when I heard people discussing their children’s latest exploits to people who weren’t especially interested, I would have something to offer. But now, I think I can where she was coming from.
There’s a trick to it, seeing what other people cannot. You have to be willing to believe it for yourself. Before today, I wasn’t able to, for even a moment, be willing to see through their actual eyes, not just mine from a similar vantage point. When you’ve seen this little bit farther, you can follow their thinking all the way to end. You can really see that there’s a reason for this thing they believe that you do not. Belief becomes a bit of framework in their definition of the world’s innermost workings. I could see that for my daughter now. She was just so sure.
Anyone can doubt. You could argue it until your voice was hoarse, but you couldn’t take it all the way from her. It was defining to her nature. This blind belief, blind love. This tangent between conceptualized knowledge and proof was not something I’d been able to span on my own. I had to be forcibly pulled into something terrifying before I had allowed myself to willingly abandon my need for evidence.
However, even now, I cannot tell you if I believe in the heart, or the soul in a theological sense. I know that I hadn’t. I had accepted them as projections of my mind trying to make sense of what I simply was not able to understand about myself. Was there really some intangible part of me so defining as the heart, so unending as the soul? I might accept it now. But why?
I thought again about the little girl who runs to me, almost satisfied to call whatever exchange we have love, but some part of me wouldn’t allow it. The part of me that had seen infinity and nothingness wrapped up together would not be satisfied by so lucid a form. The mind could handle attraction, and longing but not this, it was too big. There had to be a place where that love came from, a place that could be reached somehow.
I knew that there was, in me, a need that had never been sated. Even as a child I can remember never quite being what I would call content. Something had always come up short. I could feel it ebb and flow. It was as though my mood, and even my perspective was changed by my life’s proximity to joy. Well, no, not joy itself, but it was something more like the likelihood of joy. I could tell when everything was lining up for content happiness to start moving towards me. For most of my life, I’d mistaken that for the real thing.
I hadn’t been miserable, I wasn‘t exactly suffering. My life had never been easy, but I‘d gotten through and knew the pleasure of it all. However, I could see now that this shadow of joy was built on a hope that has been neither separated from me nor satisfied.
I know, in the deepest part of me, that there’s a day coming when I will wake up. I will open my eyes and I’ll be made aware that everything I’d thought I’d known wasn’t real, or at least not real enough. One day I would just wake up and be happy, forever. I’ve always needed this.
Where had this need come from? It was like a real hunger, like my need for air. It was essential for my survival, and as defining of me as any biological function. How could I need something that had never existed?
My mind threatened me with notions of false loves, mistaken desires.
Hadn’t I needed those too?
Though they were never fulfilled, I’d survived. Why wasn’t this the same thing? I knew the answer even as the question was posed. The need for love is not the same as the need for a person, just as the desire for good things is not the same as desiring a specific one. Once we impose our specificity on our real needs, they’re diluted from that essence into something we think we can understand. Here’s the trick: that person isn’t love, in your heart you’ve always known that. However, if you’re lucky, they’re damn close. What they do is allow you to never forget that Love is real.