I come from the land of the Void. The land of no substance. There were once orange groves and people loved it for its proximity to the mountains, the desert and the beach. Now it is a dust bowl of empty thoughts and empty souls. I escaped early. I knew I had to. There was a vacuum there and if you stayed too long, you inevitably got sucked into it.
The drinking, the partying, the escaping. It will consume you, though there are few that somehow find their way into a remote corner where nothing can touch them. Staring at the wall with their backs to the world, this is where they find Jesus. This is where they find their ability to speak in tongues and their spiritual gift of healing through prayer. Like dust bunnies, they flock to this one untouchable corner and hold each other to their corner’s rule book- no sex, no drugs, no alcohol, no thinking, no questioning: Here is your spouse, God chose them for you. Get married. Have children. Teach those children to mind their corner, face the wall, soak in the rules you’ve set for them.
I escaped the vacuum and the corner, to a world that was bigger and fuller than I could take in. I’d heard glimpses of this world in the music I submerged myself into as a kid. The desperation, the frustration in the Shins, the quirkiness of being fascinated by neighbors without curtains in Ben Kweller, the suicidal depression that took Elliot Smith. I had seen these glimpses in books like Lord of the Flies or Death of a Salesman. I knew there were others like me- feeling the world in a raw and unfiltered way.
When I arrived at the doorstep of a huge city at 18, I felt it. Somehow it felt like integrity. It gave me friction and conflict to work through and resolve, stepping stones to understanding how much of the world I didn’t understand. The city’s grit made me realize I didn’t have to gloss over everything. I didn’t have to numb myself. I was allowed to grieve with the city’s homeless, contemplate the height of the buildings and the grime of the ground. I could take in the beauty of the changing leaves and breathe the exhaust of the city buses. Outside my bedroom window the bus ran with wire cables, half electric and half gas. When these wires got wet, they sparked as the bus went by. I would lie awake in the attic room of a huge house I shared with 10 other people, listening to the hum of the bus and the inevitable sparking sound and the bolt of lightening flashing through my dark and silent room.
Beauty and Darkness coexist. There is a line between what we can hold on our shoulders and what we have to forget to stay happy and feel like we are okay to keep living. To say it’s all beauty is ignorant. To say it’s all darkness is the fastest way to death.