Caroline

I’d like to say something about “obviousness”.

And I’ll start with a scene.  I’ll start with a scene because everything has its roots in the dampness of what happens.

Fourteen years ago or so, there was I and there was Caroline, the two of us wrapped up in an attempted relationship that we could never seem to make work.  I’d followed her out to Japan where the two of us taught English for a few years.  We were young and lost and found ourselves one minute reconciled with each other and then the next minute at odds, together then at war and then together again.

And all the while I was being torn apart inside by a raging quest for meaning and for answers and for a self that would last for more than three days.  If ever there was a time when I was close to suicide, it was sometime during those strange, tortured years in Shikoku.  I used to feel tortured.  Tortured by life as much as by Caroline, though looking back now, I must have hurt her so much. 

In the end it was all that either of us could do to somehow throw ourselves backwards from each other as if off the opposite sides of a boat, so another instinct could take over and take us away in the current.

One afternoon, we were cycling up a slope through paddy fields and Japanese bungalows, the mountains ahead and our home behind us on a stretch of level land that finished off in the sea, her in front, me behind slowed down with heavy preoccupation and frustration.  Finally I threw it out. 

“I just cannot figure out why I am here!  What’s the fucking purpose of it, Jesus shitting Christ!” 

I was in so much pain, or so I thought.

I didn’t really expect any answer from Caroline.  Any past attempt I’d made in sharing the importance and urgency of these questions with her had utterly failed.  There just was no meeting point it seemed.  But just as quickly as I’d blurted out my latest encapsulation of “the question” she answered right back, with as much ease and matter-of-factness as if she was describing the appearance of the fields on either side of us, or the feeling of the bicycle seat beneath her.

“For me it’s so simple.  My purpose is to be me.  Your purpose it so be you.  That’s it.”

……

I don’t know what I found most striking about what had just happened; the ease with which she said it, the absence of all contextual, philosophical prior reading on her part, the utter completeness of it, or the fact that she’d never made any comment like this before in all the years I’d known her. 

I tried to delve in for more, but there was none.  And I had to accept that what she had just uttered as easily as if we’d been discussing a shopping list was utterly true and yet utterly unrepeatable.

……

You are on no firmer ground than when you are speaking from what is directly obvious to you.  Furthermore, and please bear with me here…what is obvious is not and can never be known.  Yes, what is obvious is forever in the unknown.  What is obvious does not need to be known, does not need to be held in the known.  It comes directly out of life and falls directly back into life and never needs to be abstracted nor recorded nor espoused by authority. 

And everything we believe ourselves to know is really everything we don’t know at all…and all the effort in the world will never get you to that starting-and-ending place.

That place where Caroline had idly peddled, all those years ago.

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