Print Story I know where temptation lies ...
By lm (Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 04:54:41 AM EST) (all tags)
... inside of your heart.

(With apologies to the Velvet Underground.)

Somebody shut the door

My boss, the owner and CEO of the small company bought a new puppy and has been bringing it in. On Friday, whenever I left my office, I'd return to find the door shut to keep said puppy from exploring too closely. The puppy is cute. It seems fascinated by my boots. I've never really put my nose to them, but I guess they smell interesting. It's a bit odd though. Whenever I pick the puppy up all the women in the office swoon at me. They give me the same look my wife did when I was holding the infant child of a a friend at a party a few months ago. I guess for the modern American woman, puppies are the replacement for children.

I know where temptation lies
Inside of your heart

Actually, I don't if temptation lies inside of your heart. I only know that it does lie inside of mine. This is a good thing, at least in some situations. I cannot say just how many circumstances that I have been in during the course of my life where I didn't know what someone else was thinking but knowing would almost surely have spelled certain doom for me if I did. (Well, at least if she were thinking what I had wanted her to be thinking at the time.) I've grown up over the years, though. Nowadays the few times I get into situations like these, I hope she is not thinking what I would have been wanting her to think when I was an adolescent. If she is it is neither good for her nor for me. And I think it best that I simply do not know whether or not she thinks this. Ignorance is as close to bliss as I'm going to get on this.

You can talk during this

I had a long talk with a cow-orker Friday. It was pretty amazing. She's one of the handful of people I would refer to as one of the lieutenants of my boss. She's been around the company forever. She's also one of the brightest people there. Her office is just on the other side of one of the walls of my office. Turns  out that for the past few months we've been seeing some of the same problems facing the company and pondering some of the same ideas for solutions. But until yesterday neither of us knew that we were essentially on the same page over some rather contentious political issues regarding the companies future.

I know where the evil lies
Inside of your heart

It's always fascinated me how different people react differently to being confronted over sin. This isn't something I experience often from either direction. Nor is it something I enjoy doing or enjoy having done to me. The last time I felt compelled to confront someone, it took me three weeks to work the courage up to say anything. That situation was amazing in a very good way. (Which presented an unexpected problem, but that is neither here nor there to the point of this particular paragraph.) The response was humble and brought me closer to my friend. But in most situations, I've simply been called bad names or been accused of being a hypocrite. In one case I lost a friend. In another case, I didn't talk to a friend for close to ten years. But in two other cases, there was contrition.

Well get out of here

Miss E is definitely out of here and at my my behest. I didn't put it quite so rudely. It was kind of an odd situation, but an understandable one. A year and a half ago, Miss E came back to town from a hiatus she took from grad school she took to help take care of her dying father while her step-mother was sick. Upon her return she discovered that she no longer had a dorm room. We offered her our couch until she figured something out. A year and a half later I finally got around to asking her to put a higher priority on figuring something out.

And to be honest, I felt like a heel the night I asked Miss E to look for another place to live. But sometimes part of being a family is doing things for the other people involved and, well, it was time for the family as a whole to ask her to move on. There was just normal flat mate tension building up between my wife and Miss E and my daughters and Miss E. Only Miss E was a bit oblivious to the problems. Neither my wife nor daughters was willing to say anything about the little things. They were just holding in their resentment and letting it build up. Eventually it got to the point where they were so angry that it was starting to affect the mood of everyone in the house. Being that Miss E was now in a position where she could now afford it, I asked her to start looking for another place to live. I'm not entirely certain that this was the right thing to do, but I don't know that it would have been fair to my family to tell them to either work out their issues with Miss E or to suck it up.

If you're gonna try to make it right
You're surely gonna end up wrong
Wrong wrong wrong wrong

But of course, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Life is kind of funny like that. Even if things don't end up entirely wrong, they often end up quite different than you expect. And, well, there were some wrong things about the situation with Miss E living on our couch even if they were nobody's fault.  All in all, it's probably a good thing for everyone involved that she moved out even if I wish she hadn't. And yet lessons were learned. This is probably the last stray we'll take in until we get a larger house. So many of the problems could have been avoided if we had a spare bedroom for Miss E.

That's the only chord I know

The old adage says that if the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails. For most of my life most of my personal problems have been solved by either waiting them out or, if I eventually ran out of patience waiting them out, giving up and walking away. For good or for ill, I've got no small amount of patience. So much so that my father confessor has told me that sometimes he thinks my behavior is masochistic. But the narrow path is narrow indeed and difficult to climb. It is by no means an easy path to follow. But it leads to abundant life.

I know where the mirror's edge
Is inside of your heart

It's funny how we so often see in other people what we want to see in them rather than seeing them as they are. In many ways, how we perceive other people can be a mirror of our own soul than a genuine look into the soul of another. The challenge in a real friendship is break the mirror or to at least get under the edge a bit and to see the other for who they are. I had a pen pal in high school for a couple of years. She was a genuine neohippychick. We each wrote to each other about once a week or so. Once I mentioned in a letter to her that I'd purchased a button with the slogan, ``I feel so much better since I've given up all hope.'' She was hugely disappointed. She had this mental picture she had made of me, perceiving me to be her male counterpart in the cruel and unyielding days of the twilight of the cold war. And yet, the button expressed something I genuinely felt at the time. It was part of who I was and a part of me that she couldn't accept because it wasn't in her reflection that she saw in my eyes.

It's not within five feet

Not many things are within five feet of me on the material plane as I sprawl out on the couch typing this. But so many things that I do not see are quite close by. Last night was a hard night. Under a constant onslaught of logismoi, I didn't sleep well at all. Strange, bizarre, and mostly brutal thoughts kept popping into my head. They weren't tempting me; they were frightening me. I don't really know whether I have within me the potential to commit the types of violence that were popping into my head in the form of images. All I could do was to open my eyes so that in the dark of night I could no longer see through my mind's eye and ask, ``Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'' Somewhere close to dawn I finally fell asleep for a couple of hours.

Well if you're gonna make it right
You're surely gonna end up wrong

One thing that I've learned quite well with the whole SNAFU with the property that my sister and I inherited is that the world conspires against me in many ways. I tried so hard to make that situation turn out well. Yet I'm stymied at every turn and it seems like most decisions I make get thrown back in my face.

You don't look like Martha and the Vandellas
I'm just gonna start it all over again

I got a barely passing score on my Greek final. I don't think I really deserve it. I spent the weekend moping instead of studying. But I'd underestimated how many points the final would be worth. Thinking that it was impossible to get an A for the course and exceedingly unlikely that I could do poorly enough to not get a B, I just phoned it in rather than taking the effort to do it right. Turns out that the final was worth twice as many points as I had thought and that if I had studied, I certainly could have gotten an A for the course. But on the other hand, I was also correct in that it was unlikely that I'd get anything lower than a B. I would have to have scored well below a passing grade on the final to lower my grade for the course to the point where I didn't get a B. But now I need to learn most of the things we learned this quarter all over again because I didn't learn them correctly the first time.

Somebody get her out of here
Electricity comes from other planets

Quite some time ago, former Hindi monk John Gray wrote a book suggesting that men and women were fundamentally from different planets. Well, at least metaphorically speaking. I've never read the book but if I recall critiques of it correctly, it used being raised on different planets with different customs and having alien biological wiring as an allegory to explain why men and women are so very different. But I'm not convinced that men and women are as different as Gray argues. To be certain, there are many differences between the sexes. Some of these are cultural. Some of these are biological. Yet men and women both share human nature. On an entirely biological level, there is no embryo that cannot develop into either male or female. While the Y chromosome usually sets processes into the place in the womb to turn embryos with a Y chromosome into males, the fact that conditions are correct for them to develop into males is accidental rather than necessary. The sry gene that usually controls the hormonal composition of the womb that actually determines the sex of the child can be (and are) overridden from time to time by the mother's body and embryos with a Y chromosome end up as female children.

My theory is that what makes it seem like we come from other planets is much more general. After all it isn't only women that seem to be from other planets to many males. In the lower 48, hockey fans can seem like they come from another planet. To those raised in poverty, the manners of the rich seem to be utterly foreign. To those raised in secular households, persons of faith seem to be almost entirely alien. And instead of taking the time to discover the other, to look underneath the mirror, we paint them as being from other planets. It's a convenient myth. And while it can be used, as Gray suggests, as a tool to find understanding, far more often it's used as an excuse to avoid a genuine encounter with the other. Intentionally viewing the other as an alien seems to me to make it more difficult to see the other as authentically human.

(It's not that a bad solo. Four times is pretty together)
(You can stay here)

Going solo is fun sometimes. Sometimes I need to be alone and find a place where I can just stay and be alone for a while. But other times I crave the connections of others. One of the classical Christian aphorisms is that a single Christian is no Christian. Christianity sees the communion of saints as part of the very essence of who we are as human beings. And from time to time I feel that more heavily than at others. Some of these times are truly blessed. Amidst the gathering of believers, I feel part of them in a way that makes me more whole, more complete. But far more often I this ways on me in the negative, when I am alone and feel disconnected.

Last night was just such a night. A friend of mine mentioned on IM that she'd watched a movie that I'd been wanting to see for quite some time with some other mutual friends. I'm pretty certain that a fair number of those mutual friends know that I also wanted to see the movie. In fact two of them had spoken with me last weekend about possibly getting together for a viewing at a later date. But no one invited me. On the one hand, I can think of no small number of good reasons I may not have been invited. But on the other hand, I wonder if they even thought of inviting me. That wondering is what leads me down the path of feeling isolated. I begin to question my relationships. I feel disconnected. I want to ask if they even considered including me but I fear the answer. And certainly I am being overly sensitive right now. Yet, this is part of a larger pattern of my life.

I know where temptation lies
Inside of your heart
Yes he's ready

I'm not ready to deal with the temptations that lie inside of my heart. I'm really not. Nothing in my past has prepared me for the past four years of my life. Sometimes I long to be able to travel through time to tell myself at the age of 16 just two things that would have changed so much of everything. But at other times I recognize that for the foolishness it is. Without the events that have shaped me so much since my younger years, I would not be the person who I am today. And only the Good Lord knows whether the person I would have been if I could give my teenage self sage advice would desire the same things that I now desire.

The real question, is whether or not I am ready to accept this in the here and the now. Some days I don't know if I am. Those days I cry quite a bit. Other days I think that I am and I still cry. The longest range goal I have is the simplest, that on the last day after everything I can still stand. I hope that I am ready for this. Hoping is my only hope.

I know where the evil lies
Inside of your heart
Is he ready

Is it possible to be ready to be ready? I don't know. I'm also kind of running out of steam for this experiment. Three quarters of the through VU's lyrics to Temptation, I am having trouble finding anecdotes and reflections to relate to those lyrics. So I suppose that I am not ready.

Well if you're gonna make it right
You're surely gonna end up wrong
Oh the whole mess start again

The whole mess starting up again is exactly what I fear the most. I've got four untenable situations. One at work, one at home, one with my sister, and one with a friend. From time to time each of these looks as if it might be winding down or at least getting somewhat better. Yet each time they flare back up into something at least as bad as they once were. It's hard to face the same thing day in and day out. It wears my hope down. ``But I thought things were getting better,'' and to only have them take a turn for the worse. Half of these I didn't choose. The other half I chose but I had no comprehension of what would eventually be expected of me.

When I dwell on this in the wrong way, I can empathize far too well with the ancient Greeks whether it be Hesiod opining that life is hard for the work is endless or Herodotus narrating the story of Solon explaining to Croesus how the happiest of men are those who are dead. I can understand far too well how life puts people into such a state that they believe that with all of their hearts. And this is perhaps the largest temptation that I struggle with, to give up hope. And yet my hope endures. I only hope that my hope will endure until the last day.

Well New York buildings are very high
And not all offensive
Lock the door

And yet the skyscrapers of NYC are offensive to many. The WTC was a constant object of attack until one day a group of deranged and hateful men finally managed to bring the twin towers down. It's a frequent source of amusement to me to see how what offends one person seems inconsequential to another. This happens so often not only on the grand scale but also on the personal scale. People interpret our actions and words in a multitude of different ways and it isn't uncommon for some of these to be either interpreted in a fashion that wasn't meant and thereby cause offense. But it is probably even more common for words to be heard correctly and to cause offense that wasn't meant. Sometimes its hard to know what will offend this person or that person. More frequently, however, I think it easy to know but hard to care. I probably shouldn't try to speak for anyone else on this issue, but it does seem to me that as human beings we're mostly wrapped up in ourselves and spend very little time concerned about how our actions affect others and those times when we are concerned, we're more likely to be concerned about how they perceive us because of those actions than how those actions actually affect them.

Of course, there are counterexamples to this. While I do confess that I have a very pessimistic view of the race of men, I also believe in redemption. One of my favorite observations was made by Father AlexanderSchmemann , that everyone who is capable of being thankful is capable of salvation. Thankfulness itself is part of the battle for cosmic justice.

Gonna carry on at infinite weight, my dear
The Pope in the silver castle
Was that awful

I think the capture of a deranged man attempting to get into the Pope of Rome's open air car recently is the ultimate statement on modernism and the way that it has been implicitly accepted even by the oldest and most traditional segments of western society. Just why that is so I will leave as an exercise to the reader.

I don't know that it is really so awful.

Hey, that's fine. That's it

And that is all I have to say for now. I hope the Velvet Underground will forgive me. I hope that someone finds this worth reading. I put off finishing the first draft of an essay on liberal democracy and further editing an essay on happiness to finish this experiment. I'm not entirely certain that it was worth it. There was so much that I had to leave out, so much that I couldn't bear to leave in, so many things that can be taken the wrong way to those who know me in person who might read this. Perhaps it is all vanity that I post this online. But on the other hand, I can hope. I can always hope.

I'm going to go drink some Nescafe™

< Untitled | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
I know where temptation lies ... | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden)
I'm not sure by blixco (4.00 / 2) #1 Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 06:32:13 AM EST
what the end will be to this story, but my friend I hope whatever storm that is in your head finds ways to blow out without blowing up.
"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
this is by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 10:11:51 AM EST
one of the best, and most moving, diaries i have read here in years.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
I read John Gray's book by Dr H0ffm4n (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 02:52:32 AM EST
The premise was that men and women seem to use a common language but with different intent. The opposite sexes had to learn to translate from what each other said rather than interpreting directly.

The major example is that a woman may have a moan to her man about the world. The man assumes this is a request for fixes and either offers solutions or goes off and tries to fix stuff for the woman. The woman gets annoyed because all she wanted was an ear to moan to and the man hasn't even listened but keeps interrupting like a know it all or buggered off altogether and done stuff she was quite capable of doing herself: "Patronising git!"

A man has a moan and expects the woman to suggest stuff but she just sits there listening in agreement: "A great lot of help, she was!"


Coincidence? Pale Blue Eyes came up on my iPod this morning. I can't remember the last time I heard Lou Reed's voice.

I know where temptation lies ... | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden)