Yet another crisis week.
The usual thing: a time in which I crawl into my shell, pull myself off all social networking sites, send texts and e-mails I don’t mean, throw the baby out with the bath water, because life just seems easier without having to deal with emotions. Or people.
A time in which I remember being nine years old and opening the cream tea-set I had been given as a birthday present and wishing that all my party guests would quickly go so that I could play with it.
A time in which we went to the sea-side as a family and the greatest joy was my first sighting of the slim silver of sea in the distance; the smell of salt; the rush of warm sand between my toes.
But, as Ecclesiastes 3 said much better than anyone ever did: There is a time for everything.
Not many people know that I was once a Baptist lay preacher. At one point in my life, I was going to enter the church full time. Now, I regard that period as an emotional stumbling block, as I do most religions (Buddhism remains, for me, the only logical belief), but especially Christianity. I wholeheartedly embrace the notion that people can believe whatever they want to believe to enable them to get by; the man in the sky is just not for me (do watch Ricky Gervais’s masterpiece The Invention of Lying; there is no better movie about the deception of belief).
So, where do you go in a crisis without religion as your backer? Ironically, there are still great lessons to be learned from the Bible (Be nice to people! DUH!), but to me they are philosophical ones, which is why I found myself turning again to the Book of Ecclesiastes after thinking that this was another moment that I like to call “just life”: There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, and this was just another weepy time.
It’s a bit of a strange passage, though, nonetheless. I’m not happy about the “time to kill and a time to heal” bit, nor the “time for war and a time for peace” – killing and war never having been high on my agenda. I also would never embrace the idea that there is “a time to search and a time to give up”, because I am not, nor will ever be, one of life’s giver-uppers.
The existential crisis of mankind (to me – you can choose your own) is the battle between what we want and what we can’t have: our expectations, versus those expectations not being met. Our expectations (personal or professional) come from our parenting and society at large; their not being met from our frustration at not being able to fulfil them, for whatever reason. Call me Socrates (without the beard; and the suicide bit, obviously).
Let’s look more closely at a few more of these statements.
“There is a time to be born and a time to die”: the former is easy; the latter, horrendous (which is why people need the construct of religion and the notion of “everlasting life” to help them deal with the thing they cannot acknowledge as fact i.e. That’s it, mate. Its over. Nada).
A time to plant and a time to uproot. I have spent most of my adult life uprooting. For most people, their planting is marriage and children, and I would not deny anyone the joy that those two things can undoubtedly bring. I just never met the right seeds; just managed to purchase some awesome hoes.
A time to mourn and a time to dance. Yes, I get that. Just try telling that to the Irish at a wake.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Nope. Throw your arms around that guy while you can.
A time to tear and a time to mend. I have a tendency to self-destruct. It’s really a time I could do without.
A time to be silent and a time to speak. Yep. Usually that moment when you say “What do you mean, the bar’s closing? It’s only 4am.” That’s when you really need to shut the eff up.
A time to love and a time to hate. No, there is never a time to hate.
One of the things I have learned during my weeks of existential crisis (excuse the melodrama; I’m a writer. Live with it) is that it is always a time to love. I have, as always, been overwhelmed by the outpourings of love and support, many of them from complete strangers, on social networking. I haven’t gone into the details of what brought the latest meltdown into being, and nobody probed me for the reasons why.
I don’t know myself. The actions I take during these times are symptoms, not causes. I don’t believe in the man in the sky, but maybe, as Ecclesiastes says, we are tested so that we may see we are “like the animals”. In the end: “Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
So, in that brief time we have from dust to dust, we might as well enjoy love. Yes, love.
There is always a time to love.