Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Banality of Turning Points

When I read Hugo, Tolstoi or Dickens I am often struck by the moments of truth, when all of life seems to hang in the balance, when these characters have to decide between the right path and the wrong one.

These moments are large, enormous, enough for a frantic:

What have I done
sweet Jesus what have I done
become a thief in the night
become a dog on the run
have I fallen so far
or is the hour so late
that nothing remains but the cry of my hate
the cries in the dark that nobody hears
here where I stand at the turning of the years...

The turning point is always glaring, emblazoned with with fluorescent red poster paint. You can see the turning point. It's there. It's fair.

But maybe for the lesser characters like us, the ones without those Masters of the Third Person Omniscient to write our dialogue (and certainly no one to edit it) the moments of truth, the turning points, are less vivid, banal even, and they pass unnoticed until you're remembering them after the fact.

Even though they carry with them the crushing weight of Consequences, of Remorse into an indifferent pillow each night, of hopelessness, of another little piece of you breaking off and falling into the swirling wind (or is it mud?) to be lost forever, you get no warning beforehand.

It could be as simple as approving the "friend request" of someone you don't really like on Facebook. OK, so the person is an irritant. Bad vibes first time around. Bad bad vibes. Clash and burn.

No reason to be rude, right? Accept the friend request. And so it begins.

It could be as simple as reading the status updates of these so-called irritants, finding yourself amused, and gradually coming to like the once-irritant. It could be replying to comments on your posts and your notes, by this now-not-so-irritating-in-fact-even-positively-witty irritant.

It could be as simple as agreeing to meet for a drink. In a quiet place. To talk.

And after the fact, after the "banshee wailing for her demon lover" misery, the lies, the fabrications, the anxious planning and politicking and arranging of events and consorting with other banshees, when the dust has settled, when the grime has been wept away, when the heart has resumed its monotonous ticking...you look back to see at what point you fell.

And you can't believe how banal, in fact boring, the moment. And how improbable all the lies you swallowed unwittingly.

The idle mind.

The devil's playground.

For sure.

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