The man at the coat-check asks me how the concert had been. I tell him it had been remarkable, though unexpected. He laughs and tells me that it is all a part of the plan to draw the younger generation in (here he casts me a meaningful glance). I smile and tell him that they don’t need to do anything as drastic as that to draw me in. The first strains of Kyrie Eleison would have been bait enough.
“Know your weaknesses, work on them with confidence and determination,” was a favorite line of an old mathematics teacher. She was talking about carelessness in mathematics. Years later, when I see five-stars in a package from home, I take the advice to heart and eat them all with confidence and determination. That is one of the better weaknesses, all said and done. There are others, not dealt with, in the form of expensive symphony tickets, in the form of daily acai bowls, in the form of a crippling shyness that leads to expensive, non-shared living arrangements.
It takes demotivation to motivate me. I do badly in good times, stressing at length about what could go wrong. When everything has gone wrong, my thinking clears up. I suspect, in the grander scheme of things, I stress less when unhappy than I do when I am happy.
Lord have mercy. The words have been burned into me from childhood, painstakingly drilled into memory by nuns and grandparents. They believed (in the Father, in the Son begotten of the Father, in the Spirit). They taught me to believe. It was the most important lesson of my childhood. Do you think it is strange that someone like me, who fears that the worst is still around the corner, all the time, can still believe so fully and purely in the goodness of being? It is not strange at all. Belief, conditioned on the prior I have had, is no trifle.
Looking inwards is the hardest thing I have done, I think. Perhaps it was not as difficult as it could have been. I had the time, throughout childhood, when there were no play-mates and everyone else was too involved in family drama. I had the time, later, throughout my school-years. A sharp awareness lingered in the mind everyday – of being lost in crowds, being alone in large groups, being content with the books and the rain. There was a long and fruitful reprieve from that journey of finding out why, when I had the good fortune to know a hyacinth. The unavoidable quest came back, and I travelled away from home and myself both trying to find out. Ten or so years of running from pillar to post to find the answers, and I finally start to see them in the one place I should have looked at.
Years later, as the choirboys sing the Credo, I come back to myself weeping. The tears, I find, have very little to do with what I thought I had lost. They have everything to do with what I found then, amidst the rising coda (et vitam venturi saeculi, amen).