We watched the HBO documentary on Susan Sontag last night, and I found myself getting angry with her. She talks about truth in a way that feels false, then circles around and comes at it from another direction. The way I struggle with meaning. What does it mean? Why does it have to mean anything? Why am I so consumed with meaning? Can’t the bat be the bat without signifying anything else?
Two years ago, I felt like I was having a spiritual crisis. And I kept interrupting my own crisis to ask if I even believed in the spirit. And if so, what did it look like? And where was it kept? And then I developed a concept of the center. My center. The center of me. And I knew where it lived and how it held itself. And that was alright for awhile, until I started to worry if what I meant by center was what I meant by spirit. It was like bad code – round and round again. Finally, in despair, I decided my dogs are as close as I get to understanding anything sacred, and I should just fucking relax and be more like them. Joyful with my full attention. Hungry with intimacy. Stretch. Growl. Sprint. Greet. Nurture. Dog spirit! And then this weird thing happened: my spiritual crisis ended.
But what did it mean?
Is it enough to watch the light move through the windows, across the trees, down the fence line? Is it enough to let things mean or not mean and get out of their way? Is it enough to hold the book, and think? Or do I also need to find myself convicted?
I feel like Sontag’s life would have been different if she’d been more honest. If she’d accepted that the critic, the intellectual, is time stamped by her own criticism. Sontag’s son said she was afraid to be extinguished. And that’s what happens, he added; we’re extinguished.
If that were true, they’d never have made this documentary a decade later. And I wouldn’t be watching it, angry with her. We keep secrets at our peril. They aren’t a fire inside us as much as a plague. A contamination. I don’t believe the truth needs to be said to be true. I don’t think it needs meaning to be different from what is. Meaning, and the thing aren’t even necessarily a contradiction.
The girl parsing out her spirit.
What makes you most alive?
Are you most alive when you’re exhilarated? When you’re in the midst of some thrilling adventure? Or are you most alive just there, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, noticing the way the hedgehog’s wheel rattles, or the furnace kicks on, or your shoulders ache?
What does the question indicate, except that you’re alive at all? Isn’t it enough to be alive at all? Be angry with her. Seek meaning. Get tired of yourself. Let the bat be the bat. Don’t even mention what kind of bat it is. Its truth can be its own.