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The lacerating moment

July 14, 2008

…the one you wish you could take back; would give anything to take back, or a least could have spent alone

Memoir

Orwell says somewhere that no one ever writes the real story of their life.
The real story of a life is the story of its humiliations.
If I wrote that story now—
radioactive to the end of time—
people, I swear, your eyes would fall out, you couldn’t peel
the gloves fast enough
from your hands scorched by the firestorms of that shame.
Your poor hands. Your poor eyes
to see me weeping in my room
or boring the tall blonde to death.
Once I accused the innocent.
Once I bowed and prayed to the guilty.
I still wince at what I once said to the devastated widow.
And one October afternoon, under a locust tree
whose blackened pods were falling and making
illuminating patterns on the pathway,
I was seized by joy,
and someone saw me there,
and that was the worst of all,
lacerating and unforgettable.

By Vijay Seshadri

Tip of the hat to Benjamin Cohen at The World’s Fair.

Categories: observations
  1. July 14, 2008 at 06:32 | #1

    What perfect timing… I Meme’d you…

    http://onehappydog.us/2008/07/memed-again/

  2. July 14, 2008 at 06:56 | #2

    <wince> I just cannot think about this and stay sane.

  3. Ted
    July 14, 2008 at 08:30 | #3

    I don’t get it.

    The real story of a life is the story of its humiliations

    Only to oneself. If the sum of your life is obsessive navel-gazing than I guess this would apply.

    But focusing on one’s humiliating moments (as if it’s important to the rest of us) has definite tendencies to ego and self-absorption.

    We value truth; we value self discovery; we value others finding common humanity qualities.

    But self absorption? I’ve had enough of it from our culture and refuse to believe that there’s normalcy in obsessive introspection.

    BTW, there’s very little that I would do over. Mistakes made are part of living. I never had the impression that I was perfect and was thus disappointed that I wasn’t.

  4. July 14, 2008 at 10:56 | #4

    I don’t think this is about self-absorption. Maybe you’d be happier with “the hidden story of a life is the story of its humiliations”.  Because people hide their wounds, both self- and other-inflicted, for exactly the same reason a cat does.  Unfortunately the result is that in isolation and alienation each of us misses the ‘common humanity’ you mentioned.

    And yes; I would undo some things in my life.  That is what regret means.

  5. Ted
    July 14, 2008 at 12:54 | #5

    And yes; I would undo some things in my life.  That is what regret means.

    Well, regret does not mean humiliation. Humiliation is related to pride, regret is related to decisions and the ability to understand the implications and results of decisions.

    Regret is useful insofar as being the basis for learning so that the next decision is more correct.

  6. July 14, 2008 at 13:31 | #6

    We’re not robots refining an algorithm, we’re animal organisms equipped with a set of mirror neurons that make us to some extent feel the joy and pain of others.  If you have never had a moment where you discovered you didn’t measure up to what you had hoped of yourself, that’s very unusual.  Or when your good intentions in a nonrepeatable circumstance like raising children, crashed and lay smoking on the surface. When there is no “next time” or “next decision”. 

    But as with any poem, if it isn’t helpful, you need not own it.

  7. Ted
    July 15, 2008 at 08:08 | #7

    Well, I was waiting for others to add to the commentary, but no one did.

    Or when your good intentions in a nonrepeatable circumstance like raising children, crashed and lay smoking on the surface. When there is no “next time” or “next decision”.

    Do you raise children by yourself? In a skinner box?

    My kids are f*cked up. Done my best, but I wasn’t alone in f*cking them up and never felt that their outcome was linked to me any more than the environment would allow—the rest of the culture had a significant hand in it. Is it humiliating to me that they are f*cked up? Only if I let (my) pride perkolate to the top and assign myself some unreasonable amount of influence in their outcome.

    As to “next time, next decision”—we work in a time bound neurolinguistic environment.

    It’s not about owning the poem. I understand it somewhat—I was looking for the reason that knowledge of personal humiliation makes the person more whole.

  8. July 15, 2008 at 15:57 | #8

    There wasn’t any promise of wholeness, only an observation about part of our existence we go to a lot of trouble to hide.  The incomplete story we tell to others, and to ourselves, and which leads to people thinking they are alone in having a particular weakness, which in turn they have to hide from others, and even from themselves. 

    But of what little I know about poetry, is this: it is like a joke.  If you have to explain it…

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