“Ours is the century of enforced travel of disappearances. The century of people helplessly seeing others, who were close to them, disappear over the horizon.” - Berger
I’ve recently returned from a brief trip to southern Missouri. I took a leave of absence from my deadlines to spend time with my oldest and closest friend, Ryan. Ryan and I spent the majority of my visit trading shots of whiskey and rum while bemoaning politics, religion, and midwest culture. We sat alone in his dimly lit apartment and reflected on bittersweet memories and when we were drunk enough, we’d muster the courage to gaze into our immediate future. We’ve mostly hardened, and we mostly hurt on behalf of each other. I lament his loneliness and he laments my guilt. In the dark we laughed and sang and smoked and cursed.
Ryan observed that I surround myself with young people forced to be old by tragedy, illness, or intelligence. I observed that he surrounds himself with no one at all. We drank some more. We sat on the balcony of his flat and hummed to ourselves. A soft breeze carried the stench of cigarettes and the sound of laughter as we sat talking. Our every passing word served to remind us of our fading youth, long gone, smothered by sorrow, loneliness, and love gone away.
I’m writing about all of this because tomorrow is my twenty-sixth birthday and I’m starting to feel as though my age is catching up to my temperament. I consider my age and I suddenly feel as though the dreams of my youth, and the hopes of recovering what was lost in my youthful ignorance are lost to the innumerable decisions made over the course of the past six years. My gut tells me that this is common in aging. I think Ryan and I have a tendency to feel alone in our remorse, but the more I study the writings of lost authors while reflecting on their sad endings – the more comforted I feel in that community of confused thinkers. Most days I feel as though the isolation that accompanies a capacity for great intellect is a paradox of sorts. Freethinkers are both isolated by this capacity, but also united in their isolation and the various neuroses that accompany it. We are together in that we think, write, and create.
There is something holy about Ryan and I sitting together. We are beset with our own existence, with our past, with the insoluble nature of present circumstances, and with the ultimate tragic nature of life. Neither of us can find a way out and the most we can do is nod to one another as we shrug and laugh. Twenty-six years on this rock has taught me one thing for sure: you can only trust human beings who are honest enough to admit they don’t know. Anyone who claims to know has been sold a product and they’re likely trying to include you in the pyramid scheme. It’s true that too much introspection might be deadly, and I’ve often felt the nausea that accompanies honest reflection. Honest introspection is the surest way to arrive at an honest conclusion – not knowing.