re-enchanted

Sorry, buddy. I was gone for a while and I owe you some kind of explanation. You see, I was being what clinical psychologists call “stupid.” I lied to, hid from, blamed, and in one way or another mistreated just about everyone who cares about me. In short, I was behaving as what is often termed “a man” (you see the equation here?). No one could tell me anything, no one knew what I knew, no one understood. And in this way I put a good bit of distance between myself and you or anyone else who might make some sense.

I made my own sense, in fact, like a real man, following a secret recipe for enchanted self-deception that has been rather unceremoniously passed down to me through the generations of sorcerers from whom I hail, the crowning piece of my inheritance, a regular family heirloom, you might say, and something of a rite of passage into a type of manhood which combines the cold, insolent rationality of the adult with childish petulance—the worst of both worlds. The recipe is simple, and it goes like this: a dash of truth, a cup and a half of falsity, three tablespoons of delusion, an ounce of madness to liquefy the mixture, and then some freshly ground fantasy to top it all off and add a little flavor, spice it up a bit.

It’s tricky, because it smells great at first—or so we think, proudly, like dogs who’ve just rolled in manure—but eventually gives off such a stench once it starts to boil and bubble that even we have to cringe. Alarmed in spite of our great sophistry, we have a little taste to see if it’s really that bad. It is. It’s terrible, just god awful, almost indescribable, with some incomprehensibly flavorless bitterness. But we force a little more down nevertheless, dutifully, stubbornly, first thinking, not entirely inaccurately, “they just don’t understand, it’s an acquired taste.” Then, as this smugness is overcome by a gag reflex, we think “well, it’s just not done yet” and put it back on the stove to simmer, denying the fact that “done” is a fundamental impossibility no matter how long we cook it because something very essential is missing from the mixture. Like a vegan cake, something just ain’t right.

This is how it always goes, always always. And that’s just how it went for me. It would’ve been fine, maybe even funny if I had simply been telling a story and not trying to live off of it, if I had just dabbled satirically in the sorcery of my forebears and not emptied out the pantry for real and left myself with no other form of sustenance. But that’s not how stupid works. Stupid always see bad ideas through to their conclusion, no matter what it takes, and no matter how starved it becomes for the truth (read Demons when you get a little older—it’s all there).

Stupid denies itself access to the very things it needs. And by the time it begins to realize—if it begins to realize—how far it has strayed from the truth and whatever originally impelled it to action, it’s actually much more frightened than bold, betraying through cracks in its façade that the whole thing was an absolute sham all along. And the ridiculous insistence on all those fragments of lofty ideas and ideals everyone had to endure back when stupid was preparing its odious batter? Those were nothing more than empty-headed and desperate espousals of a disenchantment with which it had no idea how to cope. Hungry for something, anything to fill the void inside, and refusing to or incapable of asking sensibly for help, it hastily and recklessly set about concocting that putrid, noxious simulacrum of true principle, ardor, and enchantment and went right on ignoring, in spite of its soul’s resulting malnourishment, the fact that this “knowledge” it was making—of self, other, or anything—was false. And because, as Shaw said, false knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance, stupid intensifies its disenchantment and exacerbates its illness like a cigarette-smoking asthmatic, all while claiming—insisting—it’s necessary and for the best.

Long story short, this is why I’m apologizing. I tried to feed this horribleness to you, ladling spoonful after spoonful of my nonsense stew into your bowl, making absurd promises to you about the gifts and glories you’d receive for joining me on this great misadventure like you were my little Sancho Panza, and, worst of all, misrepresenting you so completely that I’m still afraid I’ve permanently tarnished your good name and trampled your spirit. When I reached the fear stage of stupid, I started to wonder if you were lost, if I’d ever find you again. Confused and disoriented, I couldn’t remember where and when I had last seen you. Did that give me cause for pause? Of course, a little. But I was still such a raving lunatic that I panicked and proceeded to add insult to injury, graduating (with honors) from routine neglect to outright abuse.

Remaining true to form and covering my worries and apprehensions for the sake of appearances, I pretended you were right there by my side all along, but in the form of a grotesque, pathetic Peter Pan impostor mini me type thing that I trotted out in your stead. He was insufferable, and would’ve been pitiable were he not so obnoxious and arrogant, leaping around like a buffoon in those obscene green yoga pants and waving a little foam sword talking about “I’ll cut you,” getting fairy dust all over everything, and, of course, parroting all my quixotic, half-baked notions of truth and love and self and necessity with sycophantic zeal. Bukowski was right, selfish nonendurance is completely intolerable. This Peter Pan me was its ultimate personification.

It’s a shame, but this is the kind of thing adults do when they get stuck on stupid, and I’ve inherited a particularly dangerous adeptness for diving headlong into the ugly side of adulthood like a real manly man. Children, as Goethe said, have no such need to deceive themselves, and I wonder if this is the kind of thing Orwell had in mind when he said we basically suck after age eight. I wanted to be an exception to that, and I wish I hadn’t made myself so painfully ordinary by adding further proof to something already so self-evident.

I’ve told people that I lost track. This is true, but it’s not the whole story. The rest of the story lies with you, and that’s what I was missing all along. I forgot how to have fun, scoffed at principle, made some terrible choices, and did a colossal disservice to you, the best part of me, not to mention everyone else. But I’ll leave it at that because it’s a story that’s better for the showing than it is for the telling. It’s for living—a few words won’t do it justice, and too many words will kill it. So we’ll just keep it here between us, ok? Suffice it to say I’m back now, or getting there, and with your help I’ll get back to being the man I set out to be, the one who never strays too far from the boy inside, leaving the madman I became behind and always remembering what is possible when you take the truth and yourself for granted, when you cook up your own enchantment.

And if you ever see me in the kitchen trying to mix up another batch of that shit again, please do us all a favor and use that weapon you’re holding. You have my permission. Now come on, we’ve got a lot to do and I’ve got a lot to make up for. Let’s fill up on Reddi-Whip and go throw rocks at trucks on the highway.

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