Candlelight vigil at La Merced Cathedral in Antigua, Guatemala

The Great Motivators

A semi-poetical rant on love, fear and being

It’s because I feel physically unwell and emotionally vulnerable, I tell myself, that this wretched, near paralyzing mortality has got such a grip on me today. So that when I handle a circular saw I’m absurdly terrified of slipping, fumbling with the jag-toothed, horrendously loud apparatus and finding my femoral artery suddenly severed so that I’m left with a handful of lonely minutes to ponder a life cut short. It’s a sick feeling that’s deep inside, lurking, hidden in that strange, dark animal that is the gastrointestinal tract; blind, deaf and mute, feeling only the waveform vibrations, the tectonic tick, tick ticking of the world, and responding in its primal, wormlike way: a raw, wordless, blood-soaked emotion that washes rhythmically, rises and falls full and heavy like a midnight tide.

It’s fear, really. Unadulterated and thick, connected to all the base, yellow emotions by capillary tendrils, a network of spindly, hairlike roots that reach out ghostly and gossamer to depression, anxiety, rejection, loneliness, cowardice, avoidance, restlessness and indecision. But this is reality, you know. The crude apprehension of our actual state of affairs, that is, our habituating a wide, trundling universe with no regard for our shocking fragility, uncouth and artless, cold, entirely unsympathetic to our nature, indifferent to cognizance in general, and in specific to the unbending, gut-wrenching, fully possessing reality of feeling that each and every one of us shares in common.

There is non-life, which is a mind numbing majority of all things, a swimming, near-infinite swarm of various objects hurtling through space, all encased in a thin, mysterious egg-skin and floating like a weightless soap-bubble in endless, lightless nothingness. And then there is life. A microscopic, infinitesimal dot, a temporally confined, insignificant, thoroughly discountable phenomena. A thing that craves blindly, single mindedly to go on, a thing that knows that it is, and that wants desperately, graspingly, to go on being. So that life in all its manifestations, in all its sprawling, surprising, unique vehicles, is united in these two things: fear and love.

Fear that compels from behind: unavoidable, gut deep fear that’s heavy in the blood, that hangs with unbearable weight on the organs, in the bones, gurgling in the alien mess of soft tissue tubes that sloshes unkempt in the belly, slinking hidden in the viscera so that the intellect cannot pierce it, the mind cannot resolve it. And there it whispers the coldest of truths: death. Death, death unavoidable death. The surrender of all things dear, the inexorable settling of accounts, the final disrobing, the laying down of the fleshsuit under the insatiable gaze of time. The loss of everything.

And love that coaxes from ahead: a burning flower, a hot grip on the heart, rich, color saturated beauty that blooms passionately defiant in the gray face of a disinterested cosmos. A forceful occupation of the entire will, too big for the vessel and yet growing still, an overflowing, throbbing presence that inundates the flesh, pulls up on the muscle fibers, picks up from the tendons so that there’s a lightness in the step, a tightness in the loins, a tension on the sinews as if we are marionettes, powerless, guided, danced forward in time, hog-tied unflinching to the rich, velvety lust to protect, to defend, to couple and reproduce.

Fear that pushes from behind, propels from non-being, threatens and coerces, startles relentlessly into the future; love that pulls from ahead, tugs achingly at heartstrings, lures with hot overflowing feeling, presses the imperative to plant seed so that cognizance, knowing, awareness will go drifting on into the future like some cosmic ghost, gingerly traversing the unending river of time, treading precariously atop our perishable bodies like so many slippery stepping stones amidst the cold, lifeless current of indifference that goes rushing perilously, endlessly by.

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