We Go to the Wicked City

No, I am not trying the channel the spirit of John Bunyan or the Southern Agrarians. (Not that the Southern Agrarians would be a bad lot to channel, mind you, especially as I suspect that a maternal great-uncle might have been involved in the movement–he was a faculty member in the English department at Vanderbilt in the 20s.) Rather, this is the title for today’s selected reading in The University Library series (1926). I happily happened upon this series in its entirety at a Goodwill store a couple years ago. While it may go down as one of my most expensive thrift store purchases (and, no, I include not those purchases made in thrift stores in Hollywood that charge $45 for a stained pearl-buttoned Western-wear long sleeve shirt) –fifteen clams, the purchase added a poor man’s version of The Harvard Classics-type-of-dignity to my apartment. Often, too, the readings are quite engaging. I figured with the new year and all, I might as well have a proper go at this daily passage expedition. (We will see how this transpires, as I was never that faithful, while still a Protestant, to any sort of prescribed, regimented daily Bible reading. Now that I am Catholic, well, I simply do not read the Bible at all. Kidding—sort of…)

Today’s reading: a selection taken from David Grayson’s Adventures in Understanding: “We Go to the Wicked City”:

For adventure is like love–we do not have to seek far for it; we can begin anywhere. I think sometimes we mistake the nature both of love and of adventure; and sit by waiting for someone else to begin the loving, or for some fine and thrilling thing to happen to us. But true love is not like that–nor yet beautiful adventure. Love comes of loving first, and adventure, because we have it in the soul of us.

This passage resonates with me. This provides the best explanation for why I do not allow myself to cultivate the travel madness that a good number of my friends and peers have. That is, if I cannot find adventure where I currently live and if I cannot love those who are already in my life, what justification do I have to think that I will find adventure or love anywhere else? If I cannot be, as D. H. Lawrence wrote, man alive where I currently am, then I will only take my “deadness” with me wherever I go. More than likely, I would only mingle my “deadness” with the “deadness” of others.

As St. John tells us, we love God (when we do, when I do) because He first loved us. Taking a lesson from this, instead of waiting for love to fall on us like the tenuously dangling piano hoisted by clumsy movers trope in classic movies, why do we not take the initiative and seek out the piano? Okay, so forgive the questionable simile and analogy–I am cutting back on my coffee intake. (No, not a new year’s resolution or anything silly like that; my somewhat worsening nervous system simply cannot handle the copious amounts of caffeine that I used to ingest.) Since God has given me life and the capacity for life greater still, what I am going to do? If I cannot love God in my humble city of _________,__________, do I seriously think that a change of scene is going to bring me any closer? If I cannot love the miserable people of ____________,____________, will I be able to love any more fully the miserable people of (exotic location of your choice)? Of course, this is not to discredit the value of pilgrimages, retreats, or vacations; we all need these from time to time. Instead, what I am addressing is the go-go-go-somewhere-new-now fever of which too many people seem to have a chronic case.

The aforementioned reading also refers to a few lines taken from an ode of the Odes of Horace:

Lord of himself that man will be,
And happy in his life alway,
Who still at even can say with free
Contented soul: “I’ve lived to-day!”

Not to be too quixotic (“too” being the key word), but I do want to end every day this year and all other years God deigns to give me with gratitude and the ability to say: I’ve lived today–even it has been spent in my hometown with my miserable hometown people.

About Bourbon Apocalypse: A Whiskey Son of Sorrow

"If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing." ~ Kingsley Amis
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