Monday, October 3, 2011

Memory

In deciding whether or not I should get up and write this thing I have fought a battle in my head. The battle is part of a larger war that has been going on for an unmeasurable amount of time.
I ask myself, do I get up and write, write some stupid little anecdote from high school just because I'm high on my memories and the writing style of the memoir I just finished and the trendy flash fiction I read after finishing that memoir? What use is it anyway?

I sit there and fight with myself; yes, I can tell myself all these diatribes about writing for my future and writing for practice and writing this down now because I may never again think to write this thing, in this way.

I am also getting up for work in fewer than eight hours, and I can tell myself all these noble things now but I'll be pissed off in the morning when my alarm clock goes off and I know that part of why I'm tired is because I stayed up to write something that will almost certainly never make it into the pages of a literary journal or published book.

And then I ask myself, what is the value of either of those things - that is, the extra sleep or the recording of another memory? If I write I lose sleep for one night but if I stay in bed I wake up feeling plugged up and discontent, tired anyway, asking myself what difference does it make if I"m well-rested when all I'm getting up for is a job that I resent for the loss of this kind of spontanaiety, this kind of strange creative outburst?

If I stay in bed, how many more of these little moments are there going to be that make up one greater moment, until I am lying in bed years down the road thinking, okay, I never finished a story but I did at least sleep? The choice, now that I am sitting in this lit room (dark rooms lit by a lamp after you've gone to bed seem different than the same dark rooms lit by lamps looked before bed, don't they?), seems trivial in a life-or-death kind of way. Or life-or-death in a trivial kind of way.

Or something...cleverer than that.

This is the memory, by the way.

It is the spring of my sophomore year in high school, and I am standing with my sister, who is home from college, and our mom in her apartment.

"I think we should go to church," my sister says.

"We should," my mom says, and they smile pleasant, dreamy smiles, as if someone suggested we should go for coffee.

"Church? Why should we go to church?" My tone is a combination of genuine and theatrical irritation. I have been questioning my religion for over a year now, but I have not definitively renounced Christianity. I am an unsure, fledgling kind of non-believer; I have not yet learned that the very topic of religion need not stir up defensiveness.

"Because," my sister replies with only the slightest exasperation, "Jesus loves you." She and my mom smile again, but this time they're "you know how she is" kind of conspiratorial smiles, smiles which blithely ignore our absence from church for over a year, which perpetuate the myth of us as a churchgoing family.

Because Jesus loves you. What a leap in logic. Jesus loves you, therefore you should go to church. Years later, I will ace Philosophy of Logic and learn that this statment is, without a doubt, some sort of fallacy.

I pretend my doubts are based in logic because that's what's trendy in the circles where smart non-believers hang out. Because it is easier to ignore what it truly means, in my own life, to give up religion. But I've never read Darwin and cannot remember how old they say the Earth is or any other fact that some can spit out with encyclopedic accuracy, armed with weapons for future arguments.

Another moment in the future I will spot a book in Barnes and Noble called The Quotable Atheist, which serves to arm non-believers in exactly this way. I will consider picking it up (because at 24 I finally know I'm not a Christian anymore for sure), but re-shelve it because I'm beginning to wonder what the point of it all is. Learn things just for the sake of using the knowledge against others, pretending it is self-evident and that you didn't learn it from some gimmicky book?

Plus, it seems hypocritical. After all, like I said, it didn't start with logic.

In my mom's apartment in my sophomore year of high school, I concede that we can (though I avoid "should") go to church. Because I can either get up on Sunday and listen to people tell me in soft voices that Jesus loves me, or I can sit quietly in the living room of the apartment, fearing it to be true.

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