Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

5.06.2017

Really Seeing Someone. That's Love.


A few years back I wrote a post titled I Wanted to Capture the Quotes about a book by Benjamin Alire Saenz, who has become one of my favorite authors. I've recently finished his latest, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, and am inspired to do the same. Here is a short description of the book followed by my review, a few extra quotes from it, and some other quotes I've liked from recent reads:

The first day of senior year. Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief. Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
“You don’t have a high opinion of human nature, do you?”

“Your problem, Sally, is that you think everybody is like you and your dad and your Mima. I got a news flash for you.”
A third of the way into this book I was liking the story well enough, but I was feeling the characters were just a bit too nice. Their ease with each other and their problems, their lack of negative reactions and mistakes, their ability to love and take care of each other, while good, didn't seem to provide enough conflict and drama for a moving story. I was underwhelmed.
“As I’ve tried to impress upon you in the past, there’s a sad story behind every item that’s for sale in pawnshops.”

“Impress upon me,” I said. “How could I forget? So we’re into sad. No, even worse, we’re into voyeurism? Looking in on or making up other people’s tragedies. Great.”
Another third of the way through and I realized my feelings had changed. I became aware that every time I read a portion of the book my mood improved. I felt more general happiness, more easily accepted hardship, and thought more often of my loved ones. I felt more love.
“Anger is an emotion. But there’s always something behind anger. Something stronger. You know what that is?”

“Is that a trick question?”

“It comes from fear, son. That’s where it comes from. All you have to do is figure out what you’re afraid of.”

Oh, I thought. Is that all?
Don't think that means the book is free of conflict, hardship, anger, and fear, or that the characters don't suffer and hurt each other. They are believably real people dealing with more than their share of tragedy. It's just that those characters also know how to take care of each other. They are extraordinary in their ability to be vulnerable and to love, particularly protagonist Salvador. And that makes this book particularly affecting by example.
I knew why people were afraid of the future. Because the future wasn’t going to look like the past. That was really scary.
This is an introspective story with a more leisurely pace than many. It's not necessarily one I would call "clean" or devoid of rough content, but it's definitely one I would call positive. Without any saccharine elements or forced optimism or anything didactic, this story gently demonstrates how to become a better, more wholehearted person.
I’ll always remember that look on your face. You saw me. You’ve always seen me. And I think that’s all that anyone wants. That’s why Fito loves coming over here. He’s been invisible all his life. And all of a sudden he’s visible. Seeing someone. Really seeing someone. That’s love.
The extras:
Words exist only in theory. And then one ordinary day you run into a word that exists only in theory. And you meet it face to face. And then that word becomes someone you know. That word becomes someone you hate. And you take that word with you wherever you go. And you can't pretend it isn't there.

-----

If there’s no heaven, I don’t really care. Maybe people are heaven, Dad. Some people, anyway. You and Sam and Fito. Maybe you’re all heaven. Maybe everyone’s heaven, and we just don’t know it.
Speaking of inexplicable logic, here's one from We Are Okay that calls to mind the book Nonsense by Jamie Holmes and two previous posts that featured it: Doesn't Look Like Anything to Me and Um, Maybe . . . Kinda . . . I Dunno: Or, Ambiguity:
Each time I thought I may have understood, some line of logic snapped and I was thrust back into not knowing.

It's a dark place, not knowing.

It's difficult to surrender to.

But I guess it's where we live most of the time. I guess it's where we all live, so maybe it doesn't have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.
Speaking of trials and not knowing, sometimes it's all a matter of pretending. From Of Things Gone Astray (a lovely book):
"No matter how old we get, we somehow can never convince ourselves that whatever trial we're in the middle of is only temporary. No matter how many trials we've had in the past, and no matter how well we remember that they eventually were there no longer, we're sure that this one, this one right now, is a permanent state of affairs. But it's not. By nature humans are temporary beings."

"You're saying I just have to ride it out until it goes away."

"Not at all, my dear. I'm saying you have to strive for a solution and trust that eventually there will be one."
And from Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs:
Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password, a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing. Every great record or novel or comic book convenes the first meeting of a fan club whose membership stands forever at one but which maintains chapters in every city -- in every cranium -- in the world. Art, like fandom, asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude. The novelist, the cartoonist, the songwriter, knows the gesture is doomed from the beginning but makes it anyway, flashes his or her bit of mirror, not on the chance that the signal will be seen or understood but as if such a chance existed.
Speaking of trials and works of art, I really like this one from Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson:
That's the difference between artists and the rest of us, I think. Artists know where to put the shadows.
In context that was referring about literal shadows on a drawing, but I like it even more as a figurative statement about dark and difficult moments in life. Artists know how to portray those things in ways that are useful and meaningful. Much the way I understand, People in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark, a quote about windows, as a more powerful statement about privilege.

Which leads to this nice bit of advice from Yaa Gyasi in Homegoing, expanding on the thought that "history is storytelling":
We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.
And, finally, back to the topics of love and finding heaven in each other, another one from Of Things Gone Astray:
There's nothing like forgiveness for making a person feel guilty. There's nothing like understanding for making a person feel undeserving. Because if someone is willing to forgive a weakness, they deserve better than to have put up with it.
That's all that anyone really wants. To be seen.

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