Friday, April 10, 2009

Experience, Strength, and Hope

I love reading Cary Tennis's advice column because he is so kind, so compassionate, and so clearly has been there like all of us. He's not handing down best practices from some dais on high; he's passing along his own experience, strength, and hope. (I do feel that today he went a little off the rails into the political arena, but he generally brings it back home, and explains why he's gone off on the rant.)

Sometimes, he's quite blunt and intense:

We go through a lot of shit. The hitting-bottom thing: I so relate to that! I felt throughout my punk years that I had no right to my own rage because I myself had had it comparatively good. I was not from the gutter. I aspired to the gutter! But I came from the suburbs! I aspired to the gutter because the gutter would explain everything; it was the objective correlative to my poverty of spirit! I aspired to the gutter and eventually attained it but not without struggle and hard work! And then, having attained it, having reached my dream of ending up face-down in the gutter, I finally felt, having lost everything, that I had the right to my own suffering!

(From Mom is alcoholic, Dad is dead: Why do I feel so alone? Cary Tennis's advice column on Salon)

This paragraph reached out and grabbed me because once, I too "aspired to the gutter," and I've never really had a better explanation for it than how, upon reaching the gutter, my outsides finally matched how my insides had for a long time felt.

He said another priceless thing in this same column: "Do you identify with power or do you identify with those upon whom that power is cruelly exercised?" I've never heard it put like that before - I've often wondered why I always cheer for the underdog, relate to the tenant and not the landlord, raise a metaphorical fist for the downtrodden. I haven't been a member of the underclass for a long time, but I still relate to them better than to those with money, power, etc. Now I don't feel so mistaken about it.

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