Inertia

An object at rest will remain at rest until an outside force acts upon it.
A lazy bum will remain lazy unless something makes him change.

Long before any physics class, I understood Newton’s First Law of Motion. It was at work in the fingers that futilely tried to resist it by hitting a snooze button on my alarm clock every morning. It was in the the pockets of my gym shorts every day we had to do laps. It was the ink in every deduction off every paper I turned in late due to sheer procrastination. It was the Deadly Sin called Sloth. Newton’s First Law also says bodies at motion remain in motion. I’ll have to take his word for it; I’ve never been one to move.

I spoke recently of being ill beyond the confines of physical health. We’re all sick, of course, the kind of sickness Jesus claimed to have come to cure. Our sin weighs us down whether we acknowledge it or not. And the wages of sin is death, regardless of which sin. It’s inaccurate to call any sin more deadly than another.

The thing is, they’re all tied together. Pride goeth before a great many things that can be considered falling. It tells us that we deserve to be catered to, that we deserve the best of everything, that our happiness is the ultimate goal, that in fact pursuing happiness directly will result in achieving it.

And so we eat more than we should, and we are gluttons.
And so we become lethargic through our gluttony, and become slothful.
And so we become bored in our slothfulness, and our minds wander.
They wander to women, and we are lustful.
They wander to riches, and we are greedy.
They wander to wrongs, and we are hateful.
If we are not too slothful, we act out in wrath; else we kill our brothers in our minds.
Sometimes we even hate ourselves. This too is pride.

I have been at rest for far too long, and that is really all it comes down to. Without external forces to put me in motion, I have grown still, and in that stillness I have wallowed, and bid darkness come to me. They say with great power comes great responsibility — and by “they,” I mean Uncle Ben and Jesus (Luke 12:48).

For all its flaws (and they are manifold), Spider-Man 3 did one thing well: it showed how quickly one can be polluted, and how dangerous that pollution can be when it happens in one who’s gifted. I can’t fly or leap over buildings, but my imagination is incredibly potent. It’s been my gift, but lately I’ve allowed it to be my curse. If idle hands are the devil’s playthings, an idle imagination is the devil himself. You know the expression “things you can’t unsee?” When something is crafted by the mind’s eye, its capacity to stay and scar is multiplied to the nth degree. The things I most wish I could have never seen are things that I myself dreamed up.

This terrifying degradation is most tragic because it’s entirely preventable. Happily, it’s also reversible. The magnitude of the evil I’ve imagined points clearly to the magnitude of good I’m capable of imagining. The stories unfit for others’ eyes promise different stories, fit for all. Images, now burned, speak of uplifting artistry as yet untapped.

Inactivity has led me to the depths of darkness.
Activity, then, is the path I’ll take to the heights of light.

At least, that’s the plan (well, the plan comes in my next post). But the thing is, as of this moment, I’m still a body at rest, fighting against inertia. Whatever I propose to change all that won’t happen absent the outside force acting upon me. If there’s ever been such a thing as a “self-starter,” I’m certainly not it.

Prayer is first, for prayer seeks the First Mover to move me, the force that overcame the ultimate inertia and forced nonexistence to become existence. But short of saying “prayer is insufficient of itself,” I’d love more…direct assistance. The activity I plan to engage in to bring myself back to life will be much easier (and, more importantly — for this isn’t about ease — much more beneficial) if it is a social endeavor. Expect something less vague in the days to come.

Malaise

It’s rather incredible how quickly one can be overcome with sickness. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling vital, optimistic for a week of plans and progress. By nightfall I was shivering, sniffling, and trying desperately to sleep. Wednesday I spent roughly eighteen hours sleeping off a fever. Since the fever broke I’ve finished off two boxes of tissues and am setting record pace through a third.

And frankly, decimation of paper products is about all I have to show for four days’ time. Though my facilities, for the most part, returned not long after leaving, I went on as if they’d bid Adieu. Doing nothing is, of course, a favored pastime of mine.

The trouble with pastimes is they’re not pasttimes; they’re merely how you pass time. Or, in my case, how time passes you. And pass it has: three weeks, to the very day, since leaving the wonderful hospitality of Upton and returning, triumphantly, to Pawling. Save a slightly-expanded vocabulary and three or four rabbit trails, I can’t really say I’m much closer to answering The Questions than I was in Boston.

Which Questions?

Well…

What are you going to study? Where are you looking? Are there programs like that? How common are they? What do you want to do with the degree? Well sure, but be more specific? What’s the point? What’s your purpose?

State your purpose.

Frankly, I’m glad I got sick. No, not because I’m a masochist (though that’s debatable), but because whenever I get sick, I fall in love with being healthy. I dream of being able to do simple things — drink cold water, taste my food, walk without aching — and rejoice when those facilities return.

Sickness never lets you forget that you’re sick. It’s on every plate, in every cup, between every step, on every tissue, pervading every cough, echoing after every sneeze. It never ceases to surprise you with the vastness of its hold on you. And you think, “if I get through this, i’m going to make sure it never happens again.” Vitamins. Exercise. Scarves.

Look, it’s a cold.

And it took a cold, a sickness, a period of being unable to do anything productive, for me to realize that I’ve been sick and unproductive for much longer than the purview of any bacteria or virus. I realized I’ve taken the capacity for productivity, for living fully and rewardingly, quite for granted since being back. Something I was afraid might happen, but swore not to allow.

Something that getting sick helped me to catch before catching something truly lethal.

I wish I’d gotten to go to homecoming. There are some really awesome people that I’ve sucked at staying in touch with over the last year or two, and for all I know, this weekend was the last chance to rebuild those bonds before they broke.

So it goes.

But I’m looking forward to the week ahead: a chance to make good on the promises I made to myself and others, to charge from this infirmity’s gates with a focus and drive that had been fading. The Questions are coming, and I’m just thankful to have one more week to answer them.

~

A former me may have ended the blog there. He may even have tried to end on some series of short, pithy declarations. He would not, however, have continued writing here. He wouldn’t have said that this sounds way too much like another empty promise built on the back of providential epiphany. And he wouldn’t have committed to making this part one of three.

But I will. This was to let you know I’ve been sick, that I know I’ve been sick. Physically, sure, but the malaise I refer to in the title is more rudimentary, of the spirit. This weekend, I’ll address that sickness more specifically. And then, more usefully, I’ll establish the plan for a cure.