The church, the woman, the house, and the hang-ups


The church

I get the feeling, when I look back over the last months I spent in Korea and what I wrote and believed then, that I am still missing the point. I said then I was idling, that I was waiting for the light to turn green. (I kept myself occupied with reading and watching videos. Now I just keep myself busy more productively.)

Last Friday my scooter’s brakes failed. It could have happened at any time during that morning, and in 80% of the cases it would have had serious consequences. But at the specific time and place where it happened, I was in virtually no danger. And since this was not the first time that something bad could have happened to me but didn’t, I wondered: Why?

That made me think again of the idea of a calling … or more specifically, the idea or feeling that I have some special calling, that there’s something that I have to do – a reason for being.

I sometimes spend the best hours of my days and nights thinking – about the world, about life, about the meaning of things, the meaning of my own life, the mystery of why I am like I am and why I do what I do, and why I’ve made the choices that have brought me where I am today. It’s like I’m a detective who’s constantly looking for clues, whether I am aware of it or not. Sometimes it’s just a word that gets stuck in my mind. Sometimes it’s a monologue at the end of a movie. Sometimes it is something that someone doesn’t say. Other times something happens, or I do something that has no apparent value, and there it is again – another clue, another part of the puzzle, as if I need to understand.

I have often daydreamed about my ideal life, and usually it starts with money – to be financially independent, to be able to do what I want to do, where I want to do it, for as long as I want to do it. Perhaps having more than enough money is an essential part of the process, so you can devote your daily life to whatever might be the reason you are still alive, without depending on others for the fulfilment of your daily needs and without being forced to degrade yourself to honouring petty conventions to be accepted by a particular community.

Still I wonder if this is as good as it gets. Or am I still waiting for a sign, a word to which I would respond that I now understand, to then dedicate the rest of my life to what I will see as my true calling?

All this implies belief in a Supreme Being. If you don’t believe in the existence of such a being … well, then it boils down to you keeping yourself occupied in such a way that you develop and maintain an awareness of well-being. And to think of other motivations for what you do – perhaps to be remembered when everything is over, or to have no regrets in your last minutes about what you did or did not do.

If you therefore believe in a reason for your existence, what would this reason be? And if you are not convinced of any specific reason for your existence, how does this affect your choices and outlook on life?

The woman

The woman had already been in several relationships. Yet, each time, the relationship ended because her eagerness to get married had alienated the man.

Then she met a new guy. She took it upon herself to do everything right this time. After a few dates she invited him to dinner, cooked his favourite food, and made sure the music was something he liked.

While they were having dinner, she let him talk about his life. She listened attentively and asked the right questions at the right moments. He also asked her about her work, her family, and her life in general. Her answers were thorough but brief, lest she accidentally bore him. When he told her he would like to live in Eastern Europe for a few months or a year, she expressed surprise. She added that she would also like to live in Paris, or Rome.

After dinner, they moved into the living room. She served coffee and pie. She apologised that the pie was not homemade (which it was), but she expressed the hope that it would taste all right. Then she took her shoes off and sat down on the couch opposite him. Her legs folded in on the cushions, one hand resting on her feet, she watched with disguised interest while he enjoyed his pie. After finishing off his second slice, she suggested they go to the movies, or maybe rent a video.

They decided on the video. She found it almost tiring in the video store to find out what he liked in order to suggest something in his taste rather than just agreeing to his choice.

Back at the apartment she said something about being cold and went to her room to change. The jeans and dark blue tracksuit top in which she appeared moments later made her look … homely, and warm. During the first movie, she sat on the armchair, and he was on the couch. They didn’t talk much, and she tried to appear relaxed every time he looked in her direction.

After the first video, she asked whether he wanted something to drink. He joined her in the kitchen. Ten minutes later he emerged with a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate. This time she sat next to him. Shortly after the beginning of the second video they became comfortable.

The man did not return home that night. In the bedroom, as the woman boasted to a friend a few days later, she was sensational. Where his imagination showed possibilities, she gave him free rein.

The next morning the man was happy, and thought to himself that he had met a “great woman”. She listened to him – “not like some other people” – and she was actually interested in his opinions. They had the same taste in movies, and they even liked the same food. And, as he later told one of his friends, she had no hang-ups in bed.

After a few weeks, he introduced her to his parents. Although his father took an immediate liking to her – she laughed at his jokes, his mother was not impressed. She told her son he must be careful lest the woman catch him for a sucker. He came to her defence and mentioned things like she also wanted to live abroad for a while – like him.

A few months later they were married, though his mother’s opinion of her did not improve much.

Six weeks after the honeymoon, he told her they shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new apartment. After all, they still want to go abroad, he reminded her – in such a way that it wouldn’t appear that he wanted to start an argument about it. She said she wasn’t sure; they’d have to see how things go. With that, she picked up a magazine and started browsing through it.

Then it hit him: this noose was going to pull a whole lot tighter.

The house


The hang-ups

I wasn’t even properly awake yesterday morning when I realised I still had the very same hang-ups as the previous night. It’s like when you go camping with a group of people. As soon as everyone wakes up in the morning, they recognise each other as the same people they were the previous day. So it is with my hang-ups. The moment my alarm goes off and I realise it’s not a nightmare or a sick joke, it’s as if someone also woke up my hang-ups. And what do you know! There they are – all in place, ready for another day’s service!

What am I talking about? What exactly is my problem? Mainly the fact that I think I don’t make an impression on people I meet. I always wish I can deliver a better performance – be a sporty guy for the sporting types, an amateur musician for the wannabe rock stars, an experienced traveller to the travellers, a capitalist for the capitalists, and a communist for the communists. I wish I knew more about more things, so I could join the discussion around more campfires. I wish I have experienced more than I have actually experienced, and have seen more than I’ve seen. I wish I could do more things, and in such a way that people would refer other people to me, or refer to me in their conversations.

Then everything changed. I thought, who are these people I want to impress so badly? Who are these people with whom I oppress myself so much? There are six billion people on this planet, thousands of cultures, millions of subcultures, countless numbers of back rooms and crannies and corners in dark and dimly lit corridors. There are basements and attic rooms; almost as many spaces as there are people. Why on earth do I oppress myself so much with a few people who in actual fact mean nothing to me?

Free yourself, one is almost tempted to say.