Forgive Our Sins

Please Father forgive our sins.

Irony of our existences — I started praying. Well, I don’t “do it all”, I skip the contentious bits, the avowals of faith, the declaration of divine love, the comfortable religious expressions. My prayers are tentative, they are also perhaps a bit utilitarian, clearly interested, but also genuine in their surrender. Simply, it is now clear to me that I must leave my destiny to something else than my good-will, or my own control. From religion I prepared my own cocktail, and I kept the ideas of faith, of surrender, of compassion.

And I am wondering, if one day my writings, or some of my writings, will be known as pioneering the genre of “secular prayers”. Though it certainly already exists, out there.

It won’t be long before we reach the tenth anniversary of the peak of my militant atheism, in the cold inside and outside of the 2007 Autumn-Winter, in Angers ; fascinating that I skipped all possible cultural models to reach the to the least curious figure of Schopenhauer, and imagining myself his spiritual heir as I lost myself in the morning walks at the Parc du Pin, and my unrecognised depressive-leaning meditations for the next hours, before my self-lit laptop. The irony provokes a slight smile: I will be closer to this decade anniversary when I will reach the same Schopenhauer, this time not to fantasise his existant but to read him, simply, and in the plan of finally passing beyond him and the frail temptation of such a lifestyle, or rather, an existence-style.

Writing these lines, I navigate through Google Maps and Dailymotion to rediscover the city of my youth ; the Parc’s name had been forgotten, and I always wanted to know what happened to the public games at the Parc Saint Nicolas, supplementary reminiscences around Angers and Avrillé with the satellite photographs of Google, those places are full with the existential despair and unimaginative routine of an adolescent ; since then the city has given itself a “modern look”, à en croire 1 its website and videos — certainly the language of their ideologically banal assumptions. I grew up in a fantasy, fantasy of a few men, how to avoid this leniency, and I had to find my way out crawling from that cavern to the light.

Father forgive our sins, and mine have been multiple in form, but with a few favourites: self-pity, despair, ennui, décalage2, guilt, criticality. Criticality — the epiphany for this time. As I utter the new discourse of my prayers, I realise the echo of these words, my-sins, my sins, my pain transferred onto others, final words on the cumulated weight of guilt on the shoulder of my soul, each day’s sleep had acted as a forgetting agent, reducing the immediate regret of each confrontation, but also offering my mind the occasion to miss on its patterns and habits, shying away from the sore memory of a few words’ mistake, shying away from myself thus, closing along with my eyes each time the unresolved karmic balance of its day.

Because they come back, they, they never forget their existence, the history, our history, history we share, they remain, and they stay, and they return, to haunt me — rarely obsessive, but they never find their way out of the subconscious of my memory either. I should list them one day, all, the “victims” of my critical words, one by one, from school days onwards. Well, the feeble memory of the first 15 to 20 years would be blessed — I was bullied more than bully, target of the shots more than their proud thrower. This glance backwards makes me realise that I have achieved quite a bit — if back then I did not yet have the power, or the position, to confront and upset people, there was ample space, still, for me to badmouth, backbite, to echo the bad taste of my friends’ judgements, to outbid each shallow statement with a crasser one. To the world of appearances (and how worried are we to find them in our parents, future parents-in-law, in the market, or in acquainted employees commenting on “jobless people”), the modalities of my daily life would still speak for not quite the least of growth after my formative years, but, as I heard myself saying yesterday, my growth has been fairly major, but almost exclusively internal ; to the world I am tout et son contraire 3 but myself. What I truly am. Those were shallow horizons of my dire 4, this big mouth of mine that one day would be bound to promise talent and recognition, perhaps fame and money, it started there, nowhere higher than the banal garbage-like stink of the statements de jeunesse 5 heard in the suburb of a French city of second class.

I often contemplate the scope of interpretation of such lines — as they come to me, they translate and transcribe or transpose the emotional and visual memories of a time ; to everyone else, and I mean literally everyone else, even my parents or friends of that time, who had at best a second or partial view of all these situations, it is a reconstructed story, the discovery of the layers under my skin, the worlds under what are now my confident voices and decisions. I was not always critical, or rather, my early criticality was calquée 6, the English dictionary says “traced”, traced on the uninspired figures of my friends of the time, traced back, too, to the shallow socio-cultural repositories of such cities, safe in their anti-bourgeois pretensions, but equally doomed in their lack of ambition, their null world-consciousness, and the resulting banality of their destiny today.

I see today on Google Maps the swimming pools that bloomed around, significative but still timid, from the era of my stay at the Parc de la Garde. And I realise now, through the  since-then studied lenses of socio-cultural histories, that to find themselves in those newly built marginal extensions of towns which are themselves extensive of second-class national cities, my neighbours had to be nothing more than nouveaux riches, or perhaps not even, the criterion of the swimming-pool testifying there in our days more for a questionable confidence in fatigued hedonist tastes, than in any proven social privilege. This economic culture, this culture of values just lightly soaked in a somewhat easier culture of money, the life and dreams of these neighbours we never talked to, never greeted for the most, they nonetheless played their part in the landscape of my picture of the world, they did set the sepia tone of where it all started for me ; their family names are laying at a level of my deep memories unreachable still, maybe one day they will re-emerge, those dummies turned menial bullies du dimanche 7. Each of my subsequent acts and words, five years, ten years or fifteen years later, lost between the yellow fields of Missouri or somewhere on the coast of south-west India, perhaps carry their trace, the violence of their ignorant statements, the fascination of the speed and percussion of such aggressivity, but also perhaps the reactive understanding in me, ever since, that only my impatience and my spirit of confrontation could one day make up for my lack of courage, even if by then my good intentions could save my soul — or so did I believe.

Lessons learnt — my mistakes and regrets have come back, not “to bite my ass”, or to bite it with passion and an almost erotic lesson of self-love, to return and feed into my confidence and the epiphany of the know-thyself. Know thyself, and every day the force of this newly internalised maxim is evoked, as I need to justify to myself the oddity of my present, and the joys and worries of my out-of-the-box self-promises. Solitary work, ambition and minute taste, the lines of my prayer to a self, self ligne droite 8 from toddler to ancestor ; those moments of life, those moments of each day when the moment does not matter anymore — epiphanic lights connecting all dots, seeing in the child the right and necessary stages of its future greatness, and in the elder the retrospective satisfaction of his continuous integrity.

Sorry, sorry to you and all, never will I save myself from the acquired taste of my bitter past, never will I fully give myself the break of regrets and their combo deals keeping each of us away from the upward pulling energies of true creativity, never will I, certainly, utter my apologies to each of them either, each of you, and perhaps though our psychologies may expect it, the cosmic rules, controlling us till and beyond the borders of our sensical, certainly expect, plan and require this sort of injustice, my placement somewhere in the middle of this game of spiritual provocations and remorse. Poking me: as if — its most sadistic move on us — as if we had any say on this story…

Such tonight will be my prayer, believer that I have returned to be, believer that I perhaps never was, till now, till my soul offered itself the time to encounter its own.

Image courtesy: Google Maps

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  1. to believe/if we are to believe
  2. gap/lag
  3. everything and its contrary
  4. say, my words
  5. of youth
  6. traced with a tracing paper
  7. of sundays, i.e. occasionally, when having nothing else to do
  8. straight line