Existentialism

All posts tagged Existentialism

On connections.

Published January 6, 2014 by mandileighbean

I am a writer, in part, because I believe that life is all about making connections with other human beings. Love is what matters, in all its varying forms and intensities. Writing, for me at least, offers an opportunity to explore those connections and to invent such connections. When lives become entwined with others, it is a beautiful, brilliant, terrifying and almost surreal realization. We matter to others, and others matter to us. How can that relationship ever be ignored or dismissed? I don’t think it can, and I think a lot of my writing expresses that. That theme becomes a constant in my writings, and I apologize if it becomes redundant, but I think the importance of love bears repeating.

Enjoy this week’s writing prompt.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #9: “An air force pilot is ordered to destroy a public building in a major metropolitan city.”

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Michael Ryan loved to fly. It was the only reason that he joined the air force and became a pilot. It hadn’t been so much about patriotism, or a fervid desire to destroy any enemy, or even the way ladies reacted to a young man in uniform. For Michael, it had always been about the sky. Riding high and knowing there were others looking up and wondering about whom you were and where you were headed was an amazing sort of ego trip. There was something completely self-indulgent and simultaneously totally freeing about being alone in the clouds with just your thoughts and instincts. Michael Ryan truly loved to fly. The opportunity to do so, coupled with the benefits of working for the government, made the career choice a no brainer.

He was flying high when word came over the radio that he was to destroy the Geysler building. Momentarily, Michael had been shocked. The peace and privacy of the cockpit had caused him to temporarily forget the absolute madness and chaos ensuing below, back on the ground. Enemy forces had surprisingly invaded from the shores. Ships had landed and once boots were on the ground, blood ran in the streets of so-called important shore towns. It had been an impressive, coordinated, and alarmingly secretive attack that, from Michael’s point of view, was remarkably successful. Smoke billowed from burning buildings and flames shot toward the sky. Michael was able to observe the certain carnage occurring below with a cool detachment because of his position; he was literally looking down on everyone else. His mind had eventually drifted to other things – whether or not those things were more important was fodder for a different story, for a different day – but the order over the radio brought him back into the present moment and current conditions.

Apparently, the government had ample reason to believe that the Geysler building was a base of operations for enemy sympathizers. Being that the building offered numerous amenities and was a safe haven for the enemy where there should be nothing of the sort, the government decided it needed to be neutralized and removed. Made sense as far as Michael could tell, and he radioed back in the affirmative, that he was on his way and would destroy the Geysler building.

A few minutes later, Michael had positioned himself appropriately and was resting his finger on the trigger, waiting for approval to fire. Through the windshield, he could see into the windows of the building. He was fairly close and was beginning to wonder if he was too close and if he should alter his position – after all, he was still green around the gills and hadn’t destroyed anything outside of practice targets and the like – when something caught his eye. In a window to the bottom left of his vision, was a young woman. She had blonde hair pulled back in an effortless ponytail and a full face. She was wearing a green sweater and on her lap, she held a toddler. The toddler had blonde hair as well, and that shared genetic trait made Michael assume the two were related, even though he was too far away to discern their facial features in any kind of conclusive analysis. As Michael watched, the woman smiled as the toddler stretched out a pudgy hand with splayed fingers and placed it, in a gesture that could only be described as lovingly, upon the woman’s swollen-looking cheek.

It was a touching image, poignant though brief, and it gave Michael pause. Were they the enemy? How could a child and his mother be the enemy of anyone? What sort of tactical maneuvers could those two possibly be planning? What other sort of children and family were in the building? For the first time in his career, Michael was putting real thought behind he was doing.

As he watched and thought, the woman turned to the window and for just a second, Michael thought he knew who she was. The woman bore an uncanny resemblance to someone Michael had known in college; a beautiful and brilliant girl who had lived on the same floor as him junior year. He remembered that she liked to paint and usually had it all over her hands in all sorts of shades. Either because she didn’t know or didn’t care about her filthy, multi-colored hands, she would constantly use them to pull her hair back, only to let it fall freely about her face. She was beautiful in a careless, dangerous way. Michael had called her Bohemia before he learned her real name at a party, because of her predilection to wear printed tunics over yoga pants or leggings. As a matter of fact, he had announced loudly that Bohemia was alive and well once he had noticed her presence at the party. She had smirked – she never really smiled, like smiling was thoughtless and too easy of an expression to offer to the world – and walked over to challenge him and ask him what he thought he knew about bohemia.

They talked for a while about all sorts of things, things Michael had not discussed with anyone since, and ended up in her dorm room, where they had passionate and amazing sex on a gross futon Bohemia had saved from the curb. In the morning, she had made him tea in a cool, antique-looking teapot and after some awkward pleasantries, they parted ways. He saw her occasionally in dining halls and in the quad in the warmer weather, but the most they would exchange was a small nod or tiny wave; nothing more. What if that was Bohemia in that window? What if that was her son? What if, after college, she had fallen in love with a beautiful man and had a traditional wedding and started a family? What if that family was in that building? How could he blow that to smithereens?

Michael did not think he could eliminate Bohemia. As a matter of fact, he had decided that he wanted to find Bohemia and see how she was, to find out what had happened to her. That had been a real connection Michael had made, no matter how short lived, and as he hovered above life exploding and imploding beneath him, he felt depressed. He felt no connection. There had been no tether composed of love or brotherhood or anything so noble to keep him grounded, and so he had found isolation and alienation – not solace – away from the Earth in the air. He was missing so much.

He didn’t listen for the approval. He didn’t wait for an order. He turned around. Michael Ryan was heading home.

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On being dumb and holding on.

Published July 2, 2012 by mandileighbean

“You must know life to see decay, but I won’t rot. I won’t rot – not this mind and not this heart. I won’t rot.”

“After the Storm,” Mumford & Sons

 

A parking lot filled with cars but decidedly lacking in people is not the best place for an existential, religious crisis, especially not after having too many drinks and engaging in decidedly trashy behavior.  Every nice girl is allowed one night of debauchery, right?  I wanted to cry and run and hide.  I felt as if all of my desperation was put on display for everyone to see, and it was.  I did not conduct myself as I normally do.  I am ashamed by my embarrassingly public displays of affection with a stranger.  He told me his name, but I couldn’t really hear anything he was saying over the bass; my ears still feel fuzzy.  I wish my recollection of my behavior was fuzzy, but it is painfully clear.

I don’t know what troubles me most; the fact that I became someone else last night, someone who I am far from proud of, or the fact that I made out with a stranger in a bar and still feel unfulfilled and lonely.  I have built romance into an overwhelming, all-consuming absence that needs to be rectified on point of death.  I thought a messy, impromptu make-out session would open my eyes and that it would mean more.  But it doesn’t mean anything, and I am no closer to feeling loved and needed in a unique and singular way than I was yesterday.  If anything, I feel like I’ve taken two giant steps backwards.  I feel gross and disposable and dumb.  There was no point to what I did.  I wasn’t that drunk, so I can’t blame it on the alcohol.  Was I really so lonely?  Did I succumb to everything that I judged and feared for a few moments of – of what?  It wasn’t even enjoyable.  I did it to do it, and to be able to say that I had done it; a notch on the belt, something to cross of the bucket list.

But that’s not me! I love love!  I believe that love is awesome and worth living for and worthy dying for and I believe that love is something sacred and I ignored everything I’ve held dear for so long for what?  I don’t understand, and that scares me.  After all this time, how can I not know myself? How can I be so weak and selfish and irrational?

At least I learned that romance and the physicality of romance are two very separate and distinct aspects – for some, they can be easily severed.  I learned what I don’t want – I do not want to be a serial PDA.  I do not want to be that girl at the bar that strangers take pictures of because she’s being that trashy.  It is definitely better being the lonely-looking girl at the end of the bar than it is to be the one making a spectacle of herself – at least it is for me, anyway – to each his own, I guess.  I am going to hold tight to my belief that love is real and something special is going to happen to me.  I can’t rush it or look for it in dark, desperate places.

PROMPT: “A priest is attacked for being a pedophile.  He is innocent of the crime but guilty of something far worse.”

PIECE: Father Brian sat alone in the rectory in his favorite armchair.  It was worn in all the right spots so that it fit his tired body like a familiar lover.  He knew the analogy was somewhat odd to be thought of by a priest – a man of the cloth, as it were – but at this moment, he didn’t care.  Parishioners and clergymen would think what they wanted, all evidence to the contrary be damned.  Father Brian was well aware there had been whispers and subtle suggestions that he was a pedophile.  The mere thought of it turned his stomach and he wanted to rally against his accusers – blacken eyes, loosen teeth and draw blood.  But Father Brian was a holy man – he was not animalistic or base in nature, and was a sentient being.  He could almost understand how the implications started; after all, he was very affectionate with the altar servers.  He tousled hair, squeezed shoulders, hugged freely, but he only did so to show love and support.  His intentions were honorable.

But, Father Brian sighed deeply, let them think what they want because the truth – the real truth – was worse.  He was not an honorable or holy man.  He was a fraud, a louse and weak, so weak.  He was supposed to be righteous and pure.  He was supposed to be leading the way in salvation.  Instead, he valued the dark places of his soul where he refused the light of the Lord and instead lighted the labyrinthine paths with lascivious desires.  Why, just last night after hearing Saturday night confessions, he had gone out to the bar in civilian clothes.  He hadn’t mentioned his occupation to anyone.  Father Brian – just Brian now; as if it even worked that way – took a seat on a rickety, abused bar stool and ordered a beer.  Then he waited.  For the past couple of weeks or so, Brian kept meeting this beautiful woman.  She found him to be a good listener and they would talk until last call and then Brian would see her home.  It seemed harmless enough, but his overly affectionate behavior towards the altar servers made him nervous.  Was his affection misplaced?  Was he treating the servers like his own children because that’s really what he wanted, a wife and a family?  Did he want it with this woman?  Why hadn’t he told her the truth?

Because last night she had kissed him and he hadn’t stopped her.  He was still a virgin, but was that his choice, or simply because she hadn’t invited him inside?

He was losing his faith – he could feel it shrivelling and crippling away from him.  He wasn’t bothering to cradle it in his arms and nestle it in his arms.  Father Brian was giving up.  The parishioners could sense this, but leveled terrible accusations against him.  This he considered his own fault though, because he was using the servers to mask his feelings.  He was working so hard to be the Light, to exude love and joy that it seemed false and sinister.

What was to become of him?

He threw the tumbler of whiskey he had been nursing against the opposite wall and watched the glass shatter, tears streaming.  It was all very fitting, very fucking fitting.

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