Saturday, April 29, 2006

Belonging

We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately—the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging–into.
-Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

I've been meaning to write this one for weeks. David Foster Wallace also went to my college but that's not what I'm writing about. I found a copy of his book for free, had it for a few years and finally plowed through it. It's a deeply flawed book, but there is much that is profound in it. It's rather like Pynchon lite--though it still weighs a couple of pounds. This is one of the truest things in the book. We are all desperate to join clubs. I've been thinking about it in regards to buying a car. For years I thought of myself as a Volkswagon owner. I didn't go to meetings, I didn't especially talk to other people who owned VW's esp. Golf's, but I smiled when I saw them on the highway. I now own a Toyota Yaris. I don't think of myself as a Toyota person. I'm not sure what that means. VW was sporty--you know German engineering, little cars that could, the people's car. You were hip but smart. Practical but funky. Toyotas are dependable. Evidently in Europe where the Yaris has been sold for years there are Yaris clubs. There are sites on how to "soup up" your Yaris. People have message boards. The internet means we can belong in ways we never thought possible. You can find a group of people who share almost any passion you could possibly have. I've made friends based on Hyde and L'Arc~en~Ciel. That's a club too. J-Pop fans who are so cool to be international. I'm not saying that the initial like isn't real or that it's bad to belong, I'm just intrigued by my own enjoyment of belonging. Last year I found a group of fellow Vietnamese adoptees. We're all the same age roughly (for obvious reasons) and we share things that very few other people share. Things that don't seem important but when we were together it just seemed amazing and fulfilling to be able to say. For us it was things that are missing from our lives that other people take for granted--the date, time and place where you were born, the name and nationality of your parents, pictures of you in infancy, toys you loved. For most of us having the name of the orphanage is a triumph. Finding them filled something I didn't know I needed and yet, I haven't really kept in touch with any of them. A year later I have only brief contact even with the ones who live near me--somehow it wasn't everything I hoped for, or the community only works when it's a community and not a few people. I don't know. Reading C.S. Lewis lately he always talks about the longing inside all of us for something we cannot define--a valley we think we glimpsed in childhood, a piece of music we thought we once heard. He believed we throw ourselves into things, even love in a desperate attempt to recapture that feeling but what we are longing for is heaven and the presence of God and while real love and real happiness can come close on earth they can only be fleeting. Which is not to say we shouldn't enjoy companionship on earth--Lewis was by all accounts very into companionship, drinking in the pub with Tolkien and debating dragons, but we should understand it's limitations. I've always held myself aloof. I did not belong as a child and so I created a persona of being unique and not affiliated, yet when I am embraced by a theater company or other group I feel deeply grateful. I am like the Groucho Marx quote, I am instantly suspicious of any group that would have me as a member. And I am desperately afraid of being disappointed--of disappointing and being disappointed. This in turn leads me to shut down and pull back.
Thinking of the god awful term of Branding--are our group affiliations part of personal branding. The Goth lite, L'Arc/Hyde, Cairn/Westie terrier owning, hatchback driving, designing, writing, Vietnamese Adoptee brand? Is it a brand if you don't tell anybody? Is it a blog if nobody reads and responds? It's getting too late--I'm starting to ramble. More on this later.

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