Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
From Garduño's it's a bit easier to get to my office than vice versa. The restaurant is just east of San Mateo, so I pulled onto that street going south. When I got to McLeod I turned west, and then south on Jefferson, and west again on Bogan. That led me to the I-25 frontage road, and there I turned north – to the right – and it led me right to my office building.
Marla indeed was not there. I went into my office, grabbed a Coke as always, sat down, put my feet on the corner of my desk – as always – and looked out the window. Again as always the mountains were there. It was one of those winter days with just a scrim of high clouds, making the light watery and thin. It was a day for feeling grouchy and low, but somehow I didn't feel as grouchy and low as I might have.
Cecelia had said that I needed to regain my perspective. Had I really lost that perspective? Something had happened – otherwise I wouldn't have been feuding with my family the way I'd been doing. Maybe I had lost perspective on things.
I'd started out determined to seek justice. I'd realized that someone had murdered Larry Entragian, and had seen that the police – very naturally, given the circumstances – were going to clear the case as a suicide. And I'd made up my mind to find the killer, and see that he faced justice for his crime.
So far so good. What had gone wrong, and when, and how? How had I gotten from I will seek justice to I am shouting at my wife? I could see, now that I was thinking about it, that there had been a movement – from simple grief and determination, to obsession and irrationality. But how? How had I become such a distressing person to live with?
Maybe that was the wrong question. How I got here from there was past history. I needed to get back where I'd come from. There's no point in worrying through all the steps you've been through getting lost in the woods. The primary task at that point is finding your way back to civilization.
I needed to find my way back. I needed to rediscover the ground I'd been standing on when I first heard that Larry was dead, and put my feet back on it, and nail them down if necessary to keep me from again wandering into the wilderness. But how did I do that?
A word came to me – a word in Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament. The word was pistis, and the Bible translates it as "faith." So far so good. But what a one-word English translation – however valuable and necessary it is – doesn't do is get at the full flavor of pistis. Faith, in the New Testament, is not a feeling. It isn't, in the notorious misdefinition, believing what you know isn't true. It is, rather, a reasoned, rational trust in objective reality. When I believe God, it is because there are solid reasons why believing Him is the only intelligent course I can follow.
But what did that have to do with my current question? How did pistis relate to my perspective?
And it hit me: Just as I trust God with my mind, and not my feelings, so I needed to regain perspective with my mind. I'd been so busy these past two weeks feeling, and reacting to the emotions, that I'd left my mind behind. My anger was not reasonable, but emotional; it was not rational, but insane in the sense that insanity is the irrational operation of the human mind.
I had to think, not feel. And what did I need to think? What was the proposition I needed to examine, and adopt as my own if it proved valid? It was, I thought, simply this: I have better things to do, and more important things to do, than scream at my family just because my friend is dead.
I examined the proposition. It seemed sound to me – more sound, the more I looked at it. I took a drink of Coke, joy beginning to knock at my emotional door. And that was the proper order of things – emotion as the response to reality, rather than as a would-be reality in itself. If the proposition were true, then I could feel joy; if I felt joy and thereupon concluded that the proposition was true, that was utterly and completely backwards.
I did have better and more important things to do. Settling the investigation was more important than feuding with Cecelia. The upcoming holy day was more important than shouting at Darlia. And my family was far, far more important than even my dead friend. I had been loyal to him, and that was good. I wasn't going to be loyal to my friends even if they were patently in the wrong on fundamental matters of principle and morality. I wouldn't be like whoever it was who said he hoped that he'd sooner betray his country than his friend. But friends – true friends, people who would die for you and for whom you would die – are few enough that I would be loyal to them.
Again, so far so good. But I had passed beyond loyalty to obsession, and I had compromised my loyalty to my family. And that was wrong.
Very well. I don't talk to the dead – my convictions tell me that wherever they are, in heaven or in hell, they're not listening to me; they have more important matters on their minds than my remarks. But in a sense I needed to tell Larry goodbye. He was dead, and nothing I could do would change that. It was time to let him go. Seek justice, yes, but with the acceptance of the fact that I would never again talk to Larry, hear his voice, see his face.