The Shadow of Moroni, Part II • 8 January 2008

…Continued from 6 January.

I went to a kegger in a barn down by the Yellowstone River, hosted by an eyelashy senior on the wrestling team. The first hour of the night comes back—the fluorescent light, the black Columbia I was wearing, the Miller in the keg, telling the host to ask my friend M to the prom. What I don’t remember but know is true is that it was freezing; I was driving an 8-cylinder Impala home on backcountry roads, needing to make a hard midnight curfew. Luckily my parents were asleep by 11ish on Saturdays, because they’d be up early to set up church service. Saturdays, I’d just have to wake them for an instant from their door and not undergo any breath-inspections.

If I can conjure one or two sensory inputs and the feeling-memory of the people with me in a certain past moment, I’m pretty able to bring back a full moving picture of the surrounding event in my mind. But I know I was blacked out that freezing night driving home, because there is NOTHING to recall. I was rushed, trashed, and driving Niebauer Road across a series of little bridges that would have been sheeted in black ice.

Just another rural teenage casualty, found in the ditch when the sun came up, after Dad spent the night crisscrossing the county in his pickup.

Recovering on my sofa that morning ten years later, realizing this had happened, I wanted to throw up all over again. God how selfish, and lucky, I'd been.

I stopped drinking after that. Not as a punishment—I don’t hold things against myself even if I should. But because I viscerally couldn’t swallow a drink anymore after all that. For a year, for another year, for still another after that. The revulsion set a new habit.

I don’t know why I changed so suddenly. It’s difficult to say exactly what was going on with that.

I can say, though, that I had an analytical—and not appetitive or visceral—reason for finally drinking again three weeks ago. It’s not that I was “listening to my body.” It’s that I was challenging my body. Anymore, my deepest tendency is toward asceticism—I dream of cave retreats, not wild parties—and that is just too weird in the context of my life. For the sake of being honest to the era and social worlds in which I live, I want to tinker with the prohibition a little.

Many friends use the ashtanga practice to work with want or desire—with examining attractions to stimuli, experiences, things. Because it actually leads you inside yourself, ashtanga is a beautiful method for becoming intimate with your own self-sufficiencies and subverting every tendency to grasp for things outside. I get that from practice too.

But if anything my basic impulse is to pull away from the world rather than to grasp: more repulsion than attraction. The world is heavy! It is complicated! It is full of lame ideas and deception and stupidity and creepy egomania and bad fashion. Left to my own devices—as my beautiful quiet year alone in 2005 proved—I will rejoice in monasticism, minimalism, and quiet. God yes! Give me solitude or the company of just one intimate, and some elegant, silent routine.

Ashtanga brings this monkishness out of me, but I hesitate to use the practice to deepen the urge to withdraw to the beautiful void. In truth: I have things to do in the world for now. My life is in the world. My loves are in the world as well.

And alcohol represents a part of the world I would parcel off and sell to the infidels.

How boring, that impulse. 

So nix that and bring me a drink. Suddenly things become a little more complicated…

(Incidententally, does a part of you feel this is a stupid topic of conversation? Why is that? Because drinking is wrong? Because not drinking is stupid? Or because it's all just excessively reflective? In any case, more in a bit.)