Becoming a Ghost: Falling From

-- Photo by Jeremy Page (Creative Commons)
“We mow blades of grass to uniform levels, and love similarly — cutting people to small sizes, allowing only trivial forms of care we then call love.” — Photo by Jeremy Page via Creative Commons

‘Falling From’ is the fifth installment in Daniel Boscaljon’s literary nonfiction series Becoming A Ghost. The previous installments can be found here.

The ground beneath beckons like a friend, uncannily familiar. Why? Did the ground support our kisses under the star-filled cold? Did it intimate my future embrace of dust by dust? I realize that the answer is neither in the past nor the future, but in the present sensation of suspension between high and low, balancing near and far. She taught me to fall on an autumn day as she praised the courage of a crimson leaf that possessed the courage to leave its home. Time stopped as we watched its slow descent, a rapt audience to its graceful end. I remember feeling pride as she praised the leaf’s ability to transform gravity into beauty: I felt, somehow, as though it was a compliment to me. I, too, wanted to learn to fall.

The leaves form a carpet below. She taught me much: taught me to leap from certainties, to lose control, to forgo safety and plummet from my hidden heights. Each kiss invited me to descend from safe distances into riskier immanence. Each interrupted my isolation and thrust me into love, whose vastness made my timidity ludicrous. How had I forgotten this truth, and believed that clinging to a world I controlled was more rich than the need to fall?

Violations of the everyday, breaches of boundaries formed by unthought assumptions, expose us to an Absolute greater than our small privileges. We see potentialities and our penchant for ignoring them. We construct walls within which we can live predictable lies, hiding from truths that require our becoming giants to see them in fullness. Merciless, these truths expose our projects of certainty as illusory. Timidity transforms the beloved into something tiny that only I can love, but doing so impoverishes the world.

Such small interactions bar us from the vast, wild emotion that wrenches us from our certainties and exposes us to the wilderness of risk that our trimmed loves, cultivated and safe, deny. Love requires that we leave our remote spaces of invisible observation, exposing the self, becoming willing to suffer change. Imprisoning our desires within the boundaries of control destroys its potency: in rendering it predictable we rob ourselves of its peculiar delight, extracting the life from it. Falling from what is certain and stable embraces the true gravity incurred in an uncontrolled plummet. Like the crimson leaf, I must allow myself to care, to become weighed down, to allow joy to find its root in earth.

The moon glows cold overhead. This is my last goodbye. I think about how we were. How ordinary existence bound us to the trivial and unimportant: small goals, small futures, small loves, small celebrations clutter our years. How we transformed tiny problems into cataclysms. How we shrink ourselves and live by the measure of our fear, becoming small things that we predict and others find predictable. I had feared losing her, had tried to shrink her to fit in my world and had hunched my own shoulders to compact into hers, but she and I were born for more. Nothing fit.

From this height, I can better appreciate my last few hours. Her leaving left me nothing to fear, and involuntarily made brave I become open to experiencing wonder, awe, tragedy, heroism, beauty, good, bad. The world I had once shared, sacralized by our memories, had turned to dust. The mundane skeleton that we had dreamed upon became too small for the expansive absence that had haunted me that night. Diving from this small world into real earth would complete my transition into nothing, allowing the futures I had dreamed to become as nothing as my past had been. Nothing would remain of my losses.

I look forward from my lofty vantage and see empty parking lots—empty possibilities for lives on hold—soon lost to progress. I had always thought life was lived best from such great heights as this, had assumed that distance provided perspective, and had never guessed how much life was best experienced when falling from the perches I had battled to attain. Love required leaving my spaces of isolation and sovereignty. Then, as now, I need to depart from heights to embrace cold ground. I must let the leaf lead, dare to have its courage.

I need to say goodbye. I need to fall from where I am invincible and hidden, from where I can plan the capture of my puppet self and see my shadow fall, from where nothing assures me that I am known or loved. Releasing myself from safety reveals the space of absolute abandonment. I nod my head, my body agreeing with my mind. Falling is transformation: from death to life, from weightlessness to gravity, from abstraction into the concrete. I need to fall from the emptiness of an I that insists on autonomy and authority, from an eye that assumes it is the center of the universe: I need to fall into peripheries and become swallowed in the swirling colors scattering ceaselessly on the earth.

I climb on the ledge and dance one-footed. Anguish clenches my heart. Why can’t I commit? What holds me back? How can I remain unwilling to leap from safety? Had I learned nothing from my earlier failure to love? It does not matter that I learned to fall too late: what matters is to live honestly, now. Honesty means saying goodbye.

Starlight from galaxies long-dead whisper courage to me. The smell of dusty trees buoys me. A streetlight shows a small leaf descending, crimson innocence, and I am ready. Leaping left me living once, and having lost that life I leap to embrace in full the desires stirring restless within me. Hoping she walks by to see my final sacrifice, my willingness to give her all, my gigantic courage, I jump toward the moon as though I could clutch it and give it to her.

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