A Christmas Letter of Confessions

Interview with Famed Author Michael Pollan
December 9, 2011
I Believe in (ex)Love
December 22, 2011

My Dear Leonidus,

Peace and grace to you in this dark season of advent. My thoughts and prayers tend always toward you, whatever the season, but I find they are most ardent these days before Christmas. As I sit in front of a scalding fire, the bitter fingers of the cold tapping on my window, I can think of no other person with whom to share my thoughts.

I confess I have not been entirely truthful, or regular, in my correspondances. You have heard but pieces of my life this past year, and though I was able in more sober moments to articulate those which were the most pivotal, I fear I have still left many unaccounted for–a deep shame for me who was once counted your greatest friend.

In an effort to rectify these wrongs, and to set aright what has been wrong between us these many months, I should like to offer my accomplishments and shortcomings–not as a mere matter of guilt, but rather, as a chronicle of my good deeds and ill will this year. You will find it in some ways surprising, and in others, quite what you already imagine. In either case, I hope your heart will be touched to some degree by the affection of a dear old friend.

It is plain that most of mankind suffers from a pox of dishonesty. There are varying degrees of it, but we endure day after day, becoming sadly inured to its inevitable course. I am, but of course, no exception to this rule, and find myself unable to count all the lies I propagated since this time last year. Some were mean-spirited, cast in spite, but most were crafted under the guise of good will. Do you recall when we were boys, stealing apples from trees, and you, being so near to the ground, couldn’t manage to get a one. When you asked me if I had succeeded in getting any, I told you I hadn’t either–and then, off we went to some other mayhem. But the truth was, I carried two apples in my pockets and never shared one with you. I can’t decide whether my greed or corrupt honesty was the worse transgression. These days, the lies are not about apples, but love and friendship and faith. I lied to you when I said life was too busy for me to write letters back and forth; the sad truth was, I was lazy. And now I regret the faded friendship that laziness affected, knowing that a good friend–and the love bound up in wholesome friendship–is worth every ounce of energy I can possibly muster. I only hope it isn’t too late now to resurrect what has begun to decompose.

There have been other missteps, of course. My patience has been waning in later years, I find, without much reason or explanation. As a child, we want without thinking and express as much: children scream until they are fed, coddled, laid to sleep, or given the right amount of attention. As adults, we are deemed too mature for that nonsense, but we (and I, in particular) practice it just the same. The incurable lust for what I want erodes the peace of patience, and I have not disciplined myself enough to change it. The sad consequent is that those I love endure my strange, clipped moods and curt responses though they do not deserve it. When I do not get what I want, I sulk like a young child whose parents dote on him. But we should be past this infantile behavior–no, I should be past this behavior. I embrace in my mind the cherished virtues of kindness, magnanimity, forgiveness, and gentleness; practicing them is, however, another matter.

I have also found, much to my dismay, that my appetite for control has only increased with age. We all must be in control of our lives, that is certain, but what a farce it is to pretend control over matters so far outside of one’s ken and influence! I have spent hours and days stressing over other people’s actions and thoughts, their intimations and the course of weather. What is that to me? What sort of bad faith do I employ in these awful moments? Ah, and there is the final beast: the corruption of faith. It is a matter of not trusting, this I see, but I fall again and again into the same habits. Why can I not let the God in whom I believe provide for him, nurture me, care for me, and guide me? I demand satisfaction and comfort according to worldly measurements but I know in all parts of myself that is a false endeavor. I once hoped that as time passed on and I became more mature, closer to God, I would find it easier to dismiss the requirements of the world. That is not so, I’m afraid. It is perhaps more true that I have clung ever more feverishly to those empty things on which the material world rests.

What of accomplishments, you say? What indeed. Yes, there are things to point to here and there, but they are not the beacons of light I should like them to be. Still, they are something: writing ad nauseum of the worlds of faith and sexuality, reconciling communities through words, living in fellowship, embracing full-hearted hospitality. I am proud of these things–not because they are, in themselves, good deeds which I may lay claim to, but because they point to a person I still am and still am becoming. They point to goodness, Leonidus. And they give me hope that I will yet improve myself and offer the world much good, in spite of the ill I leave her.

Christmas, my dear friend. That someways-dark period of the year weighed down with reflections, good and bad. I have spent many hours by this fierce fire, tracing the licking flames with my eyes. I think often of you, of earlier and simpler days. I cannot bring them back again, but I can live in the memories a while. How did we make each other who we are now? Might we still shape each other’s lives for the better? I am firmly convinced that the love of friendship is nothing but a source of goodness, and never truly dies. It is my memories of you, Leonidus, and of us, that remind me of what it means to be faithful and true. I thank you for that, even if (God forbid), we shall never see each other again.

Enough of my self-wallowing pity, friend. I wish you true and lasting happiness this season and always. May you know what a guiding star you have been for me from my earliest days, and how you still shine in heart and memory. Be safe and well and do not forget that there are those who love you–those, even, who might once have all-too-easily dismissed you.

I love you, friend. Merry Christmas,

J

 

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