As has been extensively recorded elsewhere, things turned sour for me at roughly the time of my initiation into puberty. It was at this juncture that I came to recognize that my previous impression of being at ease in the world had perhaps always been mistaken. Indeed, having become self-aware, I now saw that my very presence, when I dwelt with others, seemed to have the effect of making those others uncomfortable. Increasingly, in fact, the distressing notion came over me that people would be much more at ease with one another if I weren’t around to muck up the works. My existence in itself seemed to be an inconvenience which caused them irritation and annoyance.
Had things changed, or had I changed? As long as I was ensconced in the sweet cocoon of childhood, I never reckoned myself an eyesore in the architecture, as it were. Then again, it never occurred to me to think of myself this way, so perhaps it was merely that my perceptive abilities had grown more acute. Yet when I peer at a photograph of myself at age seven, and compare it to one of me at age fourteen, I am struck by a transformation in countenance, one not attributable to mere natural changes. Instead, there is an unhappy absence where once there was a presence, and at the same time, a malignant presence where before had merely been an absence. In the earlier photograph, my face, while unsmiling, nevertheless lends an impression of dreamy, distrait bliss; one obtains the sense of a child who knows that, should he fall, he will nevertheless be saved from harm.
The second photo, in which the subject betrays a tentative sort of grin, nevertheless evinces a budding aura of tragic disillusionment, as perceived from the perspective of one so new to being disillusioned that he does not feel at rest in the grip of its cold tentacles; instead, one senses that the young boy’s spirit throbs painfully between resolution and relapse, between the comfort of as-yet unwon despair and the agony of still-unkilled hope. it was the springtime of his youth, of course, and as the poet notes, springtime is the cruelest season, as it will not allow a boy simply to be alone with his newly-discovered grief, won’t allow his consciousness to die to the world; it must instead torment him mercilessly with intimations of brazen optimism, whispers of a promised better tomorrow, considerations that, after all, in the words of the infernal Howard Jones, “things can only get better.”
I could, however, never square these hopes with the reality which now pulsed so heavily through my perception. I was told that one day it would all make sense, that things would come together and reach rich fruition, that “before I knew it,” it would all coalesce properly, that “in the twinkling of an eye,” I would find that my overall state had, in fact, improved; I just needed to see things in the proper light. My temptation to be disillusioned was itself misinformed (so I was appraised); of course, they allowed, being as young as I was, it wasn’t surprising that I felt inclined toward such naïve apprehensions… but then, there really wasn’t any cause for me not to embrace the changes underway, both within myself and all around me. Change was good, they told me. I would become convinced of this eventually, in due time; I just needed to get some perspective on the matter. I’d find out, all right! (Here they would smirk a little at the racy and ribald implications of their forbidden knowledge, which they reckoned I’d soon discover, and which would be plenty compelling enough to get me to see things their way.) Soon enough, I’d uncover the wonderful truth, and when I did, I would again regain the happiness of my youth, in spades.
Oh yes, I’d “find out.” Boy, was I ever in for a delightful treat, once I finally grew up a bit and learned to accept what was happening to me, rather than always fighting it! These were the messages I was sent by my elders. And now, as an “elder” myself, I can testify unabashedly that my elders were, one and all, a bunch of smarmy fools. Of course most of them were no doubt quite guileless in spirit, in the main unconscious regarding the extent of their rhetorical skulduggery. That they didn’t know better, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldn’t have known better. Perhaps I am being too hard on them, but my severity is borne out of a very pronounced and definite sense of having been betrayed. After all, I trusted these fools, these speciously-informed, pseudo-wise, smirking, self-deceived, misinformed, irresponsible Pied Piping simpletons who fancied themselves counselors and relief-bringers. I trusted them against my better self-judgment, trusted them in part because I wanted to believe their foolish lies. Yet at the same time, I somehow always knew the truth, even when I thought I’d convinced myself otherwise. I knew that things had changed irrevocably, and that change was in fact NOT good, at least not in this context, at least not as I had ever before understood the concept of “good.”
To be sure, it may yet prove to be “good,” in the sense that all things supposedly turn out well, to those who subscribe to the notion of divine providence, wherein everything, desirable and undesirable, happens ultimately to benefit the victory of the Good. But the changes that took place at the time were in fact of no good whatsoever, in any familiar usage of the term. No… change was plainly bad in this case. I suspected such at the time, but was implored to believe otherwise by authoritative forces; thus, out of seemingly called-for deference to authority, I refrained from mourning what should properly have been mourned, and instead trusted in my elders, only finding out later what I had truly known all along: that my elders were either deluded by or compliant in the corruption I rightly espied lurking behind their smarmy smirks.
Andy Nowicki, assistant editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the Nihil, The Columbine Pilgrim, Considering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so. Visit his Soundcloud page.