Returning to "It Isn't Me" by James Lasdun

I discovered Richard Rohr yesterday thanks to a podcast by Pete Holmes. Rohr is a Franciscan on "the edge of the inside" of Christianity. That phrase means he's just Christian enough to call himself Christian, but (refreshingly) he recognizes the contingency of his faith. He was born to devout Christian parents in rural Kansas; as he says in the interview with Pete Holmes, he'd be a devout Hindu now if he'd been born in India. In other words, there are many paths to revelation, reintegration, resurrection. There is no one true way. There are as many paths as there are people.

Jesus. He's all over this "It Isn't Me" poem by James Lasdun, isn't he? "they couldn’t, in the end, believe in him, / except as some half-legendary figure / destined, or doomed, to carry on his back // the weight of their own all-but-weightless, stray / doubts and discomforts." The dropout, the loser, the person who doesn't quite fit in: that's Jesus.

It's also the artist. Or the romantic artist. The genius. Here's a great essay by Lasdun on the poet/translator Michael Hofmann, entitled "A Sherlock of Poems". Here's a great quote:

In Mexico Michael declared with sublime intransigence that the Mason-Dixon line ran along the Canadian border, and that the flocks of obvious (if rather small) pigeons in Cuernavaca were in fact quail. These rare but striking lapses from omniscience put me in mind of Sherlock Holmes’s apparent ignorance of the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. The lacunae became, somehow, further evidence of the genius. And I suspect I am not the only friend of Michael’s who feels a little ploddingly Watson-like in his company, or, for that matter, who regards him as something like the Sherlock Holmes of British poetry: preternaturally attuned to reality, somewhat inclined to disappear, and always several leagues ahead of everyone else.

Genius and goodness lead to loneliness. They make you admirable, yes, but they separate you. Others feel like Watsons in the presence of the genius or the saint. Some people like that feeling; many more, I would think, resent it. Jesus had plenty of admirers, but in the end there were more (and more powerful) people who hated him.

"Genius and goodness lead to loneliness." Do I really believe that? No, not really. That's how it appears to people in the center, but not to the person on the edge of the inside. To the individual who takes the wider perspective—the unpopular perspective—separation from the insiders isn't a problem. It's a natural part of being true to oneself. It is a source of joy. Not seeming joy. Not "I guess technically I'm happy" joy. Real joy.

I forget that too often. Sometimes I just want so bad to belong to a group. People who love poetry. People who love comic books. Computer programmers. Literature nuts. But none of that none of that none of that will make me happy unless I'm a secure, confident, comfortable individual first. And that comes with being true to myself, being able to look at the things that I want even though I know they're bad for me (and even though they're good for other people) and say, "It isn't me."