Friday, September 3, 2010

Slash and Burn

While walking home, I found a burnt diary on the side of the road. The rains had just passed, so it was sopping wet, and between the water-stains and ash, I couldn't decipher much: "some naughty boys," "on the wrong bus," "he found me crying." It was in a girl's looping script, and prying through a few wet pages, I found the diary nearly full.

When I was young, I did the same thing, filling a journal with stories and questions, regrets and wishes. And then, when I grew disgusted with myself, I burned it. I later wrote another journal and did the same thing, like Hitler tossing history books on the bonfire. It was the slash and burn of memory and personality, and when the fires died down, I stepped away reduced and purified, free of failure and regret.

For all its hate, burning those journals was an act of hope, founded on the belief that I could change. There was an implicit optimism in the fire, and although there's little chance of me destroying my work these days, that's more a symptom of my lost faith in change than out of value for my writing.

Some friends might argue that I have changed, that they've seen me assume new habits or convictions. It's true that I try, but these changes are often temporary, eroding beneath an inner force that I cannot resist for long. There is something deep inside me that I have no control over, an inner landscape which I cannot cultivate or terraform or refashion to my own desires. No matter how strong the fire or thorough the weeding, the seeds which have been planted in us inevitably regrow. It's the ecology of our personalities, the reforestation of our minds.

Me and this girl who got on the wrong bus, who set our diaries ablaze. I suspect we aren't alone in our desire to be reborn, to become something better than we really are.