The Winter in Black and White

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar North
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    says:

    This is very well written, very powerful and quite disconcerting. Well done.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    This is a great essay.

    I don’t know what else to say.

    Nothing that would be better than silence. (Yet, anyway.)Report

  3. Avatar pillsy
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    says:

    This is an extremely good piece, but it hits so close to home for so many reasons great and small [1] that I am, if not at a loss for words, at a loss for words that aren’t debased cliches like “all the feels” and, “I’m not crying. You’re crying.”

    [1] I mean even the Laura Gemser thing. Geez.Report

  4. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    This was a good read, despite the sadness of the subject matter. Thanks for sharing.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    This was a great essay, very well written and powerful. It also reinforces the idea that I don’t understand, for lack of a better word, wild people. This refers to not only sexually wild people but the people who engage in any sort of risky behavior for fun like the young men that do stupid things near alligators. The wildness seems fun when things are good but often times the wildness ends up seem to dominating everything and causing pain to themselves and others. A lot of wild people also seem to be assholes. They seem to assume that everybody wants to be like them and that any sort of refusal to be like them is really a sign of jealously rather than disdain. I have a friend is a wild person or at least a want to be wild person and he is always telling me about swinger’s clubs in Miami and trying me to visit them down there. Telling him that I’m not really into that doesn’t seem to work.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      I’ve certainly met that type of self-proclaimed “hedonist”. They remind me of what Christopher Hitchens once said about Ayn Rand and Objectivism- basically he said it’s interesting but it’s not like there’s a great need for a philosophical defense of greed since people tend towards it anyway. I’ve often wondered the same about lust- does anyone really need to sell human beings on that?

      Having said that, and for all the guilt I’ve felt about our slightly kinky marriage collapsing, it’s also occurred to me that monogamous couples split up all the time too and usually for reasons that weren’t terribly different from the reasons we eventually did. People change and their feelings change and it’s lousy being the one who didn’t change. But all told I’d rather be here than back there.Report

  6. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    I liked this quite a lot. I particularly liked

    During the day, I worked an ill-paying academic job teaching the children of the bourgeoisie about Marx and Engels.

    Which has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in 5 years. And it works especially well against the ghastly somber background of what’s gone before. It signals that, “well, I don’t feel so bad about it now”. Which you say outright later. Reading, I wasn’t sure it was ok to say it was beautiful, rather than to say, “Wow, that situation sounds terrible”.

    But you told me it is. Thanks.Report

  7. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    Thanks all for the kind words.

    I didn’t want to get too pat at the end about how “it gets better” because, for some people, it doesn’t. I was lucky, however, in that one night at the bar a friend suggested I talk with another guy who was “also going through a divorce”. The fellow pretty much cornered me and regaled me with a bitter angry tirade about the great historical evil of his ex-wife. It was one of those “scared straight” moments! I decided I better work through this stuff and keep moving forward. Also luckily I had friends and a band and art and things to focus on. That saved my life and, gradually, things improved.

    Anyway, during my last move, a friend suggested “Hey, you know, I have this friend Karijn who is also looking for a roommate and a new apartment. You two should look together. I was thinking about setting you up actually because you’d be a great match, but since you’re looking for a place and she’s looking for a place, you two should just be roommates instead!”

    Famous last words. We found a place, became roommates, and were solely roommates for about a week! Right now, I like where I’m living, my band is on our best lineup in years, and I’m in love with my roommate/partner. So, things are better.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      As I’ve shared on these pages before, I’m now separated from my ex-wife, a woman who I’d loved like none other before and with whom I thought I’d grow old. So I’ve felt like the winter you describe for about a year now, since she confessed her feelings and left. There are certainly differences between your story and mine, but they seem superficial compared to the tone of bleakness and not-quite-humiliation at beholding one’s own changed-for-the-worse circumstances. The anniversary of my own Great Change passed recently which was a very tough day for me. You’ve inspired a deep resonance with me.

      One thing that stands out as materially different, at least to me, was that my wife and I were committed to one another in a monogamous way. When things dissolved, that contributed to my understanding that I could never go back, that I’d not want to be together with her again because the sting of her betrayal would never, ever go away; it would never, ever permit me to get back to feeling about her the way that I had before.

      When the bridge burns behind you, you have to advance, no matter how much you long for what was on the previous side. I’ve certainly spent some time on the riverbank looking back, which was not productive. It’s by a combination of an effort of sheer willpower — not always there — and the feeling that I would simply shamble forward, zombie-like, because there simply is nothing else to do, that I find myself moving on to new places and new things.

      Hopefully my next circumstances will not place me in such close proximity to fellows like the incompetent barber and former weapons disposer who was briefly your neighbor and with luck, I shall meet a Karijn of my own. On good days, I feel hope for this.Report

  8. Avatar Maribou
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    says:

    I’ve been thinking about this essay all day.

    Thanks for letting us read what you write.

    I feel lucky every time I see your name on a post.Report

  9. Avatar Atomic Geography
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    says:

    Very well done and very honest. I’ve been thinking about this since it came up. Karen and I had our own version of this – all one of has to say is “1977” and it all comes back. We did get on the other side of it, but it never stops being overwhelming and complicated.

    If I may though, I’d like to talk a bit about the ending.

    …but even at its emptiest, something persists. Wasn’t that the Zen Buddhist idea, that all is empty (Mu)? I just read something recently: Tich Thien-An writes “this realization must be experiential, not merely intellectual. It is not enough to assert that everything is empty: one must see into the fact of emptiness in all one’s daily activity.” I can think of no better way to describe that winter.

    The use of “empty” seems to refer both to a kind of emotional exhaustion or despair and Buddhist “emptiness”, which when understood experientially is characterized by a deep compassion for others and joy. The emptiness here is understanding the radical contingency of all that occurs and “exists” – ie that the true manner of existence is that things do not exist in and of themselves.

    This may be a rather poor gloss of the whole thing. But rephrasing Tich Thien-An’s quote may illustrate my point: ” It is not enough to assert that everything is empty: one must see into the fact of emptiness in all one’s daily activity.” becomes “It is not enough to assert that everything does not inherently exist: one must see into the fact of the lack of inherent existence in all one’s daily activity.”

    If you in fact did intend this meaning of “empty” I think you might need to do more to help the reader understand that. If you meant “empty” more along the lines of emotional exhaustion, rethinking the Buddhist reference may be worthwhile.

    In any event, very well done, thanks.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    This was tremendous.Report

  11. Avatar Zane
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    says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for this.Report

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