Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finding Harmony In Purgatory

Yeah, why not?

My head is in kind of a weird place right now (I know, I know, how is that any different than usual), especially as it relates to football. That should have been made epically clear by that ridiculous winding snake trail of a post that I put up last week, an abhorrent and stupid thing that we should collectively agree to never make mention of again. But these are the things that happen just after the world stops and just before it starts spinning again: chaos, anarchy, rampant stupidity and shameful self-indulgence which calls to mind the peasant making midnight deals with God because the world seems foreign and strange and he’s not sure what the fuck is going on or what’s about to happen. That is where I find myself with regards to my own fandom right now. I’ve been confused and stupid, wandering in a daze in a confusing landscape devoid of meaning or order. The past is the past and the future is the future but now? Who knows?

And it’s that which has been at the heart of my own confused malaise over the last few months, during which I have rambled nonsensically and made a horse’s ass out of myself in lieu of anything with a real, genuine point. I know that this post feels like more of the same, but I feel more in control of it now, like I’ve gotten my head wrapped around the simple idea that I have been struggling with all this time, that I’ve learned to accept it and now I’m ready to move on. That idea is that we are stuck in a kind of strange purgatory right now, hovering somewhere between heaven and hell, afraid that if we say or do or even think the wrong thing, some cosmic lever will be pulled and we’ll be sent down a slide lined with barbed wire and flames back to the hell from whence we came. Yes, whence, I said it.

And that’s the trick, trying to ignore the reality that that hell is there and that it is very real and that it has caused us so much pain, so much agony over the years, while at the same time respecting it and acknowledging its role in shaping who we are as fans. We can’t afford to ignore it completely – which I have been trying in vain to do – because that is a fool’s pursuit, naïve and childish, but we can’t wallow in it and give it too much power either. What we have to do is find a way to put it into its proper context so that we can finally move on in a healthy way.

Because if we don’t, if we continue to white knuckle our way through every game, a manic smile on our face, our eyes huge and frenzied, like some maniac meth head, trying to fight the terrible and unwinnable battle between the horrors of the past and the hope of the future, then we won’t even be able to comprehend that future when it does arrive. Instead, we’ll be too busy fighting off the savage hordes of Failure Demons harassing us with their forked tongues and their poisoned claws. And by the time we manage to defeat them, the future will be the new past and we won’t know what the fuck is going on.

So . . . yeah, we need to come to terms with the past, learn to respect it and face it like grownups or else it will never let us enjoy what’s to come. I don’t want to spend every game wondering if things are going to fall apart, holding on to some terrible darkness that lives deep inside of me just because I’m afraid that if I don’t pay it homage then it will come roaring out to eat my soul and destroy my dreams. I don’t want to be a slave to The Fear. I want to be able to give The Fear a curt head nod and then go on with my day. Because if we ignore The Fear, then we just make it stronger. We feed its power.

One of the worst things we can do as fans is become unrealistic and star eyed and think that nothing bad will ever happen again only to become raving lunatic street preachers moaning about the end of the world every time someone fumbles or Matthew Stafford’s shoulder spits in our face or some fool wearing the other team’s uniform scores a touchdown. This will happen, though. I guarantee it. And it will happen because we have no idea what we’re doing or where we are or how to deal with any of this . . . this new reality.

At some point next season I will flip out and start yammering on about werewolves eating my soul and escaped vampire apes hunting me down so they can nourish themselves with my spirit because I won’t know how to handle something bad happening. I will be like an idiot child, gibbering to himself after he pisses his pants, trying to make excuses and draw attention away from the fact that I am walking bow legged because my pants are soaked and I am horrified and confused and nobody can help me and that I am all alone in my pain while the rest of the world laughs and points at my failure. This will happen because of my refusal to understand that the past and its pain are still a part of the story. They add gravity and wisdom to the manic gayety (yeah, gayety, leave me alone) of the future. It is only through understanding that past that we can use it to temper and put into context the wild unpredictability and bipolar madness that so often comes with daring to hope.

It is tempting – hell it is damn near seductive – to stand like rebels in this purgatory and refuse to look back, to grit our teeth and snarl at the past, to have the immature and stupid gall to believe that we can actually wrestle with the past and defeat it, obliterate it, before we smugly move on to the glory we demand. On the flipside, it would be all too easy to behave like Lot, afraid to look back at the past for fear that our hopes and dreams would be turned into a pillar of salt that would then crumble and blow away in the breeze of our fractured and ugly memories. Either through stubborn pride or through fear, it’s too easy right now to run from the past, to not look back, but in the end, that is either stupidly arrogant or cowardly, or maybe some combination of both.

The only way to keep from making complete fools of ourselves is to recognize and accept the past, terrible as it is, and remember that when the glory comes, when all our hopes and dreams are fulfilled, it will just make it taste that much sweeter. We cannot afford to be idiot children. We’re better than that. We are Lions fans. The world has whipped our asses and tortured us for so long that we forget that because of all that we are made of iron. We are tougher than other fans. Never forget that. We can handle this because we handled 0-16. We can handle hell because we already were swallowed by the devil and he tore us apart molecule by molecule, laughing the whole time, and yet we are still here. As fans, we have been to places no one else has even had to fathom and yet here we are, embracing Hope and standing before the gates of heaven, waiting impatiently to be let inside.

The past is the past and the future is the future and right now? Right now the world is alive with possibility and so are we. I thought the past needed to be obliterated in order to appease whatever mysterious forces hold the keys to our future, but I was wrong. The past is what will give shape and dimension to the future. It will give us perspective and it will make us appreciate it that much more. We have to understand that the past is what it is. We can’t change it. We just have to stop fearing it. It’s called the past because that’s where it is, in the past. It isn’t the future. It isn’t now. It can’t touch those things because it is locked behind us. We have to draw upon that past, understand it, allow ourselves to feel it if only to remember that when things go bad, this is still not it. Bad shit will happen this season. We will be disappointed from time to time, but that’s okay. The far horizon is still alive with the color of the dawn of a new day, exploding in brilliant reds and yellows and oranges and it will still be there no matter what lies behind us. We can look back and then we can look forward and when we do we will realize the true beauty that peaks over that horizon and calls us home.


HSOMGF said...

You make a very good point here. The past always matters but at some point, you have to stop letting it define you (or in this case, your team).

This resonates with me as I am struggling with this very issue and I'm failing miserably, as I found out a few days ago.

Anyway, good post, as always.

Neil said...

Yeah, the tendency is always to either ignore it completely or wallow in it, neither of which really helps. The trick, I think, is to find a way to defang the past so that it can't leap up and bite you again.

Also, hey, good luck with whatever it is that you've been going through and, well, thank you for the kind words. They are always most welcome.

Tim in AZ said...

Well put.

I'm afraid I'll be white knuckling it through the season for at least a while though.

Neil said...

Thanks, Tim. And yeah, I think that is unavoidable.