Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some Thoughts On Guilt and Reality

My thoughts this afternoon have turned to evil men. To the extent that I believe that evil exists at all. The concept of "evil" belongs to the theists, and they can keep it. It has an romantic aspect that cruel and ignorant people don't deserve. Most people who inflict pain do so accidentally when they themselves are in pain, and they subsequently regret it.

But that is only the beginning of a cycle. Regret leads to guilt, and no tonic, medicine or fermented substance can ever take the vile poison from that agonizing sting. No application of heat or cold makes it easier to bear. Guilt is like a wound that forces you to favor it with shifted weight and careful movement, but not in a hand, leg or foot. And not just in your body. Guilt alters perception, of yourself, and the world. It colors your view of the past and makes it hard to be hopeful about the future.

The ache doesn't distract from self-loathing, like the stab of a self-inflicted wound. It does the very opposite. It magnifies your flaws, moral or otherwise, and prevents you from embracing a pleasant fiction that may spare you from bitter disappointment in yourself, in your nature. When life provided an opportunity to show your mettle, and you failed. The rest of your days will now be spent reconciling the person you've become with the person you hoped you would be. Guilt represents a refusal to accept your actions in a given moment. A moment that will live forever in your mind, and can never be revisited.

And it is there that the remedy to guilt, and perhaps even the resultant self-hatred, may be found. One doesn't have to accept an action once taken, for we are all moved only partially by ourselves. The world moves us, as well. Acceptance that the past cannot be changed, if carefully handled and considered, may just provide a modicum of freedom from that past. The practical application of knowledge about the hard lesson learned, coupled with acceptance of our failing (fixed in time), may lead to something resembling peace.

But even then, there is the echo of a moment that will forever sit unchanged. Fixed.

Have you ever done anything that haunts you? Did you ever get so angry with someone you love that compassion failed and horrible words, or actions, emerged to fill the void momentarily left by the momentary absence of our love and patience? That's a large question, and not abstract for some of us.

One hundred and thirty eight days ago, I turned to vodka in an attempt to reduce agony of what my psychiatrist would later call, in a report to the court:

"An episode of self-destructive dysphoria rage, a rational response to irrational and pathological self-loathing leading to racing thoughts, identity disturbance, suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation and eventually an episodic psychotic break. Mr. Lyle reacted to his failure to pay a utility bill with a frantic desire to kill himself, as punishment for a "crime" that had been blown out of all proportion in his mind. The unpaid bill was a judgment that rendered him feeling totally worthless, terrified and unique in failure. The break lasted for several hours."

What did I do? Simple. I got drunk and began making a noose. My father came up the stairs to my flat and tried to stop me from hanging myself. I pushed him, and he was caught off balance and fell, cutting his head. Before I succumbed to alcohol poisoning, I summoned an ambulance. He was taken away, and before passing out I threw myself down a flight of stairs and punching myself in the jaw.

I've never hit anyone, and didn't him my father. But I did push him. Three weeks ago, I told the court that I wanted to declare my guilt in open court, and suffer the worst possible punishment. They granted the former request. My lawyer tells me that, given my father's testimony, I could walk away with no probation order. That doesn't sit well with me. So I'm essentially telling the court to give me one or two years of weekly probation. It pleases me that my attorney understands my need to embrace my guilt and declare it publicly.

But no present course of action will reduce or eliminate the guilt and remorse I feel. It's with me all the time.

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