At last I understood that the way over, or through this dilemma, the unease at writing about 'petty personal problems' was to recognize that nothing is personal, in the sense that it is uniquely one's own. Writing about oneself, one is writing about others, since your problems, pains, pleasures, emotions-and your extraordinary and remarkable ideas-can't be yours alone. [... ] Growing up is after all only the understanding that one's unique and incredible experience is what everyone shares.
Fine. Fine. Let's try. You asked why bad things happen to good people. Well, the simple answer is, there are no bad things and there are no good people. Nothing bad ever happens to anyone and people are neither good nor bad. A person is nothing. A person does not exist. There are no people.
This, I believe, is the appropriate image of human intercourse - appropriate because it recognizes the qualities, the diversities, and the proper relationships of human utterances. As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves.
We have all lived through that shriveling moment when a parent walks into a room and repeats, with sardonic disbelief, a couplet picked up from the stereo or the TV. 'What does that mean, then?' my mother asked me during Top of the Pops. "Get it on / Bang a gong"? How long did it take him to think of that, do you reckon?' And the correct answer - 'Two seconds, and it doesn't matter' - is always beyond you, so you just tell her to shut up, while inside you're hating Marc Bolan for making you like him even though he sings about getting it on and banging gongs.
I thought about that while he made his next calls, while I kept on with the newsletters. I thought about it during Sunday service at Word of Life, and during study hours in my room, with the Viking Erin and her squeaky pink highlighter. What it meant to really believe in something-for real. Belief. The big dictionary in the Promise library said it meant something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held conviction or opinion. But even that definition, as short and simple as it was, confused me. True or real: Those were definite words; opinion and conviction just weren't-opinions wavered and changed and fluctuated with the person, the situation. And most troubling of all was the word accepts. Something one accepts. I was much better at excepting everything than accepting anything, at least anything for certain, for definite. That much I knew. That much I believed.