In this pause, I feel a silence. I think back to the self of me from a decade ago, hungry for the infinite. I don’t know if it filled me or if it was just the romance. Maybe I am endlessly going to search for something to fulfil the space left when I stopped believing in God. But, is this it? I want it tested and I continue to come up with nothing. I just can’t subscribe to something that doesn’t make any sense. I think of all that time people have wasted on judgement, poring through a two-thousand year old book on ways to live when it should just be about kindness, shouldn’t it? I’m not seeing a lot of kindness.
RuPaul spouts off a lot about spirituality. Charismatically enough, so I decide to jump in, tentatively, for a second. I think about all the book I had, and how I never got to the end of them. Yet maybe I smudge my memory just a little bit that The Secret wasn’t all about selfishness, that The Celestine Prophecy wasn’t just a transparent cash-grab thriller dressed up as a new way to live.
I pick up Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It promises simplicity, clarity, some thoughts on how to live. Instead, I am mired in Buddha and Christ pseudo-scientific rot. By the time I get to the part in Chapter One about butterflies consciously evolving to have the armour of a cocoon, I decide I have too many other books to get through. I would rather read Twilight, which at least doesn’t pretend to be saving the world.
I throw the book into the recycling bin, to give it a better purpose.
I am in the elevator of our apartment block, making my way up to the ninth floor. I normally try to take the stairs, but today I have bags to carry. I look around me. The empty McDonalds cup on the floor. The smell of urine and cigarettes. The LED screen punched in. The scratches all over the door. The graffiti.
The system of an elevator is simple enough, but also a miracle. Someone conceived of an instrument to make life easier, to literally allow us to reach our homes in the sky. The rules seem simple enough. You walk into an elevator, you press a button, the elevator takes you to your destination. It should be simple enough that all you have to do is not be an asshole, to leave the elevator in the same condition you found it.
It’s not just about hooliganism. It’s chewing gum on the pavement. Towels strewn about the floor of my gym. People pushing to get on the train. My ‘good morning’ greeted by a sideways glance averting eye contact.
I think about everything we think about, when it comes to humanity. That we are all special, that we are all unique, that we are all chosen. That we somehow all have a capacity for greatness. That we are all chosen. I don’t know that it breeds anything other than laziness, false comfort, entitlement.
We talk about humans committing despicable acts. We call them animals. Except animals don’t have a capacity for cruelty. They don’t vandalise. They don’t torture.
On a brilliant sunny weekend, we visit Lewes. We walk across the fields to Charleston Farmhouse, the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The tranquillity here, in the middle of nowhere, is palpable. We are guided through each room, the sum of their joint creativity. They painted all over the house, the walls, the tables, a living work of art and a document to their lives and passions.
We visit Monk’s House nearby, the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. The stillness of the churchyard behind the house, leading out into the rolling hills. Virginia’s writing room. Her ashes on the wind under the elm tree in the garden. The obsession, the craft of writing and creating.
We sit at the train station, waiting to go back to London. I start to read Virginia Woolf’s diaries. I think about a life on our own terms. I think about what I want from my life, what I hope to achieve.
I don’t want fancy cars. I don’t want a sprawling house with all the latest gadgets. I don’t want an overflow of money. Exclusive lounges. Cocktails n Mayfair. A million friends. Adoration. God and the conditional promise of Heaven.
I want my husband, my writing, a book to read and good food at the table. I want the intimacy, the closeness, the easiness of good friends and family. I want to travel. I want warmth, and nature, and comfort. I want creation. I want art. I want a good life, no gilded edges.
I am at The Tate Modern art gallery. I am undergoing a course with about seven other people. It is essentially a guided tour through art every Friday evening for ten weeks. I look at the Picassos, and the Picassos look back. They ask me what I want, and somewhere Pablo smiles. The Carrie Mae Weems shakes me from the inside. It causes a vibration that travels all the way down the golden river until it reaches William Blake at the Tate Britain. At the National Gallery, Botticelli looks at me, then he turns away.
I think this may be it.