Friday, January 01, 2016

The memoir

I was thinking about the blog as a sort of memoir...

It occurred to me as I was reading another writer's account of his conversion.  Most of his writing is about that process.  I kind of know who the writer is and know a few sketchy things about his life.  Interestingly, when he writes about his past he makes a point of pointing out 'that he wasn't that bad' - in a Brittney Spears-I'm-not-that-innocent sort of way.  Of course he states that he was much better looking then than he is now - but as I said - I met him - or saw him back then, and I know that's not true.  What?

That sounds 'mean'?  It's not.  The reason I say it is because I've done exactly the same thing.  It's probably the same reason I don't like him very much - or when I'm sympathetic to his sufferings, I can sort of empathize with him.  I doubt very much that he is lying in some of the things he writes - but he has quite a high opinion of himself and rejoices in his conversion to such a degree he has the greatest compassion for himself and his moral failings.

Of course it's impossible to discuss someone else and their memoir without identifying them - but I must say that his writing helps me to see myself in a totally more realistic light.  My dislike of this particular writer helps me understand my own history a bit better - yet even more revealing - my attitude seems to reflect the attitude former friends may have formed about me.  The most famous criticism of my blogging - or at least the comment I can never forget, is when an anonymous commenter said, "Man - you have a lot of people fooled."  That was one of the most useful comments I ever read - and I think of it every time I want to level the same criticism against another.

Angela of Foligno and Margaret of Cortona knew these things about themselves.  I suspect they were often tempted to vain glory themselves - which is why they wanted to parade through town with fish and garbage hanging from their neck with a list of their sins.  Their confessors prevented them from doing that - precisely because it would give them some sort of satisfaction in so far as they some how 'justified' themselves as wretched sinners in and through public penance.  All of their accusers would see them thus and perhaps either take pity - or more perfectly - throw them out of town because they really were scum bags.

That sounds 'mean'?  It's not.  Because they were saints, they knew their wretchedness - and they feared vain rejoicing in spiritual narcissism and flattery.

Back to the memoir.

They're not all that accurate.  They are often tainted, colored, flowered over, or lustily embellished for drama.  Not always of course - but quite often - albeit rarely intentionally.  It is simply the way we reminisce.  Then our perception can be distorted by emotion or even wishful thinking.

An example.

I saw the real Santa Claus.  I was about four years old.  That Christmas Eve we came home from the bar down the street - the Christmas tree lights were on, reflected off the wall in the living room - I saw a shadow placing Christmas presents under the tree, my mother had to hold me back, frantically whispering, saying I couldn't go any further or I'd scare him - I tried to break loose and was convinced I could see him around the corner of the door.  When my mother said he disappeared, I ran into the room and all the presents were there.  I was convinced I saw him.  Until 3rd grade - when a mean old Lutheran teacher (married to a Lutheran minister) told me I was lying, grabbing my hair, pulling my head back and forth, until I would either admit I lied or stop insisting I hadn't.  I wouldn't give in - but I figured out that if I just shut up she'd leave me alone.  At recess, I told my friend who sat across from me that I really did see him.  "I did see him!  I did!"

See - I'm just like St. Bernadette.

And that's my point.  I wasn't just like St. Bernadette.  My classmate then asked me if I wanted to see his 'horsey'.*


*I told him 'No!' - that 
would be a mortal sin.

Song for this post here.


  1. That was just the booze talking. What?

    These days that teacher would've been reported to social services for abuse.

    1. She was mean - she knew I was Catholic. My on friend died at recess that year - Donald Schmidt - he slipped on the ice on the hillside and hit is head - died instantly - he went to my church. She made me get away from the window looking at his lifeless body and praying for him.

    2. That was mean. You were doing good for his soul. Protestants are weird about death though.

  2. +JMJ+

    For me, the most hilariously frustrating part of writing a "real-time memoir" (not that blog; my other one) is that I can't seem to write about a person who hurt me without at least one reader ending up really liking that person. I seem to have a knack for creating lovable villains . . . but it only makes me feel like an even more unloved protagonist. In the story of my own life.

    1. It's an interesting subject though, don't you think? The memoir is influenced by so much - in a way it is difficult to be objective while constructing a narrative - at least for me. That is why I like painting - it frees me - I'm able to document events from a kind of third person POV.


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