As I listened to Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) speak the final line in the opening scene I felt both calamity and anticipation. The line is not in Cormac McCarthy’s book No Country For Old Men but instead written into the film. I would watch it over and over, feeling the power of those words “Okay, I’ll be part of this world.”
What world did he mean? Was I not part of this world? To be honest, my interpretation is probably different than the writer intended. Perhaps it is spot on; it makes no difference. What matters to me is my understanding and the effect it has had on me over the last few years.
For the first 30 years of my life, I was not part of much in any meaningful way. I had my moments with family; I was well-behaved, polite, never set out to hurt anyone. Then again I never set out to do much of anything – I didn’t want to upset anyone, and I didn’t want any attention. Attention shines a light and exposes good and bad qualities alike – I didn’t want any light shining on me. I wanted to go by unnoticed – and I was pretty successful. This attitude is perhaps why my behavior has at times confounded so many people throughout my life – I am someone who is likable, polite, pensive, and loving but I also don’t want people’s attention. So, often people would see someone who was safe to get close to, who wouldn’t hurt them. Often what people found was once they got too close I completely detached, and they were utterly shocked. I am nice, how could I do something so emotionally jarring?
I have always had one foot out the door. I didn’t want anyone to get close to me because I had no idea what they would find. The first part of my life I was too scared to look into the mirror, so I created what I thought you wanted to see – every single person. What resulted was a disastrous collision of personalities, all created out of thin air and none with any foundation. When you have no foundation it is easy to run away – it also makes it impossible to stay.
I had to change – not a few tweaks here and there – I had to change my entire perspective on how to go about living if I ever wanted to connect with others. I had to make a decision, every morning, regarding my position in this world. To be part of this world I had to face the darkness – if I wanted the light, the connection with others, I had to be willing to find a connection with myself.
The darkness is the part of myself that I don’t want you to see, and I certainly don’t want to acknowledge. It is the truth – it is the only thing worth fighting for and the only thing that will allow me to be a significant, useful person. It may sound like wordplay, but it is not – there is no trickery, and there is nothing pretentious or new about this line of thinking. Being part of this world means so much more than going to work, making dinner, and going to bed. A paycheck, a mortgage, a partner – these are all part of an individual’s life. But in these things we can escape from the world, pretend that our existence is a fulfilling one, that we have found beauty. For me there are a million smokescreens, a million disguises – there is always a way out of this world, and most people find it and take it.
To be part of this world means finding authenticity within oneself – admitting and working on one’s flaws before celebrating one’s successes. To appreciate the light with sincerity one must understand and experience the darkness – one must engage in their personal battle to find happiness and fulfillment on their accord. The euphoria that others bring us is not authentic; it cannot be. We create our happiness and others serve only to enhance our lives. We go out and face the world alone, find what we have hidden from ourselves, and rip it out of the ground and shine a light on it. Everyone has their fair share of flaws and most point out the flaws in others to direct the light away from themselves. In the darkness you cannot do this – there is no light to shine on the faults of others, there is only you.
You have people who rant and rave about the miscarriages of the government – posting vile speeches just to grab a headline – yelling as loud as they can about the misdeeds of everyone but themselves and then resting on their mistaken laurels. These people feel they have done their part; they have blown the whistle on everyone else! They have told you and everyone else exactly how to think! They have done nothing for themselves. They are scavengers – they want your attention – they want the light off of them. Don’t take their light on – or listen to them and take up arms from your couch. You will find no argument from me – I cannot make others work on themselves, and I know this. I can only show you how I came to confront life on my own – one must do it alone.
When I set out to face my devil, I saw the manipulation, the layers of deceit, the dishonesty. I saw where I had been so convincingly dishonest with myself that I hadn’t even noticed anymore. This had to be undone – my life had to be reworked. My life is still being reworked; it is a daily reprieve. I echo the words of great minds from the past and tell you that the only thing I know is that I know nothing. I cannot right the wrongs of the 21st century with a few vitriol words here and there. Each time I see another spew words onto the screen condemning others for their way of life and offering a solution I smile a bit. What I offer here is not a solution, it is not even directions to anything. I do not know what others must face in their life – I do know that there is a part of this world that is filled with darkness, and I know that when given the opportunity to work on one’s shortcomings a person will turn swiftly and point out mine first.
All I have is my path and it is dark at times, but it always leads me to a beauty I had never known before. These things I work on, the things others have taught me, are ways to work on a sickness that was within me long before any drink was. It is the disease of being born and being scared. The illness in this world is fear, and I cannot tell you what fear you have. Perhaps you are like me, and you have pushed your fears so deep you hope they never come back up – but they will and they most likely already have. Our repressed fears and shortcomings find new ways to breathe, new ways to hurt us and the only way we are rid of them is if we face them.
There is a darkness in my world today – it tells me to go back into my bed, to turn off the lights, to make an excuse instead of going outside. My fear tells me I am unwanted, unworthy, and of no use. However I have faced my devil many times and each time I do I gain more light – the light is my beauty and my truth and the more I seek progress in the darkness the more truth I find in the light. The light is what shakes me from my slumber; it is what makes my eyes rise to meet yours. The light gives me hope; it is a reminder of what I go through to get a glimpse of beauty. To know pure beauty is to know utter darkness; Do not fear to become mired in the shadows – the brightness within is bolder.
I do not know what the world needs or what problems can be solved. I only know that if one will only examine themselves the way so many dissect so many others from afar one will find answers they can use. I gain nothing by learning what your flaws are – I cannot correct them – only you can correct yourself. With this knowledge, it seems to make sense that I ought to continue working on myself and myself alone each day. My words here are only a journal into my life – if you find my life appealing, if you see stillness in me that you wish for yourself you will find my methods here. I will not make orders; I have no power and no control over you. I have experience. You know where I come from; it is your choice: do my words have any merit? Ought we look inwards instead of outwards? I tell you that man can change but one heart and one mind in this entire world, and that is his own. I will be part of this world by accepting the darkness – that is how badly I want the light.