O Jerusalem

Two summers ago I nearly finished a novel that bears the title of this post. I didn’t complete it for a potentially damning reason: not for laziness, but for lack of experience with the topic.

There was a song that was popular in my parish as a kid (I believe it was called “Jerusalem, My Destiny”), “I have fixed my eyes on your hills / Jerusalem, my destiny. / Though I cannot see the end for me, / I cannot turn away.” (Of course, let us remember, “Non potest civitas abscondi supra montem posit.”) When I began to write O Jerusalem, there was a person in my life who inspired the theme of the novel—he was lost, and lacked, as I said to him, a Jerusalem. He had no goal. No end-game.

I wrote about a main character who lied and misunderstood her Jerusalem, the aimless discontent of people of a suburban neighborhood who were alive, but had the terrible fate not living. I don’t remember such effortless writing, to be fully truthful; I had that summer lost a sense innocence in re my friend’s Great Matter, and that deflowering poured onto paper quite easily. In the end, though, the task loomed too large for me to complete. I couldn’t, when all the cards were played, make a final gambit to completion.

I cannot say that I pleased to say that perhaps I am now capable of finishing.

I don’t mean to gripe, since I certainly am in the spring of my life; I’m at a wonderful company, enjoy my work, and have amazing friends. Something about India, though, has given me perspective. Last evening, the children from the NGO which we’re working with at TWU came to the Bangalore 2 office and we had a talent show—although obviously rigged, the kids did, and should have, won. I saw a twelve year-old who was born and raised in the slums stand up in the midst of a group of adults, some of whom were the chief executives of a massively successful corporation, and recite from memory an essay he had written about hard work and happiness. (I am still to a certain extent amazed at his wisdom, and marveled at his earnestness in wanting to be an architect and rebuild the slums.)

I am positive that I, who have had every imaginable opportunity in my life from parents to education to work, would have been woefully incapable of doing that at that age. Giving a portion of a presentation to that same group (most of whom are my peers) that same night was nerve-wracking at 22, and I may with total honesty observe that another decade might only mitigate that emotional tangle a touch.

I want to revisit the idea of having a Jerusalem because, amazingly enough, a young boy from the slums of India showed me what a city on a hill should really look like.

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