Among its attributes, great literature invites escapism, reflection, and introspection. A novel, play or cinematic screenplay creates a mental place where implausible circumstances can allow one to ask “what if?” Like the personification of non-sentient objects, literature allows you to ask what would it feels like in imaginary circumstances – no different than one might ask what pain a tree feels when it is cut down. And by mentally putting oneself on the “stage,” a reader can consider what choices or feelings might be evoked were those settings to be one’s reality.
Not being a very speedy reader, I tend to take my literature on the big screen – or the “little” one where creative drama is masterfully played. And in the past several years, while I’ve been slogging through a morose period of healing after my second divorce, I’ve gravitated towards television dramas with leading male characters whose depicted flaws, instincts and motivations are not dissimilar to my own. Perhaps there are a lot of men in recovery these days – these shows are popular.
The most recent screenplay to promote my emotional exploration is The Newsroom, and the portrayal of Will MacAvoy. A major subplot of this drama is MacAvoy’s inability to get over being cheated on by his former lover, more than 6 years after they parted ways. Encouragement to forgive and forget haven’t taken hold, and MacAvoy moves though life with a perpetual emotional millstone. While not providing obvious clarification toward healing, an epiphany of sorts occurs when MacAvoy is told his emotional state isn’t the result of being rejected. MacAvoy is told he suffers because he was betrayed. Oddly, it sounds so simple when reduced to a single word.
The details of my second divorce are nobody’s business – and my actions in response to marital stresses were not faultless. I like to think that what matters is my desire and efforts to resolve and later reconcile our differences. My view of marriage centers around a commitment to creating an environment hospitable to the existence, if not the creation of love. This is not a blind commitment to an idealized marriage contract. The Ketubah provides a divorce remedy – a realistic understanding that unforeseen circumstances can create situations were preservation of a marriage would destroy its participants. Perhaps in filing for divorce, my wife simply sought a greater good. When bad things happen, moving away from continued deterioration is clearly a remedy.
Definitions of betrayal range from treachery, violation and abandonment of a social contract. In simplest terms, to betray is to quit. In my second marriage, the efforts to create an environment hospitable to love, stopped. While not obvious to me, I’m not so self aware as to be able to recount such quitting on my part. I don’t know exactly where I am culpable. But after several years of effort towards reconciliation that firmly reestablished a relationship, but failed to rekindle love, perhaps like the fictional MacAvoy, I was betrayed.
Out of self preservation, I eventually tried not to love my ex-wife. I never failed so spectacularly at anything in my whole life. In an interview I heard on the radio, Timothy Leary stated that “words are the freezing of reality.” So now with the introduction of the word “betrayal” applied to my emotional response, perhaps I now have some firm ground to build a psychological sanatorium.
I don’t know how one recovers from a betrayal. Maybe that’s why society builds memorials. People who’s loved ones have their names carved in the Vietnam war memorial have a physical place to grieve, remember, and celebrate the memories of what was lost. Maybe only time heals a betrayal. Building just keeps you busy as time passes and washes the ache away.