Do I know fear?

Do I know fear?

Never been in a war, a burning building. Never heard a gun fire, saw a child die. Never spent the night next to a loved one as she fought for survival. Never slept under a bridge, missed a day without eating. Never been mugged, accosted, molested.

Do I know fear?

Please don’t make me justify myself. Please don’t ask me to compare. Don’t expect me to rank anything. Maybe, likely, indeed – I am one lucky son, father, husband, man.

I want to say it was Hemingway who wrote something to the effect, ‘it is easy to be brave at 3 in the afternoon’.

I can attest to that; I chase the shadows of terror every damn night. EVERY NIGHT!

Are we not all infants when the moon looks through darkened bedroom windows?

Sleep is no respite. Sleep is no rest. Slumber is a slaughter. A real war waged in a real world in real time with real consequences.

Cradle my paled, icy-cold, terror-stricken face; lift my head from the soaked sheet and still my thrashing arms; press your body against the artery bulging with racing pulse in my neck. And ask me again.

Do know.

I fear.

Nightly visitor

In my sleep? You coward. Attack a man while he slumbers.


Red blood dripping from my right nostril.


How close were you this time? In my nightmare I could sense your presence. Do you no longer attempt to conceal your footfalls?

A coward and hasty. Are you afraid?

Is this irony? Can fear by afraid? Anxiety anxious?


Red blood dripping, staining the white cotton sheets.


I no longer love you. And you want to punish me for that. I no longer need you, and you don’t want to be left alone. You would rather kill me than let me be rid of suffering.

Coward. Bastard.

Stalking, scheming, insidious toxic parasite.

I repeat and hear it well; take heed of these last words of mine. I speak them, standing over your unmarked grave in the secret place where I have buried you, countless times in my brightest hopes. ‘You are a fucking coward. Nobody loves you anymore. You belong in the wasteland, forgotten, in an unmarked grave, endlessly and mercilessly trodden upon.’

I long for the day I uncover you, reveal your chaotic and frantic fury, and take my two hands, wrap them gently, softly, almost lovingly, around you, embracing you, as you thrash about. I dream of the day I suffocate the life-force from your evil gasping. Silence, make still, your aimless thrashing.


Until next time. Until tonight. Until after the red blood has dried.

Alone in a world of believers

You are blessed and cursed to have found your meaning in the question of meaning itself.

Blessed to be motivated to take a journey of deepest discovery, not only of the universe without, but of the universe within.

Cursed to be born in a world of believers, who are constantly and continuously tricked by the illusion of certainty and absolute meaning.

You have, through much existential suffering and malaise, arrived at some profound insights: meaning does not exist without, but within. Believers believe in what you have found to be myths; believers implicitly believe in the immortality of their egos, which you have failed to locate in yourself; believers expect judgment from a cosmic judge, now, today, and at every instant in the future, and you have realized you are your own judge.

You were once a believer. You too believed in absolute cosmic meaning. You too assumed and behaved as if your ego was immortal. You too were constantly feeling judgment, worried and fretting over the standards set by your fellow believers, and by the ultimate arbitrator. Put that all together and you have a wonderfully adapted and adaptable foot soldier in any environment at any historical time. Self motivated and self monitoring. Guided by shared myths. An immortal soul assured of favourable judgment resting peacefully every single night.

But you were not a believer for long. Something did not click. Too many doubts led to too many questions which led to your lifelong search for meaning. And let nobody tell you this was an escape, bred of laziness, for the spoiled and weak souls; you have shed more tears, had more sleepless nights, agonized in both body and mind for hours and days, months and years, non-stop. You had to know. And knowing is never achieved without great cost.

You have truly lived as a restless and tortured soul for far too long. The illusion holding power over the believers was not quite powerful enough to hold you. And yet it was not weak. It clashed with your spirit, and created for you great tension and anxiety. You could not reconcile your experience in the world with your true essence. At times you lashed out, arrogantly pointed out all the faults of the universe; other times you turned your anxiety inward, assumed the fault must be in you, and lay for days in bed. You were never still, never at peace, never at ease; there was always tension.

And after all the struggle, which is still ongoing, you have clarified the old and arrived at many new insights. Meaning exists, but only insofar as a ‘mean-or’ exists. So it is right to say meaning exists in the universe, but wrong to say meaning is universal. The ego is an illusion, an amazing trick of the mind, and even if it did exist, it would not be immortal. And finally, after all is said and done, so to speak, there is no judge, no judgment, external to the one in our own heads.

Are these hollow truths? No. Do they matter? Yes.

If meaning is subjective then you have the power to create your own. If the ego is mortal then you should not sacrifice today, in the form of existential anxiety and fear, for the hope of a better future. And, most importantly, you are the judge of your own meaning and striving and deeds. You do not have to fear the wrath of some cosmic lawgiver. If you are true to yourself, and strive according to your own standards, that is good enough.

The world of believers is caught in a web of illusion that serves a purpose, one of which each is unaware. We are, after all, evolved apes running the software of the mind adapted for survival on the plains of Africa, in a world at a time far far removed from the one we inhabit today. And yet, that software has not been, could not have been, updated in all this time. For the updates of evolution take eons, and are never completed. And besides, evolution does not care about your existential suffering, or your search for meaning. Evolution is an amoral process, an algorithm. If you are successful at continuing the legacy begun by the laws of evolution, the grounds of your success will be selected. It really is as simple, and as amazing, as that. What better way for a highly intelligent, social, purpose-seeking, conscious animal to succeed in a universe without absolute meaning – where neither its ego nor its anxieties are worth a damn outside its own head – than to have that creature not only invent, but wholeheartedly believe in, a set of myths, values, meanings, governing rules and cosmic judgments, eternal rewards and punishments?

Believers have not suffered nearly the existential malaise and doubt that you have experienced. Of this you can be sure, because they are believers. That is not to say your path is in any sense better than any other. That is not to say you are superior in any way to anyone else. It is simply meant to illustrate that you are on a different path than most people. You were destined to discover these insights. And the path was hard, and will continue to be overgrown and poorly defined. Not many people have trodden this way. But those who have would make good company. In their presence, at least, you would not feel so alone.

You were born a seeker. You could not rest. Your doubt and anxiety fueled your journey. And you have uncovered some valuable truths.

Each path a life; the worn and barely used alike. The majority of your fellow travelers rarely, if ever, escape their guiding illusions, paths crisscrossing the world, forming wide corridors and highways of frenzied activity. They may have tread many more an empty mile than you, but in your stubbornness and reluctance to step off the curb, you have made the longer journey.

As I lie awake staring at the faint light filtering through the space between the boards in my mind

Raising head,

Lifting eyes from dark,

Stepping outward,

From underground.

Strange hollowness,

Echoes in mind,

Empty of pretense,

Confident in not knowing.

Optimism seeking light,

Broken long dormancy,

Entering the world without,

Blinding, suffocating familiarity.

Same grey streets;

Same concrete buildings;

Same managed woods and rectangular fields and forgettable faces on Sunday walks on worn paths.

Same hierarchies.

Same games.

Same pretense.

Same narratives.

Same flow. Same responses. Same predictability.

Tender optimism. Knowing nothing. Utterly incapable of playing.

Words and ideas left unformed.

Nervous air from lungs passing silently through clenched and clenching teeth.


‘Why? Why would it change out there?’

‘It is here, in here,’ the boy said, pointing to his temple. ‘It has always been.’


Confidence gone.


…the shaking….the shaking….the shaking….

of a leg…


Most people, most of the time, have nothing to say.

Yet they talk!

How they beckon! – Join us. Come join us. Prattle prattle prattle. –

Words strung together, stretching back through ages. Narratives weaving, myths uniting. Layers and scales; minds to civilizations. One unbroken, unbreakable web.

Pretense. Opinion. Myth.

Words, words, words.

Nothing to say. Narratives left unformed.

Underground.

OCD

Order born of fear.

Claiming the seconds that make up the minutes that make up a life.

Doubting, too, these thoughts.

Conversations with myself – #4

I’ve resisted writing. There is little new to say. Old terrain, worn terrain.

And I annoy myself. And how!

But it goes round. This thought.

And that.

Fueled by fear. Fear itself.

Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of weakness. Fear of being seen. Fear of second place, of ridicule, of pain. Fear of letting you down. Fear of expectations. Fear of correctness. Fear of rules. Fear and more fear. Fear in the day, as I fret over my place in this universe. Fear in the night, as my mind slowly consumes itself in waking nightmares.

EVERY SINGLE DAY, EVERY BLOODY NIGHT.

Oh nausea! Ennui! A restless rest and static floating!

Oh, would that I melt and become water, flowing downhill to rejoin the eternal ocean. Oh, would that my fear achieve its apparent aim, and utterly obliterate the connections that hold me together.

Obsession of obsessions: obsessed with my obsessions.

One day, I promise myself, I will release this fear and angst, baked and hardened kernel feeding my doubt. I will give it back, down through the ages.

No blame. No blame. As if the universe can be faulted for a thing!

I will return this gift bestowed upon me, the one that has consumed me, dictated my life, for thirty-five years and ten months to the day.

But right now, this instant, I am afraid.

The greatest gift

The greatest gift you can give another is a piece of your deepest self.

Not your time. Not your money; but something more precious still.

Is it understanding, or compassion, or attention that you offer? Is there a word bringing these together?

Love?

That piece you offer freely, that is the gift. You offer without reservation. You say ‘Do with it as you will’, though, of course, you hope and trust the other treads lightly.

And that’s the risk you take…

…and the pain you can inflict.

Optimism

Set me adrift in the blackness,

Let me spin aimlessly like a homeless globe,

Traversing endless light-years without bearing.

Release me to the void.

To the black velvety comfort of a lightless horizon.


I see. I hear. 

Nothing.


A selfish bastard denying the world. One final cowardly display of spite.

I spit at thee and shut up my eyes and ears to all thy photons and surfaces and waves.

You – life animate and inanimate – force me to understand; you squeeze my head until it pops. 

And I say NO! NO MORE!

I do not understand. I do not see it. I do not hear it. I am dumb and selfish; dumb for not seeing, selfish for not wanting to see.

It makes no sense! And I know!

I am absurd and I can’t help it!


I feel the dark beckoning, offering infinitely more promise, more hope, more strength, than your cold, demanding, rational chaos. 

I am selfish. I see. I hear.

Nothing.


Now release me, let me drop, so that I may go spinning, aimlessly, optimistically, through the blackest void.

Aphorisms-4

There is little to build upon moving forward when the second time around is the same as the first. 

The wall

metaphor-existential-wall

Spent a lifetime talking to that metaphorical wall,

Beat my hands and head until they bled.

Through streaming tears pleaded desperately, 

‘WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME?’

Spent a lifetime talking to that metaphorical wall,

Until yesterday,

When I chose to listen.

…rhyming Homer with Homer…

Insight my mind has not brought!

Endless loops with doubt fraught!

Infinite thoughts pitifully caught!

Stagnation has only wrought rot!

Quote #6

It takes a village to raise a child, a flag to raze the children. – Chris Hannah

Dissociation

Stop that grasping,

and just let it go.

I don’t exist,

and never have.

This body, this mind,

these cells of bone, muscle, nerves and skin.

I am an illusion,

emerging from a neural network,

unifying through gross abstraction,

these multiple, interacting, embedded parts.

I am and I am not.

I am here, but I am elsewhere.

I feel anger, but simultaneous joy; pessimism and optimism; strength and weakness. I am both heavy and light.

These are no mere metaphors,

turns of phrase,

figures of speech.

In no way am I speaking in analogy; it is not as if I don’t exist; it is not as if I am multiple yet one; it is not as if I speak to myself across infinitesimal chasms in my mind.

‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘myself’, as descriptors, do not suffice.

There exists no single point, no central hub, no captain’s chair, where I take the helm and direct the show. But instead, there is system and sub-system feeding into itself and into the other; system within system of inter-networked biochemistry and electrical spikes. The sense, the illusion of self emerging from this near infinite complexity and potential.

Stop that grasping, that clinging, that clutching, that hoarding;

Stop that pining, that longing, that needing, that demanding;

Stop that storytelling, that narrating, that ascribing, that moralizing;

and let the illusion go.

Words do not suffice.

Let it go.

 

Twenty-four fountains

Twenty-four fountains. Spitting vertical spouts of clear water a foot high. Each stream pulled down on itself by gravity; unfurling liquid ferns held together by surface tension. At the tip of each transparent crystal frond quickly accelerating towards Earth’s center, fracturing and division as multiple single droplets break free; the droplets pit patting, pit patting, pit…pit…patting, the grey concrete paving stones. Tapping out a plot, a rhythm rich in meaning, just for me.

Twenty-four transient translucent authors, communicating amidst the jostling bustling hive of unaware humanity. Secretly, just to me.

How to end a conversation before it begins

‘How are you?’ ‘How are you?’ she said.

In a floating transitional state, waiting for the cosmos to give me the sign. Where are my legs? And gravity?

In a hyper-(ir)rational state. Am I sure of my arithmetic? Who says the world is logical? Logic to prove logic seems, well, ill-logical.

I am tense. But that is not my tension. My muscles vibrate with anxious intent. But they are not controlled by me. My hair is thick (yet thinning on top). But that hair crowns another man’s scalp.


Through the windows of the eyes, in the place where a soul might be, staring back in the mirror, something unborn, non-existent, flickers. Possessing a living host, it digs a tiny hollow, one fingernail scraping at a time. Piece by agonizing piece it widens its enclosure, allowing fresh air and light to fill the concave spaces around it.

As the cocoon about shudders and frets and lurches this way and that, the weightless non-entity bounces and spins freely in padded enclosures, thick organic walls of muscle and bone, pliable, absorbing the shocks of a chaotic existence.


‘How are you?’ ‘How are you?’ she said.

‘Oh, me, well I’m fine,’ would have been the reply, the sound carried reflexively up the throat, rolling over the tongue, out the lying mouth.

A colossal misunderstanding, and we both must be excused. In this universe the laws of arithmetic don’t always hold; but how could she have known? And I am tired of lies.

‘Oh, me, well I don’t exist. But thanks for asking.’

Ego metamorphosis

Trapped in this skin,

A developed presence trying to break free,

From the lower back, up along the edges of the spine, over and around the middle of the head: a pulling, wrenching pressure.

Something long dormant has awoken,

Cracking the thick, drying skin,

Snapping the taught sinew and corded muscle,

Breaking brittle bone, relieving tension.

Emerging, curled up, soft and rumpled folds;

A new body, a fresh wisdom and refined ego, stretching and extending, filling this old space with something new, hungry and invigorated.

Quote #4

Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It’s not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO! – Tyler Durden from Fight Club

The fortress nursery

I am a play-acting leader wandering aimlessly,

Trudging up and down each ridge and valley,

Marching headstrong on twisted paths unknowing;

Eager to say ‘Here is the way, follow me.’

 

I set off young, ill-equipped, and eagerly,

To a distant snow-capped peak I aimed to journey,

Heavy burdensome pack filled to overflowing;

Doubt, inexperience, arrogant insecurity.

 

In each palm five tiny digits clasped firmly,

My delightful, loving, innocent responsibility,

Yet cradled deep within another growing;

Swaddled in armoured layers deceptively.

 

I now know I am the king of a fortress nursery,

Revealed to me by their lips curled mockingly,

To veiled contempt, through muffled laughter owing;

They all scorn the child I refused to see.

 

Now too great the burden’s intensity,

A suffocating pack and no hands free,

Foundation’s cracked, there is no more going;

Deep within a child cries desperately.

 

In this storm of clear and urgent necessity,

Heed those mocking faces – growth requires honesty –

King’s garments stripped as the tempest continues blowing;

I, reborn and naked before you, stand awkwardly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lyrics #1 – The Grudge – by Tool

Check out video here.

Check out lyric interpretations here.

Writers: Adam Jones, Daniel Carey, Maynard Keenan, Justin Chancellor

The Grudge

Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity.
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate.
Desperate to control all and everything.
Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen.Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Justify denials and grip ’em to the lonesome end.
Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Terrified of being wrong. Ultimatum prison cell.Saturn ascends, choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again.
Humbled again.Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Justify denials and grip ’em to the lonesome end.
Saturn ascends, comes round again.
Saturn ascends, the one, the ten. Ignorant to the damage done.

Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity.
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate.
Desperate to control all and everything.
Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen.

Wear the grudge like a crown. Desperate to control.
Unable to forgive. And sinking deeper.

Defining, confining, sinking deeper.
Controlling, defining, and we’re sinking deeper.

Saturn comes back around to show you everything
Let’s you choose what you will, will not see and then
Drags you down like a stone or lifts you up again
Spits you out like a child, light and innocent.

Saturn comes back around. Lifts you up like a child
Or drags you down like a stone to
Consume you till you choose to let this go.
Choose to let this go.

Give away the stone. Let the oceans take and
Transmutate this cold and fated anchor.
Give away the stone. Let the waters kiss and
Transmutate these leaden grudges into gold.
Let go.

Shifting shores

For eleven years we stood side by side, drifting on the surface of a mirror lake.

Eyes cast down, we mistook our reflections for reality.

And as we drifted toward the approaching falls, the surface remained smooth, unbroken, for we drifted imperceptibly.

In and out of silent coves, we failed to register the shifting shores.

And then there was one more who joined us. And another. Two new reflections appeared and we both tilted our heads.

And as seen from without, as by an observer to the unfolding plot – fate, say – there would be no doubt: they apprehended the reality of those new souls, and it filled them both with joy, real and undiluted.

And with love.

Eyes fixed on our children, or cast down on unbroken reflections, we failed to register the shifting shores.

And then, as seen by fate, they picked up speed. Unaware. Minutes dripped into days and days into months, and then the years, passing without break, without mercy, without warning.

So it was. The slow drifting became a swift advance, and we, mere passengers on a rudderless raft, convinced we had control, trusting our deceiving eyes and the distending reflections being swept swiftly along.

Hand in my hand, her arm began, is if made of rubber bands, to stretch, pulling with an unseen power away from me.

Her body, elongated horizontal, being sucked into the nearing vortex.

And we, convinced this distorting reflection made sense. Looking, to either side, at playing, growing happy children. Mixing reflections and reality. It all made sense.

And now, her arm is so long. The fingers intertwined with mine growing ever thinner, narrowing to nothingness, approaching the horizon of no return, sucked, pulled unknowingly, terribly into the gathering torrent of the approaching falls.

And still that distending reflection was all we knew of each other. And it made sense.

Head bent. Children playing in the sunshine.

And now her body a distant point. Distended from my perspective as to be unrecognizable. I see the shifting shores, fleeting now to blur, too late my desperate lunge, pitiful attempt at self-preservation. I plunge over the falls.

Now nothing but air and water, air and rocks, in a tumbling kaleidoscope of chaos.

And looked at from without, by fate, mother and father extending wings soft and strong. Wings not meant to fly, for nothing can rescue them from this plunge. But wings to protect, to shelter, the only real thing left, knowable. An act of pure instinct and love. Wings unfurled and then immediately furled, wrapping soft protection, cocooning the children.

Coming up. Gasping. My hands palms upward break the water’s surface. Between my fingers, a memory. The reflections on the water scattered continuously in bursts of churning bubbles, sparkling light.

Through the thin wings enwrapping, the children see and sense, yet cannot comprehend this different world.

And I, desperate to find my bearings, head bobbing, eyes no longer cast downward, but seeing as if for the first time. Wings wrapped protectively, I search timidly.

And here, on distant, barely perceptible shores, rising and falling as I bob in place, her body rematerializes from the ether, organized web of light.

Seen from without, he looks at her. Eyes no longer cast downward. He looks at her. And for once he sees her, but fails to discern the direction of her gaze.