Switching costumes

This damn thing is an absurd joke.

Oh not again. Not again.

I’ve seen myself a thousand times and I have not changed a bit.

One day it will all end.

The ideals of a frightened boy: all smashed.

One day it will all end and the ideals will not save me.

We were made broken.

Now, as then, and tomorrow again.

And again.


Listen. I bore myself. And you too, I hope.

It has all been said.

What am I clinging to but broken space?

There is no substance here but hollow ideals.

And yet hear my cry: ‘Give me a war! Give me a goddamned war, and something to die for! Give me an ideal!’

I am an unbalanced pretender. And I always knew it. A goddamned unbalanced pretender, shooting a shot now and then, taking aim and shooting a shot now and then, to tip the scale in my favour.

Tip the scale, tip the scale. I lean too far I must tip the scale.

A pretender. Pretentious. A pretentious pretender pretending to be pretentious: pretentious squared: meta-pretense.

I am not even able to fail with grace. Not brave to fall off the measure. Scrabbling and clamoring to tip the scale. I’m sliding and falling off and I am not courageous. I do not dare…I do not dare!


Have you ever seen the beautiful truth, and had failed to act?

I have.

And don’t say at least I was aware enough to see; that most are too calloused to be aware.

Don’t tell me I should feel lucky to live; that most are never born.

Pretenders squander awareness; cowards squander life.

Oh, that I could BELIEVE! In something, in anything. To be calloused enough to not see, but to believe!

Oh, that I could fail to see, and truly believe!

But I have seen. And have done nothing.


Do you understand my words? Don’t make me spell it out.

The pretentious switch costumes until nothing of substance is left.

I need a war! – (to fall off I do not dare)

If you don’t get it….then get out!

You have been spared, and my envy of you knows no limits.

It knows no limits.

I need a war! – (to slide right off I do not dare)

This balance has tipped and I’ve shot my shot and my envy knows no limits.


One day this will all end. This ideal will not save me. Now, as then, and tomorrow again.

I dare not fall so I shall pretend. To wage war that I may believe, and callous my soul to regain relief.

I’ve shot my shot.

Oh that I were as calloused and deserving of life as you.

I walk towards the dancing light

If there is no light, then there is no dark.

I have fallen into the dark; I have become despair, doubt, infinite dread.

The dark says, ‘Turn your back on the light, there is no hope there; the closer you are permitted to come to the light, the further you will inevitably fall. Stay here, on the bottom, for in the end, all is doubt, fear, death, nothingness.’

The dark says the light is but an ideal, one that you can never reach, and thus one that will always fail you.

And I answer: ‘If light is an ideal, then you must be as well. To turn my back on one demands I turn my back on the other. You say it is folly to choose the light for it is an ideal, but then surely it is also folly to choose you.’

And the dark shudders, and spits me from its maw.

In the distance a tiny light flickers.

Caught between two ideals; I walk towards the dancing light.

The divine ape

There’s a pain that only I may know.

If it is common why do I feel so alone?

‘There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.’

Has this wisdom failed me, or have I chosen not to see?

The love of two bound souls…the curves of hips and naked backs…mouths agape in mirrored arches of ecstasy.

We are apes, dammit! So how can we seem so divine?

We long desperately for what we cannot have-

and what we have we fail to see.

The divine is all around and deep within-

A fluttering butterfly tracing sinuous curves across the naked sky,

pulls a string in the poet’s heart making melodious melodies of the mundane.

The sun rises as it sets:

Pain and joy; loneliness and companionship; light and dark; ecstasy and agony.

An ape so divine.

The victim’s prayer

Dear Lord. Almighty mighty Lord.

You have graver grievances to attend, I am sure.

But Lord, hear me out. Listen to my (self)-pitiful pleas. Please.

They say there is no rest for the wicked.

I say what a load of shit.

(HORSESHIT my Lord.

The wicked rest wonderfully. Deeply. Soundly. Undisturbed by haunting visions of moral transgressions.)

—but I digress—(cough cough)

As I was saying:

Dear Lord,

Grant me the strength to be wicked.

Afford me the confidence to knowingly disrupt the cosmic balance.

Entitle me to take what is not mine.

Endow me with the strength to cheat and lie and steal.

Let me have my cake and eat it too, and perhaps, someday, return for seconds.

Thirds and fourths.

Oh Lord may my self-awareness remain deception,

May the muscles and sinew flexed in the mirror remain awesome,

And may I roll over this world as one so divinely entitled.

If I am lost, let me hurt others in my grasping.

If I am in pain, let me be nurtured from others’ resources.

Let me feed off the world’s goodness and take no measure of responsibility.

Make my ego so strong, so emboldened, that I make victims of others to spare my own suffering.

Let me believe I am more important, the most important.

Let selfishness and egoism and self-deception reign in my heart, my soul.

Let all roads lead to me.

And let my worldly success depend on this attitude.

And whatever you do, do not allow moral questions of right and wrong creep into my self-righteous bastions.

Thank you Lord.

Amen

2.0

Then come on out. You step heavily on the narrow ledges of cartilage ringing my throat. My invitation was mailed months ago. Come on out. Let me see you.

I have a friend. I have a friend who says my writing is no good. I have a friend who says my writing is no good and yet he won’t say a thing at all. This friend’s silence angers me. I lack the confidence to take a stand either way. And the doubt washes through me. Coats my cells with dull energy. If only my friend could feel, could see me. Could step inside me. Could be me. If only my friend could write a word, a sentence to describe me.

I have mailed an invitation and I lack the confidence to confront my friend’s silence and the truths buried therein. And the doubt washes through me and something fearful sits on my throat.

The sky is blue but sometimes it is gray. Clouds float like silent hordes across the blinding clarity of not-empty space, blocking out the sun. There is no sense in sense when each narrative fails to deliver, breaks its promise of braiding the myriad threads into something strong, believable, dependable.

Day runs into night as ink spilled on white cotton. Spreading and spreading, the oily slick of slippery promise. Sleep comes at high noon. The devil, you see, is in the details. I comb through them, I see his face; it stares down at me as I look at the dimpled whiteness of an all-to-familiar ceiling as the mosquitoes and moths bang against the window, drawn to the single light burning in my room.

Let us be done with it. Come on out and let us be done with it. I have nothing to offer. There is nothing on offer. The silence of confident silence, silent friends have assured me my words are empty. Why try to build a narrative? Let the electric threads spark and crackle. Voltage running the length of headless hydra arms. Wriggling and gyrating in black empty space. No landmarks to pin them. No compass to orient. The flailing and failing lines of narrative in death throes. (I ask in all sincerity: can you picture this?)

I can’t write.

I can’t feel anymore in words.

Abstraction has failed me.

I have lost all direction.

The cold beating of my jelly heart. My veins are poor substitutes for meaning. I might lift a foot as I walk. But the story ends there.

And yet, compassion

Good out of weakness. Strict normative principles so as to control the world. A moral absolutist so as not to get hurt. Actions not adhering to, not possible to adhere to, such strict moral principles. Hurt inevitably following.

Afraid to live. Ashamed to love. Each breath self-reflective. Critical. Analytical. Simply not comfortable in my own skin.

Each cell of the body awash in nervous energy. Anxious vibrations. Always, always on guard. Even asleep. Especially, in my sleep.

For I do constant battle with my demons.

Guilty. That I am a sinner.

Dirty. That I am impure.

Unworthy. That I will be abandoned.

Envious. That I am lacking.

Anxious. That catastrophe strikes the unwary.

And yet, compassion. For myself. For others. Compassion for my demons. Thirty-six years and I have yet to win a battle. I am done battling.

In compassion there is hope.

In hope, salvation.

Infinite fear

Fear to fear to fear to fear.

If sentences could readily bend,

I’d twist that one end to end,

To illustrate the following truth:

Fear brings fear in an infinite loop.


Instead a daily dose of wretched I shall permit –

Of living life choked by anxious threat;

Of more than words bending end to end –

Of wretched routine from my trembling mind slip.


For I envy the skies of a cloudless day,

Into such clarity I breath clouds of gray,

To darken and slow the world that I may,

Reveal the links that could bring me pain.


Take my word, on sunlit morns I pray for rain.

For my eyes are sensitive to the sun’s rays;

I am jealous of the green and life the sun feeds,

Jealous that I don’t vibrate at such vital speeds,

My vitality lost to the rot in my rotten seeds.


This I know: fear and pain are my eternal due.

For I choke clear air with a deathly hue,

Thereby ensuring the truth remains true:

That fear brings fear in an infinite loop.

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.

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.

The 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.

Conversations with myself – #3

What did you want to be as a kid? I ask you – myself – what did you want to be as a kid?

Did you want to be a slave to your obsessions? To your insecurities? Did you want to feel trapped inside your own mind? Did you pine to be, just simply long to be, an outsider, misunderstood by others, misunderstanding them in turn? Did you wish to lose yourself?

If not these noble dreams, then what?

Maybe you didn’t formulate it. Maybe you failed to think it through. Think of it at all.

Youth was great. We were the lucky ones. I was a lucky one.

Strength of spirit and endless optimism and boundless hope. Enjoying life as it came, sharing experiences with friends and family.

Games.

Hikes and canoe trips and watching TV on Mom’s bed.

Oh, the antics and joyful shit devised with friends!

Christmas.

Shooting hoops outside and swimming in freezing pools. We didn’t need vacation. I didn’t need vacation. It was all – all – right there.


Well…

not all.

No. Not all.


I remember like yesterday walking my street alone, or with a buddy, in the early morn, on the way home. Sometimes drunk, yet always completely sober. And dreaming of nothing, and of everything. This, this whole world was mine, and I loved it, and it loved me.

The stars were so bright on these nights. And when not, then only for the light of the full moon, lighting the gray road and loose stones of the shoulder.

Yellow dashed and solid lines. Black threads of tar filling cracks. Can you feel it? The roughness of the asphalt and the gummy tar and the smooth paint of the dividing line as you slowly jog barefoot down the middle of the road?

This was my road, illuminated by my stars, and the moon, the moon was my deepest friend, my….confidant. And I was so aware, so very aware, of myself, and my feet on the solid ground.

Optimism.

Unbridled hope.

The houses housed guests asleep in my world. I was content they were there. Live and let live. And they let me live.

As did my mother. She let me live. And my father. He let me live.  Hell, they encouraged it…life…and me, in whom they had faith. And my sister too. Perhaps she came to see I was a viciously free spirit, stubborn, passionate. Arrogant. Oh so arrogant! Not with aggression, nor malice, nor sickening self-pride.

But arrogance in my optimism and self-confidence. And why not? For me, I was the king of my world, this sleeping, trodden street.

On my road. On my road. Arrogant happiness and naivety. Walking on my road. Ask me anything. ‘What would I like to be?’ HAHA. What a silly question. Can’t you see, I am content right here?


What did you want to be as a kid?

In all honesty: nothing precise. Nothing defined. The wind perhaps. Yes, that’ll do.

I wanted but to remain in that blissful state, forever.

It was all right there.

And yet…

it wasn’t.


And now the roads are all foreign. The stars, well they don’t shine as bright. And my feet don’t trust the shifting ground.

I say live and let live, but I don’t understand the rules of life.

And I have a family, kids, a wife. I have a job, a car, responsibilities.

Birthdays.

Graduations.

Report cards.

Football games and bush-craft.

Laughter.

Tears.

And I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

Well, maybe one thing: to have it all as I have it now, but to have me included. Yes. Me included.

But who am I? I am here, in this form, behind these walls, writing these words. But a part of me is back there. On that road. Where it all made sense.

A part of me walks that road every single night.

A part of me has never left.

Optimism. Unbridled hope.

What do I want to be?

My answer: nothing. But to have that peace again, in whole. To see those stars again, as bright. To be guided by that moon again, back home. To find me again, barefoot, on solid ground.

The switch

The mind has made a switch,

From days inward searching spent,

To heed the call of assumed responsibilities,

And rejoin the careening wheels of society.

The mind has made a switch,

And slides sadly into this communal pit.

…rhyming Homer with Homer…

Insight my mind has not brought!

Endless loops with doubt fraught!

Infinite thoughts pitifully caught!

Stagnation has only wrought rot!

The war of the obsessed mind

With my fingernails broken I scratch,

Every single hidden crevice and patch,

Until I, tediously excavating the last,

Finally from this space move past.

And yet with doubt constantly plagued,

Trapped wild beast mercilessly caged,

In my head the war bloodily waged,

Inane, insane, engulfed, enraged.

Have you yourself lost in loops been?

Thoughts’ ends and beginnings unseen?

Round they wrap choking tendrils keen,

Life to degrade, destroy, demean.

Life is suffering, so I might as well

Live my life in this self-made hell.

Your head may shake, yet can you tell

If your four walls aren’t but a cell?

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.