It is rarely as good as you think it must be, or as bad as you fear it will be.
Black crows are silhouettes against a cotton sky.
There is light. And there is dark.
The dark cannot subsume the light. Shine a light, and the dark must give way.
Shadows are wholly dependent.
But light shines of its own accord.
Black crows are silhouettes against a cotton sky.
It took some time, but they finally arrived, the thoughts leading me to hope again.
Here in the cold on a damp bench, water flows and ducks preen, and people walk past hand in hand.
I would gladly share this space, and yet I am gladly alone, I just am and they just are, and somewhere someone exists to sit beside me.
But now the flocks circle. And the traffic flows. Layers of sound like soft bandages wrapping my ears.
The birds. The cars. The voices. The laughter of children. Of men and women. Distant music. The rhythmic scraping of meandering soles on gravel paths.
I am trusting more and more in an ascending simplicity, spiralling out, perhaps, to a basic spiritual singularity.
Shall I name it? I do not dare.
For it exists between the soft wrappings of sound, in the spaces between things we can name.
Cold day. Damp bench. Alone.
It sits here, next to me.
If we insist on outdueling the other, we will eventually find there is nobody left to whom we relate.
A healthy relationship is not a duel of wit or will waged behind defensive walls; but a patient organic blooming of giving, understanding, and compassion.
Through giving we may receive; through understanding we may question; through compassion we may be saved.
Healthy relationships give us comfort for we are vulnerable, strength for we are weak.
The invulnerable and invincible among us are lost and lonely indeed. Not only do they not exist (for who among us are gods?), they are trapped in the illusion they do.
Step out from your defensive walls, and others will follow.
To change and develop in a positive direction one needs honest information. This is a reason why lies and deception are so injurious to well-being: they prevent the development of one’s full potential. Honesty to oneself and others is often painful, but so is birth, for mother and baby alike.
There is no such thing as dishonesty. It doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense.
In our deepest selves fluctuating values constantly tug on the strings of our wills.
Behind any deceptive act is a value held to be true; a belief which, no matter how wrong might appear to another, completely informs the actions of the deceiver at that moment.
We may deceive ourselves, and therefore others, but we can’t help be but honest deceivers.
A new world opened before me. One overflowing with light and love. I am neither reluctant nor expectant to enter, for reluctance implies doubt, expectancy implies dependency; I neither fear what lies within, nor seek salvation.
I know this world is meant for me. I will take my time to explore and learn. I will live.
Please take these words, and cast them across a crimson sky. Let the whole world read what I have been led to see. There is no pain so great, nor fear too deep, that a breath of pure love cannot ease.
Allow love the day to seize. Let love reign, and be free.
Who am I
To say what any of this means?
I have been sleepwalking
Since I was fourteen.
Now as I write my song
I retrace my steps
Honestly, it’s easier
To let myself forget.
Still, I check my vital signs
Choked up, I realize
I’ve been less than half myself
For more than half my life.
Fall in love again
Wage war on gravity
There’s so much
Worth fighting for
Another domino falls
It looks like empathy
To understand all sides
But I’m just trying to find myself
Through someone else’s eyes.
So show me what to do
To restart this heart of mine
How do I forgive myself
For losing so much time?
Roll up your sleeves
There’s a chain reaction
In your heart
Remembering who you are.
And fall in love again and again and again
Wage war on gravity
There’s so much
Worth fighting for
Another domino falls
And another domino falls.
A little at a time
I feel more alive
I let the scale tip and feel all of it
It’s uncomfortable but right.
We were born to try
To see each other through
To know and love ourselves and others well
Is the most difficult and meaningful
Work we’ll ever do.
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.
Trust is the silent energy fuelling any healthy relationship; you truly appreciate it once it is broken, for the silence is replaced with the screeching deafening noise of its fragmented and metastatic parts, circulating like screaming cancerous tumours through the withering and dying relationship, illustrating with crystal moral clarity the following truth: trust is the relationship and the relationship is trust. You risk it all if you take trust for granted; nurture and cultivate it as dearly and attentively as you would a developing child, for in effect, you will be nurturing and cultivating not only your relationship, guiding its development from birth to maturity, but, as any dedicated and caring parent knows, developing yourself as well.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Train the mind to dwell in the fraction of a moment after a conscious experience but before the naming of it. There the ego has yet to form; there salvation from the self can be found.
In response to a recent query. I thought it worth sharing, as it highlights the motivation behind the seemingly tortuous mission to ‘know thyself’.
‘For me, I not only glimpse into the ether, I spend days, months, years, living within and breathing the ether. If by ether you mean the unknown, the fear and anxiety of your life, the world you dare not enter for it might be too terrifying, the truth too exacting. If by ether you mean the abyss. Why do I do this?
The uncovering and understanding of the deepest truths and realities about the cosmos and your place in it, is, I would argue, the source of everything worth holding on to, worth striving for. It is no mistake that one of the strongest and longest-lasting pearls of wisdom is ‘know thyself’. Knowing yourself requires you understand your relationship to reality, as part of who you are (indeed, perhaps all you are) is as a relational entity: you not only draw nourishment from water and molecules in food, warmth from the sun, oxygen from the air, but as an emotional and social creature you are defined by, and in relation to, others. In a very literal way you are the product of a web of causation stretching backwards through time and covering immense space and nodes of influence.
You can be ignorant. You may truly believe falsehoods and build them into your narratives. The universe doesn’t literally demand you know the truth. However, knowledge and wisdom is the source of everything and anything worth tapping into. Why? Because the universe might not literally care, but if you live your life blind to a deeper understanding you will run into problem after problem after problem. Or so my experience has taught me. Problems with relationships. Problems with self-confidence. Problems at work or in society. You will thrash and point the finger everywhere, absolutely everywhere, other than at yourself. But once you wipe that slate clean, be willing to start afresh, be dedicated to writing a new narrative for yourself, one whose plot better reflects the true nature of reality and your place in it, many of your problems will disappear, your confidence will grow, your relationships will strengthen, you will know when to stay or when to move on, you will stop blaming others (and yourself) and accept not only the cards that have been dealt you (I, for example, have serious anxiety issues, ones for which I routinely blamed the universe), but you will also find ways to work on the things that are in your power to change. Nobody can ask anything more of you, and you will find you are actually beginning to live a meaningful life.
And why not simply ignore and bury terrible truths? I say: there is no wisdom in wilful ignorance. In fact, I find the notion a paradox. Once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, there is no putting it back in. People try! Alcohol, drugs, running away, escape escape escape! But once the cat is out it will always find you. In bed late at night. In those moments of clarity when you look at yourself in the mirror. When you reflect on your life and realize it is dripping away and you have wasted most of it and the blame and pointing finger no longer saves you. When the universe no longer holds you up. And, for many people I imagine, the cat comes back on their deathbeds, stalking like a phantom the recesses of consciousness until the dark shadow fully envelops the mind. Don’t let that happen! Don’t die without ever knowing yourself and truly living!
Once you glimpse into the ether it is already too late! As in the Wizard of Oz, a peek behind the curtain is all that’s needed to shatter the fantasy. But as you peer ever deeper into the ether, you, like Dorothy’s companions, will find your courage, your strength, your wisdom, and, like Dorothy, your life.’
Each path a life; the worn and barely used alike. The majority of your fellow travellers rarely, if ever, escape their guiding illusions, their paths crisscrossing the world, forming wide corridors and highways of frenzied activity, leading nowhere. They may have tread many more an empty mile than you, but in your stubbornness and reluctance to step off the curb, in your relentless pursuit of self-awareness, you have actually made the longer journey.
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.
Order born of fear.
Claiming the seconds that make up the minutes that make up a life.
Doubting, too, these thoughts.