Overcoming despair

Despair is a tide of black horsemen attacking in endless torrent

Defeated upon the spear of self they vanish into shadow and mist

Reform and attack again. Another round, again and again

Their black cloaks veil the horizon and their screams

Drown out the chatter of songbirds.

 

For a breath they are gone, enough time to rest

To catch a dream, to take the whetstone

To the blunted blade and check your armour

Before the pounding hoof returns, amplified a hundredfold

Barrelling, charging, pitch-black steeds and riders.

 

But even despair runs out of power, fails to regenerate

Is banished back into the depths to await its return.

Never truly defeated, but delayed.

Despair is a part of me, like any other

Removed only with the final-death of this form.

 

Life is not just a question of understanding and awareness.

One must be as a mule on a mountain path

Or the mountain itself, hard as ancient stone

To survive the onslaught of the black horsemen

Who rush and charge until they are spent.

 

With the depths of despair comes the logic of despair

Everything is fed into its matrix of shadow and mist.

A strange eternity and certainty, that things will always be dark

Defies the ever-changing cosmos and its uncertainty.

The illusions of despair, they are a strong thing indeed.

 

But let the philosopher who believes in light and mind

Face despair and survive, if he thinks truth alone will do!

To become as stone is also a human aspect;

To wait out the storm, to be hard and unmoving, to be strong

Until the darkness passes and flesh can again be resumed.

 

This is what is necessary to survive in this world;

So much for dreams of sensitivity, perfect justice and eternal spring.

Nagged to death

Worn down and down and down, little by little. Patched up, torn again, scraped and clawed.

In life, despair is not inevitable; our own suffering is not possible. But the despair of others is inevitable, their ceaseless whining and grating.

Not everyone can be a hero of their own soul. Other people can be poison, pullers-back, holders-down, draggers into the dirt, pitiable and pathetic.

Other people are the worst fate you could suffer. The worst thing is they are everywhere and entirely necessary in this phase of human-social evolution. There is no escape and no means of finding the ‘good tribe’ which does not actually exist.

I feel beset by parasites, latching on and wearing down what it means to be fully human. Children bawling at the world, unable to understand themselves, caged by their own  stupidity. Underachievers who want everything else to match their dystopian, fallen, pathetic vision.

Such lowness, feminine impotence, lack of introspection – are these the beings God created? Are these the ones chosen to direct the course of nature by his divine decree, to be custodians of the world and deciders of what lives and what dies?

This is the saddest joke of them all. A great evil inspires great heroism. But a slow death, a clawing out of your ability to feel; the endless waste of time and energy which makes your sensitivity a vice, this is an entropic force that cannot be stopped by force and heroism. An Achilles could not withstand it, a Pythagoras could not understand it, an Arthur could not rally the tribes against it.

It must be final evidence of the absence of a benevolent, metaphysical saviour. Why would anything of Good aspect create beings that can destroy others just by the power of their voice? Why would the all-mighty design so many to waste so much time and energy in endless futility, leaving only absurdity and suffering in their clueless wake?

The Yin-Yang of Nature

1024px-Yin_yang.svg

Yin is the light and yang is the dark.

I)

The castles we build protect us from the wolf and the wind. But they do nothing against time.

Change is the nature of nature.

Routines, even good ones, fly in the face of this.

To strive to be healthy is to strive to be unhealthy.

The more we fortify against chaos, the more fortification we need against chaos. The ego separates itself from nature and must maintain its distance; which is impossible.

Thus, behind our ramparts we slowly truncate and dissolve our Selves.

A single sleepless night can bear more wisdom than a hundred days of thought.

Constantly challenging ourselves we can transcend ego-consciousness, allowing for change and re-connection. Anxiety shrivels when we walk out onto a new path; the ego is given relief that it is more capable than previously imagined.

Sometimes chaos and misfortune are what force us to change and better our Selves. Thus chaos is the evolver and exalter of human spirit. To extinguish chaos is to flatten the human spirit.

The desire for security allows us periods of vital restoration, but these sanctuaries eventually degenerate into prisons.

Our longing for pure yin puts us out of alignment with what is possible.

 

II)

Light is like a veil which conceals shadows. But the darkness always remains.

If we overcome all our struggles and fulfill all our dreams, we are confronted with death.

Our dreams and desires shield us from this realization; they occupy us. Sometimes we feel death seeping through the facade, but seldom so.

Therefore to be free from dream and desire is to permanently confront the unfathomable.

We know how to die as much as we know how to live. We are adapted for it and ever prepared to die.

To accept your Self is to accept elements of yang, therefore the inevitability of death.

Thus we fear our whole Selves. To be your whole Self is to undermine the control of the conscious ego, which is a mere component of the whole.

The conscious-ego exists on a plane of time, whereas the deepest aspect of Self exists in an infinite, indiscernible domain. This creates a contradiction when one is too identified with the ego, but a perfectly reasonable totality when one is willing to allow the whole Self.

The desire for yin-order and straightness rubs up against the reality of yang-disorder and roughness.

The tension between these two forces should be a great motive force for our Selves. But if we live in denial of yang, it becomes a thing to be dreaded.

 

III)

What is captured is taken out of its domain of spontaneity, ceasing to be what it was.

Our whole Self contains sparks of chaos which cannot be controlled. The deepest emergent properties of our Selves can be cultivated and given space, yet they act beyond our conscious control.

Imagine a person who wants to control their dreams – their deepest form of yang-perception. They would, by the very folly of their quest, be truncating themselves. The conscious ego does not have the capacity to reach the source of dreams.

Dreams analyzed by rational thought are bastardized. To understand dreams we must allow a deeper form of perception to triumph.

To stop the river in its course is to destroy it; water taken out of the river ceases to be of it. The river is more than its water, its mass, its banks and its debris. It is its flow and totality. One cannot understand what it means to be in the river from without. Nor can one take its water, fill up a pool and mistake this for the river.

To be whole and complete we must relinquish control of our whole Selves. This requires us to trust all modes of perception and to trust the unknown.

Death is the end-beginning. No one knows it, nor can they. It remains the ultimate mystery.  For the dead individual it is the only satisfiable resolution of any questions of consciousness or spirituality. When we accept this essential yang-element of death and decay, we can fully experience the yin-element of life and thriving.

 

IV)

Our options are to be ordered and die a long death, or to accept chaos and live a little before death.

All walls eventually crumble. All forms are subject to entropy. Every dawn the sun rises. Every dusk the sun sets.

The cosmos is equal parts yin and yang. I feel humanity may be more aligned with yang, having historically failed to overcome its evils. We continue to underachieve despite our technological progress and immense potential.

However, this is no cause for misanthropy. We have the rare ability to mirror and embody other creatures. Thus we can be influenced by yin-aligned creatures – such as the blackbird whose song is benevolence and the hedgehog whose being is innocence – to account for our shortcomings.

Yin-aligned plants and trees can guide us and support us. This is why we must be surrounded by nature at all times.

We cannot even begin to align with other creatures whilst we are trapped in wholly humanistic, individualistic, empirical domains. Spirituality is there for all of us, if we are willing to accept it with humility.

Civilized human beings must learn what wild animals already know. How to be authentic at all times.

 

V)

Yin without yang is an indiscernible ball of light without contour. It is a plane of stagnation. It is darkness that allows shape, diversity and contrast. Without these things there is no reason to live.

Our utopias would be domains of death and stagnation. We must accept the world we are in and accept the limits of the yin-light we may shine upon it.

This is to exist in alignment with the yin-yang of nature. This is to be whole again and to achieve what is possible.

 

 

The infinite well of Self-Esteem

Me and my therapist spoke in no small terms about ‘innate value’ and ‘inner dignity’. We talked about the value of self-love, how to cultivate it, how it was prerequisite for the love of another. We assumed that it was something already there, an axiom of the soul.

But I was never fully convinced that there was a source of worth inherently in us. If there was, how could my adult life be plagued with collapses of self-value? I do not believe that with enough ‘practice’ we could ‘self-love’ ourselves back into a place of worth. Nor do I believe it to be true that we need to love ourselves before we can be loved by another.

What others might call ‘inherent value’ I see in a much more nihilistic light, namely normative (or society-given) value. Nature has no inherent value but for the survival of species; cooperating or competing for life. We are no different to any other species, we are the children of nature.

If I had a font of hidden energy and self-value, why is it absent after a lifetime of searching? Perhaps my therapist was just trying to be nice!

A cursory observation of society will demonstrate that people seek to be valued by others. This may be through their position in society – how many people do you see taking pride in their work or striving to get ‘to the top’?

It may be through belonging to a community or ritual place of worship – how many towns do you know of without a church?

It may be in the form of finding a loving partner – how many people do you know who take pride in their relationships? I saw at least five couples publicly demonstrate their affections for each other on my walk through town yesterday.

It shows that we are indeed empty on the inside and in constant need of others; that it is not enough to be with ourselves. Indeed, it is precisely this need for others that drives us forward and allows society to happen. Our emptiness is our driving force and a vital part of who we are.

Despite this gaping void of emptiness and valuelessness within, there is a silver lining.

Every cloud… –

I believe it to be true that low self-esteem can create a downward spiral. The less you value yourself, the less others will value you. This prevents you from turning the tide and rising into a better place. Charity and pity does not feed esteem, nor will people lying to make you feel better. As we are dependent on those around us for esteem, we always have to factor others into our ‘equation of esteem’. This means there can be obstacles to gaining esteem –  coercive group-think and conformity, the presence of ‘alpha males’ who feed off others, prejudice against race / class / gender / and so on, the fear of crowds and groups, to name but a few. When you are low on esteem, these challenges feel insurmountable.

Yet there is nothing that can stop you developing a creative talent. On the way to work, during a lunch break, when you wake up in the middle of  the night – there is always time to develop a skill. No one can give you this talent and no one can anyone take it away. Some people might be privileged by having an earlier start but nothing can stop you from beginning your journey whenever you want.

For myself this saving grace was performance. I don’t need people to believe in me anymore to be a good performer. I don’t need people to tell me I am a skilled musician or actor. It does help to be supported, but I can get by in the hardest environment and know that I can stick it out. The development of performing talents has reached critical mass – there is no turning it back now.

This is what the article title means by an infinite well of self-esteem. It might not always feel right to perform, but when the opportunity and the will align, it is up to one person and one person alone to succeed. Myself.

This does not mean that becoming a craft should be idealized. I do believe that we need to be loved, cared for, checked-in with others, to belong, in order to be fully healthy. A course of CBT or psychotherapy solely working on self-esteem will probably be necessary to make any major gains.

However the infinite well is a factor that can always get you out of the downward spiral.

I have low self-esteem. I do not want to be around other people, so my self-esteem gets even lower. The lower it gets, the less chance anyone is going to want to be around me, so I become more isolated. The more isolated I become, the more I am depressed and therefore anxious. The anxiety prevents me from trying out new situations or talking to new people. It prevents me from taking even the smallest step forward. The lack of inner-value means that no one wants take me on, women are repulsed by the sight of weakness and neediness. Relationships are destroyed by my imbalance and vulnerability. Therefore there is never anyone there to offer a hand up and help me onto my feet.

The key to turning things around is precisely the isolation. Whilst it is not a good thing, it does allow space to develop oneself. It might be boring, emotionally harmful in the long run, repetitive, tedious – but it won’t be forever. If you can train yourself whilst in that place, even just a little bit every day, you can reach a stage where you have a powerful foundation of self-confidence and self-belief. And whats more it will be grounded in empiricism, not the platitudes of a therapist!

There is so much that can be done alone. Playing and composing music, learning how to code websites, creative writing, gardening, growing, cooking, video-blogging.

Skills that can be brought into a social context, such as playing an instrument or community cooking, are especially of value here. They enable someone with low self-esteem to have an ace up their sleeve in competitive social situations or in the predatory capitalist workplace.

Final Mentorly Wisdom –

No one can take away your creative talent, but then no one can give it to you. It is something that must be earned. It requires immense focus and patience. This is precisely what makes it worthwhile, it is truly yours. In the absence of a saviour-figure who will likely never come to rescue you, in the absence of the one-true-love who only exists in faerie tales, creative mastery is the most guaranteed way to turn the tables on low self-worth.

It is not the whole picture, because a person needs to be loved and to belong. But it is a start.

Low Self-Esteem

How much depression and anxiety comes back to low self-esteem?

A vision of the self as being a totality of worthless components.

Reaching back into personal history it is not hard to pinpoint pivotal moments that fed in to this condition.

But awareness does not seem to alter anything. Do we need other people to confirm the truth of ourselves?

The causes –

Rejection has been a constant theme of this blog – from work, from love & relationships, from social groups, from friendships, from all smanner of spaces. These doors seem closed and barred, they seldom ever register as possibilities.

Rejection does not necessarily cause low self-esteem. But what rejection can do is feed into narratives of broken esteem, confirming core-beliefs of dejection and sadness.

Whether it is one rejection or a thousand, does it make a difference? Rejection (real or perceived) sets a spark which travels down into the depths of the soul and ignites trapped feelings, negative self-views, internalized abuse and so on.

Dealing with these fundamental core inadequacies seems like the primary way forward; it is not the specific instances of failure or rejection that caused fundamental self-esteem problems, but the self-esteem problems that magnify those feelings. Or worse, the low self-esteem that seeks to confirm itself, perceiving failure and being overly harsh on the self to create a downward spiral.

Perspective –

Is a counter-point it should be noted that exile, rejection and failure are always hard. The Pythagorean cults of ancient Greece were destroyed by vengeful people who were once cast out. Exile and isolation is painful for humanity. Under no circumstances is an overly competitive framework where we must fight with each other ever going to have a happy ending for the majority of people.

It should be noted that low self-esteem is not just a problem in an individual. It is endemic to a society which exalts some people and puts other down. Is this simply the dark side of our social species?

 

Sexually In/Active

There seems to be a power that people gain when they are sexually active. What is it?

A unique brand of social approval and protection. A sense of achieved liberty in, what is supposedly, a liberated society.

Seemingly, ‘sexual energy’ meaningfully expressed can increase the lives of those involved. And it is, in platitudes at least, something everyone can find if they look hard enough.

The trouble is, people who are given sexual power and attention seldom recognize their privileges. What cannot be universalized, is universalized. Desirability is as tied in to class, status, economics, race, and so forth, as any other privilege or oppression.

What if you can only be inactive? Attractiveness is not equal, nor is confidence or mental well being; essential to having a sexuality.

The energy still exists, even in frustration. Yet energy must have some expression. Could it be that frustration is a font of energy which can be channeled anywhere, a constant motive to forward motion? This may be the saving grace of a lonely savant.

To be inactive in our ‘liberated’ society is seen as repression or a poorly made choice. But some people do not have a choice.

The need to be constantly active, or perceived as successful, is itself an oppression.

Why can’t consensual sexuality between adults be treated as value-neutral, rather than an ideal propped over and above our lives?

To cast off chains of actual repression is essential, but to replace it with competition and status anxiety is throwing out the bathwater, the baby and the bath.

Completing the Circle

Why did I keep on dreaming of a childhood home, always at night, garden overgrown like a wild jungle. Why did I keep on dreaming of the past?

It was not the past. It was the future.

The circle must be completed and every point along its line must be passed through. As sentient beings move in circles, the past is to be lived and relived, to become the future again, then the past again.

Getting stuck is extremely easy – life is hard in this age, time for reflection is scarce. Discovering the true self is not encouraged – such empowered people do not follow orders or build craven systems, so we are separated from ourselves. And even if we were encouraged to find our true selves, the journey would be a terrifying one many would not want to make.

Depression, feeling lost, isolated, purposeless, insomniac and anxious – all this comes from stopping at a point, a failure to complete the circle. No wonder it never goes away if you never try to move on! Until movement returns, the soul is truncated, growth is violently retarded, the lesson is not learned.

The soul will always rebel, it cannot be silenced for long.

You may love where you are today and love who are with today. But this may not hold true in a year, or two, or ten. Places you thought horrible may again become sanctuaries, and safe havens may become pits of boredom. People you thought safe may become dangerous, people you thought you hated may bring tears to your eyes when they pass away. Emotions that you avoided may become more relevant than you thought; the darkness you feared a guide back to the path you must return to. Things change and shift because this is the nature of life itself. There is no solid ground to stand on forever.

The circle must be completed.

Of course we cannot see into the future, nor predict what it will bring! Life is a labyrinth which must be explored and traversed, not a puzzle to be pieced together by a mind from without.

I know where my soul is calling me – back to the source.

But why would a traumatized soul want to return? Because through adult eyes it can see anew, re-evaluate events, cast off chains of dread and haunting shadows, allow healing forces to enter the soul. With adult strength it can endure past endurance, face demons and scatter them before it. Prepare itself for the next challenge – for the quest is never complete and a strictly happy ending is never achieved. But at least there is always movement and change, as the seasons do change.

There is no use lamenting, where you are is where you are. Sometimes it is necessary to go on detours, to spend years in one place, to suffer for some greater goal, or to run off and go crazy. All that matters is that the circle is completed. Forgiving ourselves for not always being perfect or doing what is best for us is essential – we are finite and mortal modes of nature, rather than the little gods we are expected to be.

My rational mind could not make sense of that obsession with the past. Why was it always night time? Why was the garden always overgrown? The subconscious (where the truth of your self and its relation with the world truly lies) knew long before the surface-mind which direction it had to go. Such dreams seemed irrelevant or historical only because the part of the mind above water, above the mist and shadows, was living only its present and not its place in the whole. It was afraid even, of that whole. And maybe rightly so, because at one point it had to be. But where will it lead now?

All you have to do is complete the circle and you can find out.

 

 

A toast to perfect health

Entropic machines which build and fall apart
Multi-layered trauma catchers which never let go
Wounded angels torn apart by nature
(Who still swear fealty like loyal children)
Moss clinging to life upon a window sill
Trees reaching blindly up to the sun
Fucked-up seasons, spiked circles
Running roughshod over the universe
Sacks of broken nerves pulsating
Ghosts afraid of their own reflection
Stark poets inebriated by their own hubris
Futile voyagers on the hopeless rock
Misunderstanding their own dreams
(If they dream at all)
The saddest joke evolution ever played
The souls even Christ gave up on.

Here is a toast to perfect health.

 

I am waiting for you

I am waiting for you at the roots of a black mountain

At the axis of eternity where no falling stones may strike us.

I am waiting to hear of your tales in that voice:

Read me the letters sent by desperate princes from far places

Tell me where you wiped daemonic blood from you sword

And say if you found love so I can know if it is real.

Regail with battles won and lament the times you were routed

Tell of the spells you have seen cast from wizened claws

The beasts whose breath has panted on your neck

The artefacts which pulsed with power in cavernous shrines

The thousand-temple processions and the songs they sung.

Expound wild theories of the cosmos, or just speak in axioms

Say what we should do, counsel where humanity should go

Deplore idealism as you do, balance the scales as you can

Remind me of why I am alive, why we are alive.

 

I am waiting as I have been long waiting, and I will wait more

Yet I have done nothing, nothing but waiting and waiting.

I have created nothing with these fingers but brittle shapes

Sired no children in these lands and planted no great trees

I have just watched the hands of a clock pass, hidden from myself,

Seen decay turn to death, lost all purpose in a moment

Given up and given up and given up until my hands became empty

Of all but callouses and scars.

 

For as long as I remember things felt as if  they were slipping away,

At best and at worst things were unreal, illusive deception.

So know this, whilst I waited long, I know nothing, fathom nothing,

I have nothing to say, I can only hear.

I have achieved nothing and built nothing

Raised nothing and mustered nothing

As ephemeral as a pass of the sun or a moment of inspiration

But inspired no one!

You will have nothing to learn, except perhaps how a life can flash by

How a phoenix can fall back into the embers

Or a sycamore seed can miss the soil.

 

I am waiting here, in the node of oblivion, at dark gates

And I will wait til you come here to spar with me again

Lips crooked, swords drawn.

The world is in pain, so we are in pain

The first time the Great Anxiety hit I thought I was done for. The second time, I opened myself up to it and let myself listen.

Why are you here? Where do you want me to go? What do you want me to do?

We need, in the schema or narrative of our life, the illusion of control. We need to feel like there is somewhere to go, something to achieve, something to move into, something to resolve. I question, with the power of emotion and the nature of life, how true that control is.

Be healthy, be well, look after yourself – if only these things were ‘internals’ and not ‘externals’! The body gets ill, nights are sleepless, seemingly ‘random’ emotions spring upon us.

The fixation on yoga and mindfulness and healthy eating (and other such things) is a reflex which is misfiring. You can try to be healthy, but I doubt you cannot succeed. These disciplines are useful for taking the edge off life, but to seek to evade anxiety is to eventually be run down and caught by it.

I have strapped anxiety to my back and made it into a pair of dark wings!

The world is in pain, so we are in pain. There is no hiding from that fact and no resolution within just yourself. What I am, what we all are, is an ego running round and round the grooves of a vinyl record. We want the song to play forever, but it cannot. Eventually, even the best kept record will decay, a stray hand will knock the needle, the electricity will cut out. Chaos will ensue – and from chaos we will be forced to realize again that we must make a mammoth effort to heal the world-pain.

Not that even this will succeed, for the nature of life is pain and struggle. Even with all the advance of technology and civilization, we are still in pain. As of writing this, thousand of brave and colourful activists are blocking the streets of London to bring climate catastrophe and ecological collapse to the fore. They are right in doing so. But all we can do is unmake the damage caused by our ignorance – there is no pristine nature to return to, and even with biodiversity and the climate future assured we would only be taking the edge off reality.

For the very act of trying to fortify ourselves, like the very act of trying to attain perfect health, is what makes us less secure and doomed to failure respectively. The more we want a stable groove the greater the shock when chaos strikes. For the nature of the world contains sparks of chaos, chance and misfortune! Even though I think life is worth living and things will generally be manageable and worth it, chaos will strike. If you try to negate chaos and the flowing forms of the world then you will always be anxious. The perfect-health people will someday decay and die, as will we all.

We can accept that capitalism is trashing the world and has to be stopped. But we should not imagine a utopia to follow it. This is the only way to avert disappointment.

For now, the supreme pain and anxiety inside of me is here and I will let it be. My own life could be good or ill, it would not make a difference. I am not just ‘my own life’, I am the world. The deep emotions of hurt are not random, they are the background noise of reality as a living being itself.

There is no escape. Those who seem like they have escaped it with their capitalist masks will someday be injured at work, or suffer for their happy pills, or just have a good old epiphany of the doomed nature of the isolated ego. Then it will all catch up with them and hit like a tidal wave. No one is beyond it, everyone has whiskers and deeper senses, not just the ‘enlightened’

At least when we are aware of the struggle and suffering, it can be vented off at a more manageable way.

Of course I want good feelings! Love and peace and order for all. These things are as passing as the bad things. Don’t hold on too tightly and don’t try to predict what lies ahead. We also have a spark of chaos in us as the universe does and to deny that spark is to invite great misery indeed.

I believe that the crisis we are in now is a result of civilization trying to entrench itself too deeply, conquering nature so as to conquer chaos. We will all be annihilated if we keep going this way.