At first I was afraid of the pain. It makes sense. Caution is wise when something new is upon you. And patience too. To be unsure, to wait it out, to dip a toe in the black pool and have a safe space to recoil. All of these are wise decisions.
Yet the day will come when the passage of time has done all of the healing it can. Time alone does not heal all wounds, and anyone who tells you it does is a fool. Once you have something of a stable foundation again, the days and days waiting for inner-pain to go away become wasted opportunities to get back onto your feet. You cannot know when you are ready to go back out (though your body will give you indicators, or guesses). So you will just have to try it for yourself, to trust your defences and trust that you can take what comes and have the self-love and inner-strength to make it. Do not go it if you are not ready, but do not stagnate it you are.
Wait and you will wait forever.
The world is full of suffering. There is no denying it, and anyone sensitive to it will feel it. Pain is unavoidable and inevitable. Thus, one way or another, the time will come when you will fall into a spiral of pain which dominates your consciousness. It is not a ‘mental’ thing – it will permeate all aspects of your body and mind. It will come when it comes, and you will not be able to just will it away.
I would rather face those days of reckoning as one who is trained to face my fears, then one who hides behind shields of repression, or naive hope in the passing of days. And so I did.
When the pain came and took over my body I could not turn it away, and why should it leave on my account? Does it not have an equal right to express itself through the human corpus? Is it not also a part of me? When the pain came and took over my body I stopped resisting it and accepted its presence. I went deeper into it, explored it, and this hurried its course toward resolution.
The black pool is there, waiting for you. Ignore it and you will see it in dark dreams. Dive into it and you will come to know it wholly.
It will return again, the pain is recurring. There is no end point of healing and no end point of anything. But when the inevitable returns again, you can become more and more adept at dealing with it. I have no ultimate choice in what I feel and when I feel – I do not think anyone has that much freedom. But when the storm comes I will ride through to its eye, through to the other side.
Face things, do not let them linger. Confront and challenge things; at your own pace, but swiftly enough to not lose your social life, hope and ambition to them. Human beings evolved on the plains to hunt in packs. They did not evolve in arm chairs and in front of laptop screens to wait and rot.
You were born to hunt, to be an element in nature, so go and hunt. Only, this hunt is not for some animal, it is a quest into yourself for truth, for what truly happened, and the path to changing yourself. I have changed so much since the pain came and I learnt to hunt so much for the better.
When something inside screams, listen. The longer you leave it, the worse your demons will grow…
Now I am a note of chaos
In the symphony of order
A madman and an idealist.
In less than a decade
I will be a visionary
And a hero of mankind.
They know this
The corpses who hold on to power
Yet til the bitter end
They will waste the lives of their vassals
And tear the land apart.
Power knows not past, present, future
It is timeless, like the depths of the mind
Irrational, lost, desperate, screaming at the void
Like a child, for more, more, greater hoard
For fame, and followers, golden things, nations at its clawed feet.
Power knows no reverence for life
And has no love for the beauty of the galaxy.
But the tyrant always falls
For ‘mad-folk’ like me are always born,
And the people always triumph,
The only question is when.
They hate me, for I am change-bringer
I am truth-wielder, I am death-howl,
I am game-ender, I am a note of chaos
In the symphony of order.
Does trauma heal with time, or does time just make you feel cheated for longer?
The natural healing systems of the body can clearly get it wrong with anxiety, which is an over-active sense of alarm leading to the degrading of normal function. Waiting for these negative learned behaviours to change themselves is not going to work.
The mind can race ahead of the body, or think itself separate – a folly. But it can also correct its course, for the mind too is of nature, and we are possessed of some wisdom. Altering the mind’s course to reduce anxiety will help trauma heal.
But how long will this take? I cannot know. And what will healing look like? I do not know. All I can know is whether or not I am on the path to healing and whether I wish to get better, or remain forever broken.
On the eve of Lammas, Gylfanon crossed the Gnarred Plains and first reached Mawrend’s cavern, gazing down at the entrance. Smelling the sick scent of sulphur and burning bones, he turned his steed and sheathed Nightcleaver, bringing his cavalry bodyguards with him.
On the eve of Imbolc, Gylfanon again reach Mawrend’s cavern. This time he dismounted, handing the reins to his page, drew his broad black sword and ventured down the first corridor. Something inside his skull urged him to turn, to turn back with haste. He followed that impulse.
Half a year passed and again on the eve of Lammas, Gylfanon reached Mawrend’s cavern. With little fear he dismounted and made his way along the first, natural cavern corridor. Skulls and bones and scorched armours lay all about, at the portal to the deeps of the reptile’s lair. Gylfanon pondered sending in scouts, but decided not to risk it. Mounting his steed, sheathing Nightcleaver, he returned to Castle Gylfax.
On the eve of Imbolc, Gylfanon returned to Mawrend’s cavern. Fearless he strode into its maw and along the first corridor. Tentatively he made his way through the portal, and there slumbered the great drake Mawrend. The beast slept, but the Black Prince thought better than to try his luck, trusting in his twisting gut. Ordering his impetuous knights to stand down, they left grumbling.
On the eve of Beltain, Gylfanon returned to Mawrend’s cavern. Never had his men seen him so confident as he dared the cavernous entrance, bestrode the dark corridors, ducked through the portal entrance and drew Nightcleaver, brandishing the terrible blade and roaring in defiance. Mawrend, woken from a deep dream, instantly bowed his neck in service.
All of the bones lying about the Reptile’s lair, they belonged to the ones who did not listen to their fear. They were the ones who understood not how to battle the unknown. Gylfanon was wiser, the alpha and the omega. He won a powerful reptilian ally and a lifelong friend from his understanding.
This many killed, this many injured
Here at this time
Framed on a page
Of cheap pulp
This many saw it, this many wept
In our nation
Framed on a page
Of cheap pulp
And how many died today
Around the world?
How many starved
How many strangled
How many in their own homes
How many exploited
How many ignored
How many dehumanized
To stitch your new shirt
This many of my brain cells died today
From the fear you tried to evoke
Insulting my intelligence
Trying my patience
This much of my hope was extinguished
From the pain you tried to peddle
Trivializing the truth
On cheap pulp
But I will not despair
I learnt how to slay you long ago;
The beast dies when you behold it not.
I know it is stating blindingly obvious, but the mass media is full of fear. It creates a narrative of fear, exaggerating the dangers of the world, framing it as a place of violent chaos. Like gazing into a train wreck, the smouldering ruins it presents have an instinctual draw.
But turn away! Turn away from the distortion of truth! Life is not some land of rainbows and butterflies, but it is safer than the Hades the papers make it out to be.
Craft your own narrative, inspired by a balanced appraisal of events. Think not that your life is insignificant just because, on a grand scale, you are a drop in the ocean. Just as the distances between ehre and the stars are vast, so the distances between the atoms in your body are vast.
You are all things, as much as they are you. The importance of the mass-media machine diminishes when you start to value those around you, and seek a more balanced diet of news and events.
What is truly signficant? Anything that is not in an irreverent tabloid.
Gylfanon grimaced as the fire started to smoke. Rummaging through a crumbling sack, he found only a few onions and rock-hard bread.
‘My hospitality is poor. Forgive me old friend.’
Irekus smiled, learning his birchwood staff against the uneven wall. ‘Think little of it. This hardy stone keeps out the wind, and bread fills my stomach as well as meat.’
‘I think you humour me. Ah I am ashamed here, to share my room with the wretched. To serve poor fare to esteemed guests, to have not even a room for holding court.’
‘I thought you despised pomp and grandiosity?’
‘Aye I do – in other people!’
‘Ha, perhaps it threatens you. Modest Gylfanon, not so’ said the old wizard, with a knowing smile.
‘No mentor, modest Gylfanon is not. Not at heart. I ought to be, but cannot. My heart still yearns for place, and the power to come. Maybe that is why I feel so deeply troubled here, though there be not troll nor raider in sight.’
‘It is natural. That was the rhythm you used to live by. Your conscious mind is now, but your body is trailing behind.’
‘These mercenaries I surround myself with, they know not the glory I led House Gylfanis. They know nothing of the Battle of Darkfel, nor my rallying cry at the river sern. The respect I did command, the triumphs laid upon me. To them, I am a mere paymaster, without history.’
‘Nor do they know of my atrocities, the beast inside me.’
‘Time will forgive those.’
‘I cannot forget them.’
‘Gylfanon, this is a passing phase. A mere road upon a greater destiny. This path may lead you away from that you long for, but it cuts through the silent land. You will not be ronin for-ever.’
‘Yet it feels like an eternity. This prison, these desperate faces. I cannot take it much longer! I once kissed the necks of star-lit nymphs in the Sacred Glades. Now I lie beside snoring old men.’
‘By the looks of things, you have done well by these people. Even at your worst, I heard tell of your finding a lost clan of Gylfans. Grateful townsfolk told me how your took and held SIlmootil and Corsk with a small band of men. You restored the chapter of the Serpent Brother knights, and took many bandit claws off the roads, bringing safety to many.’
‘Then why does it feel like I am weak, powerless and constantly insulted? That every day is the same, with no promise or future. How easily I can be separated from the love of my friends and allies.’
‘Mayhap you forget that you stand not alone. This Winter has been harsh on many. All share a common destiny.’
‘To Hades with such notions!’
‘Pray, my black prince, push not against Fate; for it has brought you to this. Your loyal knights have grown scarce, yet much have you achieved and learned about yourself. You cannot always rely on providence to give you great deeds. Often times, you must seek among the mud and the roots for sustenance.’
‘But why me! I was happy. After a hard life, I found something. We were growing, expanding.’
‘It seems old friend that you long for a still world, where one cannot be found. Does not the sea weather the greatest cliff? Does not the Great Moon circle the world, growing and shrinking? Does not the dragon awaken from its slumber-spell of centuries? All things change, my friend. They grow, wither and die – but it is never certain in which order.’
‘Then we are a doomed race. For we will live in misery and think it eternal, or be excited into joy, only to lose it. For what? Why bother living for anything if Fate will come and take it all away from us.’
The old wizard stroked his wispy beard, pondered, then continued; ‘Why but for these things mean something in the moment they occur. And who is to say that your deeds will come to naught, or whether history will maintain you for a thousand years. And who is to say that when Gylfanon or Irekus perishes, another will not take up our souls.’
‘Aye. When you consider that nothing is ever wholly destroyed, it seems logical. Infinite, yet not eternal.’
Gylfanon nodded. ‘So that is why you accept my meagre hospitality now? This is all one big metaphor for you is it not old man!’
Irekus grinned, wickedly; ‘I know that you do all you can to keep me warm and fed. That is enough. When reborn, with your castles restored and your land at your feet and your maiden eager and your foes routed, your hospitality will be greater, and yet no greater, than it is now.’
Gylfanon smiled at this, his heavy, weary face unused to the gesture. It was the last and most splendid act of hospitality that night.
Running away, from place to place. As if you can outpace your shadow. Throwing yourself onto the back of another’s horse, begging them to save you. Is this the path to inner-healing? Is this going to lift you out of your tumult and darkest pain?
There is no utopia inviting you, there is no perfect woman waiting for you to find her. Nothing better awaits until you are strong inside yourself. No one is an island, but you must have a basis of self-love and self-worth in order to do any good for the world.
Have you got it? Look deep inside, is it truly there?
Finding this is not a sudden process, and cannot be rushed. Though it may have climaxes and peaks, it requires the opening of pandora’s box, and I wonder how much control we have over such an action. Perhaps you are lucky if you have a crisis, for now you can unlock the truth.
Your secret box is finally open, and now you are looking within, into places of deep daring. You are one with your hurt, even as it heals. And the closer you get to truly actualizing what is within yourself, the harder it is going to get. That final leap, to become a knight of faith, is the hardest step of all, harder than first opening the box or even taking up your sword.
Therefore, do not be surprised if your trembling, fearful inner-child gets worse with time, until the final battle with the ultimate shadow.
And when you face it down, know that you cannot defeat it with even the broadest of swords, for that thing is part of yourself, and to harm it is to harm yourself. Know it, and you know part of thyself. Embrace it, forgive it, and you achieve the ultimate courage, whatever others may say to you.
You accept yourself as a flawed, weak, vulnerable being, and in doing so grow tenfold in flexibility and adaptability. You become ready to evolve into something better.
There is no escaping the inner-truth, so do not long for worlds of fantasy. Do not be so absorbed in art that it loses all relevance to the world-as-it-is. Do not believe the propaganda of saviours. Do not run from yourself, however painful the feelings, however harsh and hard the thoughts. Do not hide behind work and routine, this is to make reality mundane. You must face yourself.
Every experience is part of your history, and cannot be repressed. Nor can you stop them from impacting upon your conscious behaviour now, in the present, unless you take them unto yourself and resolve yourself. There are many patterns inside of you which you do not realize, and these shape your character. If you have not the tools and sensitivity to unweave that personal destiny, you are a slave to a motive deeper than your conscious being.
The truth must be dug up, and held up. What you truly are, a wonderful conflux of experiences and attitudes, must be beheld by your conscious mind. You must come into the present in order to truly find yourself.
Then you can take the largest step of all, and the hardest. Into true selfhood, as an actualized being of nature. Of course, darknesses and patterns will accumulate again, and there is no final enlightenment. But you will be much more prepared to deal with challenges, in a mature and adult way. You will be more than the sum of your pain and neuroses.
Fear not yourself. Loathe not yourself. Only know thyself, be thyself and love thyself.
Feeling trapped and hopeless, you only have to ask yourself one question. The answer to this will determine whether or not you will remain trapped until your body expires, or whether you can change your circumstances. The question is thus: do you want to move forward?
Do you want to take one small step toward your freedom and happiness. If the answer is yes, then you are not truly trapped, nor are you without hope. By taking one small step in the right direction, you are upsetting the cage surrounding you. By taking one small step in the right direction, you are disproving the ideas within and without that you are unable to do anything.
It might feel like a futile step. It might feel like a stab in the dark. But there is nothing wrong with that. There are two reasons to be optimistic about your one small step. The first is that it demonstrates a functional conatus. This nice Latin word is a key concept from the philosophy of Spinoza. Effectively, the essence of any mode (or thing) is its desire to continue existing. Everything has a conatus – a person, a snail, a chair, a wall, a molecule. Everything. By attempting to gain more freedom, you are affirming your will to survival. More than that, you are increasing your power-in-the-world. Your one step forward is not just an intellectual exercise, it is an execution of direct action. You are safe in the knowledge that you are doing what is best for you, and this is a sign of self-love. The second reason to be optimistic about your one small step actually comes from a lack of knowledge. Namely, scepticism about cause and effect. You never know how much of an effect your own small step will take. I liken this to a questing knight, roaming through a harsh cavern alone. She does not know what lurks beyond, but she isn’t going to get out by staying where she is for too long. So, she has one certainty; shield raised before her, sword on guard, she must push forward whatever may come. And this ‘whatever may come’ is a great question indeed, and there are too many variables for it to ever truly be known. Therefore, knowing that the only certainty is to move forward, you can push through the darkness never truly knowing if it is a futile gesture, or will eventually lead to something good. By chance or fortune, the path must reach somewhere.
Looking at my own life, I can see two massive turning points, both small steps. One was setting up a philosophy stall which made no money, at a time when I was ‘trapped’ and living in near absolute poverty. Through the stall I happened to meet someone who saw a light in me. That person, six years later, has helped me find work which will help me survive in this horrible capitalist system without selling too much of my free time. At the time, on the morning of setting up that small, I could never have envisioned meeting her or the effect she would have on my life. The second turning point was around five years ago, volunteering to help plant some birch saplings on a common. I quickly became attached to the saplings and became their primary caregiver. When developers came to destroy the common and the trees, we dug the young woodland out and potted them up. Fortunately a team of cool squatters rode in on their skateboards (true story!) and occupied an abandoned car wash where we could store them. I was ‘trapped’ in a flat again, but eventually took the plunge, bought a tent for eighty quid, and joined the skaters! My first experience of squatting was a huge dose of freedom, which eventually led me to Grow Heathrow; a place of near-total freedom. Those are just two examples of massive positive impacts on my life, growing out of small deeds.
I do not believe that all oppressions are in the mind of the oppressed. That is letting the moneymen and the militaries and the heartless psychopaths who run society off the hook (lol Theresa May). It is also ignoring the sheer negative effect of material deprivation, and our simple mammalian need for warmth, love and nourishment. But there is some degree to which we can oppress ourselves. For in the dark ichor of our minds we might miss the small degree of freedom in us. We must first unmake the ‘woe is me’ attitude, stop engineering the universe against us, and instead recognise where we are disadvantaged and how we will overcome it with our comrades. For freedom, and hope, is simply represented by the will to continue; the will to keep on crawling forward and fighting evil come what may. No one and nothing can extinguish that – it is our essence. Even if it seems we are throwing eggs against a castle wall, it is something; a symbol of resistance and therefore self-worth. You can always manage this, however small a gesture it is.
If you are feeling trapped, as I sometimes do even now, hold on to this light of hope. You are still breathing, and you still have awareness. The seemingly patterned world around you – though it may seem like a solid block, an eternal fortress where there is little of hope or justice – is actually in flux. However slowly it may seem to be evolving, it is. Massive social change could be just around the corner, a tyrannous King could be just about to die of a heart attack, the waves may soon rise and change the priorities of shallow civilizations.
The love of your life might be waiting for you the next time you stand at a bus stop. You will only know if you go out there to meet her.
To the depths I went
Always brand in fist
To find what made these paths
I thought I freely trod
What illusions waited there
To upturn the ship of tranquillity
What machine within worked
To hide the shadows
What lies came in dreams
To veil the truth
And the soul’s guardian, to protect me
Stayed loyal to false master
When it should to my ambition alone cleave
And my song venerate
An ocean lays at my heart
It is still or stormy
Of its own wild freedom
But now I can sail it
For I am bound
To the friends of true depth
Who understand what I truly am
The illusions in me, games of the mind
Shocked for years, shaken in fear
Of harsh words, of the street, of night
The evidence now piles against it
I have earned my honours
In the heart of the woods
And was always of bliss
And was always of bliss
Gentleness is I, peace is I
Merriness is I, truthseeker am I