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.

Black Lives Matter is opening a portal

I believe that Black Lives Matter is opening a portal, one many people would rather not face.

It is boldly making public the oppression faced by black communities, led and directed by black communities.

I believe it is saying: ‘Look, there is external oppression. The problem does not begin in individuals.’

This movement will open the way to liberate all minorities, the disabled, the poor, the gender dysphoric, the forgotten working class, all oppressed persons.

It has been both cathartic and painful. It makes me realize the following maxim: No internal development without external development. No real bettering yourself when you are being oppressed on a daily basis.

The only way to truly better ourselves as individuals is to bring down the oppressive forces which truncate us and make us live in a compromised state. When minorities are no longer forcefully classified with a negative tribal identity then we can fully begin the task of individuation.

I have had a lot of well-to-do white friends tell me it is all in me, or that it starts in me. It isn’t all in me and it doesn’t start with me.

There is no ‘me’, as there is no ‘you’. There is a simultaneous relation – it starts in me when it starts outside of me. People might think they are empowering others by placing the emphasis on the individual. In reality it is frustrating and false; a rosey platitude that leaves us in an oppressed state, wondering why we can never get anywhere. We can only bring about social change together, by being a node of consciousness in a great sea, until critical mass is reached and the evils of old are washed away by our collective tide.

Black Lives Matter is a mirror held up to society. It is a reminder that these dark and sad feelings, these inferiorities and self-hatreds come from without. Not just for my black brothers and sisters but by extension to all oppressed minorities of all creeds. Systematic oppression can feel like a personal problem when it isn’t addressed on such a mass scale.

And why would power want it addressed? And why would those more free from systematic oppression be willing to face up to the dark truth of the freedoms they take for granted? We cannot always rely on allies and less the system which creates such problems in the first place.

Black Lives Matter.

When the pain is too much

It is a very convincing illusion that things never improve, or even change.

The pain of existing is so hard to take that it cannot be withstood as it happens. It is hidden away to protect us, buried someplace deep and dark. The system shuts down, it cannot process anymore.

Yet the pain cannot be ignored or hidden forever. It has to rise to the surface and be seen; without sunlight it festers and becomes poison to the soul.

So those of us who are broken by pain are always dealing with a ‘backlog’, paying off some unavoidable debt to the past.

Until it is seen and felt, it is there. And even then, it lingers and subsists.

But we must remember that we are covering old ground and that this is why it seems like things never change. Things do change and they must; this is the law of the cosmos.

To feel like things cannot change is the root of despair; to be trapped in an eternal present or project a terrible future. This is not weakness of character but also the overwhelming of the soul, something to endure and try to learn from.

Days of pain are so intense they can drain you of all energy and creative mana. There are no fancy tricks, no workable delaying strategies, no easy ways out.

You just have to mule-up and get through it til its gone.

Without being sensate to pain the soul is poisoned and lashes out at others, or howls in frustration.

Being sensate to pain it can be overcome, at least to the state in which life is bearable. (Perhaps a superior level of healing exists, but I do not know it, and doubt it is possible in the world we currently inhabit).

Better to live in honesty and suffer consciously then to live in dishonesty and suffer unconsciously, poisoning the world around you.

The nature of life is to face suffering as much as it is to be enjoyed, to be broken by entropic forces as much as constructed by creative forces. This is the brutal reality it has taken a life-time to truly discover.

But life remains worth living, because things have to change and pain has to pass.

The slumbering elves

The forest elves are sleeping now, we must not wake them!

Ssshh – tread lightly.

Say some that every winter they lay deep in their caverns, gradually releasing all moisture from their bodies.

In a dreamless slumber they wait, their breath slowing to one rise-and-fall a month, their skin becoming as tough as bark.

When spring comes, moisture and light begins to permeate through the soil – the elves stir!

But it takes many weeks to fully awaken and they appear tree-like and terrible in such a state.

This is why so many adventurers mistake them for dryads or more pernicious creatures!

Yet in good time they will again be elves; fair and songful but quick to anger!

It is a fool indeed who contrives to summon them in Winter. They will be weakened for the whole of the year to come without the replenishment of their manas. If they survive at all.

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.

Regeneration

Time heals nothing. Regeneration is what heals.

There is a common cliche in our culture. That time heals all. I do not believe this is true. In fact I think that this could be a destructive belief.

Processing and regeneration is what heals. These things take time, but they are not time itself.

Someone may suffer a traumatic incident. They could spend the next ten years moving from one distraction to another. In those ten years they might do no purposeful processing whatsoever.

We need to let our healing functions regenerate us. But to do nothing is frowned upon in productivity-obsessed society. You always have to be active, out-there, doing-something, between-jobs, saving-a-species, on-the-hunt, success-seeking. This busy-ness is not always out of choice – in capitalist society these things are done out of necessity as the anxieties of destitution hang above us. Hours spent lying asleep are viewed as excess, days spent idle are seen as wasted , the content of dreams discarded as trivia. Stillness is seen as wastefulness.

But this means we are denying our fundamental regeneration systems the opportunity they need to heal. The long periods spent doing nothing are essential to the somethings. This is especially true when you have to live with disability.

Of course, it is good to be active and to strive for things. I would not give up my life’s work for anything of this world. To do literally nothing would be the end of me. But the something should be done with the wisdom of the body in mind. The prudence of the body gives us our boundaries. We human beings are unique in that the capacity of our bodies can be overruled by the dreams of our minds. When we overstep our capacities too far, we deny regeneration a chance to recover us, and this is when we fall the hardest.

In the background of our lives, beneath the awareness of consciousness there are regenerative processes functioning. Psychic wounds are being healed, knitted back together by slow and purposeful creatures of the psyche; the healing forces of nature, insectoid and fungal, breaking down, recycling, processing. In stillness, they thrive. They must be given the time and space to do their work.

There is no all-heal. Life leaves its scars upon us. If we could erase our traumas or histories we would be destroying part of ourselves, not healing.

And of course, life ends with death – something we have no cure for. So to say anything can completely ‘cure us’ would be naive – old wounds leave scars, new wounds are always a possibility. But as much as we can heal, grow and understand ourselves, we should. Just because suffering is inevitable, it does not mean that it cannot be minimized or dealt with in a mature way.

I am glad I have been indulgent and given myself as many ‘years off’ as I have. I will  take as many more years off as I need to, working on my own projects in my own time, with prudence and patience.

And certainly without guilt.

You can run a thousand miles and end up going nowhere. Or, you can take one step in the right direction and make more progress in that one moment than some people will make in a lifetime.

Wounds never heal, but…

The body is wounded. It remembers the source of the pain, the severity of the pain, how to deal with the pain.

The knowledge is stored deep inside the very cells of the body. When next a threat erupts, the body is wiser in its defence. The wounds have taught the body how to react.

The memory of pain is essential to our being. It helps us survive, it helps us evaluate risks and to know whether we are strong enough to deal with them.

To forget pain and suffering, would be to suffer it again, and again, and again. In a sense, memory of pain the wounds they leave are less frightening then having to live them anew every time.

Not that we have a choice. There is no forgetting. Not until death.

The natural world we manifest within is harsh, it allows helpless children to be harmed and innocents to suffer. Some sufferings are so great that we cannot withstand them. We must repress them. Suffering is a constant, it is inevitable. Sometimes it is extremely powerful. In infancy and times of vulnerability, suffering can multiply to levels many times worse.

However repression does not solve anything – at best it can delay the inevitable. A person who completely represses their suffering is not free from it, despite their illusion of control. The body will cry out for the suffering to be seen and acknowledged eventually. As we touched upon, this has an essential purpose.

The repressor will maladjust their body to itself, live in a warped and truncated way. But one who feels suffering and truly knows it, is not necessarily any more free. They are at least more honest.

I believe that wounds never heal. Therapy could not heal me. Leaving therapy, I became a touch more nihilistic, because I knew I was stuck with these ‘conditions’ til the grave. But even though wounds never heal, we can learn to endure, learn to counter their destructive effects and learn to live around them. In this regard, therapy was massively useful.

If you are as wounded as I am, it does not mean your life is over. It may become harder, but life is seldom impossible. Ways exist to compensate. Consider the plethora of genii who had less than ideal circumstances to see evidence of this (Friedrich Nietzsche being my favourite).

At best, we can have stages in our cycles when we do not feel expectional levels of hurt. We also move in seasons and cycles. It makes sense that nature would not generate beings which are always one thing, fixed and unchanging. But we always cycle back to old sufferings, because this is how we are.

Finally, I wish to speak to those who harp on about forgiveness and moving on.

People who speak of forgiveness in healing wounds strike me as most bizarre. If a riotous vandal puts a brick through a magical sentient greenhouse, the greenhouse ‘forgiving’ the vandal isn’t going to repair itself. It will still have broken glass. How will it ever ‘move on’ if the broken glass isn’t fixed and the vandal held to account?

But this is what it is, and this is what we are. Or at least, so I believe.

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.

 

Dealing with duality

If you dare to love, you must dare to lose.

If you want to feel joy, you must also sense sorrow.

If you wish to live, you must also expect death.

 

I have just thought of the most succinct conception of ‘fantasy’ ever. Fantasy is when life is one thing and not the other. It is good without evil, love without loss, life without death, change without chaos, pleasure without pain, and so on.

Reality is double-edged. Everything that can sense pleasure can feel pain. Everything that can soar high will be pulled down by gravity, everything that grows will decay.

The rough ground of reality leaves no space for perfection. Imperfection and finitude is hard-wired into us. Sentience contains suffering, and acceptance of this is necessary for us to feel anything good at all.

The closest we can get to fantasy is a grim remedy. Either to deny our own emotions and effectively be already-dead, a being without total sentience, a truncated being of ignorance and inhumanity. Or we can forever seek to get high and stay high – a biological impossibility, the destruction of our brains and natural rhythms, a constant urge to stay awake, never dream until the body collapses.

Anxieties of perfect health, of immortal life, of endless pleasure, of freedom from chaos, of eternity and afterlife – all feed into the fantasy of a non-reality which is irresistible to use finite beings, yet must be acknowledged as harmful to the soul. We must accept the darkness as we accept the light; we must dispel our myths and fantasies as wishful thinking at best, and destructive ideals at worse.

How much we suffer depends on our expectations. The longer we expect to live perfectly happy lives, the longer we shall suffer. This does not mean giving up the struggle for better standards, denying happiness and accepting artificial suffering. Nor does it mean disengaging with the world around us.

It simply means being realistic about what is and isn’t possible. We should strive for better, but realistically so. We should enjoy moments of love and happiness but accept that they are ephemeral. We should add suffering aplenty into our equation. Fortunately this dark cloud need not depress us; we should know that suffering is the cause of solidarity, heroism and enlightenment.

Life without this struggle is beyond my conception.