Darkness (and light)

I’m surrounded by darkness:
The darkness of aging, sickness, stagnation, chronic pain, fatigue.
The darkness of war, famine, plague.
anger. neglect. hurt. ignorance. laziness. fear.
The darkness of this dreary, god-forsaken city.

The mirror is desilvering,
The retina peeling away.

I crave light. But no light I can find suffices.
It’s a different sun than when I was younger.
Even when it shows, I look into the thin, peeling sky and feel the cold, dark black pressing in on this small planet, where scant rays fleetingly percolate and then are lost.

Even that younger light of earlier times begins to seem darker to me now.
Those blue skies were surely blue and cold, and even then were at work sucking up the warmth we felt–were we there now, we wouldn’t feel warm.
How, indeed, could any bright, warm thing truly exist?

But here are light and warmth inside me.
I see only glimpses and flickerings now,
But I feel the warmth of a true light:
The light of expanding, opening, unknotting, understanding.
The light of resolution, of opening up paths lost to the vast darkness of ignorance, fear, and presumption, where the light of a thousands suns could not penetrate.
The light of pure being, washing over the hurt, sick, and afraid legions within me.

In the end, my body and mind will give in to corruption and darkness.
These hotly pursue me, too often have their way with me.
But before the end, might I be rent wide open.
Might enlightenment reach every corner of my body and seep from my pores.
Might my light linger in the peeling retinas of my children when the darkness finally overtakes me.

Some reflections following an experimental session exploring the idea of Fundamental Freedom with Malcolm Ocean.

Core idea: When we consider something to be “not allowed/not an option”, we insulate it from our full, honest, participatory consideration.

Want

I don’t want to have something, so much as to want something. Let’s just start there.

To want something in a way that’s severe, intense, even uncomfortable. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

You knew how to do it once, when you were a child. To want a cookie, a toy, whatever your sibling had that you didn’t. Admit it: that kicking, screaming child wants to stay at the playground for 5 more minutes with more intensity than you would want a $1M in a briefcase if I held it under your nose.

Wants, as it turns out, are quite inconvenient. You learn, in time, that acting on many of your wants alienates you from friends, peers, family, the law. Maybe your wants come to be accompanied with a deep and pernicious guilt. Or maybe you simply can’t get the thing you want, no matter how much you try. And holding an incessant, immediate, childlike want in tension with these realities can become its own particular form of agony.

Who could blame you for thinking it was the wants which were the problem? Who did anything but nod in approval as you progressively suppressed and banished the pesky devils.

But look at you now. Look what you did… Your wants—the poor ostracized things—are hardly alive. And hardly alive are you. “Death to self!” That was what you cried, as you sat on top of that one particularly vivacious want until its wrigglings slowly ceased. What did you expect?

That’s how you learned the truth about wants: the agony is merely the price you pay for something far more dear.

Now you’re ready to embrace the agony and want with abandon. And so am I. Maybe we won’t have what we want, but let’s let that be something to kick and scream about.

I want you to write me a letter. A good one.

Newness

Every day, your world is larger still—yet smaller.

Your boundaries expand at a breathtaking rate, enveloping new words, sights, sounds, and feelings. You see further, feel deeper, know more.

Yet, with each new word, sight, sound, and feeling, you make your world smaller, collapsing the infinity of the unknown into the singularity of that which has been seen, felt, tasted, named.

Never larger was your earth than before the day you saw the globe. On the day that you master the wheels and the streets and the wings, your horizons jetting out into the distance, it will be nearing its smallest. No longer a sleepy passenger winking in and out of geographical existence at unknown points of an incalculable vastness: you will know every mile.

One day, when your world is larger but smaller, you will find that you must journey far to escape the cage of the familiar and mine deep to drink of the newness on which your curiosity and imagination now feed.

Then you will look back on your once small world and marvel.

On Time

I’m haunted with the sights and feelings of another place and time. The thread which connects me to those days finally has one too many knots to let anything but permeable memories through.

The great diaspora: Even the ghosts have moved on. None but the ground itself remain to share in remembering. But the ground has burned. It has forgotten.

So you gather up the memories: The ones you kept in that car that was finally junked. The ones you kept in the house that has never been seen again. The ones you left scattered along the trail. The ones that you entrusted to the people who moved away. The ones in the cupboard, the ones in the messy drawer. All of them. Those places are too far away; they’re no longer safe.

Keep the memories with you, inside, out of the rain. When one of them tries to find its way out, back to that other place, gently remind: You might not like it there. The weather has changed. The cat is dead. Those people moved away.

Check

Hardly the sort of thing you want to talk about.

If it weren’t for these conversations with you, I’d probably never have dared to imagine…

Blingle, zip, zurch.

Go ahead, say it.

Alright, here it is:

She is a flock of starlings, floating, billowing, pulsing. Never settling. Always finding new patterns and configurations. Diffuse more than water but not beyond vapor.

What thought may persist in these writhing folds and fomenting currents? What sober knowing hardens beneath?

She knows only this: No, she cannot even speak it. She cannot cast it into a mold of words. Indeed, she only knows it in part.

In fact, knowing is not hard and firm. Rather, it is tenuous and giving. It is a multiplicity of glances of glints from the wings of the starlings. Though each may in turn wink away, the overpowering force of the knowledge remains, reassuring her of the truth. And here is what it tells her: nothing. Nothing at all.

So, she flits on.

Great Lake Swimmers

What sort of pressure and what kind of force must there have been to drive you here? Was it uplifting or was it deformed? Faulting and rifting, you folded.

What does it feel like to fall in slow motion despite it all? There’s no time to think it through when we’re connected over the blue.

Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited. Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited.

What sort of wisdom and what kind of thought must here have been to scatter you? So far and random, your heavenly bodies still see the faint light in your eyes.

What does it feel like to fall in slow motion despite it all? There’s no time to think it through when we’re connected over the blue.

Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited. Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTnCcyEv3mw

“A neat desk is a sign of a sick mind.”

Undocumented Title

What would I write, if I weren’t paying attention to what I was writing? That is, if I weren’t analyzing each word and sentence to make sure that it was part of a coherent narrative, a story or process converging toward a final conclusion.

This post is not the answer to this question. Nor will most of the posts posted within the “Divergent Thinking” category. Though I didn’t start writing this post with any particular goal in mind, the words and thoughts that I’ve written down have quickly gained a sort of momentum, and I have difficulty not pruning and modifying as I write so that momentum is preserved. Nor do I think I would find it particularly aesthetically pleasing, except every so often, to engage in writing down a complete stream of consciousness.

So, perhaps this idea of starting to write without a clear goal or purpose or plan–perhaps just the vaguest notion of a topic or concept–is what I intend by the category of “Divergent Thinking.” Reading the book “How to Change your Mind,” by Michael Pollen, has impressed upon me the role of regulatory structures in the brain (the Default Mode Network or DMN), correlating roughly with the mental structure of the ego, which serve to impose top-down order on the subservient structures and operations of the brain, which would be otherwise more chaotic.

Incidentally, it seems that certain life trajectories or events can send these regulatory structures into an escalatory cycle, with the result that the person is overly reflective and introspective or given to depression and other psychiatric disorders. One of the reasons that Psychedelic drugs have shown success with treating depression is that they are able to suppress the activity of the DMN, giving the patient the ability to “reset” the cycles of introspection and self-awareness which occur therein.

I find the fact that there is a psychological (and underlying neurological) connection between creativity and depression to be inviting, in a way. As someone with tendencies toward an excess of introspection, I have recently wondered whether my inner critic might be stifling my creativity. Work with psychedelics indicates that the use of drugs to suppress the inner critic (or the brain structures which give rise to it), can increase creativity. But I wonder if the process can go the other way as well. Can practicing unconstrained creativity, e.g. flow of consciousness, or simply writing without a specific goal and seeing what comes out, lead to a relaxing of the ego’s grip and a reduced disposition to depression?

Obviously, I don’t have an answer to this. But the point of the going-nowhere rambles that you might see posted under “Divergent Thinking” is to test this hypothesis.

“How does the brain create consciousness?”

Should Have Known Better

I should have known better
To see what I could see
My black shroud
Holding down my feelings
A pillar for my enemies

I should have wrote a letter
And grieved what I happened to grieve
My black shroud I never trust my feelings
I waited for the remedy

Why the Sky Was Blue

The sky was blue today. And one can only wonder—why today? The sky has always been blue, when I’ve been able to see it. But always with a good reason. Today, the reason wasn’t so clear. It had many spectators wondering if the sky was blue today simply because it has always been blue–without any other special reason. This is a difficult concept to fully grasp, but many seem to think it not totally unreasonable. I’m in the other camp. I think that there is a reason even for today’s blue sky. We just haven’t found it yet. Maybe there was some hidden reason that we won’t be able to understand for many years to come. Maybe even something of great significance or importance. Or maybe just a small reason, highly meaningful to a small few, but of little consequence to the rest of us. Maybe we’ll never know. But to say that there is no reason for the sky to be blue today seems… irresponsible.