For too long this page has been silent, and no longer will it be so.
I have not been writing these past few months. This is always a bad sign. It usually means that I am being reluctant to delve into my mind to confront some psychological blockage. Gladly nowadays I can recognise the situation as such; and I know that I inevitably must dig.
Well, after some pondering, tonight the floodgates will open. I will attempt to write every night this month, and we will see what issues come to the surface.
Let’s start with something easy; my job. I work for a human rights organisation. I am exposed to news of all manner of horrific acts every day. As a coping mechanism I generally refuse to discuss the details of these cases – I compartmentalise my experiences, and ignore them after hours. This cannot be healthy. The issues are ones I am passionate about, so surely I am morally obliged to raise these matters with the people I care for. It is as though I have been too weak to face the realise of humanity’s dark side – but life has been prodding me back into consciousness. I have been watching Oliver Stone’s The Untold History of America, which has refreshed my memory of the many atrocities in the last century. Tonight I attended a talk by one David Simon, who discussed inequality and capitalism at length – and it is this final experience that has re-lit the fire in me.
To ignore, to be placated, to repress – these are all unworthy things. Yes, surely they are necessary at times – we cannot expect to bare the brutality of existence at all times, our strength must ebb and flow – but in the long-term these realities must be faced. You must allow yourself to feel outrage and sadness, for these are the things in which change are formed. You must engage, and you must open yourself – no matter the chances of injury. Fail to do this and you risk stasis and neurosis.
So what is it that I am doing here on this page? I am drawn back to the same old goal; to find inner peace; to gain self knowledge and work through matters of the psyche, to uncover some semblance of truth or meaning in the world; to discuss ideas that come to me.
Today I am glad to find myself charged once more with the energy and strength to face the darker aspects of mankind. My silence ends here.
Three weeks ago I returned from my trip to the Megalon Valley. My goal was fairly simple; to attempt to regain the inner peace and stillness that has been so painfully absent most this year.
Thankfully that peace was forthcoming. I spent a few days pondering the disintegration of my last relationship; on what the effects were on my psyche; on slowly dissecting the major events of the last few years; on trying once more to define myself in the absence of the reflective gaze of a significant other. I gave myself time to properly analyse the end of that period of my life, and thus provided myself closure. I worked to find a meta-context to which to place the events of this year. I reconsidered some of my long-standing aims; suspecting at least a few were a compensation rather than desirable in essence.
I sat on the grass under the sun and stared at ancient cliffs. I let my mind wander. I variously emptied and filled my mind with the impossibly-beautiful surroundings. I listened to birds. I drew. I took my time cooking. And, of course, I played guitar.
As my psychological crisis began to fade, I shifted my focus from contemplation to construction and set about recording the acoustic material which has taken up the majority of my creative efforts this year. These recordings represent difficult experiences; in moments of depressive paralysis I would reach for my guitar and play along to these songs; they acted as a balm to help slowly but surely soothe my mind.
I went into the mountains with around six completed songs and a few rough ideas. I left with eleven recorded. My friends loaned me some nice gear – an American Telecaster, a 70s Vibrolux, a vintage Fender Reverb Tank, another nice tube pre-amp – and I had the time to experiment and slowly lay down my ideas.
I left that perfect cottage in a state of calm, relaxation and acceptance I have never felt so deeply before in my life. I truly believe within that short time I was able to make considerable progress over the course of that week, and I have taken much back with me.
I feel changed; more at peace; more at ease; the tension between my shoulders has vanished, and my life has once more opened up before me. I feel as though I possess more energy than ever before. I can still feel the afterglow of contentment – and take no small amount of solace in the fact such deep stillness is less than seven days away from the roar and noise of my life.
(My acoustic material will likely see release in the next few months)
I’ve tried to write on this subject countless times over the last year, but the words always seemed to ring of melodrama, causing me to abandon my work in disgust. No matter. I will write this now – and if this entry lacks finesse or flowing phrase, then so be it.
This year been a hard one. The end of my last relationship almost destroyed me. Without going into detail, the end was one I somehow had never foreseen – though optimism or wilful delusion I am unsure.
Foreshadowing (and following) this break I have struggled with bouts of depression. The experience has not been pleasant, but there is good I can take from it. I’ve had many friends who’ve suffered from anxiety, depression and other forms of psychological illness over the years; I have always tried to help and understand them, and this year has certainly taken me another step forward towards that end.
I have long comforted myself with the ideals of self-knowledge and self-development. I believe there are few more important tasks in this life than growing to know – and better – yourself. Your life should be an attempt to eradicate delusion and ego; to cultivate empathy and understanding; to break down the barriers between yourself and others; to understand and accept your flaws; and ultimately to work towards a state of enlightenment (or self-actualisation).
My past struggles with nihilism and my sympathy of absurdity and existentialism has led me to view sanity as a purely relative construct. I have always found psychological illness to be comprehensible; and I seem to have a knack at working out the dynamics of the psyche.
I’ve always wondered: are the people who think deeply about existence and the meaning of life, and who struggle to find meaning in reality – are they really less sane than those who might flutter through life unaware of the reservoirs that flow deep beneath the earth? Where one struggles, the other may self-delude — surely neither situation is ‘good’, but which will result in an enlightened or higher state? Which is ‘ultimately’ ‘better’?
All of this background has helped me frame my experiences this year in a positive and constructive light. That is not to say that times haven’t been hard — I’ve reached new lows; but I’ve also experienced moments of elation (the absurd paradox of emotional relativism!). My interest in psychology has armed me with the knowledge I must confront the root of my problems; that I must dig beneath the anxiety, study the meaning of my dreams, search out my compensations and delusions, and use the framework of eastern philosophy to help defuse negative mental states.
Of course I have maintained my dedication to the use of writing, drawing and playing music for catharsis — and, unsurprisingly, this has helped me immensely. I really don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say art has helped me keep at least a semblance of sanity intact. In the course of this year I’ve written some 15+ songs, a suite of poems, pages of prose and a whole host of scrawlings.
Musically my output has had two major streams – Jackals, which is an expression of tension, stress and an exorcism of negativity; and an as-yet-unnamed acoustic project, which has moved from moments of contemplation and soul-searching to celebrations of elation and fragility. While my work with Jackals is now finally being released, my work on the acoustic project has stalled. I feel no small amount of pressure to give this avenue of expression a release.
Recently I was struck a spark of insight; firstly, that the recovery from such a major change in my life will surely take time – and that I have no reason to pressure myself in this process. Secondly, that I could do with some physical and mental space to consider things in detail. In the brief times I’ve travelled alone this year the distance has proved exceptionally beneficial.
To this end I have planned a period of solitude and contemplation in the coming weeks. I will retreat to an isolated cottage in the Blue Mountains. Located in a valley between peaks, and with no other humans in sight, this will make the perfect location for some long overdue reflection.
My goals are threefold; to relax and ease myself of all tensions; to dig deep into my psyche and attempt to resolve the fractures within; and finally, to finally record the songs that have taken up the bulk of my creative energy this year.
I will stare at stars, lie in the sun, read books, draw, write, sleep and dream. My very honest hope is that this will provide something of a resolution to an extremely difficult period in my life — and I am optimistic about this.
My absence from this blog this year speaks volumes about my state of mind — I have been too clouded and too absorbed in my own anxieties to be able to reach the state of detached contemplation that I used to enjoy so regularly. My output has been self-absorbed and full of angst — and surely of little interest to anybody.
With some luck I will return from the mountains with words, music and a cleansed soul. I will share any insights that may arise.
This state is defined by a hollowness and a distance.
I feel as if a shell; lacking substance; my consciousness
Registering little but a faint, weak pulse of light.
The internal void sucks me inward; I lurch from
It’s gravity. From all angles it pulls toward the centre
To devour; a vacuum constant and unrelenting.
Externally, things seem to be at a distance – I cannot quite touch them.
I seem to float through space; I cannot be sure of my grounding
Nor of my centre. Dizziness strikes me often.
Try as I might I find it impossible to connect with
Other human beings. Their glares piece through me.
The thought of another’s thought paralyses me.
Few things can reach me. People speak to me but
I simply am not there. Occasionally I might have some brief
Pass through the silence – but the breach is quickly repaired
Leaving my isolation complete once more.
My essence is ash to be blown away by a
Light autumn breeze. The immense density of void
that was once my centre is impossibly cold.
When I search myself I find nothing that has not been
Obliterated. Memories evaporate. I am transitory.
I am without worth or mass or substance. I am a process,
A transition of atoms whose state will soon pass.
I feel little but weakness as the sheer expanse of the
Void. Exhaustion crushes me. Indifference paralyses me.
At times I feel physically ill – as if some poison were
Coarsing through my veins; some manner of toxin
Weakening my bones, attacking my mind, plaguing
My thoughts. Each morning I awaken from a silent,
Dreamless sleep – but I am not rested. A cruel
Hoax. I yearn for respite, for solace, but am not
Sure where to look for them. When I play music
More emotion seems to pour from me than ever.
I am a point of collapse by the end of each song.
The effect is cleansing, but soon fades. I will try
To sleep once more to hope to arise in a warmer
Morning’s light. I will watch my thoughts. I will
Be patient and wait and hope for this to pass.
We live and writhe inside our own minds,
Dreaming, souls ablaze, our eyes dilute and blur.
We awaken to find ourselves gazing inward;
Searching the structure of cells, at our chemical essence
Charged with electric light,
Hoping to uncover some secret that
Would grant us a spark to burn beyond time;
To carry our heat forever onward
Through the void and into eternity;
To some knowledge that we are not
Abandoned and left to wither away
With the dust and the ash,
To be reduced and swallowed by
The grinding machinery of the earth;
That we are more than our raw material;
More than a chance assemblage of
Atomic particles, that our transitory
Forms live on, somewhere, somehow.
But who are we to challenge the slumber
Of our silent gods? Who are we to
Escape the pull of gravity, to demand
The birth of a star so that we might feed
From it’s light?
Of these things we dream in our deepest sleep;
In the nights in which we can perceive
The resonance within us; the echoes
Of the ancients, the secrets of our
Animal lineage; the voices of trees and stone
That even now pulse within the depthless ravines
Of the spirit, whispering in our ears
Our shared past and inevitable end.
With all our being we seek resolution,
Our yearning enough to disassemble our form.
We must recognise our true nature and
Allow it to burn within our souls.
We must feed our lives with celestial fire;
Surrender to the oblivion of the eternal vibration
Which envelopes us; that can tear us apart
To know this, and love this;
To share this with another,
To spend each night basking in the light of stars,
Enraptured, blissful, intoxicated with life; -
This is all that fills my waking heart;
This is the true orientation of my soul;
This wish fills my nights; both those of sleeplessness,
And those of peace.
That evening magenta burnt up the blacks and blues of the mountain;
Thin sheets softened the stark skyline
And flames struck across the earth to divide
The night from the day.
I was there with you, huddled for warmth
And laid up against the trunk of some ancient tree,
Searching the skies for secrets in shadow cast
And wondering why, in the moments before the blackest hours
The world seemed to sheen and shine as if
Suspended in the dying light of day;
Like the sun was giving one final howl before the haze
Ran a chill to our souls.
We dug in a pit and clasped the cold earth,
Gathering clay to lay beside our heads.
Now the sky is shrieking, howling, aflame.
The birds join in; a screeching cacophony
Which reaches an almost unbearable peak.
All seems about
But, instead; a slow fade;
A hastened retreat.
The earth cools;
The lights dim.
And we shudder.
We stumble, we fall,
We chew on remains,
And we do what we can to obscurify our souls.
These silent desolations we wreak
While we hide behind chivalry,
And we bury our hate with our song.
For here we are courteous
Though a courtesy was never paid
And your brutal indifference
Left me under waves.
Assailed by the ocean breeze, the boy walked on, following the worn track through the trees and toward the beach. At the waterfront he gazed into the water and lost himself in its volume. Still, he could not help but wish curses upon those who had wronged him. He kicked at small stones, feeling bitterness and suffering the injustice of it all. In his mind he tore his tormentors down; they were forced to acknowledge their wrong-doing; that his essence was more pure, more worthy than theirs could ever be.
These were childish thoughts, he knew, but they granted him a temporary feeling of power. He continued on the path onwards and upwards to a rocky peak above the waves. There he sat cross legged on a stone ledge and looked out to the horizon. He let the open space clear his mind, allowing the rhythmic beating of the waves eroding his sense of self. He focused inwardly and slowed his breath; he opened himself up to let the winds ring inside. As the sun warmed his body, the earth cooled his soul.
Up there on the peak the boy let his self dissolve.
At this point words become unnecessary – worse, they are useless; inherently false; clumsy, unwieldy objects that fundamentally fail to capture the essence of the moment.
The boy rested; allowed himself to be restored. Soon he would walk down the path once more to the absurdity of the world.
I’ve been a little bit quiet of late; work, post-graduate study and music have been taking up a lot of my time. I thought I’d quickly let you know what I’ve been working on.
I’m developing a summary-of and reflection-on Carl Jung‘s autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections‘ in the hope that I can communicate some of the wisdom and exceptional ideas he developed over the course of his life.
It’s a considerable task, but one I feel is particularly important. Jung was a fascinating individual who had the incredible insight to link the psychology of the ego and the unconscious with eastern philosophy and spirituality. His work is still exceedingly relevant to people dabbling in eastern philosophy/religion today.
I’m really hoping I can do this project justice – so if you don’t hear much out of me for a while, you’ll know why.
Ideally I’d like to follow this up with some reflections/highlights of some of Hermann Hesse‘s work on philosophy, art and psychology.
White Noise is my first experience with Don DeLillo’s work. Over the past 12 months I’d heard his name uttered many times – usually coupled with some recognition that he is one of the most important fiction authors in recent decades.
From the moment I began reading White Noise it was apparent that DeLillo is a supremely gifted author; his metaphors are sublime, his prose smooth and easy to read. His most commendable skill seems to be his ability to perfectly capture human frailty in simple, everyday scenes. In White Noise the narrator supplies a seemingly endless supply of observations on human behaviour; how shallow appearances and subtle symbols instill confidence in social institutions; how a family looks to each other for emotional reassurance in a million trivial games of power and dominance; how cultural identity and meaning are maintained every day through our most insignificant gestures.
As an illustration I’ll outline on passage I found particularly memorable. In this scene the narrator Jack and fellow lecturer Murray take a tourist trip to see ‘the most photographed barn in America’. The significance of this barn appears to be entirely circular; it is famous because it is so often photographed, and it is photographed because it is famous. This absurd passage follows:
“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.
A long silence followed.
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with camera left the elevated site, replaced at once by others.
“We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensued.
“They’re taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
There are dozens of moments like this in White Noise, where post-modern / Foucauldian concepts are bound with anthropological observation and presented in a humorous deadpan style that often reminds me of Bret Easton Ellis (it would appear as though Ellis is indebted to DeLillo’s style). Unfortunately a novel is not built on keen observation and creative metaphor alone. White Noise is divided into three parts; I almost abandoned the book towards the end of the first part, simply because nothing seemed to happen. In fact nothing of consequence seems to happen in the first 150 or so pages; we are merely subjected to a continuous stream of miniscule observations; of beautiful insights into human intimacy; of the slow and steady development of characters (DeLillo’s ability to give life to his characters is also excellent) — but there is seemingly no overarching “plot” at such.
Things certainly “happen” in the second and third parts, but at the book’s conclusion I still did not feel I had completed a novel. DeLillo’s writing stalks along at the same steady pace for over 300 pages, drawing a smile or a chuckle with regularity, but seemingly refusing to deliver a major story arc or significant plot development. The cute-ness of his style seemingly prevents any moments of heightened drama. I finished White Noise lacking a sense of closure, and with mixed feelings.
As a commentary on human frailty – particularly fear of death – this was a pleasure to read – but as a fiction novel I felt a little deflated and left wanting more. Perhaps this was DeLillo’s intention (skimming summaries of his other work certainly seems to indicate he is a man who throws off the standard convention of a linear novel), but I am left undecided and lukewarm.
DeLillo possesses piercing insight but I am still undecided as to his status as a novelist. There is a reasonable chance that I will return to more of his work in the future; perhaps that will put me in a position to better comment on his intentions and approach.