Sometimes you don’t realize that your life is poetry until you notice the stanzas. I started recording my thoughts together, particularly here, with a two-fold purpose: stitch a semblance of a narrative together from my scattered thoughts, and to figure out what character I was in that narrative. The latter proved far more of a struggle, due largely to the baggage that comes with being a human in even the broadest sense. There was simply too much “self-ness” in the being bucket to discern what parts were authentically me and what was simply getting dragged along. I heard a phrase once quoted from a yogi I don’t remember the name of which declared that only through constant self-annihilation can we discover the indestructible truth of who we really are. In April of 2019, I set the charges to self-destruct my own ego and in April of 2020, I detonated them. The resulting mess was substantial and dwarfed only by the resulting message. The previous stanza —
Over the past year, I have experienced and accomplished extraordinary oddness, at least for me. I don’t have the energy nor the bravery to expound deeply in detail in this article alone. Suffice to say it involved inexplicable and unexpected involvement with politics, scandal, activism, nearly para-military organization, world-wide catastrophe, jail, and esoterism, all of which I impressively survived largely unscathed. Actually no, not unscathed. I emerged scarred mentally and to a lesser extent physically, destroyed in several aspects and reinforced in others. Despite that, more than enough of me survived to teach me valuable lessons, some about who I am and a great deal more about who I am not. While there were truly lovely circumstances over that year, I would be lying against myself if I said that it wasn’t a terrific gauntlet of pain and suffering. Even still, in what might be either to most direct or indirect of ways, I’ve succeeded in clarifying my identity through the very thorough event of annihilation.
As I type I am working through a mood stabilizer which keeps me quite unable to track my own thoughts through a coherent narrative. If there were anything that made it hard to tell a story, that would be it. And yet, the conditions I currently live in, the strings of causality that conjured them, and the heaviness of the entire scenario makes it so that is barely an issue. I couldn’t imagine not knowing where I am or how I got here. My narrative is baked in my present, and my every breath is a forensic lab report describing the bizarre worldwide and personal events of 2020. Ironic that I would end 2020 without focus. Apropos that I would end 2020 with such sharp clarity. I seldom know if I am in the tragedy or comedy anymore, but at least I know my character and his role. Interestingly enough, though it seems to breach my previously established theories of mind and several takeaways from any number of Joseph Campbell books, I turned out to not be the hero of my story. As it so happens, I’m the audience insert. I am Doctor Watson. Call me Ishmael. I’ve been here to tell the story all along, not to live it.
I have, through one device or another, been trying my best to remove myself from the story. In childhood I had an obsession with the invisible hand. The idea that my life would be happier, and even more purposeful, if I were some ethereal being that participated in the world through untraceable action. To have no body and no voice. Appropriately enough for the Christmas season (It’s December 10th as I write this) I often remember the Rankin Bass Christmas special Jack Frost. Jack is a spirit of, as insinuated, frost. He coats leaves with shimmering ice, freezes the surface of the lakes, and even interacts with humans who can neither hear nor see him by nipping the tip of their noses with Winter chill. Apart from that, he is a non-agent, relegated to be essentially “other” from the world at large. This isn’t because I ever wanted to not deal with others. On the contrary, I like and actually love others and very much enjoy being in the human world. Rather, it’s because I have never felt quite human enough to be considered human in the human world.
When you don’t quite feel like others, and yet are expected to feel like others, and certainly to act like others, existing takes on a substantial eight and resistance. It is in these times that I am well acquainted with the phenomenon in which Hell is other people. This Hell is less characterized by the fires and smoke of Gehenna, and more with the chains, shackles, and iron bars that represent expectation itself, as well as its cousin, obligation. These things aren’t inherently bad or bothersome, especially seeing as they are among the threads that weave the fabric of social cohesion. The issue is that they seem, more often than not, detrimentally misassigned. The aforementioned Jack Frost fell in love with a mortal woman who claimed that she loved Winter dearly, and more than anything she loved Jack Frost. He petitioned with Father Winter to make him human so that he might love her properly, and when granted, he found himself awkwardly too inhuman for the masquerade. The funny thing is that in a lot of ways, he could never love her properly as a human. She loved Jack Frost the spirit, and the spirit is what he properly was. His life was doomed, on one side of the veil or the other, to disquietude.
Over the past year the story caught up with me. I can’t pose as the nameless narrator or the disembodied declaimer. The weight of the words and the pressure of the paragraphs crashed down on me hard and fast enough to remind me with certainty that I am no ethereal spirit. That hiding from my agency wasn’t an option anymore. That was the coward’s way out of self-annihilation, and no, freshly re-embodied, I was to be thrown into the cauldron. After losing a lot and suffering considerable psychological and spiritual “processing,” I am, or at least I feel, ready to assume my role actively. It was the metaphor that finally made it clear. The constant use of symbols and ideas I placed to distance myself from the description that helped me realized it was a poem. It was the pattern of the stanzas, the December collapse, April recovery, and July re-invention, for me to recognize its structure. I always felt like a misfit in my own narrative, like I didn’t rhyme with anything, so I omitted myself my page. This year perhaps at last gave me the vocabulary to belong amongst my own thoughts. If not, at least now I know, I couldn’t run from this work because I was always the title of this piece all along.