all the crushing tides,
rivulets, flashing bolts of
life, light, fire and ice
carve these etchings’ speak
and harden, encase tender
flow while seeds erupt
magic, making me
in spite of, because of all
these shredding life songs
At the risk of being “too serious,” I’m posting this somewhat intense documentary. I had an interesting conversation with my youngest son yesterday about seriousness. It reminds me how much we run from seriousness but also how much we need it in order to be able to be given more fully in our mirth, oddly enough. “Seriousness” is a big, vague word but it refers to taking life seriously, taking feelings seriously, taking experiences of loss seriously, and gain, seriously. Seriousness as a perspective of life or attitude towards one’s own existence juxtaposed against the alternative – humor, light-heartedness. What I find is this: Whatever we run from also holds a piece of our authentic self hostage. The imprisoned bits of self cannot genuinely participate in laughter and sometimes reach desperately out for any and every comedy to salve the haunting fear within, a sort of addictive process requiring perpetual doses of positive or funny or anything but the things we run from within ourselves…so…I’ve found that as I’m bankrupted by some of life’s crueler tides, I’m also opened up to deeper experiences of joy, an unreserved, unguarded unfolding of meaningful and light-hearted appreciation for all that life can be. I have precious little patience with positive mantras divorced from process, divorced from the organic work of finding a truly uplifting perspective via the deeper work of… honesty. I love Mark Pellington’s work as well as David Whyte’s wonderful exposition of so many layers of life’s more serious realities. So, this follows:
Mark Pellington has this to say of the documentary:
“This film was made by me as an exercise in process, to explore my own progress and personal feelings towards loss, grief, and healing. Via this text. My instinct was to be very simple and direct and to understand these words, via catharsis. The conduit was human, the face. The unlying veneer, the carrier of instinct. The face. It evokes the range of emotional expression and human truth of strangers. They all listened to it one time and brought their own inner stories to you the viewer. “
“..we have all sorts of representations of ourselves which are really rather superficial. And we try to identify with them. But then once we do that, we have this quality of thought which infuses it into perception. We apparently perceive the thing we are representing – it seems to be there. It’s like the rainbow; we see a rainbow, but what we have is drops of rain and light – a process. Similarly, what we ‘see’ is a self; but what we actually have is a whole lot of thoughts going on in consciousness. Against the backdrop of consciousness we are projecting a self, rather than a rainbow. If you walk toward the rainbow you will never get there. The image of the table is produced in the same way, but if you walk toward the table you will get there and touch it.
“I’m suggesting that if you try to touch the self, it will be the same difficulty as trying to touch the rainbow. We have a representation of the self, which is really arising in a process. We don’t know this process very well; but the attempt to treat the self as an object is just not going to mean anything. So instead, suppose we say that this self is unknown. Its origin, its ground is unknown. And it is constantly revealing itself through each person or through nature or through various other ways.” David Bohm – Thought As A System
ego tells me to draw conclusions…shore up my indignation or my melodrama, the one where I’m left out, ignored or otherwise tricked into a situation not best for me…the one where I’m enticed onto the dance floor, courage of a wallflower conjuring possibility…the one where I get there and it’s empty…the one where the latest story plays out ancient history…here, another loss…there, another loss…
see, there now. I can legitimize the pout, the hardening heart; the saga continues.
heart tells me to stay in the game…shore up my courage, stand naked, hold out for better days…perpetuate the script of constancy and hope…keeping afloat fantasies made from valid yearnings…distorting reality…one more swig from the bottle, just one…
see, there it is. I can accept and continue heralding heartfulness in the face of hard, harsh brick wall non-response; the saga continues.
mind tells me to get real…how much more obvious does it have to be before you see, it’s the same dumb sham…you’ve been played…you played yourself too…wake the hell up, chick…run fast and far…fuck ’em…be done and gone…besides, no proof of your perspective as valid, no proof of possibilities good, bad or otherwise, no proof, no nothing but silence… and silence speaks. see how much it meant? nada…nowhere…next?
and now, finally. I can dignify my stupidity by showing I see it, by throwing myself into a race in the opposite direction. there, the saga stops (nah, it continues).
but the shores shape and carve out the landmass… the mist makes feasts and evaporates… myriad possibilities, likelihoods, comfortings and abandonments form character, painting stories on soul’s terrain…somewhere between the melodramatic maybes, foolhardy courage and pessimistic realism is the song of a universe whisking us all onto dance floors we’ve not begun to fathom … and while I can’t stop the tides or discourage another etching on my backside, frontside or otherwise, can’t force justice, or awareness or love or … happy endings… I can let go and let it be as I move on, away from conclusions…embracing the way of nature … ‘though it seems fairly obvious sometimes…
all I know is this: I don’t know. I see all the possibilities in situations left languishing, cut short violently or otherwise aborted by unfortunate events. but. I don’t know.
move me, life, beyond judging what is not mine to judge… move me, great waters, into the floating real of what I can do for me right here, right now in this warm and gentle sea…
Gut raw reveal or run. Don’t you weary of holding it all in?
What is it you think your breath will collide with
if you exhale sooner rather than later?
Some untimely death of all your delusions?
Or is it the fear of all that involuntary relaxation,
opening self as soon as you let it all out,
something might penetrate, find your hiding places,
discover your humanity?
Some inner code might unfold. Some quiet desperation may wail.
You might feel something more real than anything experienced before or before.
Or maybe, once wails are spent and feelings felt
and you find you didn’t disintegrate into complete annihilation of existence
-though you may not be sure who this emerging you now is-
in the quiet aftermath
of total bankruptcy,
loss of all you perceive as wealth.
Blooming songs long unsung, uncovered in sun’s insisting seek.
…is vitality, says Andrew Solomon. Spot-on eloquence and tear-evoking insight, worth the 30 minutes to feel/hear this medicine of clarity. It is another example of what I recognize in my own life as radical grace.
“…shutting out the depression strengthens it; while you hide from it, it grows…our needs are our greatest assets…valuing one’s depression does not prevent a relapse, but it may make the prospect of relapse and even relapse itself easier to tolerate…I had learned in my own depression, how big an emotion can be, how it can be more real than facts and I have found that that experience has allowed me to experience positive emotion in a more intense and more focused way…the opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality and these days my life is vital, even on the days when I’m sad…I have discovered something inside myself that I would have to call a soul…I found a way to love my depression. I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy. I love it because each day I decide, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living and that, I think, is a highly privileged rapture.” Andrew Solomon
Robin Williams ended his life. And it reverberates across the world, this collective uproar of loss realized. Images, endless scrolls and screens of Robin Williams’ memories and tributes. His face speaks something other than tragedy. His presence, as long as we had the privilege of it, upheld a priceless gift. It’s hard to reconcile that he would find it within himself to end it all, that someone who has made such a profound impact on humanity just by being funny and real, spontaneous and crazy, that he would take that away, decide it’s not worth another second.
But something in me feels defensive of him and of his legacy, that it not be diminished by his inability to continue. Why is that? He made a bold statement in his dying. On the one hand, he has every right to choose the time, the how. On the other hand, he’s commenting and saying that no matter how much acclaim you earn or how loved you are, if you’re not able to reach it within yourself, that source of love, all the acclaim in the world won’t save you, won’t keep you alive another second longer. He’s saying it’s just that tough. And it’s too precious to bear sometimes. Awareness and the artistry of unusual expressiveness comes with a price. Intensity cuts deep, sees more than any one soul can manage alone and if there’s not one who can share that awareness, the desolation pounds a deafening cry of seeming futility.
When a person takes his life, he is saying the one thing he will do is the one thing he can do…end the agony. Would that we, humanity, possessed much more skill in discerning when to stay with those who are so abandoned all they can do is leave us. Stay and break all the rules of propriety or discourse and insist on piercing the lie that another second of living is one too many.
Russell Brand said it better: “What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction? That we live in a world that has become so negligent of human values that our brightest lights are extinguishing themselves? That we must be more vigilant, more aware, more grateful, more mindful? That we can’t tarnish this tiny slice of awareness that we share on this sphere amidst the infinite blackness with conflict and hate?
That we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us? That all around us people are suffering behind masks less interesting than the one Robin Williams wore?”
So it is…there are those who remind us we have so much farther to reach and deeper to dig before we have become so alive, soulfully relentless that not one would dare entertain the solution of suicide.