A New Mantra
I cursed Derek for putting that God-given right to not have a home in my head. The anger masked how I truly felt: someone homeless might know more than someone with a home. Unwilling to admit my confusion, I kept quiet and turned inward….
Years ago I’d come to the conclusion that no-one had power over me unless I gave it to them. Despite my messed up life, I clung almost maniacally to independence like a Rebel Without a Cause. Yet what was I doing with my so-called power? I could see how being incapacitated and not having a home went hand in hand, but how were they related to doing nothing, a more active force? Fearing yet another Pandora’s Box was opening, I sensed the die had already been cast.
On the microscopic level, molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles interacted in biochemical majesty. On the macroscopic level, the Earth, planets, solar system and universe moved with celestial orchestrations. The forces of nature breathed life force into and out of the biological constituents of the cosmos.
On a humanistic level, people interacted and transacted via complex biochemical, political, economic, career and social mechanisms with almost autonomous ease. At their point of intersection stood the hollow form of my body. In Einstein’s participatory universe I’d become nothing more than an unnecessary, insignificant and infinitesimal shell of an observer. Yet God didn’t waste anything: feces fed flies, plants and trees, which in turn fed other organisms – leading eventually to us! Everything had its place in the natural order of things except me. My disjoint relationship to nature and the universe only amplified the disconnection. I wanted to cry, but wouldn’t allow it.
Mathematically speaking even nothing was something; defined as the empty set. Thus, it shared the almost holographic quality of being both an element and a set of each and every other set. If that were true, then what if nothing was only a concept I’d accepted as truth? It wouldn’t surprise me; I mean I didn’t and couldn’t know everything even if I wanted to. The important thing was now I felt like I was something, albeit an unknown mathematical quantity. What if egocentric pride needed it to be something more or even less for that matter?
To find out, I looked at the relationship between living things. Bacteria and viruses transacted with their host organisms, lichen grew harmoniously on rocks, moss on trees; plants in cracks on sidewalks. Somewhere along the line humanity had separated itself from such natural relationships whereby nature, animals and even other people became commodities. From my new perspective, humanity scurried around like ants on the planet’s surface, but with far more damaging consequences. Rather than feeling indignation I felt both sad and jealous. They at least had reason to scurry, places to go, things to do and buy, people to see, talk and relate to however meaningless it seemed to me. Whatever the case, I felt removed from it all.
With acceptance of my nothingness, a picture began to slowly take form. Its lack of clarity reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle with several crucial pieces missing. Looking around, I prayed for some miracle of divine intervention they’d simply land in my lap, but I instinctively knew those days were long over. Yet, old habits were hard to break. With a sad smile, I hadn’t always asked for handouts – there’d been better times when I’d been able to provide for myself, but something had gone wrong. I just didn’t know when, where and why.
Peering into memory, sadness and tears welled up out of the vacuum that had once been my life. ‘Use it or lose it’ was the saying and somehow I’d lost it! I lowered my head lest anyone see my shame. Taking a deep breath, I turned inward and poked around, my spider sense ablaze, part warrior, part coward, part nothing at all; afraid of missing anything, but even more so of what I’d find. Sure I needed those pieces, but waking sleeping giants in my current state was akin to poking a killer bee’s nest. Reluctantly I let them be hoping by the off chance they’d come to me. A vibration resonated at my core throwing me off balance. Shaking my head, I laughed maniacally at my stupidity. I mean who’d ever heard of an addict waiting for anything? No, it wasn’t waiting I was doing, it was definitely procrastination. Nothing had changed.
As the moments ticked away, a familiar feeling overcame me. Looking down I saw myself sitting on the ground arms crossed sporting a pout worthy of an Olympic gold. Shocked to the core at my childish behavior, my mind snapped shut. No matter how I tried to see things differently: sulking changed absolutely nothing. I cursed myself in every dimension of my being and would’ve punched myself had it not caused a scene. Defeated, a stomach-punching pain threw me prostrate to the ground. I sat and felt it out revealing an instinctual reactive remnant left over from a tormented childhood.
Silent pleas to the universe went unanswered, but came as no surprise for I hadn’t really been trying. Words of little power crept like thieves up my throat robbing original intent. Sickened into desperation, I pleaded wholeheartedly to be shown what I needed to know. In awe, a silence so profound took my breath away and I bore witness to what whole-heartedness really sounded like. In a vision a champagne bottle smashed against a hull, launching a ship aptly named, ‘A Major Achievement for a Minor Mortal.’ In a state of eternal suspension, I nodded knowingly at the Heavens. They listened as a parent to a child: in stern, yet loving silence to see if I really meant what I’d said – or not. And I knew why. How many times had I cried wolf asking for things out of lazy convenience, to get away with something or some other cowardly reason? One answer fit all: too many. Now, with gratitude exhausted, the Universe demanded answers.
Not knowing what else to do with such a profound sense of failure, I did what I did best and reached inside and tore myself to shreds. After all, they were my failures. I created them all and deserved the punishing consequences of my actions. Turning to experience, I cleansed, purged and holy-watered absolutely everything about me not only to keep the demons at bay, but to stay grounded and human as well. Not that I really knew what that was – no one had ever taught me. I was tired, so tired of feeling tired, so tired of just feeling.
A neuron fired a spark across the synapses; light cast out the darkness birthing an insidious idea that those missing pieces were playing ‘Hard to Get’. And they were really good at it – just like me! In a sobering moment of even greater clarity, I saw my sole purpose was to look for them, no matter how difficult. Its simplistic beauty made such perfect sense. To further complicate the issue; in the eternal moment of the now no problems existed. A laugh painfully left my parched lips and revealed a hurt, lonely child unnecessarily complicating and showing off to avoid experiences and feelings he’d never been shown how to deal with. I felt sick to my stomach.
If this was a game then it was a really good bad one. ‘Yes, games were fun, but there was more to life than just games.’ I couldn’t believe I’d actually thought that out loud. True, they could be fun when used as learning tools, but somehow they’d grown and taken on a life of their own. I didn’t know how to stop them from bombarding and violating me in ways I didn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Now with my life on the line, I hated them, hated them all with a passion. Yes, I’d turned hypocrite and traitor, but it was all ‘fun and games until someone lost an eye’; and now I was in danger of losing my life! A gentle voice tried telling me my sarcasm was just another means of making games more meaningful and playful, but was pain part of the game too? And how much was enough?
If the whole point of playing any game was to never give up winning – ever, how would I know if I’d really lost or just given up too easily? From propositional logic, playing hard to get also implied not being easy to find. And the oldest known game in the book was Hide and Seek, which also included the contradictory thrill of losing and being found! While playing it alone would definitely be more difficult, it didn’t answer the how, why, what, where and when of things I’d be intentionally hiding from myself. Maybe I wasn’t meant to know.
With my mind ablaze, my heart burned, blood pumped, adrenaline rushed and the spirit of the hunt returned. Yes, I wanted to solve this gigantic puzzle and live! Then it hit me: I could solve it by starting from the start and the finish meeting in the middle just like those gigantic full-page magazine mazes. As far as I was concerned as long as the route was correct it wasn’t cheating, especially with my life on the line. Maybe those missing pieces would show up along the way as I navigated the dimensional layers of my being? In fact, they had to if they existed at all. The only thing working against me was me, time and intent.
A vision suddenly appeared and I saw myself in a home, a nice warm comfortable home. Yes, that too would appear – it had to – it was part of the game, part of the journey! Wrapping myself snugly in a comforter of warm feelings I chanted my new mantra: I won’t give up. I won’t give up. I won’t give up….
The excitement rushed through me picking up steam. I now had a project to occupy myself with instead of just sitting around sulking and licking my wounds. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein’s creation of monstrously stitched together carcass parts, mine would be from the fragments of my own life. I wanted to pull the switch and see electricity ignite the fires of life into my lifeless carcass, but my creation wasn’t anywhere near ready. No, not yet. I summoned my metaphorical Igor to go out and search for more fragments. It was ironic I should be seeking life from death, but apparently I’d run out of options. Nevertheless, I was on to something; I could feel it. If Jesus could come back from the dead, why couldn’t I? Sure they were mighty shoes to fill, maybe even blasphemous, but I could do it – in my own way and with my own shoes, couldn’t I? I gulped. It wasn’t like I had anything to lose.
Donning my metaphorical lab coat and glasses, I analyzed everything I’d ever been taught about man and home, searching desperately for some fragment of overlooked knowledge. With my mind aflame, images and information inundated the senses until I drifted aimlessly on a sea of infinite possibilities.
What an incredible feeling to be free and alive once more. I wanted to cherish it forever in its sublime state, but couldn’t and wouldn’t let it. Tuning into my littleness in the vast watery expanse, I tried not to look outwards, but inquisitiveness got the better of me. Alone and adrift on a flimsy bamboo raft on an oceanic vastness, I scrambled and panicked. Laughing out loud, I gave in to the futility of fighting being nothing more than a speck afloat on the cosmic sea of existence. In that single instant in time, every feeling, thought and sensation came to life. How ironic that at my wits end I should feel so alive!
Not wanting to lose momentum, I rose like a phoenix from the ashes and looked at the most primitive of homes, namely, caves. Yet instead of answers came even more questions. What were the differences between a home and a shelter and had I’d even owned one before? Extending on evolutionary theory, it was highly probable I’d been a caveperson in a previous life, but that didn’t mean I’d had a home or a cave. What if I’d been a bad caveperson and had to sleep outside with the animals? What if I’d never had a home and now was my lifetime to do it? With a sad sense of relief my life took on a renewed sense of purpose.
Tasting victory, I hungered at the thought of a home. But even I knew it took more than thought; it took action – a product of time. Checking my watch revealed hours and not minutes had passed! Apparently crystal’s ability to transport me into the timeless dimensions could also be a curse in this one! At the rate I was going I’d be homeless for the rest of my life unless I did something. Without even thinking, I pulled up my proverbial socks and chose parameters like my current lifetime, personal needs, funds and possible risk factors along the way. I couldn’t believe I’d made a decision, set parameters and boundaries and not given up – all without even knowing how I’d done it.
I felt alive just like back in high school when I hadn’t been afraid to learn. In fact it’d been a treat like eating ice cream, only with an infinite number of flavors to choose from. Licking my delicious metaphorical cone, emotions swirled, hands caressed and my mind exploded in orgasmic thought-forms until my stomach started to turn. Could consuming too much knowledge make me sick like eating too much ice cream? While it was difficult to imagine leaning over the toilet bowl and puking up chunks of knowledge, I also knew it didn’t have to get that far either! Looking down at my hands, I came face to face with my old nemesis of putting knowledge to work for me.
Unfortunately, I never seemed to work well in a team. I used to, but something had changed. I’d come undone and felt nervous around people, especially those I saw as more perfect than I ever could be. Even though just ‘minutes’ ago there hadn’t been anything to laugh at, now both responsibility and irresponsibility stood revealed. Yet they both entailed being able to manage the judgment, blame and anxiety that came with them. A shiver went up my spine wondering how many toilets I’d plugged with too much self-doubt, shame, guilt and paranoia laced self-loathing. But I couldn’t go there; I had to stay focused – or else….
Somewhere, etched in the recesses of my mind, burned the telltale scars of the madness I’d entertained with such carefree abandon. I’d been younger then, more rebellious and more bored. Now I couldn’t afford either. My mind flashbacked to the casualties of war I’d seen strewn across the face of the city. Grown men rocked like abandoned Romanian children in their aloneness crying out for love and attention. People withered in the darkness while society bit its fingernails not having the courage to admit what it didn’t know. Or maybe they were afraid of catching the same disease if they got too close? Nausea erupted sending a trail of bile burning up my throat. The madness was close, real close and getting closer all the time. I knew I had to be careful, but that was the problem, wasn’t it? In order to be careful, I had to know what to be careful of. It was coming for me; I could feel it.
Tensing and fidgeting under the spotlight of interrogation, it would’ve been so much easier just to give up. After all, the odds were so stacked against me that only a fool would’ve played on. “Better to give up trying than not”, I giggled like a little kid, singing such pearls of wisdom while sitting on the ground like a fool. Through the irony I felt happy, sad, glad, wise and, yes, foolish all in one. Unbelievably, tears welled up for a strange desire of wanting to be that fool!
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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