One of my favorite moments in the very disquieting graphic novel ‘From Hell’ and the point I believe when Alan Moore really expressed the heart of what he was doing is when Jack the Ripper’s assistant has a crisis of conscience and the Ripper’s response is to ask if the poor man knows where they are. Jack answers his own question, saying “we are in a radiant abyss where men meet themselves … we are in Hell, Netley.” I was glad they at least kept that bit in a movie that otherwise destroyed Moore’s vision.
I begin with this because I’ve been at least brushing against myself. I don’t think I’ve come to a face-to-face yet (and am certainly not in a radiant abyss), but there was a post last week that brought me up short. In the relatively new tribe ‘Followers of the Celtic Way’ the thread ‘Where are your Celtic roots?’ began with the statement ‘…however interesting [the last couple threads] are, let’s have something lighter.’ Now I know that this was not meant as a personal comment, but with the sudden flood of posts – some expressing gratitude that the heaviness of threads to which I had made significant contribution was slaked – I realized that I had inadvertantly made many uncomfortable. This was the last thing I had wished for, and soon after came the sudden feeling that I had crossed that which had first drawn me to these tribes.
You see, Christianity is a heavy religion. It’s had two thousand years of philosophy and warfare working constantly together and against each other to form questions and ideas that dwarf the human spirit. In the faith, this is often perceived as a proper reflection of God who himself is transcendent, majestic, blah blah blah. In the very narrative of salvation the idea of sin, sacrifice and redemption (and don’t forget this is God’s own death for the sake of his creation … the ONE God … the only one there is) there is a … I don’t know what to call it … a heaviness that has an equal lightness so long as you accept the whole package (I am not expressing this well). On the one hand, there is the guilt of being intrinsically sinful due to the whole original sin thing (which is in every branch of Christianity – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) which necessitated and culminated in the crucifixion, and then there is the elation of the resurrection when all that is cleansed away. Then, each year, you spend forty days wallowing in the guilt (Lent) and then forty days giddy with the elation (Easter). It’s pretty damn heavy!
Now, stepping away from religion and turning to my own life’s story, I have always been prone to idealism and used to be very romantic. I would still like to be, but some eleven years ago I suffered a horrible breakup from which I almost did not recover. In fact, I believe that some who are no longer in my life would venture the opinion that I did not. Without going into details here, suffice it to say that for a period of my life I underwent a severe crisis of ideals particularly involving issues of guilt and sin, .i. I was irreconcilably lost to them. I was convinced that I was utterly destroyed on a spiritual level and was worse than evil; that by my nature — my own very existence — I was corrupting the creation of God. Pretty heavy …
The only choice was between suicide (as in, take a humble bow out of the picture … at least in Hell you can’t do any more damage) and a complete reconfiguration of my perceptions. I obviously opted for the latter, turning from the overt ideals of Christianity .i. faith, hope, charity (divine love), patience, temperance, fortitude and chastity, to a more corporeally based system of ‘goods’. Beer is good. Friends and family are good. Playing music in pubs and smoking pipes are good. Horses and dogs are good (hence my years teaching horseback-riding). Etc. Etc. Little by little, just focusing on these immediate goods, I began to step out into the world again from the hell in which I had wound myself.
Still, old habits die hard, and as I reemerged I began thinking again. This time I began putting together a model of the world that could hold me, always being careful not to succumb to self-judgment. These past weeks of interrogating my faith have been a kind of means to begin thinking in those idealist terms again – a hard task as I have to revisit where I once was but as a new man of somewhat different mind.
Clearly not different enough …
The weight of my past must hang like a turgid thundercloud behind my words and thoughts, carried by my long years living in the deep and pressured depths of Christian thought like the smell of rain on the wind. It was my perception of a fresh easiness inherent to the pagan community that attracted me here and now it seems that I have tramped upon it with a seriously heavy epistemological foot. It’s time to step back and take stock of myself, or at least it was.
I’ve been less active here on tribe since I became aware of this facet of my posting, not wanting to break the delicate fabric of what first brought me here. I feel very material, full of pus and mucus and heavy-set flesh — very troll-like. It was the lure of gossamer wings and faint strains of unearthly music that brought me here — I still strain for this everywhere — and my blundering mind mistook an over-controlling, hyper-pedantic approach for insight and clarity, yelling out puffed-up mundanities instead of … I can’t even imagine what I would do in the place of yelling and blundering. It’s what I have essentially done since the beginning.
Still heavy …
I find myself grateful of the feeling that I am essentially talking to myself through these posts and half-hoping that this post goes somehow unread. Of course, I have to post it — have to undertake the catharsis of opening the wound and rendering myself vulnerable to whoever wishes to probe it (lance the epistemic wound and blow my ontological nose). Maybe in some way I am looking for a kind of mercy — a mercy I cannot comprehend in the Christian paradigm. I don’t really know, but at least I know where I want to be.
I want to be in a place of music and laughter, cool green woods and streams. I want to live between walls of stone, behind wattle and daub and under thatch — under-ground, in the trees and behind waterfalls. I want to feel the swift rush of the forest wind against my skin every day, and taste meat I have drawn with my own hands. I want to compose poetry in the dark places of the world and watch the sunrise from the top of the tallest tree. I want to taste sweet liquors and smell the musk of animals around me — become drunk on song and sex and awake in the night to the sound of my family breathing around me.
Ah, less heavy …
And God, Christ and all the other Gods? I’m still waiting for them to have the common decency of announcing themselves (or having a trustworthy herald of some kind do it for them). I haven’t the foggiest idea who this Christ-person is. I have some ideas about who he might be if what is said about him is correct — likewise all the other divinities, but they’ve been pretty cagey on the whole. I don’t think I can trust the lexical approach much anymore, though it serves in its proper place and it just may get me a job. It is, however, spiritually … demeaning … if over-used — like using vomit to clean your dishes.
… so, now what?