October 22, 2018
denial and depravity
From time to time I feel compelled to share a life update on here. Times have changed a lot since I started blogging thirteen years ago, and after all this time I still have this space. Besides, I continue to have the sort of life where I can be generous with what I share. It amazes me to look back, through my fingers, and see all my phases and stages in reverse chronological order. It’s excruciating to see my delusions laid out so plainly, all my pathetic attempts to attempt to control my fate, my ego’s absurd performances. And it goes on even now! Yet I’m glad it’s all here, my fool’s journey, available to anyone. Let’s add another entry.
So, I have made some peace with myself lately, as a full-grown she-ape acting out the bizarre role of ‘fashion artist’ within the peculiar situation known as civilization. The past two years were pretty epic in my tiny life. Essentially, in 2016 I burnt myself out on the fashion industry, mostly took myself off the treadmill of “self-promotion”. Sick of my persona, sick of trying to win with the in-crowd in fashion, I declared professional and emotional bankruptcy. Coasting on whatever reputation I had, I dedicated myself to two years of spiritual inquiry, whatever that is.
The situation was pretty enviable: I was an adult; I had time and money and no responsibilities to anyone other than myself. I had a tremendous amount of cognitive bandwidth available. Naturally I got into a lot of trouble, trying to sort out things like truth and love and freedom all on my own. I travelled across North America and Europe, spending significant amounts of time in Paris, Los Angeles, Berlin and London and stopping along the way in Vancouver, Vienna, San Francisco, Montreal, New York, and Pittsburgh among others. After it seemed like I had finally murdered my wanderlust, I tried to reconcile myself with my ‘home city’ of Toronto and establish a studio here, which I failed to do, to my simultaneous frustration and relief.
Lots of things happened along the way. Apparently, when you dedicate time trying to get to know whoever your authentic self is, you will make some horrifying discoveries. The big one was that I had an unhealed broken heart that was crippling my ability to connect with others. Somehow I had been coping with this for so long, concealed under protective defences, I had convinced myself that I was fine. This was not the case. It was definitely my problem, and coming to terms with the consequences was excruciating. All of the hurts came up to the surface. I was exposed. There was drama and I did damage. There was self-loathing and sabotage, and healing and grace, all of this subsequent and concurrent.
Art plays its crucial role. God is in me, and the devil too.
It turns out, when you surrender to reality, when you finally let yourself feel the worst thing you’ve ever felt, it’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Accepting heartbreak and loss brings you to the present, the here now, and suddenly life is sweet again, a space is created, possibility emerges from the wreckage. Creation becomes imperative. The cycle starts again, and we grow older.
I’ve been wondering a lot about emotional healing, as I’ve started to notice some patterns with it, both in myself and my querents. I still wonder if it can be… expedited somehow. If there’s a way to do the treatment without the bitter medicine or the downtime. It seems that those of us that deal in energy work have a vested interest in believing that there must be a better, faster, easier way, because salvation sells so much better when it’s sweet.
Anyway, be aware of energy workers selling snake oil; most of us know that free will is an illusion. I’ve made enough correct predictions and my futile attempts to avoid the future only resulted in crashing into it in painfully ironic ways. Knowing the future doesn’t allow you to skip it. The only effect is that it changes the way you think about time, which can lessen the shock, but also diminishes the surprise.
All to say, I’m coming around to the conclusion, although it’s certainly no good for the Tarot business, that there’s very little that can be done about wounding. Yes, healing is natural, When you cut your skin, if you treat it properly, it will heal a little faster, but it still takes time and it still hurts. The same with your heart and your mind. The only agency we have here is whatever capacity we have to treat ourselves and others as well as we can, to help the healing happen a little faster. Even though when we’re not at our best, this capacity is often limited. Otherwise, we have to trust that there is a natural process at work here. The unfortunate corollary is that wounding is just as natural as healing. In the course of doing anything, stress and mistakes happen. It’s the ongoing price we pay for living until we pay the ultimate price.
The most confusing part of the process has got to be denial, and this is the main thing I spend time wondering about. Is there a way to get through denial faster? It seems to cause so much difficulty, blocking detection and treatment and causing wounds to fester, not to mention endless projections that spread across the population like infections. Denial does seem to have an essential protective function, delaying until there is enough time and resources available to deal with the situation, but it also can be fatal sometimes, which seems tragic when truth is so often readily available. Many people love their illusions more than real life, and who are we to tell them we know better, when the truth obviously hurts and death is inevitable anyway? On the other hand, imposing illusions on others definitely limits their freedom, and projections can cause suffering to others even as they seem to temporarily mitigate our own discomfort. That denial is by definition unconscious means that we don’t know when it’s happening. So how can we consciously decide not to do it?
All of this is a mystifying quandary to me. I can’t pretend to know the answer here, although I do demonstrate a bothersome preference for the enlightenment of truth. We can’t apprehend our denial on our own, so we always need someone to do us the favour of waking us up. It’s usually either an enemy or a healer. I do have faith in Tarot’s ability as a tool to expose reality, at least within the limitations of our perceptions. I have had to recognize that I have no power over anyone but myself, if I even have that. Yet over and over again this year, I found myself placed in the role of witnessing people overcome denial. It’s not nice, or pleasant, although it is magical and there is a kindness necessary to place trust in the other person’s ability to change their mind. Receiving this divine assignment is a very contradictory, tricky task, requiring me to be both delicate and violent, like a surgeon. Depending on the level of buildup, denial can be chipped through gradually over a long period of time or blown apart quickly, this can be experienced as either corrosive or traumatic, the end result of revealing the gory truth is the same. Pain either way. So is awakening even worth it?
Of course I believe it is. Triggering events are oddly therapeutic, if you can think of them that way. Each time you are triggered it’s an opportunity to heal, if you’re willing to examine the trauma and feel the feelings, which makes wounding and healing opposite sides of the same coin. So why not use wounds to heal, why not love our enemies in the sense that we seem to need them as much as we have to be them? As Beyoncé says, “my torturer became my remedy.” The alternatives, to use coping strategies to numb, to wall yourself off with wishful thinking, or succumb to that old ape shit of just smacking a lower-ranking ape, holds you hostage to limping through life at a fraction of your capacity. Plus, once the pain is processed, which is often surprisingly quick, healing just feels beautiful. It’s the ultimate relief, it liberates.
Better perhaps to understand ape shit in the sense the Carters use it; our potential for glory depends on our willingness to accept our interminable depravity. If you’re able; it requires a significant amount of will, which is why so few of us apes reach the pinnacle of our mountains of shit. Perhaps trusting in free will in spite of the lack of evidence is the only route we have to moral progress? I’m not sure.
Either way, what else is there to do? We have no choice. We will have to go on.
So I am. Since I overcame my denial, stopped coping and dealt with my heartbreak, I have naturally fallen in love and it’s been transformative, and I find myself lusting for wandering all over. Hopeful again, I’m enjoying the endless task of of overcoming and becoming myself. It’s a new beginning. This time though, the work has become more significant.
The painting at the top is part of a series of larger paintings that seem to be happening. Alignment appears to be very important, so the people I am surrounding myself with, and the locations I place myself in are changing. Aesthetics are less compromised, and there are less limitations than before. The ambitions are grander, and the subjects are more sensitive, and the risks are more consequential, so I am frightened sometimes. Then I ask myself, what is the alternative? …and I can’t think of anything.