Separation from Hope; Refusal to Confide; Hunchbacks in Chains; The Mirrored Room Without Darkness; The Voice of Unreason; Be Still, and Know; Scheduled Weeping; Drizzling Doubt; The ‘I’ Afraid to Die

I resolved after my separation from Hope to stand at the window like a fire lookout and never to turn my back on the east. I wished to follow my own destiny the way a widow follows the arc of the sun over the course of a June morning. But it was winter; the days were short, and the sun was hidden.

I decided instead to hide, and I refused to confide to the beloved the contents of my discontented heart. It was not a wise decision, not a decision unanimously agreed upon by the internal jury. It was a split decision, an incision, if you will, that took me from the center, made a hole where there was once a spacious wholeness. What was simple became complex and convoluted, and I struggled with the words needed to greet people. I knew that most people greeted others with, ‘Hello, how are you?’ I also knew I could not do the same. It was not in my power to greet others in such a way, so I gritted my teeth and pretended I was deaf when my soul-sister asked how I’d ever bridge the chasm that separated my ignorance from her magnificence.

Once I removed myself from those who assured me the chains attached to their heels were benign, I wondered what to do. It was so much easier when I had a task, however deplorable. What could I do now that I had been commanded to be free? I asked a hunchback wearing a crown who was dragging his chains up a steep hill whether he wanted any help. He looked at me with the kind of vicious glance a king gives an escaped slave who, after being recaptured and hauled back to the castle through the mud, spits at the feet of the queen. After my offer of help was denied, I spat at my own feet, resolving to never again offer my assistance to a hunchback.

However, what I had been handed by those who had overcome their own uselessness, and were no longer hunchbacked, demanded a response. I recognized the paradox of futile effort met with unanswerable grace, yet I could not stop searching for the mirrored room without darkness, where through the blur of tears I hoped to witness the self stripped of what it wasn’t, but my weeping obscured the clarity of the possible. I heard a paralyzed voice, stuck in a dreamland of judgment, shout down that my words only added to the general absurdity. I claimed the paralyzed voice as my own and shrunk into a den where a lion was devouring its’ own tail.

Do not forget to tell them about the dance, whispered the voice of unreason, a voice I noticed rang clear and true and without distrust. Yes, of course, the dance. But how could I tell them? I would never be able to tell anyone about the dance. I could only show them. Everything that came to me from the voice of unreason told them about the dance, without my having to tell them anything.

Hold me, my invisible master turned mistress, as my trespasses hold me captive, as my addiction to silence produces its’ noisy hangover. I came to you to be held, and you did your job well, but I was not satisfied. I moaned to be held more tightly, and you told me to be silent. I did as I was told and was silent, and you told me to speak, to let everything out, withholding nothing. Nothing was all I could hold in and all I found when I looked in or out. To be without nothing was the only way to be, and my violent feeling that I existed without something essential made me question whether I really existed at all. If I was certain of anything, it was that I lacked everything. I especially lacked certainty. I did not know what I lacked. If I had known it, would I have lacked it? “Be still, and know…”

I knew enough to trust that my lying and cheating business partners would get me through the rough stretches I scheduled out on the calendar, the coming weeks in which I had allocated plenty of time to suffer from inexplicable grief. I boxed out certain hours of the day to be overcome by the urge to weep, and this I did during the prescribed periods, which came in the hour before bed and the hour after waking. During the rest of the time, I feigned an exaggerated grin, which was trusted by all but one. Because of this one’s flawless perception of my incongruous state, I trusted she was the one, and without flaws, both conclusions as false as her intuitions were true.

Be still, and know that I am not. Not all-knowing. Not always forward-moving. And not ever still. And still not—what? At ease? At one? At home? At odds with the one who is, I fizzled out in the drizzling doubt that veiled from me your kingdom. Not my kingdom. I am the veil; unveil me. Let me see my own face. I am the seeker, but how can I reach you if I remain at odds? This is no game, and there is no one to blame. Not even the one who is never still. This is no game, but that doesn’t mean there is no room to play. I play at writing, and I pray when writing. To truly play is to pray, but who of us here can play in that way?

For eleven months I have not taken a drink, he said proudly and with a strange trace of foreboding mixed with a lethal dose of malice. He heard a voice question him, ‘who has not taken a drink?’ Perplexed at this line of questioning, he said again: ‘I.’ He heard, “The ‘I’ that is afraid to die—that is the ‘I’ that has not taken a drink.” Why yes, he replied, of course. He heard nothing further.

Fiction: Plunging Into Myself

This morning I am feeling willful. No longer do I long for the singing birds of poesy to stir my heart and soul. No. This morning I will begin to understand myself through the power of will.

I have waited too long for no one; Now I seek myself; I pray I do not find no one.

I will not rest until I understand why I suffer from this invisible gaping wound in my chest. What is it to wait for no one? What does it mean? Is no one God? Is God no one?

I cannot stand any of that babble this morning, and I cannot sit here and spew it. I am disgusted with it all, and I am most disgusted with myself. Yet I will be myself.

No one will take that away from me.

I will be myself by creating myself. In creation, I will find myself. My self will find itself. No one can stop me, or only no one can stop me. But who is this no one? Did I not say I was done speaking of it?

Now I speak of someone: myself. But of whom do I speak of when I speak of myself? Is the self the invisible gaping wound, or is the self that which heals the wound through visible forms of willful creation?

Can the self heal its own wounds? I must be able to. If another tried to heal me, I would not accept it. For this is true: what the other believes is healing wounds the self like no other. I would spurn the other, even if it were the blue-haired sea-creature I once let bandage and hold me. No. I must hold up these wounds to the light and let the darkness heal them.

I will understand all that ails me and I will heal all these ailments through knowledge, through understanding, through passionate understanding and through intense personal knowledge.

I will not stand back from myself and heal myself like a doctor from the outside. I can never heal myself from the outside. For this is true: to try and heal oneself from the outside is to wound the truth of the self within.

Instead I must plunge into myself to meet what explodes out of me.

Why Wilderness Therapy Works

Why does wilderness therapy work when other therapies don’t work? The word is wilderness. No person is healing another person. No one is the healer, no one the healed. Out in the wilderness, away from everything that makes it necessary to need healing, healing comes naturally. It doesn’t even look like healing, like recovery. In wilderness, recovery is not the final goal. What good is recovering what you have lost if you don’t uncover anything new? The wilderness allows for uncovering in addition to recovery. You begin by recovering the aspects of yourself that were lost to the addiction, compulsion, mental disorder, whatever. Then you begin to uncover aspects of yourself that you had never known about. You uncover aspects of yourself that do not belong to you alone. You uncover aspects of the world that also happen to be aspects you share. You recover the fact that you are capable. You can hike many miles in a day, you can make a fire, make a shelter. You can survive; you are worthy of your existence. You uncover the fact that you are more than capable, more than worthy. You discover a power that has nothing to do with superiority over other people; you discover a love that cannot be expressed, a love that comes into you from nowhere and out of you towards no definite object; you discover a sense of belonging that does not need to be identified and has nothing to do with other people. You discover the stillness at the heart of things, and in your own heart. You wake up the morning after the storm, and all the trees are still standing. You look at them and feel their strength, their robust aliveness.

The wilderness heals when words fail. And don’t words always fail? Ain’t talking, just walking. Let us walk together through the woods, both of us pilgrims, “searching ones on the speechless, seeking trail.” What are we seeking? If we knew, would we be speechless? Perhaps we would. Don’t we seek life, and is it true that life also seeks us? It certainly seems that way. Each person is sought by life, let’s call it, to give what only that person can give. We are sought and called in order that we might call back in answer, ‘I am here, and I will remain. I am here to answer the call of the one who seeks me, the one who I seek.’ And is it one who I seek? It could be one, it could be none, and it could be many. I seek the place where the one are many, and the many are one. I seek the place where there are none but myself and yet I am not the self I thought I was. Not another soul is there, but is that the truth? I seek the place where I become no one. Nemo. Everett Ruess disappearing into the red rock canyons.

What does it mean that wilderness therapy works? Is that the right word for it? Yes. This is Gurdjieff’s Work here, the work of awakening, of becoming one’s authentic self. Do you think you are already yourself? Maybe you are, I couldn’t know that. I know I am not, not completely. I am a fragment of the whole self. There is always further to go, more work to be done. I’m not there yet, but in the wilderness I do not worry about being not there. Where am I not? Where I am not is unimportant. Where I am is what matters. Being where I am is how I move towards who I’m not yet, who I could be.

Of course, there are moments of despair even in the pure clean air. There are moments of despair everywhere. Nothing we can do to escape those, especially when we’re in the wilderness. Where to go? What to say? What to do? Can’t drink, can’t get prescribed anything, can’t drive through the night, can’t rob a bank. Just keep walking, I suppose. Walk straight into it. Will the despair pass through and away like a storm from the east? Who knows? No use in minimizing it, rationalizing it, idealizing it. No use in talking about it at all. Ain’t talking, just walkin’. But even in the wilderness, that strange human desire for verbal utterance is still there. Very well, speak then. But it is important to choose your words carefully. The human words must somehow do justice to the inhuman beauty of the place. This is exceedingly difficult, and oftentimes it is better to melt into the silence. To become a part of the inhuman we become inhuman ourselves. Inhuman not meaning ‘unfeeling’ or ‘cold’ or ‘cruel’, but as defined by the poet Robinson Jeffers in his philosophy of Inhumanism: “A shifting of emphasis and significance from man to not-man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence.”

To become part of the inhuman, we must not focus so much on the human. What was your relationship with your parents like? With your romantic partners? What do you remember about the trauma you suffered at age 7 when your parents accidentally packed you tuna for lunch, forgetting that you preferred pb + j? Well, I think I was enmeshed with my parents, or maybe abandoned by them. All my romantic partners left me, or maybe I left them all. The trauma with tuna, I think, is still affecting me in a deep and significant way today, as I instinctively recoil whenever I see anything remotely fish-like. Whatever. These human questions and answers fade into insignificance in the wilderness, as they deserve. They are not integral to The Work.

What is integral to The Work? Jeffers knew it. It is integral that we recognize the beauty of the inhuman world and feel a part of it. Recognize the human and the inhuman within us. Envy and equanimity. Anger and serenity. Vanity and authenticity. Fear and courage. The jealous, prideful, and possessive love, and the detached, humble, object-less love. The desire to fade into the shadows and the desire to be pierced with and surrounded by light. The passion for success and recognition, the continual striving; the sea receding from shore in the night, the vast sky overhead filled with light.