There will be a lot more writing from now on. Predominantly dreadful writing, it’s true. But the writing won’t get any better if I don’t do more of it. I feel like my writing is not all horrid, just mostly. Occasionally, through cringing eyes, one can unexpectedly get a glimpse of a sparkling jewel peeking out from under ponderously illegible sentences. The little scamp will even have the audacity to wink at you if you manage not to look away in time. The point is that I have no intention of stopping writing in the way I used to stop my creative work in the past. In the past, I would sabotage myself with much passionate self-recrimination and hatred. Enough of it would erupt from the darkest depths on a regular basis to keep me in bed for days at a time. I could barely move much less exhibit enough chutzpah to write and express myself freely. I think the point has been made. Dreadful or not, there will be more writing from now on.
Why have I suddenly sprung upward with so much youthful vitality you may wonder? What has given me that twinkle in my step and pushed me forward into this greenest of landscapes? Not ambition, that much is certain. It’s anti-ambition, really. I’ve already written about my tussles with this uncommonly fanged teddy bear. I’m writing more because I’ve decided to document my ascent* from the underworld where I have been in residence for the past three years, perhaps even the past nine years, since my dog Zoë died in my arms on April 24th, 2008.
I was reading the Epic of Gilgamesh (2004) yesterday and at one point Gilgamesh is told to go into this tunnel and run as fast as he can through it even though the darkness is endless on either side and above and below. He must run through the tunnel and get out of it within twelve hours or he is lost and will never get out again. For the first seven hours “Gilgamesh ran, deep was the darkness, with no light at all before him and behind him and to either side” but “at the eighth hour Gilgamesh cried out with fear, deep was the darkness, with no light at all before him and behind him and to either side.” He continued to run through the tenth and eleventh hours,“deep was the darkness, with no light at all before him and behind him and to either side.” Finally, “at the twelfth hour, he emerged from the tunnel into the light. The sun was hurtling toward the entrance. He had barely escaped.” After he comes out of the tunnel Gilgamesh sees “before him the garden of the gods . . . with gem-trees of all colors, dazzling to see . . . . Gilgamesh looked up and marveled at it all” (p. 162-163).
What happened in the eighth hour? It is the hour in which he cries out with fear. The rest of the hours he just runs while the deep darkness absorbs him. I’ve been running in such a tunnel for a long time. I think I passed my eighth hour in early 2014, and I cried out in fear while the darkness surrounded me on all sides. I’m approaching the end of the tunnel and the garden of the gods. I want to document the way this ascent into the light looks like. I hope it appears humorous and light because I’ve been spending a lot of time with Rowan Atkinson and his absolutely genius comedic routines in the show Black Adder. He has become my unlikely guide out of the darkness and I’m so grateful.
Discovering that one has been a resident of the underworld for close to a decade is a little shocking at first. I think the time allotted for such work must be shorter, fairer. But I realized very recently that I hadn’t allowed myself to fully make the descent. My hand was stubbornly grasping a tree root on the way down and wouldn’t let go while my dead body decayed slowly in the hellish world beneath. The transformation of rotting flesh into regenerative fecundity couldn’t happen in an orderly and timely fashion since one part of my ego would not let go of the past, would not let go of the wounds. Maybe that’s because I’ve had more than my fair share of wounds. My capacity for withstanding pain is much higher than the average person so it makes sense that it would take me much longer to realize that I’m dead and decomposing.
What sets off a sudden insight? Rollo May speaks of the cosmic encounter between the unconscious and the soul of creativity in his beautiful book The Courage to Create. I don’t have it on me so I can’t quote from it, but something to that effect occurred recently and I realized that I must let go of the tree root, I must let go of the last thing tying me to my past identity. For me, this means letting go of the disco in my heart, which is very sad for me, very hard. But I sense it very clearly, that this aching love is part of my past and for new love to grow I must let go of it. The irony is that I will likely emerge from this underworld journey much more in tune and able to sing more authentically than ever before. I don’t know yet what all this will look like on the physical plane. What I do know is that I am working aimlessly, simply moving from one creatively energetic endeavor to the next without any sort of planning or intention-ing. In The Red Book (2009), one of Carl Jung’s inner selves says to him: “Do you still not know that the way of truth stands open only to those without intentions?” (p. 143). I find this non-planning and non-intentioning to be a vital portal into the magic of the day. I think the freedom it generates in the spirit is one of the fruits of authentic regeneration and rebirth. Look at the stressed out person running to and fro all day with a fast and busy spirit, then imagine what the absence of that stress might feel and look like and you will be getting close to seeing what I’m talking about. It’s very subtle, this peace can alter in a microsecond under normal circumstances. But when the magical fruits of the underworld journey are truly ripened nothing can dislodge that inner peace. In this psycho-spiritual state, even the wildest and most heartbreaking of experiences can be taken in with ease and openness. I’m not saying I’m all the way there yet, but I’m much closer to achieving and maintaining these long desired levels of equanimity and I got here by traveling through the tunnel of darkness. It’s interesting how Gilgamesh cries out in fear in the eighth hour but continues to run in the ninth, tenth and eleventh hours with no further outbursts.
At some point along the way we stop struggling and learn to enjoy the darkness. We go willingly into that dark night, rage-less. As we know, most people fear death and anything that is associated with death. But I have recently been told about the other side of death, the transformative side. When viewed from this side, death is no longer scary nor morose. It is silent and steady, focused and free. When you have died, you no longer have anything to prove and can just do your work. You also stop pretending and you stop caring what others think. It’s a very mature state of consciousness, actually. But that’s all I have to say about that for now.