Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Staring Into The Abyss


Is it a choice then       to stop rappeling
deeper and deeper into the dark   to say

I will halt here               turn back now

yet the rapture of the void's so powerful
the sucking pull to plunge down   down
crooning the shivery anthem of oblivion

part of me's in love with that      always
no one could ever find me there     hurt
me there  flung beyond fear   rage  pain
snuggled between gone and nothingness

but I think I'll stop here   turn back now
my last frayed lifeline just might    snap

this is no place to strand a human heart


We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
for a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold
And the empty desolation.

-- T.S. Eliot --


     When we suffer a grievous soul wound, especially as a child, the psyche splinters into many pieces, and we become those pieces. For the rest of our lives, we may careen back and forth from one jagged shard of our being to another, struggling to achieve through a precarious, sequential balancing act the barest minimum personal coherence to replace that original wholeness and integration we've lost.

     So it was with me. And like all broken ones, I had a certain "favorite" fragment of myself, a compartmentalized aspect of my identity where I felt strongest, safest, most protected and secure. This seeming security was an illusion of course--an ultimately sterile, polarized, self-defeating dead end. Yet at the same time, for a terrified and desperate child, that secret hideout provided an indispensable refuge. It was the lonely, pitch-black, storm cellar where he could hunker down to survive an otherwise devouring tornado of horror, anguish and despair.

     I speak of the void. Not just the wilderness, the desert, or the untamed frontier. The Void. Off the planet. Outside the solar system. Beyond the galaxy. A sliver of my being launched itself like a rocket toward the coldest, darkest, emptiest reaches of the universe, escaping into a dimension as physically, emotionally and spiritually alienated as possible from the intimate, suffocating family cocoon--that ground zero of my scathing trauma and brutal shattering. No one would ever find me here, I thought. No one could ever hurt me like that again--not here.

     In one sense, I was right. I'd plumbed the nadir, discovered the absolute antithesis of all interpersonal relationship. Not only this, but in doing so I also experienced a species of perverse epiphany. Except instead of uniting in transcendent Oneness with all creation, I felt almost completely obliterated by blasting Nothingness--and learned to my chagrin there was a side of me which craved just that. Make no mistake--the compulsion toward heroic extinction can be profound, powerful, addictive, even ecstatic. We'll never fully come to grips with the deepest realities of our existence unless we comprehend this.

     Here's the great danger of a pathological isolation which strains to break all emotional bonds in order to insulate the self against any threat of vulnerability and every devastation of grief and loss. If my drastically solitary soul can no longer fulfill its intrinsic need for healing connection with others, inexorably it will plummet into the bottomless abyss gaping at the core of all such radical estrangement.

     But since the essence of the soul is always to worship, and always to seek ultimate oneness with whatever it worships, this psychological disintegration must inevitably devolve into a torrid love affair with death--a hypnotic seduction by the rapture of the void.

     I said "almost" completely obliterated. That "almost" has been my salvation. Wounded and terrified as I was, nonetheless I never totally surrendered my thirst for authentic communion, my hunger for consoling companionship. The relational bond I could not salvage with my family, somehow I managed to forge anew with my friends. They became my surrogate family, a Godsend which literally made the difference between life and death.

     So it's come to pass that my closest, most trusted friends are now my staunch and irreplaceable spiritual lifelines--for we each understand a painfully hard-won truth: the void is no place to strand a human heart...


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