The last post, according to my own standards, came from a place of deep pain. It contained within it meaningful soulful expression and was raw and untempered, by design. Within the words are so many more words and stories uncountable, like grains of sand. Upon the foundation of that miry clay, we can only hope to build upon – even, if only, in vain. The key word there is “hope.” Hope is the only superstructure that can be supported by our feeble pillars and posts. It is the only light that shines in the heavens, that has not aged before it reaches us. I cannot begin to venture into grandiose explanations of hope in its myriad forms. It would be an onerous task, and I don’t claim to be particularly proficient at understanding many of the concepts we like to throw around today, without actually contemplating their meaning. I began with talking about pain because it was the only thing I knew best in this world, but after so many years, realized that I knew nothing about at all. I only came to this realization after encountering one of Nisio Isin’s most endearing characters, Tsubasa Hanekawa. One of my favorite lines, filled with a truth I am beginning to embrace every day, is her catch-phrase: “I don’t know everything. I only know what I know.”
On a side note, I highly recommend his series of light novels collectively called Monogatari (The Japanese word for “story”). It is filled with the kind of word-play and bleak humor you read here.
The same is true, as examples, for the concepts of “salvation,” “peace,” and “love.” No, this is not a nihilistic analysis of philology. It is an attempt to keep the promise in my first post:
Therefore, I will endeavor in every entry to pay particular attention to some truth. Truth is finicky and often, gravely subjective.
Whether hope takes the form of God, something positive, change, latent movement, or potential, it is a structure that spans obstacles. It is a bridge between now and then. It is a bridge from where the grass is dull and weed-ridden, to a place of greener pastures where sericeous leaves drip the honeyed dew of salvation. This is directly in contradiction to the loquacious voice in me that penned the last faceless entry. That voice is the voice that says, here is no better than there: “Everywhere, man is in chains, but more importantly, in a cage of his own construction.” That voice gives us, as readers, a visceral reaction and awakens within us, a primal desire to feel. However, that voice lacks hope. That voice, ironically, is in chains and still haunted by the fact that everywhere it looks, all it can see is familiar material – building blocks that it collected to entomb and contain. This is why there are few addicts who don’t feel the need to instinctively defend themselves and instinctively blame everyone and everything else. Somewhere in the addiction is safety, a familiar face, a routine that keeps moving things forward, a la Red Queen. Funny isn’t it, how normalcy and a state of addiction are not all that different. Don’t we also desire safety? Don’t we chase everything under the sun that relieves us of our suffering and unhappiness? Don’t we envision a better life for ourselves that is almost identical to that of any random stranger on the street?
When I have money, get that job I want, or marry the right person for me, then, things will be better.
All I want is a house to call my own, enough money to pay my bills on time, and a car that shows others I’m not stuck in the same hell as everyone else, anymore.
It’s all too familiar; this inescapable herd mentality. I’m being excessively reductivist just to make a point.
When I get rid of this disease, I’ll be a better version of me.
That’s what I told myself and super-glued the hope in those words to the skin of my heart, so that there was some faint flickering candlelight at the end of the tunnel that eats all light.
The tunnel was so dark during those years of addiction that I remembered Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave.’ If Einstein is to be believed, then all thanks goes to my high-school AP European History teacher for educating me when I was blind to the overwhelming burn of illumination. In Plato’s allegory, prisoners shackled at the neck and foot see shadows of things being cast on the wall. These shadows are reflections of real things being carried by real people, or peoples themselves, as they pass by a fire that then transforms their images into a fictional simulacrum. This fiction is augmented by the fact that these shackled prisoners also hear sounds these objects make, and contrive a reality for these objects in name and in thought. After all, could they do anything else? If all your life you could only see shadows and could only hear shadows, then isn’t that as real as things can get in your situation? Plato goes on to say (I’m fast-forwarding here, since philosophy quickly puts people to bed – a million dollar idea for inducing sleep!) that if these prisoners are released from their chains, slowly the world in its truest form begins to reveal itself. Soon, the shadows reveal themselves to be fantasy, and that which casts the shadow, revealed to be something more tangible: real. Both fantasy and reality, mind you, are fueled by the same fire. Things just take on a different appearance, one that the human mind separates. I’m sure the voice of the faceless post would interject here to point out that: “Fantasy, reality, it’s all the same thing. It’s just noise.” We like to think that fantasy and reality are mutually exclusive – that is to say that they cannot exist together in the same place – but surely Plato would point out that both the shadows and that which gives the shadows form exist in the cave together, simultaneously. I don’t know who would be more right. The complexity of humanity is such that fantasy melts into reality on a daily basis. We are deluded by the shadows on the wall when shackled, and then look to the shadows (that we have named, as if they were our pets) fondly, with a look of longing and regret. Some of us would happily return to fantasy, because our reality is often bleak and riddled with the bullet holes of the vengeful tax-collector of life. Most of our fantasies are different, yet sadly, constructed from the same pieces – the only pieces – humanity is given to play with. They are different pets because we all love our pets dearly and think they are the most unique souls in the world. They are the same pets, because different breeds of dogs, are still, in the end, dogs. Different Capuchin monkeys, are still, monkeys.
Illumination is just a fire. Enlightenment, is the sun. Plato then asks, what if one of these prisoners, drawn to a light he/she cannot understand, escapes the cave. Then, wouldn’t the sun give tangible form to all things in the world and subdue fantasy like a heavy-handed prison warden? Wouldn’t the newly freed soul then be able to contemplate the light which erases all doubt? Would it be easier to understand the seasons and the new concept of days? Would night reveal more about the world than just the sun was capable of doing? All of a sudden, wouldn’t the man or woman finally understand that light and dark is part of the same coin – both vital and necessary to complete understanding? Fantasy and reality unite, but not really. Would the man or woman understand that the sun illuminates the moon while it casts its shadow upon the Earth? Enlightenment is the light beyond which we cannot see. Hope is very much the same.
Lost in the limitations of the senses we awaken to find hope. When do we discover if our fire is hope or our sun is hope? When do we realize that the world is just a much larger cave? Is it after contemplating all of reality, and all of fantasy? Or is it much sooner?
I’d love to suddenly bear wings and take to flight. My flight would be exactly like that of Icarus’. I’d love to feel the firmament with every cell in my body and drink in the eternal rejuvenation of the light of enlightenment. I would love to hope for the sake of hope. It is the only light I’ve ever known. It is the only sun, I’ve ever had.
“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost
My hope is in a God that could not possibly abandon his weak and infirm creations. We are slowly decaying from the moment we are born. The illusion of biology is in the fact that we grow: some of us, a lot, others, just a little.
My hope is in the paradox of positive and negative: My situation is far, far better than poor sob X. Although the voice of the faceless post is whiny and attention-demanding (ironically), it is based on a mirage that is as real as any oasis could possibly be in reality. There have been so many damned souls in hospital beds next to me, that I was wholeheartedly convinced of my greener pastures. The weeds turned into radiant tulips and the vile muk that invaded the ground, turned into heavenly aloe that I’d willingly bathe in daily. The old man whose wife was slowly killing him; the old man who died just minutes after I dragged my IV pole to pick up his water jug and give him a drink while my sister was in bed waiting for me to return to a show we were watching; the vet who was so horribly treated that the nurses and doctors did not give him any pain medication at all (all because he did not have insurance; not like my top-tier insurance that covered everything); and the addict who endlessly kept the radio on as he turned and turned in tormented sleep and coughed horribly like some baying creature, such that I could not bear it any longer and demanded immediate release the very next morning (against medical advice) – all keep me firmly rooted to the ground. I am no one. I am nothing. My pain is a drop in the ponds of infinite suffering. I am positively blessed, to not be as cursed as the rest of them.
My hope is in change. We chase change like it can fix everything that is wrong with us, all at once. A change of scenery perhaps to fix your depression? A change of women or men perhaps, to fix the gaping hole in your heart? A change of drugs perhaps, to freshen things up and add a bit of pep to the oomph? A mix of uppers and downers you say? “Hmm, intriguing combination, I must try it.” Does going up and coming down, return me to normal? So you get how many men/women in bars as they stare at your perfect abs and arms too large to fit into your shirt sleeves? My hope is in the small steps that change entails. Just like the parhelion phoenix, change takes time and effort. Transformation, is never as easy as it was for Gregor Samsa, but if Metamorphosis was saying anything, it was saying, change, spurs on change. Change, as a tool, is invaluable to transforming slowly, one step at a time. That’s how we look at the sun, look at ourselves, and fix the broken system, and fix ourselves.
Fall, to rise.
My hope is in latent movement. The soul, the heart, the mind, and the body (if you’d like to combine the first three, dealer’s choice) are all capable of movement. You were witness to it when you read the words of the downfallen. You allowed the pitiful voice its agony. You respected its struggle and you reached out to it from within. The body is also capable of movement. If working out makes you feel better who am I to tell you that you are chasing a fantasy that will never be realized? Who am I to tell you that you are deluded into believing that more people will look at you, or see you (whichever you prefer)? The truth is wholly subjective. My truth is entirely wrong. My truth is beyond reproach to me (just kidding). But that’s what the word latent means: not being in a state of use, currently, but with the capability of expressing, fully. I believe in the latent abilities of our species. I have great hope in this latency. Latency, when expressively realized is a marvelous thing to witness, just ask all those nameless soldiers about their art. We are capable of movement. Not in a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of way, but with help and support. Sometimes, oftentimes, we are not strong enough to do it on our own. We know we can, but we don’t believe it until someone else does too – or puts it into words. We rely on each other for movement, just as we rely on the Earth for its gravity and the wind for our flight.
I have great hope in potential. We have the potential to be pillars and posts, foundations and superstructures, just an arm to lean on, or a shoulder to cry on. We can be anything, to anyone, even if it is in our own reality. We can embody hope. We can exude hope. We can be the sericeous leaves that drip the ambrosia of salvation. I don’t know how to save anyone from their torment. I can only pick up a water jug just out of reach. I can only listen to the vet and not speak (for once, haha). I can only stand up for myself, when the affliction of another is just too overwhelming, even as I remain chained in my hospital bed. I can only come to the tragic realization that I cannot help the old man who was being abused by his wife. Because, after all, I am no one. I am nothing. I’m just me. In me is the potential for salvation, but life is never black and white, nor night and day. Life is almost always shades of gray. So I take the pain of my soul in chains and I break the shackles around my neck and feet. I want to see. I want to stare into the light and burn my irises away. I want to see the tragedy of the true forms my fantasies are made out of and slowly chip away with my spoon, the bricks that I’ve carefully laid around me to protect myself from reality – some truth. I want to walk into the light and contemplate the seasons, but then, I want to stare at the sun and I want to see beyond the sun. Plato made the claim that it was not possible, since we are bound to the human body that is limited by the senses. Then how far can my soul escape on Icarus-wings? Would I see the light that exists beyond the only light we know? Would I stare into the darkness and finally see into its eyes as it stares back into me? Demons don’t scare me. The hell that is here on Earth, does. That is why I hope.
I hope because I am no one. I hope because I am every one. I always had the latent potential to illuminate, and bring hope, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to stress the point of this blog: cling to hope and glue it to every fabric of your being. If I am to be devoured by demons or the hell that is here on Earth, I will not be found without hope. I don’t just want to be a fire.
Forgive the garrulous voice that penned this post but…
I want to be the luciferous one: the one who brings light and illuminates.