Light the Fire

It was time for Faerieworlds again. I look forward to this every year. In 2015 I was at a peak. It had been a good year. I’d gone to see Shakespeare. Been to the Oregon Country Fair. Seen Yngwie Malmsteen in concert. Was dating around with some beautiful women (both inside and out). I was in shape, transitioning from marathons to CrossFit and Spartan races. I had had a setback financially in February with taxes taken out (wrongly) twice by the IRS. But it was still something that I had managed to overcome, mostly.

Faerieworlds that year I saw Wardruna for the first time. I was already a fan of their music, but seeing them live was a religious experience.

Shorty after Faerieworlds, I met my first ex, one of two. These are the only two that I call my “ex”, as most of the others I’ve dated are my friends. The next six months were tumultuous. I don’t wish to rehash the tired, worn record of that. The riverbed of memory has dried without flood and trees are growing. The important thing for me is that what lingers from that carried into the next ex, two of two.

Faerieworlds in 2016 was a needed close to the summer. I was transitioning. Letting go. I drew some tarot cards (the Four of Bows, The Sun, and the Wheel). I took these to mean to truly celebrate the festival. I did. I made out with women. I talked to strangers. I drank heavily. I danced. And on the night of seeing Wardruna, I met my next ex. What followed were a few months of tumult of which it does no good to repeat here. Again, the important thing here is what I carried forward, which will be made clear.

The last year has been interesting. I’ve healed from my injury and have gained strength in heavy lifts. My long endurance has suffered, as I’ve stopped running 12-60 miles a month. I’ve dabbled a little with dating, but have quickly egressed. If there is the smallest hint of emotional intimacy, a gravity like a star that pulls me in, I am slingshotted away much like the starship Enterprise in The Voyage Home when it flew past the sun and slingshot into time. It is a paradox of intimacy. The more the chance, the more the isolation.

I was dining with two colleagues at a restaurant in Bend, and was explaining some philosophy of Nietzsche and Existentialism, and the role of purpose, how it might be constructed, and what it meant, and Fate. One of them asked me if I had this (which will be explained later here). Turning my mind inward, I saw a black space. Where once there was a flame, now there was nothing. I had no purpose.

This has been in the back of my mind for months now. What drove it away? Was it truly dispatched by two failed relationships? Such belief in the past experience with two people, drains away trust in one’s rudder, or that inner spark, so easily blown out by the chaotic winds of two women. Or was it? Navigating the dark labyrinth, up turns down, and left is right. Reason and logic fall away in the dark. I am reminded of the sword in the tarot cards, they are two-edged, the dual nature of thoughts, logic. It is known that a sophist can reason toward any conclusion. I’ve played many a game with people, toying with their own convictions (which most people seem to not have thought too terribly deeply about) finding it easy enough to arrive at contradictions. The Socratic Method can be an aggravation. But for the method that turns its attention inward, fueled by uncertainty and fear, the sword still cuts. It is easy for one to convince one’s self of the worst about their heart, character, and worth.

This year I went to Faerieworlds again. I rushed to set up my tent and made it just in time for the opening spiral dance. Afterward, I went back up to my tent, hidden on a hillside, behind a tree, a recluse, and drew a single rune.

Othala

This is a rune that my ex has tattooed on her. It is the rune of tradition, among other things. But among the many meanings of it, the boundaries between Innangarthand and Utangarth, but also of protection of kith and kin. I am reminded of Frost’s poem “Fences” where good fences make good neighbors. Loyalty to one’s family is important. That I felt betrayed by my ex, who placed such importance on these ideals, is ironic. Another thing to consider is that this is the rune of Odin. While we commonly think of Loki as the trickster, I wonder if he is less so than Odin. Loki is known for what he is. He is chaos. He is cosmic radiation throwing in mutation into the cells of organisms. But Odin sees further, knows more, and has a plan. Odin can act directly, or get others to do so either through outright power and authority, or sly manipulation. Odin, like Hermes, crosses boundaries (many of the gods will take a disguise). There is a time to rest within one’s boundaries, and a time to venture into the wilds. Shamans and witches often will make their homes on the outskirts of the village, touching the fringes of the wildness that surrounds. They are the conduit, the gate, between the two.

Still, as one author writes, this rune relates to the human need both for personal space and for a community to which to belong. I had read this when I drew the rune, but it didn’t become clear until I got back home and looked at it again. Over the weekend I would be trapped in this boundary.

Then I drew a single tarot card from The Wild Unknown deck, asking what would be today’s theme.

The Death Card

This card needs no introduction and it was a relief to see it. I was wanting just this sort of sign, the end of one phase, the transition to a new one. I was also reading tonight how there are three phases that are all similar, death, sleep, and forgetting. The card warned of suffering in the transition. No worries there. Been there done that. Bring on the rot so that germination could begin. Still, even so, I found myself walking by the space that my ex had camped at the year prior. I didn’t know if I’d hope to see her or not. I didn’t know if I wanted to see her to test if I had moved on, or out of anger, or desire, or all of the above. Time to move the fuck on.

That night I watched some amazing musical acts. I did not hang out much at the bars as I was very low on cash, having dropped a couple grand on car repairs a few hours earlier.

The next day, when I awoke, I drew a single tarot card.

Wheel of Fortune

Fate, destiny, change of course. This is in keeping with the beginning of the post. For what I was specifically talking to my colleagues about in Bend months earlier was Nietzsche’s notion of The Eternal Recurrence, that is we assume that everything we do, we’ve done before, that we’re in an eternal wheel of Fate, endlessly repeating our existence as we are. That we should learn to love our fate. This the black void. I currently do not love my fate. Though, I don’t hate it either. I am indifferent to it. Animosity is not a conducive to growth.

Last year I drew the Wheel of Fortune as well. There is a significance here that is not readily clear to me. For it to make sense as I’d wish it to be, this card would’ve appeared before the Death card. As though symbolizing that I’d been on this train long enough and time to get off. However, looking back at the weekend now, that first night I was a wandering recluse. I stayed in my bubble of safety. I watched shows, but I didn’t engage with people. If I did engage with artists afterward, it felt forced, ill-at-ease.

I also drew a rune.

Mannaz

This is a rune that has, several times in the past, been a mystery to me. Strange. It is the rune of humankind or the archetypal man, or that which makes us human. All these are areas of my study. I wish to learn what makes us human. Nothing human is alien to me. And yet the rune rings like an empty, tin sound in a deep recesses.

Later that night, after all the shows had ended, I had gone to one of the taverns for some beer. I wanted to be around people. After midnight, the village pub fills up with groups of people for the after hours party. And yet I sat in the corner, reading a book on Plato. Near me three guitarists, an accordion player, a percussionist, and a strange single string instrument player, all struck up a raucous song that wasn’t quite together (they were all individuals playing an ad hoc melody). They were less than three feet from me. The platform we were all on shook with their stomping in rhythm, their voices loud. I continued to read. One lady, before she left, leaned over and said she admired my love of literature and my ability to read with all the ruckus around me. Strangely, it was easier to concentrate than when in a quiet room at times.

Reading the book, some themes came out. That we are thinking animals, that we should not just think about things but live them, echoing the Greek idea that philosophy is the process of learning how best to live. Only the life that is examined is worth living (Plato), that is if we do so well, for in that examination we learn what is beautiful, true, and good, and what benefits the soul.

After a few beers I got up and quietly walked to my tent and slept.

The next morning I drifted in and out of sleep, listening to the sounds of couple of scrub jays as they squawked and harassed what sounded like a northern flicker or pileated woodpecker. I was half asleep and not keen on identifying the bird. They flew around my campsite and above it, two birds harassing a third. Or perhaps it was two species harassing something else (a snake getting a meal? An owl?)

I packed my campsite up and readied myself for the last day of the festival. I normally camp until Monday morning, yet I had to deliver training early the next day and couldn’t afford the luxury of staying all day and night. Plus I was short on funds.

I drew a rune.

Mannaz

Again I drew this rune. It has come up a few times over the summer. It came up for me the day prior. And on this last day it came up again. I was being told to pay attention.

During the day, while waiting for the shows to begin, I wandered around. I struck up a conversation with a woman that I told was bubbly. Though not in a ditzy kind of way, but in a refreshing stream sort of way. Like a cool brook one finds in a forest. She emitted joy and happiness. She easily smiled and gave love to everyone that came around. We had a nice conversation and such human closeness was intoxicating. Still, I was not at ease. I know there are many shades of attraction. There is attraction for physical beauty, for movement and grace, for intellectual clarity, for force of will and power, for steadfastness of convictions, for warmth and love, for poetic truth in one’s own (more on this later). Seeing excellence of virtue manifest in someone is highly alluring. Such has been my fear that any attraction, most of which do not mean a love interest or relationship in any capacity, has had the effect of causing me to pause. Where times in the past when I met someone that was amazing in some capacity and I’ve sought to simply know them, to add them to my list of friends, now I was not doing so. I was guarded. Any and all attraction was cast in doubt.

It is easy to understand why. My past two exes have caused me to cast great suspicion upon my ability to determine character in a person. I greatly overestimated the safety of intimacy with both individuals. Both were not, in the end, trustworthy. And yet both I gave my most trust to. Therefore my ability to truly trust has been cut down to the roots. In the spell of allure, the draw of attraction toward both of them, I was blind to the thorns and poisons of their flower. Now, every flower is assumed poisonous.

During the day it was quite hot and I went to a pub to have a beer. I continued to read Plato. I cannot recall the quote or space in the book (I thought I had highlighted it) but I came upon a phrase meaning that while humans are thinking animals, and it is often thought that is understood to be the defining characteristic, the hallmark of this is when we learn to live together with other people. For the past few weeks and months I’ve been resigning myself to become a hermit. Visions of being an old man, alone with my stacks of books, have perpetuated themselves across my mind daily. And yet the entire weekend I was a Faerieworlds, I was constantly struck with the realization of how incredibly lonely I was. I have friends, I am indeed fortunate in that regard. Yet I do not see them. I don’t spend time with them. I have a wonderful family. Yet I don’t go to see them either. Each beautiful woman that I saw, I noticed a part of me looked in interest, wondering if she was someone that would see me for who and what I was, and someone who I could be myself with. Merely typing that sentence out right now nearly makes my skin crawl. I can literally feel my chest tighten up, readying itself for the blow that is to come.

Mannaz is telling me something.

I drew the last tarot card of the weekend.

Seven of Wands

In The Wild Unknown tarot, she says that wands indicated the situation resides mostly in the mind, not the external world. It, being the suit of the element of fire, connects it with drive, goals, ambition, creativity, inspiration.

For The Wild Unknown it is the card of courage and inner strength. The gorgeous book that accompanies the deck (it is one of the most well produced books I’ve seen. Beautiful through and through) it states You’ll not find any strength of support from others, only yourself. It’s time to be truly courageous and stand up for your beliefs. You may feel overwhelmed with caution and fear, but your internal fire will guide the way. Contrast this with the rune that I drew, Mannaz.

When I came home and was reading Spiritual Tarot the next night, it said this: The Seven of Wands also points to a tendency to become defensive in situations or relationships wherein we feel we have to prove ourselves. That sentence encapsulated my relationship with my first ex. I was always, always, always defending myself. I had even been accused of harboring the darkest of desires and motives. She wouldn’t outright say it, she was too good, but she could dance around the accusation. My next relationship wasn’t any easier. I was constantly defending myself. Apologizing. Explaining myself for mistakes I did make, or ones that I didn’t.

What immediately struck me about this card was it’s insistence on personal courage and inner strength. When I first read that, I laughed. What inner strength, I asked myself. I’d see someone of interest, a flashing thought of “what if” cross my mind, and I would see immediately the thought of “I have nothing to offer”. This had the effect of my never making contact with others. While this thought pattern relates directly to potential for a relationship with someone, it also had the secondary effects of limiting any friendship with someone. I couldn’t bring myself to introduce myself to an amazing person simply to create a friendship.

Several times, in the breakup and back together, breakup and back together, cycle with my second ex, I was crushed and weak. In such a state of weakness, filled with disgust for myself, I would take off my hammer around my neck, feeling that I didn’t deserve to wear it. I only saw weakness. I hated it. I had forgotten something I said to my first ex a year earlier when we were just starting out. She had expressed hesitance in starting with me, though she wanted to, afraid of the hurt she’d cause. (Still, after all this time, I don’t believe she is evil. Only so deeply scarred that she is truly blind to the damage she does). At the time I was at my peak, practicing a host of strength-based endeavors (training, meditation, nutrition). I told her that I didn’t want a life of average. I wanted amazing. This meant with love as well. I only know one way to love. Either love or don’t. If I love, it is all the way. I told her that she wouldn’t kill me. That I’d hurt, but that I’d get over it eventually. I had faith in my inner fire. This was tested with the next relationship. Was it too soon? Was there good had in either relationship? Did I learn anything? I learned that I really did want kids. To go that deep into something I had not dared to hope for, bring it to light, and lose it.

I’m wallowing. No use in that. Back to this card. It reminds me of something I saw in myself often as I wandered about the fair. Two women, particularly, stand out as highly alluring. The first was mentioned above. The other was a singer, a song writer, and channeled the very definition of woman outward. Dark and mysterious, weaving enchantment with her fingers, her voice haunting, strong in herself. If the other woman I met was like a babbling brook in a lush forest, this woman was like a deep well under a full moon. And I wanted to plunge into those depths.

But there is the danger. Reading in Jung recently I came across the notion of losing consciousness when venturing into the underworld. There is much more to say here, but while it is easy to lose one’s self in such a state, the Anima is a guide toward individuation. But for the blind, the Unconscious Mother aspect can be mistaken for the Anima. I do not mean a Freudian Oedipal complex here. This is Jung. There is a lulling safety in the return to the unconscious state that is found here. The self is lost.

This, of course, reminds me of recently read portions of a Jungian book on complexes and archetypes.

This is the unconscious realm where we are not differentiated from the patterns of instinct, the movements of complexes and archetypes. We run on autopilot. The same can be said for me as I wandered about the festival, gravitating toward and away from things. Sitting alone, reading my book, watching the music.

In Spiritual Tarot, it says that the Seven of Wands is a card of fighting self awareness and change. The author writes that in some decks it shows the person holding the card in defense as if saying “I will not open my heart to this. I am not ready.” It also says the shadow side of the Seven of Wands includes; giving in to the wishes of others against our better judgment; being wishy-washy in stating our position; been unwilling to reassess our position; not standing up for what we believe in; taking on more than we can handle. It asks we consider whether we are acting from a position of strength or defensiveness. And also to take some small action. This builds momentum. Also to evaluate present position in terms of original purpose. Does it still benefit? Is it still necessary to maintain a protective stance?

That smacks me right in the face. I have been quite wishy-washy. I’ve not stated my positions clearly with others. Hurting other people has been something I am loathe to do, and generally I’d rather inflict harm on myself. This is how I’ve been open to manipulation, control, and an assload of hurt.

This post seems quite dire. But in truth the past Spring and Summer, I’ve plugged back into strengths-based activities. I’m stronger than last year. I’ve restarted a variety of habits for myself. I’ve intentionally went out with friends from my gym, or on a few dates. I’ve had sex a few times, though half the time I was disconnected and it couldn’t have been enjoyable for the other party. But I can smell North on the wind. I hear it between the trees. And even though it may seem that I’m lost, I know that I’ll find it. Process, not product. Trust in the day to day. Trust in the habits themselves. I’m not dead yet. Continue to light the fire.

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