Pain is the best teacher. So why do we spend so much energy trying to escape it, repress it, bury it in the dark recesses of our psyches? Without pain, how could we ever know pleasure?
Our pain is so rooted in our lopsided view of reality. Who ever got the idea that we could have pleasure without pain? It's promoted rather widely in this world, and we buy it. But pain and pleasure go together; they are inseparable.
Sophia is the face of my soul, the woman who lives inside this body, the energy that animates this flesh. Her wings carry me above myself.
She alone, among my many selves, embraces pain, courts it, seduces it as a lover.
It burns her wings. Grounds her in the flesh of this world.
Pain is masculine is so many ways, but the experience of it depends on the feminine within me.
So many parts of me are broken. Especially the part that loves, or not so much broken, as wounded, betrayed, left wandering in the wilderness of doubt.
this is the first day of my last days
i built it up now i take it apart climbed up real high now fall down real far
no need for me to stay the last thing left i just threw it away
i put my faith in god and my trust in you
now there's nothing more fucked up i could do
wish there was something real wish there was something true
wish there was something real in this world full of you
i'm the one without a soul i'm the one with this big fucking hole
Once upon a time, on a hot summer morning in Louisville, I became a raven. I was 26 years old. That day changed my life forever. I finally knew who I was, where I had come from, what I had to do. Nothing has ever been the same since.
I left the woman I loved a few days later.
With wings carried by the wind, I flew over ocean to a land offshore, far from anything I had ever known in this life. I felt the freedom that I was born to know. The ocean was so far below me as my wings carried me through the clear sky.
With this new form came a new understanding, a new awareness, a new sense of what my life could be. I knew in that moment that suffering is not my true nature. I knew that I could be anything I set my mind to becoming. I knew that love is the true essence of my life.
But visions must be reconciled with reality. I have spent the last 14 years trying to embody that vision, trying to earn that awareness.
One night in college, after drinking most of a half gallon of red wine, I realized that pain is inescapable. I decided to carry that realization in my flesh.
I took the stainless steel cross that was given me upon my confirmation, held it in a candle flame until it glowed red, then placed it on the soft flesh of my inner forearm. I left it there until the room wreaked with the scent of burning flesh.
I still carry that scar. A reminder that the body is mortal.
in this flesh I am lost,
wings misplaced in my birth
I once dreamed I killed the Raven of my soul:
A thing held too tightly dissolves,
as in a magician's trick,
the one where a raven vanishes
through some slight of hand
and there is only the absence of the raven.
It's like that, only different.
The raven doesn't really vanish, it dies,
its neck snapped by fingers
clenched, struggling against
the ethereal power of wings.
But magicians don't use ravens,
so it's not like that at all.
The raven struggles, its wings
attempting the defiance of weight
the earthbound can only envy.
But the fingers hold, and they are my hands
killing the messenger, the bird
I once trusted to reveal my soul.
The snapped neck, a hush over all things,
no awareness, no applause, no magic.
Maybe it is like that. We kill that which we cannot bear to witness, to own, to hold as who we are.
When I was a boy, I used to climb trees to be closer to my brothers. I sat among the highest limbs, cradled in the branches of pines, feeling the freedom of being closer to sky.
One day, the wind shook me from those branches, dropped me limb to limb until I hit the ground.
I knew that day that I dare not breach the order of things. I knew I was mortal and subject to the laws of gravity, of mortality, of the flesh.
So many days spent avoiding the awareness of pain. That which is inescapable. But no more. I am pain, I am the seeking of pain as a teacher. If I am ever to know pleasure again, I must befriend the pain I have sought so long to avoid.
To be continued.
Sources, in order of appearance:
1. Pema Chodron, Comfortable With Uncertainty, pg. 94
2. "Fallen," Jason Beam
3. "Broken," Nine Inch Nails, the whole album
4. "Wish," Nine Inch Nails
5. Raven Mandala, Nathalie Parenteau
6. "The Magician," William Harryman
7. Golden Trees