Sunday, September 02, 2007

Collage: Blurring the Line Between Memory and Nightmare, V

[NOTE: It might be useful to see parts I, II, III, and IV before reading this post, but it's not essential.]

* * * * *

So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.

What manner of life do we desire? How do I wish to spend my limited days in this flesh? Having reached mid-life, I have grown weary of looking back, even though I see the need of it so that I may walk forward carrying less weight, less grief, less pain.

These are the ravens of my soul,
Sloping above the lonely fields
And cawing, cawing.
I have released them now,
And sent them wavering down the sky,
Learning the slow witchery of the wind,
And crying on the farthest fences of the world.

I came to the desert to do my metaphorical 40 days and 40 nights of wandering -- an initiation. More than five years later, the searing heat has burned away many memories and left me more whole that when I first set foot on this foreign soil.

But the process is not yet complete. It's time to stop wandering.

Following the separation and the initiation, there must be the return.

* * * * *

It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and—what will perhaps make you wonder more—it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.

We are all dying. Year after year, day after day, moment by moment, we inch closer to our final breath. Are you ready for the next adventure, the mystery of what comes next?

One night when I was only 25 years old, I saw my death mask. I was in a sensory deprivation tank, listening to shamanic drumming, doing holotropic breathwork, and then it came, the face of my death. I was terrified. It took me more than an hour to get grounded again with the help of my housemate, a massage therapist.

For days I was obsessed with my death, with the eventual end of this life. I could smell the decay of my flesh, hear the diminishing of my heartbeat, see the lifeforce draining from my body. I did not want to die. I still had no idea who I was or why I was put on this earth.

* * * * *

Our pain teaches us the beauty of our lives. Without pain, we are nothing. Lost. In our greatest weaknesses are to be found our greatest strengths. My greatest weakness is loss.

All the women I have loved have left me. But all of them found some healing in being with me. Why is that? Why should my loss heal others? What is it about me that can heal the pain of those I love?

I don't know. But I do know that it is not about me. It is not something I do. Perhaps in my own loss I have learned to create a safe space for those I love to heal from their losses. It is not about me.

There is some alchemy in all this. A distillation of essences. In the glaring light of love, the nigredo can be purified.

Death comes for us all, one way or another. Every loss we suffer prepares us for that final loss, the last breath.

* * * * *

These are the ravens of my soul.
On wings of love they fly
to the distant corners of the world.

Is it possible that a man be born of Raven blood? Can the mythic have any hold in a world of reason? I know I am not born of the man who was my father. I am not of his flesh, nor the flesh of my mother. My DNA is something other, not of this life.

I know who I am. From where I came. Whether or not reason can accept this truth it irrelevant.

* * * * *

Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness. Silent it will glide on; it will not prolong itself at the command of a king, or at the applause of the populace. Just as it was started on its first day, so it will run; nowhere will it turn aside, nowhere will it delay. And what will be the result? You have been engrossed, life hastens by; meanwhile death will be at hand, for which, willy nilly, you must find leisure.

I do not believe in fate. I do not believe I chose this life prior to my birth. I believe in free will, however naive that may be.

We pretend death will never come for us. We live as though we have forever, but there is not enough time for such a life. At any moment, this could be our last breath.

These are the ravens of my soul,
a life spent in service of others,
each breath in service of this need.

I don't know how many days are left to me, but I will not waste another day in loss, in pain, in memory of the past. This is my life, my passion, my gift.

* * * * *

Over the years I have become intimate with pain, with loss. These feelings have informed the purpose of my life until now. Their flames have consumed me. But I am not this pain, nor this loss. I am more.

Someplace deep within me is a reserve of strength,
some power beyond this flesh -- the wings of ravens.

I do not believe in fate, but I do believe in choice, and I have chosen to live a life of service.

I want to be of service to my fellow human beings until the last breath leaves my lungs.

The end.

* * * * *

Credits, in order of appearance:
1. Seneca, "On the Shortness of Life"
2. William Everson, "These Are the Ravens"
3. Alex Grey, "Holy Fire"
4. Seneca
5. Graveyard of Dunfermline Abbey
6. Tool, "Eulogy" live
7. Grief
8. Seneca
9. Alex Grey, "Reaching"

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