Cabinet of mirrors (or “the weeks of karma”)

This is just a short motivational / intention note.

With the renewed travel restrictions in Europe, it seems like I’ll be stuck in the big city for the next period. This wasn’t my preferred choice, I’d already had too much of it in the spring lockdown period, and escaped in summer as much as possible – hoping to retreat to a nature place in autumn. Since any travel seems complex at the moment, one possible way to value this time is to catch up on writing and chronicling things that I’ve been to busy to chronicle in the last months.

A lot has changed, multiple times – the orientation of my writing, thinking, valuations of things. I’ve also become aware that this blog has become less anonymous than it had initially been, which has discouraged me somewhat from writing (as it’s hard to do that while evading any personal references) and made me wonder about starting a new anonymous one: but then, in the last months I’ve also had my private struggles around withstanding “what people think” and come to the conclusion that I can’t afford bothering that much (while certainly some people say I do not by far bother enough :D). I can’t afford to bother who judges my choices, views or attitudes, and I can’t bother to be scared of people getting angry at me. It’s kind of impractical and gets in the way of everything.

Plus, on a more realistic note, I sincerely doubt most folks who now link the “real-life” me with this blog would get bored enough to read this 😀 So here is to the anonymous internet readers.

* * *

A great deal of shifts this summer were actually of an interpersonal nature. A great deal of reflections, I don’t know how to write about without making references potentially legible to folks who know me. I don’t want anyone to find a twisted version of their story and views published on the internet (here); so I guess I’ll have to do the tiptoe dance of generalising and abstracting. And (how convenient!) making this about me.

I’ve jocularly called the last weeks “the weeks of karma”, as I had repeated chances to witness multiple “historical” role-reversals: I came to do what X had done to me years earlier that I had judged X very heavily for; then I found someone (Y) who courteously did to me what I’d done to X (just to clarify the whole story to me); Y also conveniently implemented some highly annoying habits that (as was revealed to me) I’ve been falling into lately, to the torment of Z. Z also, by the way, reminds me of me years earlier, especially how I behaved towards A – it’s a bit like Z is feeding me some of the same medicine (and I’m of course judging Z; Z is older than me and at least I’ve learnt! (irony)).

Ah, and then unrelated-ly, B suddenly plunged into an abyss that looks (a bit) perhaps like me 20 years ago. Sure, I certainly still plunge into the abyss, and Z perhaps thinks it looks the same as B’s, but heck no – B looks helpless and like they kind of have little clue how to navigate the Underworld (though I may be wrong and underestimating here, but that’s my projection on the situation); in fact, they seem to barricade themselves against having to do it in the first place (good luck with that!). Compared to that, I feel like a seasoned sailor (though technically I’m still a baby, and again, I may not at all appreciate B – maybe this is just my own need to re-play my old story from another perspective). Still, while I (somewhat delusionally) perceive myself to be somewhat more competent at finding ways out of the Underworld when I want to and have to – I’ve just learnt what a punch in the gut it is to look on to someone who doesn’t seem to (yet). Whether the incompetence / helplessness is just my fantasy (it’s a competent person), doesn’t matter: the personal “lesson” for me here is what it’s like to be exposed to the scene and 1) not having a good concept how to help (because the person seems to have different responses from me) 2) how hard it is to actually help (unless the person happens to be so similar that I can just do what would work for me) … concomitantly, how much I’ve expected from “bystanders” of my own “trips”.

I’ve certainly (in the end, and in the middle) found people who helped me, because they were adept at traveling these paths. One of the most burdening “trauma” impressions I’ve been carrying over the years, though, had been the failure of various very close people to help me in any way when I was at similar junctures. In my perceptions, they didn’t even try and just ignored the problem. I’ve spent time resenting them for that, hating them for it, unable to integrate this. My own failure to help (although at least the trying is there, but then purportedly it was there in the other case too) … well, obviously doesn’t help the person concerned, but perhaps actually helps me: I learn that you don’t have to be an evil and cold scoundrel to fail at this; you don’t have to be indifferent to the person or inhuman. People could have done better, but by now I really know incomparably more than they did about the topic, and I can still fail – that’s a good grounding experience.

This also makes me think of Malidoma Somé’s autobiography (also read this summer to fairly fundamental effect), specifically a short comment somewhere in the passages on ritual initiations in his tribe (the Dagara of West Africa): maybe something to make the subject of a longer, separate reflection. I won’t look it up now, but what I remember from the comment is to the effect that while his tribal community sticks very tightly together and community support is provided in various matters practical, emotional and spiritual – there is also a “harder” side of it, a definite limit to how much one person can help another, which becomes especially apparent in initiatory experiences. It’s unhealthy / impossible to provide support and help beyond a certain limit (even if that may not be enough to help the person pass through the initiatory experience), as that would imprison both the giver and the receiver; even in this highly communitarian tribal society there is a strong notion of such an unhealthy “bond” or “being bound up”.

It comes to mind because I loosely interpret what I’m witnessing as an initiatory experience. Because that’s how I interpret my own (analogous-looking) experience, looking back – it took too long, but to some degree it did what it was supposed to do (to lead me back to the inner centre, or to remembering who I am if I want to phrase it in the terms of that book on indigenous culture; and make me face that the other supports don’t hold anymore … they’ve been to some degree burnt up).

* * * [here interruption enters]

So … it seems looks there’s been an exceptionally high concentration of this cabinet-of-mirrors feeling lately – various role-reversals that make me both (perhaps) more clued-in about the true(r) nature about some past events (and some repeating events), and that … that’s harder to describe … perhaps also update me a bit on the “nature of the self” – I’ve incidentally been listening to Charles Eisenstein lately, so this comes in contextually – I’ve certainly been familiar with the view of the self as a node in Indra’s web: confluence of factors, nodule of experience, relational, and also multifaceted and multidimensional across time: and this accumulation of situations gives me this kind of feeling or visual, like seeing so many situations from “both sides”, “inside” and “outside” when looking back over so many years: what’s more “self” – when I was on this side or that? The earlier, or the later? The “me” or the “you”?

It’s a bit like a diamond of reflecting faces, reflecting things: is there really both more unity/universality and situationality (the situation brings out aspects of self, that are not as uniquely “self” as thought? because they repeat here, here, and there) in human experience than I’ve previously noticed?

(If you are into this, you might enjoy Charles’ provocative/provoking essay on Evil and situationism here. I don’t agree with anything specific, think it’s a good ambiguous read [#trigger warning, he briefly but graphically mentions violence incl. sexualised at one point]. More brightly, I think his whole “interbeing” concept is on my mind, which links up with this motive nicely.)

The motive being the traveling of experiences, actions, judgments, valuations, reactions across time and across persons, almost as if (Charles’ point) we all really harboured the full microcosm of potentialities and faces. It’s a nice theory, but it’s kind of intriguing when such a nexus of verification occurs – when someone else seems to be the old you, and you realise you are someone else, and logically conclude that this “someone else” can’t be the “essence” / real thing / privileged vantage point either.

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