Thursday, August 18, 2011

Outside the Matrix

I started this blog late last year because I was searching for an answer to a very basic question: What is the truth?  Where it's taken me I don't think I could have ever fully predicted, and over the months it has evolved to become a reflection of me and how I see the world.  I think that's good.  When I started blogging, I was deeply afraid to share myself period, let alone broadcast it like this.  I haven't really promoted it, because I've spent most of the past year trying to hone my craft, to the point where reflecting myself in this way became second nature.  I think in a way, I've succeeded, and this post is proof positive.  All of this began with a few Facebook statuses, and over the years since I started that, all this has completely taken on a life of its own.  Everything I've posted here thus far has been completely true, but what I haven't shown is how it's affected all of me.  I think I really stand right now on the threshold between what I'd been working towards and something else, and so I want this post to do two things.  First, I want to fill in all the details of what I haven't shown over the past few months, and hopefully put this all into context.  Second, I want to use this post as a bridge to newer and bigger things I have planned for the blog in the future.  So, with that in mind, here goes.

I had, for most of my life, had a real problem with articulation.  Anyone knows me knows how verbal I am, so this may come as a surprise.  I've written something like eleven novel manuscripts in my life, but really they were all about only one thing.  Every work, whether it was The Academy, or any of my other long-running ideas and series (such as Emma's story, or AK's) were all attempts at articulating the same idea, one that has been with me for as long as I can remember.  They are all about freedom.

The word freedom is bandied about a lot these days, and in the past on this blog I've used the concept of the simulated world in the movie The Matrix as a metaphor for my own particular interpretation of the word.  Searching for it, I believe, is one of the most basic efforts of all life.  By now I hope that my struggles to control and manage my mental illness have been made clear what this means to me, at least on a functional level.  Just like in the movie, freedom to me is the awareness that everything around me--everything I feel, everything I think and do and see and experience is in some way an illusion, and that my craving and my clinging for that which is neither permanent nor in reality what I imagine it to be.  It's not even a state of mind: that would imply that I had somewhere to go, existentially, in order to get it.  The only path to freedom in that sense I ever found was acceptance--acceptance of the way things are right now, without trying to change anything.  Life is suffering, and then we get sick and die in the end for our efforts.  But acceptance doesn't have to and shouldn't be an ending.  That's resignation, and resignation is garbage.  Acceptance--true acceptance--is a beginning.

Two Thursdays ago, I walked out to my secret beach, at an undisclosed location in the greater Portsmouth area, determined that I was going to accept something about myself that I had been striving towards for the better part of a year.  I had a problem with validation.  There were many reasons, some of which I'll eventually touch on on this blog, and some of which are largely irrelevant at this point.  As I've come to understand, the reason why something is the way it is in my head is less important than how it works, at least as far as undoing it is concerned.  I couldn't be happy on my own.  I'm hard on myself--even still now too hard--and I have unrealistic expectations of what I can do and how quickly I can get it done.  I used to imagine an audience--mercurial, always just out of reach of the light--laughing at me, talking about me like I was a giant fraud, rejecting me.  At certain points in my life that audience may have been real, but not anymore.  I think that audience turned out to be as much a reflection in the mirror as anything else.  I feel extremely self-conscious about these things, which is why in the real heat of these moments I always try to make them public--on Twitter, which is linked to my Facebook account, which is a real and powerful tool to seek validation.  It was that self-consciousness that was the problem, and by publicly admitting it, I faced the fear and it no longer held any power over me.  It was a realization as profound as the experience was grueling.  Because of it, I have now come to the following conclusion, which holds larger implications than just my own personal betterment.

We think our problems are external to us.  If only we were rich.  If only we had that new pair of designer jeans.  If only we went on vacation.  If only our boss weren't so mean.  If only other people weren't so rude.  If only we could not be hurt.  If only our loved ones would change.  We crave.  And what we have doesn't last.  Relationships end.  Friends move away.  Elation turns right back to normalcy and habit again.  We cling.  We can't see it for what it is, because we're right down there in the cycle of it all and we don't know anything else.  But the problem is not our bosses or our loved ones, or liberals or conservatives to put this in a political context.  The problem is our craving and our clinging.  It's not the people we're fighting, it's the fighting itself.  This is what I've learned.  Now that I can see it for what it is, I feel to some extent freed from it.  Not totally, mind you.  But closer than I have in a long time.  My imaginary audience went away.  I stopped craving validation because I stopped needing it.  As the Third Noble Truth of Buddhism says: eliminate the craving, eliminate the suffering.  I didn't truly understand it until that night on the beach, but I think I do now.

All of the people I've written about thus far are real, and all have helped me reach this conclusion in their own way.  This is the end of one chapter in my life and the beginning of a new one, and thus the end of one phase of this story and a new beginning.  What I'm going to get into next is both more difficult and more complicated, and I have every intention of giving every nuance and detail its fair dues.  Writing this has been tremendously helpful, and I hope it will continue to do so.  If I understand freedom now, at least what it means to me, all the better.  If I don't--well, at least I know a good way of seeking it out.

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