I remember walking into a coffeehouse on Milwaukee’s East side four years ago and being struck by the haunting beauty of the music I heard. This possessed me to ask the barista if she knew who the singer was, to which she adorably replied: “Me.”
For some reason I thought of this the other day, and I listened to the song, looking up the singer on Facebook as I did. In doing so I discovered she is no longer in Milwaukee – having moved to Brooklyn. I was happy to hear of this, but I was also called to account by it: She’s living her dream, seemingly in love, and I’m in San Diego.
It’s rightly said that comparison is the thief of joy, but comparison can also be a great barometer – a yardstick of your actualization. This may sound counterintuitive but I’m not advocating setting goals or measuring your happiness against another’s; I’m merely advising you to set standards and benchmarks for yourself, of which others can serve as a great motivator for.
I found it duly inspiring Rae moved to Brooklyn, and it made me feel overdue to return to my own mecca, The City of Angels, which I am soon doing. For I absolutely yearn to return to the place I feel most alive, most free – and while the Monopoly of fate has circuitously deposited me back in San Diego multiple times, I’m done not passing “Go” and not collecting my two-hundred dollars.
Little, if anything, could draw me back again.
I’ll be returning to LA a different man, having spent these past seven post-relationhip months engaged in solitary refinement, a phrase I heard John Mayer use.
Within this alchemical chrysalis of solitary refinement I discovered what I wasn’t and who I was; what lie underneath the persona I had unknowingly worn for so long, for the man beneath the mask had emerged, and it became clear I could no longer deny myself – not without the truth stalking me forever.
There was never any looking back after crossing this revelatory threshold for fate itself seemed to be taking me, or rather – leading me – to a destiny I wouldn’t dare attempt evade.
As James Joyce wrote in Ulysses: “Think you’re escaping and you run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
Yes, it’s been a long way round.
Thankfully at thirty I’m still on time – for writing is a man’s, rather than a boy’s game. At present I’m making my way to work on my novels fulltime, leveraging my capitalist brawn and intellectual property as bond, knowing full well that fate holds it for me never to put the pen down.
True: one may succeed in escaping fate for a time, but no destiny or identity is avoidable entirely. At least not without paying for it with your happiness and inner peace.
As Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote: “Character is destiny.” However for most persons, their character is not fully conscious, it’s embattled with the forces of the subconscious, resulting in a destiny that cannot be foreseen or chosen by design. Hence so many people ending up in lives they desired but never really wanted. In the words of Carl Jung, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Diving into this submerged realm of the psyche is where our true power lies; hidden in the shadows we find the ingredients for our personal myths. This is the place where the underlying story of our life takes place.
The demons and dragons of these stories are but our own weaknesses, the things that take possession of us, making us the impotent victims of ourselves.
The adage that the mind is a terrible master but an excellent slave is dearly true, but one can only gain submission over what is conscious, hence the importance of bringing the darkness to light; for what’s unseen is unknown and what’s unknown is wild and uncontrollable, like the urges that lead us to make a mess of our lives, hurting ourselves and others.
For some, life is more simple – for me it is not – but I never wanted a plain, simple life. I was born with a sword, born to yield the light that casts out the shadows: the fears we bump into again and again; the past, all those buried things that haunt like ghosts, invisible yet terrible, their existence an inescapable aberration, condemning us so long as we wander in darkness.
We call these shadowlands fate. To invoke William Earnest Henley’s Invictus: “Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade.”
So how does one enlighten the dark, damning recesses of life; the cannibalizing abyss between the moth and the flame; the place that draws faith to the impossibility of reason?
This abject destination of dimly lit failures no safer than the uncharted reef in the dark: ships wreck on wrecks as dreams die on the graves of old dreams – like their predecessor’s damnation, theirs too lay unseen.
These fearful traps loom over what would be, masking the very light capable of illuminating them; and our secret worry, the unspoken truth of these demonic ghosts, serves as no more than a prayer for what we don’t want to happen, proving us right time and time again by fulfilling the dark prophecies of our fears.
Our only salvation from these nightmarish dead ends the light of ten-thousand suns; the very brightness of a reality that negates its opposite; in a word: hope.
It is in kindling undying hope, in living not a moment without this torch aflame, in fueling the light that shines in the inner citadel of a man’s soul – it is in practicing this religion of abiding faith that the eye of heaven shines on a brighter future than fears or dreams ever hath foreshadowed.