Legacy

I often wonder, will I have a lasting legacy?  And if I do, will I be regarded as anything other than a harmless kook who wrote a few obscure cult novels that only passed for a pale imitation of other people’s work?

 

I often ask myself, what have I really done with my life, besides put out a few so-so novels that only a handful of people have read?  Has anything I’ve done really changed the world for the better?  Who am I?  What impact does my existence really have?

In my present life I feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness.  Except I don’t feel like I’m crying out anything important.  I feel like I’m wailing inarticulately.  Screaming into empty rooms.  And what can come next from here but obscurity, death, and a rebirth with a vague notion that I had lived before as a writer whose work I can’t track down because no copies of it survive?

I have all these grand dreams of hacking Samsara and eventually escaping- and helping others escape- to the light by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in literature across lifetimes.  I wrote a whole damned novel about it.  I want to save myself and by extension save others.  But will it ever actually pan out?

All I ever get from the I Ching is “keep trying.”  “Expect minor obstacles and minor successes.” “Just use your better judgment.”  I even got one hexagram that- I swear to you- was the equivalent of the Magic 8 Ball saying “Reply hazy. Try again.”  I could get as much from my father, who thankfully puts up with my eccentricity (I count my blessings to have such a father in this life).  It’s not that the oracle hasn’t given me clear readings about anything either; but when it comes to where my legacy will fall, it would seem fate is undecided and I’m going to have to yell into many empty rooms if I ever want to be heard.

On The Anxious Personality

I sometimes wonder if what we call anxiety isn’t basically a low-grade psychosis.

To put it in relative terms, if the psychotic lives with their nightmares, the anxious live right next door to them.  I’m fairly certain that every thing an anxious person experiences is basically some lesser degree of what a psychotic person experiences.

As for irrational thoughts and paranoid ideations, the psychotic believe them fully; the anxious constantly swat them away, like aggressive flies.  Both are plagued by them to some extent.  The anxious, like the psychotic, often has to rely on trusted friends or mental health workers to help them sort out the truth about their fears sometimes.  Finding out that one’s worst fears are true, I find, is both a relief and a burden.  The anxious personality is a natural Cassandra because we can often put two and two together in ways that “healthy” people can’t.

There are hallucinations too. If you’ve ever dealt with extreme health anxiety you know that phantom aches and pains are a constant problem.  The physical sensations often have no discernible cause whatsoever, but are so real they can literally drop you.

Disorganized thinking is less of a hallmark in anxiety, but it’s there. Try doing anything that requires concentration when you’re biting your nails with existential dread.

Oh, and depersonalizing/derealizing? Nothing will make you think you’re losing your mind faster than that when you don’t know what it is.

Then when you get into severe anxiety disorders, like PTSD, it’s so chaotic that it can wreck you almost as bad as schizophrenia.  Try reliving the worst things that ever happened to you while being told by well-meaning but naive friends to “try not to think about it.”  Meanwhile that movie of the abuse you were put through 20 years before keeps replaying every time someone acts like your abuser.

It really makes you think of mental illness differently when you see that so much of the difference between conditions is degrees of awfulness in various metrics, doesn’t it?

Another Dream

I had another dream last night, a sad one.

I had gone to sleep with my new cat, who I’ve had since March, pressed against me and purring like my old cat, who died of old age in February, used to.

I dreamed that my old cat was still alive, but it wasn’t a happy dream. He was still very old, still very sick, still leaving me wondering when I would have to watch him die again. I was reliving his senescence and it tore my heart out because even in the dream, I remembered seeing him die.

I woke up feeling poorly rested.  I’m still very tired.

I wonder why I’ve had two dreams in short succession about old age and impending death where the dead appear to me alive, but never tell me anything.

I hope that if I have another dream involving the dead appearing alive, I’ll get a chance to talk to them. I feel like my higher self may be trying to contact me.

Strange Dream

I don’t think I’ve ever had an actual dream about Philip K. Dick, and he hasn’t been much on my mind lately.  I’m dealing with enough stress that I don’t need additional weirdness.  Last night though, I had a very strange and vivid dream.

I dreamed that Phil was alive, and that I couldn’t have been him in a previous life after all.  He had retired from writing and was hiding in plain sight.  In the dream he was quite old (as he would be if he was still alive) and got out even less than he used to, pretty much confined to his room most of the time.  He lived in a little white house very much like the one where [SPOILER] lives at the end of “Man in the High Castle,” or the one where he and Kleo lived when they first moved to Point Reyes Station (before he married Anne).  He was married to his seventh wife (whose name I didn’t get and face I only ever saw in my peripheral vision oddly enough) and they’d been together longer than anyone he’d ever been with, since the 80s or 90s I think.

He agreed to meet me, but I never got to that point.  The dream abruptly shifted one of my more typical dreams, a nonsensical and vague dream about being in an 80s McMansion that had aged badly and finding the tornado shelter just before a tornado hit (except there was no distinction in my mind during this dream between tornados, earthquakes, and nuclear explosions).

I’m not attached to the idea that this dream actually means anything but I’m recording it because that’s what this space is for.  Even so I feel strange many hours after the dream.  We’re wired to find meaning in everything so naturally I do wonder, but maybe it’s just more noise from the subconscious.  I haven’t had much of anything significant in a long time, nothing on the magnitude of what I had in 2012-2013.

Interesting

It turns out that if my memories of New York are from the 18th Century rather than the 19th, then it’s possible many of the places I remember near the waterfront were burned back in 1776.

This means it will be even harder to track down that building I remember… I think I know its location (down where the Brooklyn Bridge is now) which would figure into the 1776 action between Howe and Washington.

On a related note, there isn’t much radical scholarship on the American Revolution.  Most of it flatters the American or British traditional narratives and doesn’t reflect in very much depth on its applicability to the present crisis.  I intend to fix this.

Always There…

I hope I haven’t touched off another one of those horrible moods about the war.  They’ve been getting less frequent and severe, and they almost never come with/from spontaneous memories like they used to, but every so often something will bring it back to my attention again.

I was watching a documentary on YouTube about Irish ghost stories.  I figured it would be just a bit of harmless fun.

Then they got to this one story about a fellow who had died at Armentieres with the Rifle Brigade and had supposedly been seen in apparitions at the castle he lived in.  They gave a name and date and I felt compelled to look him up.  Every time I hear about someone who served in that sector I try to find out more about them, even if they served long before or long after Jack was there.

It took a couple of tries to find the man they mentioned.  First I looked through Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension and saw quite a lot of names there from the Irish regiments laid low in the autumn of 1914.  That’s what got me.  But I didn’t find the man mentioned in the documentary.

I did finally find the man they mentioned in the program, by the way.  Either they got his date of death wrong or it wasn’t documented until 11 days later: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/573430/LESLIE,%20NORMAN%20JEROME%20BEAUCHAMP

Our boy Norman was there long before Jack, but lies only a short distance from him, in the Chapelle D’Armentieres Old Military Cemetery (in all the old trench maps I’ve examined, Chapelle D’Armentieres was very close to Houplines).

I didn’t expect to feel like this.  I don’t miss feeling like this.  I hope this is a short-lived mood like the ones I’ve had more recently.

Mass

I went to mass today, the first time I’d been in some time.

I still feel different about it, but I don’t know if I’ll walk away completely.  The overall message I got is that my decision to step back and work on myself more was probably a good one.

I still got communion in Latin; that told me all I needed (this is something reserved for those who have begun service with the church).

I feel like I want to explore other belief systems.  Calling myself gnostic feels like it’s not a real clear description of where I really am.  I’m going to learn a bit more about other systems; there’s always something new when you look at Buddhism and Hinduism because they’re so nuanced, and Sufism and Sikhism both hold a lot of promise I think.

Phil once described himself as a “religious anarchist.”  I feel that accurately describes me.  I thought maybe I’d found a place to rest though.  I didn’t want to limit myself to simply living the same life twice.  I wanted to feel like I’d arrived somewhere.

But I haven’t.  I’m reckoning with just how little I still know, after everything that’s happened.  And if I’m perfectly honest with myself, I find more joy in seeking than in staying put.  Perhaps the Buddhists are right, and journey is the destination.

Another part of why I’ve second-guessed my decision so relentlessly the last few days came from my neurotic fear of being like people I’ve known throughout my life- many of them coworkers whose only comfort was cheap cigarettes that reeked of ammonia and failure- who simply gave up on their dreams and settled for life’s dead ends.  “Yep, I was gonna write a book once,” I remember a coworker saying once when I was doing inventory work under contract to Wal-Mart.  We were standing in a parking lot by the work van, somewhere in eastern Oklahoma I think.  I’ll never forget how broken that man looked.

I didn’t want to be the one to say “yeah, I was going to join the clergy once…” I wanted to see it through because I felt so much resentment for those people who gave up on their dreams.  I resent them because I feel like they tried to drag me down.

But I thought of everything I’ve done, and every time I can’t say I didn’t go all the way, and I realized, I can’t blame anyone for dragging me down.  I was never down to begin with.

I can’t say “I was going to write a book once” like my coworker did.  I actually did it, several times over, and I got it published to boot.

I can’t say “I was going to move out west once.”  I actually did it.

I can’t say “I was going to go to Europe once.”  I’ve done that.  Multiple times.

I can’t say “I was going to get a degree once.”  I did it and I’m proud of it.

I can’t say “I was going to get married once.”  I married a very talented artist and musician, and our relationship has been extraordinary.

As I mature, I’ve come to realize that having to back down from some dreams that don’t suit you isn’t the same as giving up on having any kind of dreams at all.  But if you plant a garden, you have to pull weeds and choose the strongest seedlings if you want it to grow right.

So I walk away from the clergy, perhaps for a short while but probably on a more permanent basis.  I still have other dreams though; if I can still dream, I’m not dead inside.