My soul is seared with the presence of immanence. I cannot look out or within and not see it like an oasis on fire in the desert. Like my mother and father on their death beds. Like my son lying in the road having been tossed in the air by a car. Like my baby brother screaming for five years till death relieved him of his pain. Like every flock of all the birds in the world flying towards the sun. After decades of working in psychiatric settings I feel every cut my patients inflicted on themselves, every tear they ever cried. All the courage it took to cry for help. I feel my end coming and I cannot wait.
Right now as I am being branded all over the body of my memories and anticipations seared by the momentousness of the present, a squadron of twenty or more sparrows and an opportunistic blackbird and robin are flitting in and out of the large, leafless elderberry bush outside my window to feast at my bird table. It is February and I still don’t understand how they survive in this cold. A pair of soft grey, collared doves have joined them, one waiting patiently on the fence while the other tucks in.
How dare I contemplate the meaning of it all even as I fail? How dare I not? Were my cold, leafless elderberry bush to erupt into flames in this sleet, I would still be governed by my contradictions, by the oxymoronic nature of existence and be trying to make a scintilla of sense about it all. My own scintilla. I cannot not do so. And with their own existential and personal struggles my patients are and have been so kind, so, yes, patient with me helping me trying to help them. The flames of my therapeutic narcissism may be fanned by their trust in me. But so also, and more deeply, is the integrity holding together my good intentions and my empathy for them in the purer flame –like that of a candle but transparent, neither hot nor cold– containing me containing them.
In this world of facts, I am full of the feeling that we are star-stuff down here on Earth between expanding, entropic darkness and love itself. My soul, for want of a better word, and I wish there was a better word, is being seared by this human condition. I cannot wait to pass through the departure gate despite also loving my family and friends with all of my heart. I have felt this since or before I was nine years old when I was touched by death by drowning in the sea. Now, decades later I am still touched, drawn –compelled by feeling– ever since, to try to help others swim in their own blood and bones through the tides of their fates threatening to drown them with overwhelming feelings and life-experiences. I’ve been lucky, been good at it somehow. I’ve been lucky, had lovely children. Somehow. I’ve been lucky, somehow successful in a minor league kind of way. I’ve been lucky too, that the Great Ontological Determinant, whom or which I cannot call God except acronymically in parenthesis, (GOD), has been unaccountably kind to me despite my resentment that I went up to, but was turned away from, the Big White Door when I was ‘saved’ at the last moment from drowning, condemned to further decades of mental suffering and greater love.
Because Love itself seems to be what the (GOD) gets excited about. Not omnipotence and omniscience. Not so much anyway. And nothing seems to enable love better than suffering. Hence, perhaps, the popularity of the Christian myth of a tortured messiah on a cross, and the Buddhist fixation on the ultimate goal being to finally free ourselves from repeated cycles of suffering life and death. So, does Love have as many different manifestations as there are human beings on Earth? Or more, given the likelihood of sentient life elsewhere in the universe?! And what value has human life with our wars and our hatreds, in the context of each one of us having a brain with trillions of synapses and as many neurones as stars in the Milky Way? Why does such plenitude have to be at the cost of suffering?
I don’t know. I have been touched by death, have blindingly seen all freedom transcending and infusing everything when I drowned. But having ultimately been refused by death, my love/hate relationship with (GOD) over the last 61 years has been intensified, and it has damaged and diminished my understanding. On the plus side, if I can call it that, my envious interactions with the dead have engendered a huge agapaic compassion within me for the living. For the suffering. Trapped in a lifelong non-binary perceptual position has made me evidentially good at what I do. (GOD) knows how or why. I have been able to help people feel less afraid of their portion of the universal human condition. But myself I have continued longing for death’s release for every one of the 61 years since. Now in my seventies I can finally see the end of this tiny, minute marathon of life I have been subjected to. And I must just tell you, you who are coming after me, you who are still a long way from yet knocking on heaven’s door: you do have to suffer, but it’s okay, it will end. Here on earth at least.