Identity

I was in an art class a few weeks ago discussing the topic of identity. This particular little thing took me a lot longer than everyone else it seemed and seemed to consume my thoughts at home with a need for just the right felt tip pens to finish it off. It was a breathe of fresh air after being confronted with weeks of writer’s block and a near total lack of creative and philosophical inspiration. Perhaps it’s true what my old friend from university said that I miss the visual creativity and my subconscious is crying out for a return to the media. Or perhaps it was a precursor to a conversation I had days after beginning this project with someone I care about very much. This person, following a mental break, reflects and makes art from what they were feeling at the time, finding it near impossible to verbalize feeling like a ‘snail mushroom’.

Strange how an oversized doodle is the only thing that has brought me any real creative interest over the past fortnight as the days become shorter and the nights become a little more restless each day. What then, can I learn from my own expression of identity aside from being a big nerd with a thing for sci-fi?

I ask myself this, in the stoic sense: what purpose does my action serve? Or perhaps, when it comes to writing on philosophy or creativity, what does my inaction serve? My mind moving from one little project to the next, drifting through thought processes in a fever dream of obscure fleeting ideas. I am comforted, however, as should you be, that everything in a rut has been experienced before and will continue to be experienced by the human nature. Which is almost ingrained in our identity as Star Wars references are ingrained in mine. I tell people all the time who claim to be feeling alone that they are not truly alone in what they are feeling as otherwise words would not exist for it in the first place. Obviously, feeling like a ‘mushroom snail’ is a little more niche which requires some other advice for that one but you get my point.

We drift through this existence always, as I have been drifting in my own. I think back to the advice from a friend: where is your action. I ask myself this, but then I ask, what is in my nature to act for and what does that mean for who I am? It’s something we all need to ask ourselves, isn’t it? Who we are before we act. Or perhaps alternatively, it is what we chose to act upon and how we act that defines our identity more than our innate being itself.

I was reading a few weeks ago that events and personality traits formed from events leave markers on DNA and can be passed through to offspring. So if a person is identifiably callous, the child shall have traits of callousness. It seemed a bit questionable and sparked another internal debate about condition versus nature. Going back to my own pseudo-theory that:

Biology + Condition = Person

So I look to my doodle, one that I seemed to spend so much time on when I could have been mind mapping ideas for short stories, full length novels and screenplays. I see perhaps only 2 things within it that relate to biological function rather than condition. Those being: the representation of sexual identity and the constellation of Taurus, showing my birthdate (vaguely). Or perhaps, I am being cynical of my own development, claiming to be a being entirely made of other people’s creations and influence. Perhaps the stack of books under my coffee of the philosophers and spiritual leaders are a biological factor. Perhaps human nature is instinctively driven to search for meaning, for the divine path, for the harmony with The Way and all of its manifestations. Perhaps that’s the point of this very minor exercise, to reflect on that fundamental truth that all things we experience as human beings are in our nature to experience and come together as ultimately the collective human identity as well as the identity of the individual. Each element representing a deeper complexity from the strange fascination with the unknown represented by Cthulu to the desire to explore and find purpose in the stars with the U.S.S Voyager.

Or perhaps, it’s really not that deep and doodling at work to stop me from counting the ceiling tiles over and over again is just that. Who knows, give it a try for yourself, let me know what you find. If anything to save you from counting ceiling tiles.

Art and The Truth, Part 1

A few months ago now, I wrote a short cosmic horror story based on Lovecraftian conventions and the indie horror game Layers of Fear. I had some feedback off colleagues who are avid readers and the criticism was that it’s obtuse and self-indulgent; the imagery being overshadowed by my big brain being oh so clever. It meant a lot to me, though, and it holds a lot of themes within it that serve as an allegory to me. It presents an attitude and indulgence of the character a moral to exist within your own nature. It’s a story about falling into ones own obsession and being obsessed with the self and power above all.

I’ll be posting it in sections as it’s quite long, so without further ado, here is my attempt at a anti-vice manifesto…

In the house, it’s considered rude to not pay respects to the household gods. Naturally, in the household, the one whose word is law, is god. In Orphan House, I, Henry Boyd, am God. This would be far more outstanding if, perhaps, if there were more than four residing in the former children’s home turned Olympus, yet considering that its realities and formations still bend to my will, surely that still renders me biblical in nature. My paintings adorn the Victorian walls, bursting from their frames, too weak to hold the nightmares in and keep them from spilling out onto the bare boards. What is art but a reflection of ourselves? A twisting expression of eldritch nightmares on canvas; pure like the massing void. As I bend the space-time of the grey brick husk, its corridors turning like a corkscrew, my art spins with it. The cascading colour and swirling oils form maddening vortexes that scream for me. The wood, plaster and paint scream its sweet noise, like a hurricane of bees in a room of the finest honey.

I had been truly blessed. Blessed with the truth of the real. The outside would demand for rational but they would never understand that the truth is irrational. It cannot be reasoned or bargained with like a market seller, fat on the endless and pointless material trappings. I am enlightened and I know the truth that all is pointless. Over and over again, a million times have we died and been reborn anew, our lives logged and archived in an infinite library until even the volumes themselves are burned away to be rewritten. I am not Henry Boyd. Not really. Nor are you whoever you think you are. We are the sum of all our parts; our parts the sum millions of variables; the variables the sum of fixed odds. Fixed divine odds based on the ticking of a clock.

In the house, I paint. I paint the worlds that I visit through the tempests. Some exist in our own native majesty while others exist as splinters, sanctuaries and graveyards. There are even those that exist as blank canvases themselves, awaiting an artist – or the artist – to mark their endless expanses. They have seen me, the inhabitants of these foreign planes. They inspect me with curiosity as I peer in fear. These eternal creatures, scars on reality itself, undying even in the face of the great inferno at the end of time. Even in my capacity as a sorcerer of the real, God of Orphan House, I am afraid. They are why I paint.

I painted before. I painted beautiful things, things that would warm me in the winter and do away with the scratching in my skull. Now I paint them and their lands for the promises we made, for the wonders I would see, for the raw power that made me a god. It is my tribute for when my temporary fleshy prison expires, I will be reborn and rewarded. While Chiron takes me and Chronos crumbles my fortress, the art shall be exposed to the ignorant. It will adorn their galleries and while they wander about, fat and doe-eyed, they will feel the abyss staring back at them – as I did.

The sixth summer in Orphan House has come and the chains on the doors to the outside are holding steady. While my kingdom contorts to my will and my art stalks the corridors, I sense a plot. The crawling of a horde of ants under my skin comes to me in the night, as I stare up at the void through the wound in the roof. I say to my wife, sitting still by a window in the library, ‘can you see them? Can you hear them?’ She doesn’t respond. Her silence is cold and damning. I give up, time and again, I give up. I daren’t wake the children in the late summer evening to ask them about the outside. They are fearful enough without the worry of the noisy meat threatening their father’s fortress kingdom. So small and gentle, they are too pure for the reality in which they find themselves, those two.

When my wife used to speak to me, she used to sweetly ask for sweet things for me to paint. She wanted me to paint her flowers in the greenhouse – closed off now, the glass proving too weak to defend from the outside. A florist by trade she would create the most beautiful of arrangements of brilliant sunset hues. Everything was brighter then, before the truth of the real was known. Before I took her to see the Eel King on the muddy shores of the Howling Isles. She was silent then, standing in front of the rocky thrown with the eldritch lord upon it.

The giant lord gripped the arms of his throne with white, webbed fingers; his fleshy thick surf slicked tail wrapped around the stone and trailed along the mud and into the shallow. The lord, resembling a nightmarish parody of the beauty of sea sirens with an arthropodal torso and skeletal arms, cloaked in billowing black fabric breathed the cold sea air deeply. The pale god, my patron, demanded satisfaction with not even a word from his wide, fang filled mouth. His eyes, sunken in shadow under the black hood, slowly opened from a deep slumber; each refreshing blink sounding against the rolling of the ocean waves. His eyes, black as night, stare down at me with light from the grey sky above twinkling in them like distant stars. Perhaps they were stars, it would come as no surprise. His long claws scratched gently on the carved arms of his throne, the stone itself scarred by his scrapings. On my knees in the writhing mud, I presented his portrait – and still my wife was not moved. There were no bright colours nor sweet smells in truth. Only monochrome landscapes and the thick stench of fish. The only speaker on the beach of the Eel King was the wind that sung through the rocky crags, cliffs and caves of Howling Isles. So far from the real were we, in that place, that it could hardly be said we were anywhere at all. Scraps of land in an eternal black ocean barely discernible from the void, where the sun was forever trapped behind a thick covering of fog and stormy clouds. A broken reality – a splinter of the whole truth, a truth that neither me nor my wife would ever have eyes wide enough to observe. Perhaps the king knew. Him and his fellows across the starry oceans and fractured dimensions in between. When he swam in those freezing deep waters and into galaxy, I wonder, does my serpentine lord-patron see it all?  Travelling along the infinite universal currents? From this chilly outcrop to the planets of glass tumbling around dying crimson suns.

Of course, I took her to the land of the Eel King. Of all my patrons and visitations, it was the most comfortable and seductive. I had to make her understand this if not the truest further gravity of the eternal, the endless inhale and exhale of the expanding electric jelly. The unspeakable horrors of the void that even I, sorcerer of the art, could not bear to witness for even more than mere moments. The crushing pressure of their voices that thunder through the endless cosmos would begin to tear at the coiling of my brain and hammer at my skull. No, she would not be able to comprehend even the slightness of her own dimensions within the infinitum, let alone that of our divine observers who would peer at us with a million twitching, celestial eyes. The screeching of their songs would burst our fleshy human ears so that we may never seek to hear something so beautiful again.

… End of Part 1.

Z3N0

Kintsugi and Dorodango

I was talking to a friend and she asked me how and why I started my journey. By journey I mean the Path or finding The Way or whatever works that has led to my current position on the doorstep of Taoism with my now worn copy of Meditations in hand. My actual journey, of course, started nearly a quarter of a century ago when two people who now (and probably then) despise each other decided to bonk one night.

I talked about my depression and how found myself in a spiritually and emotionally dark place about half way through my university experience. From there, there was no where but upwards and it was a very perilous climb without a harness. Since finding philosophy and accepting virtue as my only directive, it’s less of a climb, more of a gentle ascent in a modest lift. In this conversation, she said something interesting that has stuck with me. She said that the story reminded her of the Japanese art of kintsugi.

Kintsugi, meaning “golden repair” is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold infused lacquer. What a perfect metaphor for finding philosophy. Gold: an earth metal revered by the kings of Persia, the Saxon feudal lords, the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, the emperors of the Huey Tlatoani, and the monarchs of Pataliputra. In nearly all cultures, gold is the ultimate material commodity. Philosophy is gold. We find unique ideas in cultures that all lead us to a balanced and virtuous existence from optimistic nihilism in a San Francisco think-tank to monastic Taoism in the deep country of China – I’m speaking here about philosophy and not religion intentionally. Even within the art of kintsugi is the philosophy of wabi-sabi: embracing the imperfect. It’s beautiful and like a mind thrown to chaos and a soul wanting, the pottery is made all the more uniquely brilliant.

The artistry of Japan has always amazed me. From the architecture and cuisine to one of my favourite films Paprika and of course the fantastic anime – or rather visual poem – about mental health: Welcome to the NHK. As well as kintsugi, there’s also dorodango: “mud dumpling”. It is the art of taking a clump of mud or dirt and water to carefully create a perfect sphere and polish until it’s shiny like a snooker ball. In recent times the childhood hobby has been refined to hikaru dorodango meaning “shining mud dumpling”.

I can’t decide whether or not my journey is the reparation of a delicate china plate or polishing of a turd. Aren’t we all earth and water in our essence? Air in our lungs and fire in our hearts. Philosophy is the gold that mends broken things and the polish that shines the shit.

“The rotting of the base material of everything. Water, dust, bones, stench. Again: marble is a mere deposit in the earth, gold and silver mere sediments; your clothing is animal hair, your purple is fish blood; and so on will all else. And the vital spirit is just the same, changing from this to that.”Meditations 9.36

It’s like spiritual absurdism made manifest. Both kintsugi and dorodango are delicate processes requiring patience, skill, precision, and time. The mind requires all of these things, as does the soul. Enjoy it: polish your shit.

Z3N0

PS. Here are some links to dorodanga and kintsugi videos on Youtube for more information and a relaxing time. If you enjoy these videos, please make sure to give likes, subs and shares to these creators to show your support.