“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln
The Clash of the Titans was a concert tour that came to Toronto in 1992, consisting of several Thrash Metal bands, which included Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. It was also the first concert I heard the then unknown ‘Grunge’ band from Seattle named, Alice in Chains – whom Dave Mustaine of Megadeth had personally endorsed and added to the tour.
Layne Staley came on stage and his first words were, ‘Yeah, Fuck You!’ and then spat into the crowd before his band entered into the first riffs of their song, ‘We Die Young’ from their Facelift Album. He would go on peppering their set with other taunts and expletives towards the crowd, breaking long enough for a few inhales of his cigarette and gulps of his beer. When his cup was empty, he’d pitch it into the crowd before stepping off stage for a refill.
For me, it wasn’t a positive introduction to a seminal band that would later change ‘hard’ music.
But the music wasn’t that bad. Yet, based on first impressions, I wasn’t going to be a fan of their music. Boy was I wrong...
I would see them in concert a total of 4 times, in support of other bands. I would go on to own all of their releases in various formats… And to be honest, their music has helped me tremendously in coping with my ‘self.’ Particularly in terms of dealing with my Sexuality, Anxiety, Self-Confidence and Self-Expression.
Music was my opiate – along with hours a day in the gym. (Before the migraines...)
Layne Staley would in later years lose his fiancé to complications resulting from her drug use. This propelled him into a deep depression, where 4 years later he would overdose and die alone in his Condo in Seattle.
The contrast was how in the final years, extending from the loss of his ‘Soul Mate’ he became reclusive – to the point where he would alienate himself from his friends and family and find solace, and refuge – in his case, in his drug use.
His father was a heroine addict and died when Layne was 23. He died homeless and penniless. Layne carried that sadness with him, hoping to lose it in each injection into his own arms, abdomen and groin… But his pain could never be erased, but his dependency on drugs escalated, and estranged him from his world.
His world wasn’t his fame or wealth, or even the connections he had had with the world around him – but with that connection he had with his 'self.'
He allowed the ‘Stuff’ of the world to define him, who he was, and define his limits, ‘Where I end, and the world outside of me begins…’
Tragedy surrounds us. Shadows surround us, and consume us as phantoms of our own machinations. We breed them, and we feed them, and we train and we raise them… Like little monsters that become so great that they can no longer be sustained by our guilt and pain alone – they begin to hunger for our flesh, and our souls… And eventually, we give ourselves to them, perhaps in a vain ideology to purify ourselves before the eyes of our creator.
Loneliness is a prison of the heart. It shuts out the light and the heart withers. Growing weak from the lack of nourishment, iIt begins to see only other shadows and hollow images of itself projecting upon the screens of infinity – the cave is an empty place. All it has is its shadows, casting a marionette show upon its inner walls… Life is a stage that, if we aren’t watching, goes on unnoticed…
But those invisible hands have ways of carving deep, penetrating marks upon the stone surface.
Layne lost himself in pity and isolation – the isolation was a disconnect between his ‘Spirit’ and his 'Light.'
The 'Light' is Healative. But we must surrender ourselves to 'Light' and not isolation… To be healed...
There are many reasons to give ourselves to the darkness, to isolation of spirit. Fear, Judgment, Anxiety, Pride… But these are merely phantoms – formless and weightless. Phantoms need to steal from us to find substance, to find power and purpose. And when we freely give to them of ourselves, it is we who lose hope.
In this case, we are merely too spiritually un-evolved to be able to grasp at ‘True Knowledge.’
A boy that picks up a weapon, carries it to school with the intent of hurting others, is acting out on behest of his Phantoms – his fear, his guilt - his pride left to run wild and free… His mother fed him a world that is only filled with pain and suffering – and his heart, now only capable of receiving the dead light of shadows, acted out in accordance to the will of his Phantoms. It is no different then a Government sending the children of its nation to war, to kill for ideology, for national pride, in defence - all in the name of protectionism.
It is the heart that invents monsters…
Ignorance breeds distrust and discord – but that division resides only in the heart – it is when we’ve given away our power to our phantoms that we lose ourselves and become haunted by the shadows around us… Without light, we perceive shadows everywhere…
This is learned…
When we reduce the definitions of our world to embrace limited thoughts, we push away the infinite boundaries of Divinity. Divinity is Cosmos. Cosmos is all things visible, invisible and unknowable. The body is infinite, visible, invisible and unknowable… We are therefore merely extensions of ourselves, divided by the machinations of our own imagination, driven by the power of Reason and Intellect.
To hate our neighbors is learned – and can be unlearned…
But at the same time, it is an integral part of our learning… The Lessons of Self are rooted in self-discovery that includes aspects of pleasure and joy, along with pain and suffering…
At first, being unable to understand Pleasure and Joy on our own, we include others to show us their many aspects… Parents, Family, Friends… Food, Alcohol, Drugs, Physical Activity, Sex… When those descriptions become tainted and perverted by changing notions that dwells within shadows, they develop into warped expressions. Patterns of Abuse, and Dependence are formed…
To deal with this weight, some of us are driven to isolation and enhanced forms of abuse – be it self abuse or a outward projection… Our reality becomes defined by these new parameters and suddenly, we begin to define ourselves based on this new paradigm until patterns of our old self become mere shadows. And if given free-reign, we can propel ourselves in this new description to new, unexplored heights… Sometimes, where few others have wandered… From here, we forge new partnerships – a new support network that is inspired to support and uphold the new paradigm.
A different perspective would be to describe it as follows. We send our children to school so that they can be indoctrinated into new (established or socially agreed upon) paradigms. They will gravitate towards their respective disciplines that express their heart the most succinctly, and they will learn how to master their discipline in these Philosophies. Law, Engineering, Medicine, Science, Philosophy, Art, Music… When they graduate, we congratulate them on their achievements – because we see them as good… They then enter into the workforce, in correspondence with their discipline and learn how to focus even deeper upon the core tenets of that paradigm… And rise up within the ranks, ever new depths of ‘Understanding…’ They will one day be viewed as 'True Masters' in their respective fields - and they will be prideful and protective of this esteem. It is all lawful because it was agree upon and supported by family, friends and colleagues. We therefore deem this as virtuous.
But what now of the Serial Killer? He begins with his first kill, usually an animal in his childhood. His skills honed and improved upon - all based upon his inherent urges. He then one day evolves to killing another person – usually a relative. When emboldened by his skill and conviction, he graduates to making his ‘hunt’ or ‘stalk’ towards greater challenges. He will give his prey the advantage – but because they are unaware that they are being hunted, they will be captured, tortured and killed – the act itself feeds the killer… And he becomes more bold and comfortable within himself. This new paradigm has become his definition, his reflection. He celebrates his success by taking a token from his victim – a trophy. Every Serial Killer will leave behind a calling card, a mark, a code, a modus operandi from which others will be able to identify him by. This is his signature. He wants to be challenged; he wants to be thrilled… He wants to grow and be validated for his skill and prowess - Just like a professional athlete who thrives upon the rush of the score or goal, or the hole in one…
One act we reject, the other we applaud – because by societal norms, we view one as being ‘wrong’ and the other as ‘right.’ After all, all societies need a codex of Morality and Social Law...
However, both reside in the Realm of Duality. The Infinite Self learning to express itself in infinite ways.
The Athlete is driven by the same urge as the Serial Killer…
The difference therefore lies within the social paradigm our community embraces.
A country’s best soldiers are rewarded for their deeds of murder, in war – however, when those soldiers return home, they must reconcile that division of selves to embrace a shift in paradigm – what they were once celebrated for, they can no longer express, despite the urge and skill they’ve developed in the process of mastering their craft – survival was their craft. Now they must learn to integrate and survive within new parameters.
The fruit that hangs at the edge of the tree are not all of them ripe at the same time – some of them ripen faster than others – typically based on exposure to the Sun and to the environment, wind conditions, humidity and temperature affect the rate and success of growth and either prevents or enhances decay. These are invisible forces that can be measured by their effects, but not directly measured because by the law of averages, if only 3% of the trees fruits are rotten, our yield is still enough to call it a successful crop. So, who cares about the influencing forces that impact the success of the crop?
Invisible forces have the same way of affecting the many parts of the brain – trauma, injury, and genetics all have an impact on forming the brain. Though we may call that child a ‘Retard’ what he in fact has is called, Aspersers Syndrome, or Tourette Syndrome, or Autism, or the plethora of other forms of Mental Illnesses. Yet, societally, we marginalize these people because their behavior or appearance does not fit within the norm. And we scorn them for being different.
This is once again the product of practicing Duality.
Do not eat of the fruits of the tree at the middle garden. This tract within the Book of Genesis refers directly to this practice – do no practice Duality. Live purely in Divinity – the Middle Garden, neither within the Masculine or the Feminine – each are forces with roots in the expression of Duality and Divinity, they are to maintain the perpetuation of Brahma into Atman and its many forms. They (the Masculine and the Feminine) will one day cancel each other out, annihilating the Cosmos and resolving the Duality back into Singularity. Brahma will once again be whole again and the Atman will once again vanish – as it has done countless times before and will countless time again.
Life provides us with many lessons – it is meant to challenge us, to drive us and expand us in it many forms. There are no ‘wrong’ ways… Only Divine Expression. When we use Reason and Intellect to force descriptions and models of what what should be, we taint the expression and pervert it. It becomes at that point, a human expression – a mark on the Time/Space of our causality.