Sunday, June 3, 2012
Gnats, Existentialism, and the Song of Creation
"Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked." Victor E Frankl
Gnats invaded our house this spring, and appeared to multiply by the dozens over night, steadily plotting the take over of every single room. They seemed to favor the bathroom as their headquarters.
After a couple of disappointing and challenging months, and the plans I had didn't pan out, I moved back in with the Roomies I've lived with for most of the past year. I couldn't miss the invasion of the gnats in the house, and asked what could be done about them. There are parrots who also live in this house, so pesticides were out of the question. The Roomies dug out a bug zapper thingy that looks more like a tennis racket than anything else -- the only difference being the netting is charged with electricity, and zaps any bug who has the misfortune of flying into it's path. The use of this weapon can actually be quite gratifying in a twisted, passive aggressive sort of way. All three of us who live in this house have used it as a kind of therapy I think. Poor gnats.
Anyway, the bug zapper thingy wasn't really doing the trick in ridding all of the gnats from this house. Every morning there seemed to be more troops created over night to serve in the battle.
There is something I failed to notice while all of this was going on, and it was so subtle and insidious I almost found myself in amazement when I finally realized it, and wanted to say to the gnats, "Good game!" My behavior, my simple habits were beginning to change. The repulsion I felt rise up within me at even the thought of going into the bathroom with gnats camped out on my towels, the shower curtain, and the walls, made me want to avoid taking showers, and even the simple act of washing my face and brushing my teeth. I did these things anyway, of course, but every time I'd go in there, I felt myself want to shrink, and I kept my movements to the bare minimum, so as not to stir them up in a swarm. Once I noticed my aversion, and the hesitation in taking a shower, the gig was up. I was like, "Wait a cotton pickin' minute here...!" I was feeling like a victim, all helpless and incapable, to these tiny bugs who weren't even in their natural environment. I would not allow them to change my basic hygienic habits! Not to mention my enjoyment of a good, hot shower. I would not allow them to change the natural expression and movement of who I am.
Then the wisdom of that kicked in...
How many times did I find myself in a situation or condition that had me changing my natural ways? How many times did I constrict, or restrict my movement, shrinking back, or withdrawing in reaction to what was going on around me? How many times was I conditioned, to the point of habit, to move against my self? There are times, yes, compromise is necessary, but not when it is to the detriment of our natural self.
And forgetting who I was, feeling such a sense of loss, and like I'd traveled far, far away from home, how long did it take me to trace the line back to where I'd gone so terribly wrong? To the place and time where I zigged, when instead I should have zagged. How many times must this happen until one day, I finally stand on solid ground, and say, "Wait a cotton pickin' minute here..!"
But the thing is, mostly, it's not the outside that influences us so much, but how we are viewing ourselves in relation to it, and that view dictates our responses. Can we change our view, and then respond differently? Yes. Does that mean I'm going to put up with gnats cohabitating with me in the bathroom? No. My first response was to shrink away, feeling overwhelmed, there were too many of them, day in and day out, and I was.thinking of myself as incapable of dealing with them. Not a good view. And, seriously, I don't shrink away from much, so it goes against my nature, which ends up hurting me in the end.
We look at our world, and ourselves in relation to it, I think mostly seeking a reflection of acceptance. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll find it out there. I don't think that is the place to look for it. The gnats don't really give a shit.
I read this poem yesterday morning, A Dot Upon A Page, by the wonderful poet David Brydon, and I understood the sentiment behind his words. We had a blip of conversation about it on Twitter, and he said, "So glad you enjoyed the poem. Sometimes I worry that others may find them negative or dark." The poem might be dark to some, negative to others, and the "truth" he speaks may or may not be true, but this I know...I understood it. I could relate. There have been times when that is precisely how I viewed myself in relation to a family, relationships, this world. Like the gnats, their numbers were too many, and I found myself shrinking, withdrawing, feeling small, overwhelmed, and insignificant in the whole grand scheme of things.
Yet...when we find ourselves feeling that way, isn't that in itself pointing like an arrow to our desire? That we want to feel significant...and don't. Like what we do, who we are...naturally...matters. We want to matter.
But I think the feeling of insignificance arises when we ourselves stop doing what matters to us, what comes naturally. When we argue with ourselves over it, or try to put the brakes on. We can say it's because of the gnats setting up headquarters in the bathroom, or because the world responds with a flat note, or not at all, to what matters to us. We can come up with a thousand, very convincing reasons not to do what matters, point out all kinds of things that get in the way. But in the end, what, or who, is it that really stops us?
It's an amazing thing what happens when you've got nothing else to lose...literally. When all that stuff you were so greedily grasping for slips away, and it feels like you're left carrying nothing more than an empty bucket. You discover it was never, ever about any of those things. They really didn't matter. The empty bucket in your hand is what matters...and what's inside it. The heart of what matters. What's left is not stark emptiness, but possibilities. Potential. Creation.
I've been digging around in my bucket and was inspired to start drawing again. I sent a drawing to my daughter the other day, and she exclaimed, "I'm soo happy you started drawing again! Its awesome!" I was given an ink pen, as a very late Christmas present, the kind of pen that I have to dip into ink...very cool. When I first held it in my hand...an idea occurred to me. Not long afterward, I found a sweet deal on colored pencils, bought them, and decided to mix the ink and the pencils together in a drawing...well, sorta. You'll see.
I'm in the process of building another blog, and I decided to incorporate my drawings with my writing. I am no Michaelangelo, trust me. But it has felt so good to draw again, that I desire to continue with it. Maybe I'll get better the more I practice. It's a part of myself I cut off a long time ago for some forgotten reason. I am a creative. I make the claim. My soul loves art, expression, beauty, wonder...the song that fills me when I am creating in any form. I don't care anymore whether what I do holds any significance to others. It matters to me...and that, in the end, is all that matters.
I'll let you know when the other blog is up and running. My hope is to have it up by tomorrow. I hope you'll come and share in the wonder.