The end of high school and beginning of University, for me, was defined by a girl. She was smart, pretty, crazy in bed and just as romantic as I was at the time. I once gave her a silver rose to represent eternal love, though I later decided that that was a horrible symbol.
Fortunately, she gave me a much better symbol that I wear and have worn ever since it came to me. You’ve probably noticed it, and wondered about it, or asked about it. Or you don’t really care. That’s fine with me. Personally I’m just impressed that it’s been around so long and I haven’t either broken or lost it, given some of the absurd places it has wound up and been recovered from.
It doesn’t even matter what the symbol is. I’ve decided that when I do lose or break it, I’m going to find another trinket, of whichever variety, and put that in its place. I’m grateful that love, wisdom, time, and pain have imbued it with the characteristics that it has, but I’m also sure that those have the same haunting effect of standing out in a humid, rainy night with your lover; no matter which specifics you replace, you can’t escape the warm and fuzzies.
This meaning is one of my defining bits, so it’s not simple to share. I don’t know if you’ve ever told someone important to you about your passions, goals, dreams or accomplishments and had them scoff at it or give you a less than welcoming response. It’s almost as painful to see them respond the same way they did to your story about a co-worker’s cat. That’s generally how I expect to feel when I share something deep. What pushes me to share regardless of my worry is that even though I hardly know you, I’d much rather be hurt than pretend not to be me.
Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that, if you’ve actually read this far, you’re open to my eccentricities, and just maybe you’ll feel closer to me knowing this little “secret.”
So what does my symbol mean to me? Well, it’s a conceit in the literary sense; an expanded metaphor. It helps me to think of it as one of my muses. An embodiment of an idea, with way too many pictures and backdrops to fully express, and one of the few parts of my life that I’m happy to leave unsimplified. Unfortunately for you, that means it’s a challenge to sum it up in a word, though I might say, “spirituality.”
I have other muses. These were easier to understand and explain when I wrote poetry, because it’s so expressive and complex (I try to use really simple, quick sentences in prose and I edit out uncommon words and sentence structures).
Love is an odd one, but I won’t have to try too hard to describe it since I wrote some poems on the subject back in the day:
Of a Perfect Love
Quite often I dreamt thee
In all thy beauty
Heaven forgive, O Love
Love, that I knew thee
There are pains in mine heart
For summer’s flowers
And memories of thine part
In warm spring showers
Would that thee could exist
Out of fantasy,
O my love would persist
If but once could I see–
Thyne starfall of eyes
Silken moon-kissed hair
Skin touched by sunrise
I know thee so fair
Now if I should touch thee,
Or meet thee in time
Would that you could love me
O dream of mine.
I believe this was inspired by Byron, “if I should meet thee after long years.”
Alternately (titled as the first line, and a reference to one of my most influential relationships):
This Song is worth the world to me
Softly, it dances through the trees:
It’s the air before the sun has risen
The smile on the lips of the horizon.
It reaches out and swooning speaks
Of laughing children and of upturned beaks
Little birds lively chirp its tune to me
It crashes regularly as the sea
And rushes forcefully as the buck through brush
To pass and circle with a lover’s touch.
Why scared am I to hear you sing this Song?
Will it glide right by me and move along
Or break into unsweet bitter discord
And shatter this chorus forever more?
But sing again, ignore my frail heart,
There is no end to such as did not start
And Gods what start this Song has made in love
A loss hurts less than never having does.
And so I give to you my every thought
And such as you can touch that I have wrought.
And so you hear my Muse upon her lyre,
My words that leave sweet murmurs as they expire,
My song that holds you in its mild embrace,
Its ringing strings that set your heart to race,
My thoughts that follow your every step
My love that has never slept.
But the walls dissolve,
the roof falls,
the sleeper wakes,
the siren slithers beneath the waves,
and all that’s left
is golden boards and running paint–
broken beneath the crag.
She was the tree under which I lay;
The dreams I had when I was young.
Her hair was green, wild, tied in leather,
Her legs were roots, softened with rain,
Her skin was bark, smelled lightly of heather,
Acorns were eyes,
Those hazelnut smiles,
Now she walks beside me,
Now she touches my hand,
Now she smiles and sings to me,
A song I’ll never understand.
To make matters worse, I read once of Cupid having two sets of arrows. One was tipped in gold, the other lead. The golden arrows made those hit fall in love, the lead arrows filled the target with hate. Cupid, of course, being a blind child, had no idea which arrow he was grabbing for, whatever his intentions might be. Even considering those intentions, we all know that just because one is in love doesn’t make them happy; what of the lover that relentlessly follows? Ignoring how he feels of the pursuit (though we shouldn’t, he probably feels like ass), you can imagine the problems if she isn’t interested.
Add to the emotions in the poems an image of a grown Cupid standing in the middle of a great hall surrounded by those he has hit with his arrows throughout the years. He takes off the blindfold and looks around. How does he feel?
Finally, you can take a read through My Chinese Baby, a story that led to one of the most beautiful periods in my life. You can maybe weakly summarize it by the line, “The problem with my lifestyle is that it’s dotted with missed chances … [I travel a lot] … I’m not holding my breath for one of these gems to look at me, smile, and say, ‘that sounds fun, can I join you?'”
And yet that isn’t even close to covering what I consider my muse for Love.
All of that to say, take whatever understanding you get of my Spirituality and broaden it 100 fold. The map isn’t the territory, it’s more of a kid messing around with crayons. Maybe, more of an emotion than a thought. It has pieces that come out and pieces that come in, and I’m not picky on the topic of whether to call it by the same name after everything’s been moved around (thinking of this).
My Spirituality has, as a center piece, the not well defined space of time when Christ was dead for three days. I’m not going to spend a lot of time defending the imagery; if you think this makes me Christian then go ahead :) It’s a book I’m very familiar with from my education. Christ can’t really die, right? What was he up to for three days?
I can’t remember where I got this concept, I just re-read the relevant biblical passages, an essay I wrote on the subject and three of the N-Town Plays (don’t ask) and can’t find it. But for some reason, I vividly recall the story of two farmers walking home the day after Christ died, and one turns to the other and says, “wasn’t there another walking with us?”
That’s it; it sounds really, horribly boring. But think of it. The bible is really heavy handed, usually. That’s one of the reasons I’m not a fan. In this case, the idea is very simple. Here he isn’t a physical embodiment, he’s just a presence the farmers felt with them on the road, listening. Of course, we know that he just happens to have an Arthurian sense of righteousness and very high standards.
Let’s pull it away from Christianity since that’s not really the scope. It’s a presence that I feel with me all of the time. It knows all of the scary little details about me. It knows that I haven’t called my grandma in a while. It knows I’m a pitiful excuse for a present wrapper. It knows what kind of porn I watch. And yeah, it judges me, and lets me know how it feels about really intense yoga sex (honestly, not super offended).
That’s kind of the key. It’s rigid in the sense that it’s imbued with all of my experiences, what I’ve seen bring good to the world and what I’ve seen bring bad.
It knows what happened when I tried the open relationship thing with a girl who didn’t really want it. I thought it’d be OK since we had “the conversation” before we got serious. She said that she would rather just have me, but understood that I wasn’t at that point in my life and, if it was what we could have together, she was OK with it. I didn’t believe her, but at the time I decided that she had agreed to both of us having the privilege to love each other but not exclusively, and therefore it was OK. Guess how that turned out.
It knows that I once was a home wrecker with strict morality around, “she must pass these three absurd criteria.” Those criteria being, she must be the one to initiate anything physical, she must explicitly ask for sex, and she must tell me outright that she wants to cheat on her boyfriend. Despite how ridiculous it sounds, no that wasn’t enough to prevent catastrophe. The only time I’ve had this experience afterwards was when the girl just didn’t tell me she had a boyfriend. It’s now to the point that I need her to explicitly say, “I don’t have a boyfriend.” If you know me extremely well, you might already know of the wonderful email I have sitting in my archives for reference in case I get murdered the next time I go to Sweden, from an otherwise lovely girl I dated for three weeks who apparently had a long-time boyfriend at the time. That experience haunts me, even though I had no idea and would never have hooked up with her knowing it given my past experiences.
It also knows that I’m the guy who does little, thoughtful things for people on a daily basis without expecting anything in return. It knows I’m a fantastic wingman, to my own detriment. It knows that I’m the one standing outside of the bus shelter in the cold, windy night so that you can fit snugly in, and I tried to make my leaving look natural so that you didn’t feel the uncomfortable need to owe me a favour.
It knows that I’m the guy who gets people jobs, leads and clients. It knows that I stay up late making sure you’re OK, even though you haven’t called in years. It knows that I fought for you behind closed doors, but didn’t take credit for the positive things that happened in your life; I was just happy to see you get what you deserved.
The presence is also imbued with some rules I’ve found to hold true in general, but they’re even more complex. You can read about some of them here and here.
But the act of waking up every morning, as I have every morning for the past six years or so, and putting that symbol around my neck, constantly reminds me of all of the aspects of my spirituality. It reminds me to be a bit better every day, to question comfortable states since they might not match my criteria, and most importantly to try to understand myself a bit better so as not to be such a dick tomorrow.
It’s nice having something with a physical weight, that I can touch, that reminds me of what I aspire to be.