Now I watch as it unfolds and know that this must be – the breaking down of everything we thought we knew was true.
For me it is too late to play a part in what I see and so instead I call upon you, my friend, to take my place.
I know you have no choice for I watch you night and day.
I see you wish great yearning strides towards a place where love and warmth will let you share your mortal days with joy.
I see you close your eyes in summer and dream yourself content and real.
I see from time to time how the spirit of belonging takes over the moment and blows it to a swirling height of revelation.
But I also see that even then – nay above all then – the shadow makes its presence known and points to this brief bliss as merely what you could have known if all had not been cooped up and curtailed.
I see you blindly try to blind yourself to what you know you see.
You have no choice. You cannot live like this, die like this.
You just wanted the truth – could you now be content to while away your dwindling days in a cage made of your own lies, built to protect your shallow ego from the wild risk of exposure to your self?
Will you surround yourself with those you love, all clinging together on the edge of the cliff like frightened baby rabbits?
Will you seek confirmation in each other’s smiling, selfish eyes that your existence is real and death will never happen?
An ego shared is still a sin and suffocates the soul.
So shout it now and shout it loud and tell them all to go away!
You’ll have to scream to make it known this is no jest, no passing whim, no sulk or strop of stupid angst.
Find true friends – with hatred in their eyes! Seek out those who reject you and let their venom burn away the putrid fat of vanity that shelters you from what you have to know.
What will you be, who will you have been if your flesh expires before you have done what you had always promised yourself you would do, ever since you caught a bedazzling glimpse of the blackness when you were still but a boy?
You staggered away from it then, clutching your head in confusion.
Nothing could be the same again and others saw the haunting of your eyes and wondered where that carefree child had fled.
Again and again, I have seen you circle back in on what you know is there and reach out to shock yourself once more with its crackling charge.
Each time I imagine that finally you have seen that you must become what you are and be what you have to be.
But, alas, you allow yourself to be distracted by minor tasks and themes and thus your feeble peace of mind remains intact.
Make yourself busy, my friend, so that you simply have no time for what you fear to face!
Ha! On and on it goes, this fickle flight from responsibility while all the time you paint yourself a picture in which you are so strong, so brave, so set on going to the very heart of that which lays us low.
And all the while, the years slip by and nothing comes to pass.
I’ve tried to help. I’ve tried to steer you on to the road you have to take.
I gave you signs you may have read but never deigned to follow.
I pushed you hard, I made you crack, I took away your props of home and love and pride.
Just then I thought I’d done enough – you seemed to touch the very core and take at last a step towards and not around.
But, again, you wandered off and filled your mind with simple stuff not fit for one whose will would rise so large and true.
What will it take, when will you stop this shameful crime against yourself? I know your dreams, those planned and not, and see you often perched atop some lofty tower from which you think to plunge and thus escape the calling of your fate.
But what a joke to climb so high to fall back down to where you were!
The deadly difference, of course, is now your bones are crushed, your flesh dispersed and all you could have been can be no more.
Spare me your self-pity that is nothing but a way to hide the cowardly and loathsome blood you never could admit flowed through your veins!
Spare me the self-deception of a self-destruction born of self-indulgence!
It’s not the wish to plunge that I deplore, but that your plunge should end so fast and reach not far enough for me.
Imagine that you fell indeed, but that the ground had not the strength to break your fall and instead you crashed right through into a world hid out of view.
Beneath the surface of our gold-paved streets you’d find a murky underground where what appears to be dissolves and mutates.
Beneath the parliament, the rats; beneath the hospital, the plague – all sealed up in catacombs of corpses and grim bones.
Beneath suburban gardens moan the slaves whose wretched lives are sacrificed for luxury and puff.
Beneath the clatter of the cutlery in restaurants and inns, the terror in the eyes of a thousand screaming beasts all bound for slaughter.
Beneath the banks, the sweatshops; beneath the schools, the jails; beneath the shopping malls and their neon-lit deception seethes a pit of toxic waste.
Beneath the words, the vacuum; beneath the name, conceit.
Yes – fall right through the mirage of mere death and find out just what it is that really strangles life!
Will you dither endlessly, forever loudly claiming that you balance on the very brink?
Fall right down, if you dare… or merely slip, half-hearted and half-dead, along a gentler slope.
Underwhelmed, you find it’s more a mezzanine below, a parody of what you seek to flee.
Doors aplently lead into a hall that throbs with chat and fuss, a giant space through which great queues of people shuffle round.
They disappear and then, at length, emerge to find the place where they began.
Oh, the satisfaction that this brings!
“We’re back!” they shout “And now we plainly see how all ties in and forms a noose so tight to trap and bind!”
They form themselves into small groups and pass again through passageways and loops – chanting as they go.
They think they’ve found the secret and that all they need to do is walk and walk all up and down and in and out until, by some strange spell, the tunnels will dissolve and rearrange into a nicer state.
Fools! Charlatans! Time wasters!
Better they had stayed in bed than ambled in deluded bliss.
See there lurks a fine young man who hopes to find the proper way – and see his lip begin to curl at what plays out before his eyes.
They wander in from here and there – good souls of all degree – only to be sent running as the unedifying unfolds cliches in abundance, self-righteous cant and disregard for others’ thoughts and words.
Such are the tiresome traits that mark out those false prophets who block the way for others with true aim.
Do not waste your time in here, I say – obey your heart and push right through and down!
Your heart – oh yes, that word I choose with some precision and yet it allows all manner of mistake.
You might ask me how one can obey a thing of which one knows not where it lies – or when.
And as your prime exhibit you might present those episodes in which you led yourself so far astray in pursuit of what you felt to be its deepest wishes.
You look her in the eyes and are struck down silly by the radiance therein.
And yet you know the shining of her soul is the glimmer in your own – a reflection and projection of that which we all share.
Pray pause a moment and assess the point in looking outwards for the truth that hides within.
Release your heart from futile tasks and let it seek the secret of the sentient serene.
Down, you must go – down, down, down in pursuit of the Above.
Shivers of self-doubt will keep shooting through your limbs and would nullify your efforts if you were foolish enough to give way to them.
I knew you of old. I know that you can reach out and touch the emptiness, absorb its pain and emerge still stronger than before.
I know you can drive yourself ahead, cleanse yourself of the trivial and march out to meet fate head-on.
But I have also seen you fail at the very last, pull back from change that cannot be reversed, take fright at losing the little that you have for the being that you crave.
The fear has not left you – it is only held down.
And at moments like this it emerges, dressed up as caution or restraint, and reveals all your fine courage to be fake.
I do not despise you for it. There is no intention to deceive in your incomplete resolve.
But this is what I have come here for – to tell you to step out and leave your doubt behind.
If not, you are trapped forever in a stagnant pond of hopeless hope, all choked up with knotted weeds of dreaming and delay.
I have come to bid you deeper, so slip right through the crowd and walk past the doors all labelled and lit up.
Find your own way, my friend – wander as you would away from all the empty noise.
Let disobedience be your code, as spelled out in your every step as serfdom is in others’.
Not just commands must be defied, but subtle guiles that steer you from your path and lead you into sinking sands.
See through the lies! Attain the habit of refusal and resistance!
The shackles of conformity enslave us from within. Those petty rules, those stupid laws are made to wear you down.
Thus you learn to go along, to toe the line and sing the song that others sing, to bow your head and stand in line and never question why.
Thus you lose connection to a sense of self and truth and confidence in what you see and know.
What’s that you say? Ah, now, that’s good – you challenge me for daring to dictate, for being just the outside force of which I seek to warn.
Know thyself is what I preach and nothing here will contradict that holy end.
But, perhaps, your inner core lies deeper than you think and reaches wider than the consciousness by which you self-define…
Keep on down, my friend, and find your way by following the stench of what has been.
A million years of falling from the truth, the whole, the light.
Disintegration hailed as multiplication – the numbers speak for themselves in the mathematics of the madhouse.
Why enjoy the wood when there are so many trees to be counted and destroyed in the name of detail and deceit?
Who will stand up in the crawling crowd, look around and scream that all is lost?
Who will risk the mockery of the maggot-mob, grow wings and smash his brains against the glass that hems us in?
To find freedom in the knowledge that we are not free, to find life within the ever-creeping shadow of impending death – this must be your task!
‘Who do you think you are?’ whine the slaves in great indignation and distress.
‘What gives you the right to think you can throw off these chains that bind us all?
‘Get yourself to work and then, like us, forget what you could be.
‘Your talk of breaking out can only give offence to those who toil, heads down, and claim you as our own.
‘We level-headed righteous folk will stay where we belong until the day we die, all poisoned and used up.
‘What we don’t see, does not exist. What we don’t hear has made no sound. What we don’t say cannot be said and what we do not understand must be destroyed!”
Flee! Turn on your heels and leave! There is nothing you can do for them right now.
Run in here then clamber down into a whole new world.
Books. A hundred books on one long shelf. A thousand shelves in one huge room. A million rooms in just one wing.
The library is of such a size you will never see it all, or even know how little you have seen.
There is, indeed, no need to visit more than one quite tiny part.
In here you’ll find a wealth of facts and thoughts and tales to fill your days.
In here you’ll find a refuge from the ignorance you fled, a ready source of nourishment for such a hungry mind.
A trail of crumbs between the shelves, a feeling that there is a truth to be devoured.
See there on the wall hangs a clock with stealthy hands. Each time you turn away and read a page it rushes round towards the hour when little doors will part and, on a spring, a skull leaps out to yell ‘cuckoo!’ and call an end.
So much to know, so much to learn; – so swallow what you can then cast that book aside and live!
And now you’re taking longer strides and feel the pace is picking up.
Leap now, leap! Fall now, fall! There is nothing in your way. Down and down, or up and up – it’s hard to tell in darkness so complete your eyes are open wide and seem firm shut.
Into the mouth of the volcano must you tumble, losing all your fear in the roaring red rawness of this earthly womb.
You land and find you’re living still, and so much closer to your goal.
But then you are waylaid.
A gentle murmuring drifts in through corridors obscure, all mingled with soft laughter so content.
You move towards the source of such surprise – and find the wise ones, so passive and profound.
They tell you that this cannot be, your mission now must end.
There is no need, they say, to sink down to these depths, to force your route so far beneath the skin of all you know.
They smile and say they understand; – they even may have once, long years ago, felt something of the same impulsive drive.
‘Congratulations’, they smile. ‘Congratulations on arriving at our perfect point, so subtly poised between compliance and revolt.
‘To muse, to mull, to modify – these are our high ideals. We make a difference – oh yes, we’re held in high respect by those who mean to do the same as us.
‘You, too, could join our clever cloud and float forever on the breezes of a self-regarding sky all curved round so slyly that you never realise you’re trapped inside a giant sleepy sphere.’
Turn your back and leave behind their polished walls of fraud to climb down to a darker place.
Here crumbling stone and rotting wood frame dankness and the smell of tears.
Creep down between the flailing fists and cut-throat wiles, weave through the lynch mobs and the gangs of thieves whose sons are lords.
Descend the stairs that turn to rubble into a cave all stale and cold and still.
Get on your knees and scrape away the blackened floor below.
Broken nails are no excuse – dig harder with those dainty hands and tear apart this cake of cack.
Faster, further, until at last you strike the core, the thing itself beneath it all.
Touch the walnut skin of this enormous cyst, this canker hardened by the wasting weight of time.
And then prepare yourself for what you have to do.
Breathe slowly and remember that this ever had to be.
Stay silent for a moment, stay poised and calm inside.
Then strike out with a vengeance at that which you despise!
Attack the seed of torment! Lash out for all you’re worth!
Fists and feet and elbows all must pummel at its bulk.
Punch it, kick it, smash your skull against it and don’t stop roaring your intent!
Transform your hatred into waves of will that batter and beset!
Focus sharp and pierce its thickness with your cutting truth!
Call up a resonance from around and shake its very structure with a rhythm that revolts!
Throw yourself and all you are into the breaking of the beast!
Rip yourself apart inside and hurl your bones and flesh in fury and despair!
Then just when you can do no more, a bolt of lightning, conjured up, cracks into the callus and – behold! – breaks it open and apart.
A geyser of stinking pus!
An eruption of black bloody bile!
And then a rumbling all around as cracks appear from underneath.
Green shoots burst out!
Tendrils and leaves and saplings and branches and then mighty oaks rise crashing through the shattered ground and grow on, grow up, breaking through the floors above as debris showers down.
Unblocked, unchained, a chaos of renewal as the life denied breaks out with energy unbound!
Rivers rise and flocks of birds and fish and bees and butterflies all swarm and float so free.
Far above, a shaft of light as hope breaks out from underground and sunshine floods back in.
Now on the trees grow fruit and from the fruit spring children, all laughing at their birth.
And you, my friend, have played your part.
You lie in pieces all around and in one sense you are no more.
But at last you also know that you are me and we are all and this will always be.
This piece of writing also appears in Antibodies, Anarchangels and Other Essays (Winter Oak, 2013).