Thursday, May 20, 2010

Highway to Hell

At the geometric centre of the epics that underpin so much of the Western tradition, those eponymous heroes suffer a descent into the Underworld, within which they experience the epiphanies that inform those epics, and also much of the Western tradition. I believe this narrative arc applies to us as well. You can read the proton hysteron structure in our lives.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that my life demonstrates Aeneic or Odyssean qualities and virtues. But each of us has a structure to our lives -- at the very least we feel compelled to give it that structure in order to make any synthetic sense of it. Speaking for myself, these structures are more appropriate to a mediaeval commonplace book (or a 21st-century blog) rather than the high genres of epic and tragedy.

Having said that, almost all of us experience a metaphorical descent into hell, a proton hysteron moment, somewhere around the chronological centre of our lives. Hell, maybe some of you have actually been there and back. Who am I to question your epistemological horizons or your flat-out faith in the Judeo-Christian tradition? All that Matters to me is the form in which that tradition is generated and expressed, and the ways in which we interpret and render experience. And that includes great works of art. And it includes our lives, whether or not anyone but our mother knows that we lived one.

As I leave my 30's behind, I believe I've completed my leg through the 9 layers. Or maybe I'm still climbing back up. Maybe I'm in Limbo. The 2000's are over, and I have higher hopes for the back half. So many people have helped me get through this. My sister. My Mother. All that woman is about is love, loyalty and a generosity of spirit that knows no bounds. My Father, who is now so much harder to find, is closer to me than he ever was. Yet I can't go where he so often seems to go. Against the grain, he is ending his life as it started -- locked in his own Hell. One I can't imagine, and can't enter, though I may deserve to.

And my friends -- the Ramblers, now scattered all over the globe, from Vancouver to Toronto to Geneva to Islamabad. And so many others who know who they are. In Vancouver, Mexico, Hong Kong. In Gatineau. In Ottawa. In the Glen. Throughout my 50 Million Year Trip, I have had a lot of people in my corner. Only after the deepest descent did I realize how lucky I have been.

And there are my brothers.

Cousine, who drove ten hours through a snowstorm on the eve of my surgery. And then 10 hours back the next day to work. I don't know if he will ever know how much that meant to me.

And my other two brothers, themselves bonded by blood. I'd like to think of them as my brothers too. The one held vigil with my family as they cut into the part of my body that I cared about most. The other would have joined him, had not the South Seas separated us. But at perhaps the lowest layer of my descent, in what seemed, to me, only minutes after the anagnorisis was washing over, his voice came through. And it too made a difference.

I have never been more certain of anything. After the nadir of the past decade, and the past 2 years in particular, the chapters of the second half will be the finest. By nature, the Past has always been my Prime Mover. As a student, as a professional. On both sides of the temporal/narrative/experiential fulcrum. It is therapeutic and cathartic for me. A lot of what I do here is past-looking, even if just harmlessly nostalgic. But then again the past isn't always malleable. Some things just are, and have been.

I've never been much of a futurist. But even as the world seems to be going to shit before my eyes, I'm happy with where I'm headed. I used to have to build my levee, gulp by gulp. One of the unintended consequences of my infernal itinerary was the end of the excess. I may still be building a levee against the river of shit, but I'm using different materials. And I'm letting people help me a little bit more.

And that's a good fucking thing.


  1. Fucking 'A'! Good post and welcome back. Lucky, you are, to have so many good buddies. One of mine took a Springsteen CD a few years ago, and never gave it back. Once a friend bought me a beer. He was arrested. I imagined a friend once; that night I had a nightmare.

    Like I said, welcome back. And like the Devil says: "Hell is what you make of it".

  2. Come stack another layer on your shit levee with Graven - Saturday Night - Zaphods.

    Thanks for sharing and crafting these fine tales.