First Published on January 9, 2018
I have been away from this Blog for the festive season, which has been peaceful, warm and full of wonderful moments; but the bewildering symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome persist.
In the last post I began a story about a man adrift in a dinghy, lost in the Doldrums. I told you how he dived down to the dark depths of the sea and was confronted by a giant fish. I have continued with this metaphor in this post as it has provided me with a language to try and understand what it is that I am experiencing. Finding a language to convey and abstract experience is something that I have completed my ten thousand hours on studying as a member of the Kawa development team. My work with the Kawa Model has equipped me with the knowledge that metaphor can be a powerful tool in the process of recovery, and creating a language which has both meaning and relevance is a key aspect of its function.
I swim deeper and deeper towards the blue green light that rises from the bottom of the ocean. Far above, the dinghy pitches gently on insignificant tides which are the high ceiling to this underwater world of murk and uncertainty. The giant black fish that initially barred my way now accompanies me down, down, down, to The Locker. In this submarine habitat there are flecks of light twitching hither and thither through the gloom; an aura of incandescence surrounds and my companion sees my thoughts.
“You have come deeper than you ever did before little man,” my companion is my thoughts, “There is nothing here for you to recognise. There is nothing here that will yield to intellect or knowledge or reason; this is the end of conscious thought – the limit of your humanity. All that lies beyond here is animal instinct and the raw machinery of life.”
The words do not come as a threat, they are a simple statement of what we both know to be true. How can I exist beyond the extent of my own perceptions. Down here there is no reason to life, it simply is.
The bioluminescence of the underworld spreads out like a neural map. Coral shapes and flickering embers of light trace the outlines and movement of a world outside imagination. “But I understand you…I can, can, I can,” the word illudes me, and my companion ends my stammering line of thought.
“Conversations with illusions and apparitions do not provide rational solutions to your plight little swimmer, no matter how elegant they may be.”
“I can choose to believe in my own rationale,” I argue back, “I CAN make my own way.”
The fish looks far into the distance, through the darkness and glowing shapes, it ponders for a moment and flicks it’s massive tail in a lazy, fluid movement.
“You are lost little man, your craft sits high above us, empty and insignificant. No-one knows where you are, not even you, and yet you still persist in your belief that there is some kind of meaning which eludes you. There is no meaning here, there is only oblivion. Those who love you will see you running from the light, seeking solitude and darkness whilst they toil in the labours to keep life alive, and they will call you coward and turn coat and all manner of insults which raise your anger like a storm.” The spectre of the fish meanders the corners of my mind and searches for anything that I might cling to as a vestige of that place from which I sailed, so long ago.
“I am alive – I am a living man – I have dreams and feelings and desires and knowledge,” but in this place my protests are weak and pitiful. The fish simply casts a single silvery eye over the length of my floundering form.
“And yet you plunge to the deepest parts of the world and talk to monsters, you seek out fear so that you may justify a lifelong commitment to paralysis and petrification. You remain here with aliens that you have no hope of understanding and who have no care for you except as a tasty morsel once your life finally leaves you and you sink to the utter depths of the world where none will ever remember you, and in time you will be less than dust.”
Then the fish rounds on me. It seems to expand in size and its already massive fins extend upwards and outwards so that they become colossal sails hung on spiny masts of silver bone. The flesh between is tattered with ragged holes, the edges of which glow with same blue green hue that surrounds us. Its jaws extend to reveal hideous fangs and a gaping throat which sucks in the briny water. The rush sucks me in and I am trawled along towards the jaws of the fish. A great flood erupting into the mouth of the monster carries me inside and I am Jonah in the belly of the whale, but now I have seen the oblivion that lies in the deepest depths of the ocean, I know that there is no god for me to pray to. I am no preacher, I have no faith, I am alone in the belly of the beast.
On the surface the Dinghy rocks to and fro in the gentle sea. From the starboard bow there approaches a small rowing boat. The oarsman skilfully glides the boat across the becalmed sea towards the Dinghy. On his head is a leather cap, and he wears a light green shirt. Around his neck is a string of gambling dice. His hands are calloused and rough with the work of rowing, but his arms are strong and his back supple. The boatman brings his vessel alongside the Dinghy and lashes the two craft together with a rope. He glances inside the Dinghy, and pays special attention to the tarpaulin, but he remains in his little rowing boat. He takes out a pouch of tobacco and rolls a cigarette whilst bobbing on the tide.
“All at sea,” the stranger ponders to himself, “all alone. When will we learn?” The smoke rises and is carried away on a light breeze, the boatman studies the cigarette, looking at its form, the slight conical shape, the pattern on the paper. He looks at the smoke whisping from the tip and studies its furls and coils as it dissipates into the salty air. He tilts his head to one side as if he reads something of importance in the smoke, am message. Yes, there it is; he sees it. There is meaning there, slight, and as delicate as mist, but it is there. His eyes fill with wonder and hope as he puts the cigarette to his lips and pulls hard. He inhales the message in the smoke into his lungs, where it is passed into his blood. The message flows through his veins and reaches every part of him. The message from the smoke courses through his body, finding his nervous system and entering his mind.
The message is a question.
“I see,” says the boatman, “so this is the place where it all began. This is the seed of a tree which has yet to grow and these are the roots of that which has no home. Of course, of course, of course,” he smiles and chuckles to himself, looks one more time at the cigarette and flicks it deftly into the air where it hangs for a moment before falling in a graceful arc into the surrounding sea, “Time to get going friend.”
He steps with practised nimbleness from his craft into the Dinghy and pulls back the tarpaulin.
In this dark place there is no sound, no light, no sensation nor feeling. There is just the smell: a metallic tang with undertones of raw flesh, and, far in the back ground, there is a sickly chemical flavour which nauseates in waves. I twist and grapple for some kind of purchase in this null environment. As I shift my position this way and that, I notice sounds in the dark; when I angle my head at forty five degrees I hear a ringing sound, a whistling. I shift my head again and my head is filled with a mechanical throb, and when I look up there is a strange “un-sound,” a silence which has form and presence, a silence which sounds as if it is something that can be felt. I begin to swim around inside the belly of the fish and find small pockets of noises here and there, but none of them, not one, seem to originate from anywhere.
All this auditory processing has, thankfully, taken my mind off the strange and nauseating odour, which, like the sound, seems to permeate my senses without originating from anywhere in particular. From out of the darkness I hear a swooshing sound and there is a sudden tactile sense at the back of my neck; a tiny pinprick at the base of my skull causes me to shudder and jerk away, but I am held fast. I reach round to the back of my head to remove whatever has struck me, but there is nothing there. A panic rises in the pit of my stomach and my chest is beginning to vibrate with a bass throb that fills my entire being: WUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUB.
The pinpricks unravel into tendrils which tangle with my nervous system and a green light begins to emanate from my finger tips. The walls of the fish’s stomach begin to contract and I am soon pushing against the slimy, leathery membrane that is my prison, and soon, it would seem, to be my grave.
The thumping bass hum increases in intensity and I hear voices in the depths of its dire resonance. Lights flicker before me, back and forth. Sharp rocklike formations begin to erupt from the floor of the belly of the fish, but it is a fish no more. The walls and floor are black and green rocks. I can see the the sea bed at the mouth of the cave and there is light there, not the eerie green luminescence of the deep, but sunlight flickering down from above. We are no longer in the depths but higher now. The bass hum ebbs to the background and I can hear more voices in the dark, and waves lapping against woodwork.
But there is something wrong. I am changed somehow. Glancing down I see the protuberance of my black lipped mouth jutting forwards. As I try to raise my hand to my face I feel myself shift slightly in the water, my pectoral fins flick where fingers once were. I swim to the mouth of the cave driven forwards by my great black tail, my dorsal spines glimmer in the luminescence of the ocean floor and I glide across the sandy silt base of the world, silent and enraged.