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I've been loving you too long to stop now...

The record player was skipping again. Had been for a spell. But when the last drops of whiskey had evaporated from his lips, and his cigarette had burned itself out against the old marble ashtray, he heard it for the first time. Otis is probably tired of crooning the same line over and again, he quipped to himself as he moved to the old turntable.

Harsh sunlight was creeping its way through the holes of the curtains. Particles of dust were turning in the sun's rays, transforming the dirty apartment into a snowglobe. Was it midafternoon? Late? How long had he been sitting there alone, drink in hand? The empty bottles, cans, and old tv dinners gave him away. He'd been sitting like this for years.

In a moment of clarity, he gathered bits of trash in his arms to carry to the kitchen garbage. The linoleum reminded him of the day she'd walked out--in heels. In those black pumps that made her legs look incredible, she'd yelled at him to pay attention. He had been, of course, but to her legs--not to what she'd said. Would he always regret ignoring her then? Had he looked up, he would have seen the end in her eyes. He could have stopped her from leaving. But he hadn't. Her legs, in their stockings and heels, had inspired him to think of other things. Always thinking of other things: another beer, the game, taking her to bed.

He was deep into his fantasy. After she'd made the house spotless and dinner was warm in the oven, he'd throw her down over the kitchen table and do her right there, like old times. His stale, wrinkled jeans twitched at the thought, like the stirring of something ancient under years of fossil and ruin. Even now the fantasy is what moved him.

Only with a deliberate grunt and shake of the head did he return to reality. Had he heard her say she wanted more? That she was leaving? This time for good? He vaguely remembered hearing the door slam behind her. She never did come back to act out that kitchen fantasy.

A handful of cans sprawled out of his hands and clanked over the dirty kitchen floor, sunlight making them twinkle and shine. He bent forward slowly, his back warped with age and misery, reaching for the trash as it scattered across the messy tile. There on his knees, body contorted in a painful crouch, he could see that he was struggling to pick up more than wrappers and cans. He was trying to pick up the pieces of his life.

For some, great epiphanies happen in churches. Others get their greatest inspiration from paintings, books, or speeches. In a brilliant stroke of kismet, our protagonist received his great awakening from a half-crumpled can of Miller Genuine Draft. He'd be nothing without her--had been, all his life--and he'd have to get her back.

lyrics from Otis Redding's "I've been loving you," circa 1965

Beyond the Resurrection Myth

My mythology begins with a resurrection myth. That myth is my literalism and your metaphor, relating a tale about someone lost and hopeless who is reborn. I had been in a critical depression for five years, believing myself to be of no value to anyone or to this world in general, so filled with self-hatred directed at my perceived inability to succeed at anything, that I ended my own life. Where I had been was a very dark place from where I could see no light. I could see no value in living, in going on, in dragging myself through another day of pain and disappointment. That is my literal truth, but it is a metaphor for rebirth and a new life rising from the ruins of the old.

Exactly how I went from that place to who I was soon after my suicide, this person who drew people to him, who had women pursuing him and professing love for him, who had people seeking him out for advice, and who was invited to parties and gatherings because he was fun to be around, can be explained psychologically and medically, to some degree, but this isn't important. The myth is what is important. The literal truth of my experience is my issue. Translating my experiences into mythological language is where my focus is now.

The adventures over the five years immediately after my suicide can be read like many of the heroic tales of myth. In most resurrection myths, a figure with potential for greatness is usually bogged down by some pervasive flaw. They are not following their heroic path. They may have some kind of obsession. Maybe they are unable to understand the suffering of their people, if they are some kind of ruler, or they might be prone to acts of cruelty in the course of advancing self-interest. The experience of coming face to face with death changes them, allows them to see they are on the wrong path and shows them a better way. They can only do this by becoming fundamentally changed as a person.

The near-death experience is a major trauma. Any major trauma has the potential to fundamentally change a person as far as how they interact with the world. For some, such as myself, it freed my from my self-imposed chains, my need to fit and and be accepted at any cost. For others, a trauma can damage them to the point where they are unable to interact with the world around them in any meaningful way. They are awakened to the true nature of this world. They see the darkness that exists around us every day, the darkness we don't want to admit is there. It is a darkness produced by people, all of which are negotiating with themselves constantly about how to react to others and to situations involving others. There is always the potential for something horrible to happen to you or to someone you know. To accept the lingering presence of the knowledge of darkness is too much for most. They must pretend it isn't there.

I have often said that I was gifted with expansive empathy as a result of my death experience. It was likely a case of it being awakened in me, as we have countless dormant aspects of our personality and character that remain untapped throughout our lives. What that did at first was to awaken me to something I'd never before been able to comprehend. I'd always been unable to really understand people. 

The whole world was in pain. Everyone was dealing with some kind of struggle, usually multiple struggles. People put on a mask to go out and be amongst others. One must always project strength and confidence. You can't look weak. Inside, there was the hidden and repressed pain and sorrow. I could see it. I could feel it, and I was drawn to it.

In the five years leading up to my suicide I'd become convinced that I was the world's only fuck up. Everyone else seemed to be going along fine, having setbacks but usually succeeding in their efforts, and the world was going on without me. I was constantly failing. My setbacks were disasters. No one would understand. They were winners and I was a loser.

Following my death I saw the first flaw in my suicide thesis. I was not the world's only fuck up. I wasn't even in the major leagues.

In the Time of Magick

My initial re-entry into this world was filled with confusion. I was unable to process this expanded empathy because I was feeling things I'd never felt before. I could feel the pain, the joy, the sorrow, and every other emotion radiating from the people around me. Three times I'd have to remove myself from being in a large group of people because it was too overwhelming. One of those times I passed out.

Once I was able to process this new way of interacting with the world around me, being able to feel the emotions of others, I became a magnet. People were drawn to me, especially women. Men would generally ask, "How do you do it?" because they saw how easily I interacted with women and how often I left with one. They thought I was sleeping with a different woman every week, but the truth was that I dated more than fifty women in that time and I had sex with two. That wasn't what it was about. I didn't know what it was about. All I did was go where the current took me. Life was good and I didn't want to get off this ride.

Within a couple of years, my legendary prowess with women, which was founded upon the perceptions of others, reached comical proportions. It was comical because here I was, this guy who killed himself because no one wanted to be around a failure like him, and now people were falling over themselves, even getting into physical altercations, just to be around me. I'd make fun of the perception of me in whatever way I could. By 1996, I was showing up at parties and gatherings in a black silk suit, a woman on either arm, acting like James Bond.

In the public eye I was one thing. I was Magick, the guy who got everything he wanted and went home with a different woman every night. Magick loved to party, to have a good time, and to celebrate being alive. Magick didn't want anything else, but there was something most people didn't know. Magick didn't even realize it himself, all he did was go with the flow and let the current take him where it wanted to go. Magick was surfing life.

It was as if everything had been inverted to the point of absurdity. Two women I was in relationships with during the first two years after my suicide went to insane lengths to keep me from leaving them. I had a woman I'd never met tell me she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she didn't kiss me before she left the party. Given that my previous girlfriends, before my suicide, often couldn't get away from me fast enough, this was all absurd. A girlfriend threatened to kill herself if I left her, going so far as to press a knife into her abdomen. You're trying to kill yourself because you don't want to live if you can't be with me? I used to tell people who asked what my secret was, "I'm a loser, an idiot, and women don't like me," and just smile. "I guess that works for me."

What the Hell is Going On?

I was interested in people's stories. What I wanted to know was what made them tick. What made them go on? What was their pain? What was their dark secret? Who were they, really? What resulted from this was that I found myself out on many dates with many women and all we did was talk. I became the one who listened without judgment, to whom sins were confessed, and I began to see the darkness lurking behind the freshly painted exterior designed to hide it all. I slept with a half dozen women without it being sexual. They asked if I'd hold them and just sleep, and there were many reasons for it. Sometimes the stories that were told were so difficult, so painful, that the storyteller needed someone to hold them as they slept. That became who I was, and I wasn't doing any of it intentionally. I just went where the current took me. What did women want from me? I tried to give them everything I could, and it was rarely a night of boink boink and the air raid alert.

What did all this mean? At the time, what I saw was a life on easy cruise control. Why change anything when everything was going so well? I could command a room just by walking into it. By 1999, there were three times where two women would get into physical altercations with each other over who would get to go home with me. Don't you people understand that I killed myself because I am unworthy of love and I'm a complete failure at life? What the hell is wrong with you? I am a loser, you fools!

The bloated ego was necessary for the next turn in my mythology. The insanity of giving up a life of joy and excess in order to follow some crazy messages that came nightly in dreams was something that didn't make sense to most of the people I know. Why fix what isn't broken? The woman from the dreams was unbelievably beautiful. Such a woman would never give the time of day to a loser like me, but this larger than life character I'd become... 

The story of my arrival in Orlando, invited by a woman whose opinion of me had been dramatically altered in forty-eight hours, from dressing me down as a womanizing creep who needed to stay away from her to professing love for me less than two days later. Most considered this to be another episode in my ridiculous adventures. "No one can resist Magick! He'll put a spell on you."

There was no spell. There was no seduction, no pitch, no secret lines. My legend painted me as someone with a long list of "female conquests." I didn't conquer anyone. When they found out what I actually did with all these women, their view of me completely changed. You date women just to listen to their stories and to try to understand their struggle and help them find a better way? Who the fuck are you?

When someone's opinion of me changed, it further bloated my ego.. Maybe I was accidently doing some good in the world through my interactions with people, but that wasn't the point. The point was that I just went with the current and let it take me where it went. I was seeking to understand the world outside of the narrow worldview I'd developed prior to my suicide. Women tended to provide the most real and raw elements of our existence in the most honest way, and that was what I was looking for. I'd never bothered to even try to understand people in the past. I just wanted them to do what I expected them to do. I was exploring the new frontier.

How absurd was this trip? In the five years following my suicide, seven women professed to be in love with me. In the days leading up to my suicide I wrote at length in my journals about the reasons for ending my life. One of those was "No woman will ever really love me." I was being mocked.

Confidence as a Super Power

Without that bloated ego, the events of 1997, the pivotal year in my mythology, would never have happened. There was a precision involved in my move to Orlando that year. All the pieces had to come together just right for it to happen. Without that ego I never would have made the effort to convince Christine, the woman who dressed me down based on her sister's reports about me, that I wasn't this awful person her sister thought I was. Without that ego, I never would have given up a steady job to move to Orlando where I had no job prospects and trust that it would all work out, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to walk into a restaurant, sit down at the bar, and tell people I'd died and come back to find one of the waitresses that worked there. Without the level of confidence I had in myself at that time, none of that would have happened.

Tina was a young woman with a particularly complicated set of problems, most of which stemmed from people's perception of her. She was the type of person who possessed such physical beauty that everyone assumed she got everything she wanted. She was introverted, terrified of failure, and suffered from low self-esteem and major shortfalls in confidence. Because of her appearance, everyone interpreted this as her being a snob who was too good for everyone else. She wasn't shy, she was aloof. She didn't avoid hanging out with her co-workers because she had social anxiety. She did it because she was a diva. Who else was going to be able to see through all that? I was a guy who'd become immune to being mesmerized. She mesmerized me in a different way. I needed to know who she was, and that was exactly the kind of person she needed at that point in her life, someone who believed in her and sought to understand her rather than to lecture her about all the things she was doing wrong. The pieces has to fit together or she would have never told me, after three years of our ongoing interactions, that she'd overcome her fears, achieved things she'd not believed herself capable of, and had found her path, all while saying she couldn't have done it without me and that my appearance in her life had been a "miracle."

Everything can be a tool if you figure out how it works. Ego and confidence are tools, but if we rely too heavily on just a few tools, we're left with fewer options when it comes to a crisis. In psychology they talk about having a toolbox full of coping skills. You need many tools because you can't use a hammer every time. Prior to my suicide, a hammer was the only tool I used. I tried to force square pegs into round holes and then cursed my hammer for being unable to complete the task. I was now using different tools, but they were all centered around my self-confidence, ego, and a growing belief that I could not fail because it seemed I always succeeded now. I was entering into a phase of overconfidence and vanity.

My intial visits to Chili's, when I told the story of my death and how these dreams had guided me there, I had two waitresses and a bartender hanging intently on every word. All three would, in one way or another, offer to be my "dream girl" if Tina didn't want me. It was my ego that allowed me to turn them down as I chuckled to myself about how my pre-suicide self would have looked on with disbelief and said, "What the fuck, dude? I'd kill for some of that action..."

I didn't "need" sex and I wasn't looking for a relationship. Sometimes those things happened, but I never pursued them intentionally. What I did know was that if I started sleeping with the women Tina worked with, I wasn't going to look much like I was on any mission other than putting notches in my bedpost. No, I would listen to their stories, get to know them, but I'd always stop them at a certain point. I had to be there for Tina, to figure out why I'd been drawn there by her, or by the image of her, in my dreams. This could not be a convoluted mess. I didn't have any problems finding women who wanted to go out with me, or to sleep with me, and this was about something else. It never would have happened that way without the inflated ego. I would have broken down, and eventually I would, but not until 1999 when I met Christina, but that wasn't about sex specifically. It was about giving her something she'd never had, something which remains an eternal secret between us.

A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall

 The Great Collapse of 1999 becomes a key element in my personal mythology because it is a lesson about pride and vanity. It is about overconfidence and how easily it allows you to get blindsided by events you never anticipated. Everything was coming up Millhouse. There was no way I could stumble now. I had eerie, mystical powers, dude. You can't touch this.

It actually began in the summer of 1998. Part of my plan when moving to Orlando had involved filing for bankruptcy. Years of working two jobs just to pay the interest on runaway credit card debt from foolish spending habits in the 1980s, when such thing were actively encouraged, had led me to realize there was no other way out. I would file in the summer of 1999, which meant that I had to stop using the cards six months before filing and I couldn't spend the thousands of dollars of open credit I had on anything that could be taken in the bankruptcy. So, I usually spent it on picking up bar tabs and taking people out to dinner in expensive restaurants. Then I began hanging out with a co-worker who was a devoted gambler. He told me of how his gambling added an extra $50,000 a year to his bank account, telling me of his various systems involving sports betting, and then getting me into it with all my thousands of dollars of open credit. I was sucked in, winning big on my first two bets, and then going on a losing streak that I had to make a comeback from. I was the comeback kid. I could do anything.

I was addicted and couldn't stop. I burned through the money I'd set aside for emergencies after the bankruptcy when I'd have no credit cards to use and would have to rely on my paycheck alone. I got loans from people, saying I needed it for rent or food, because there was a line on a game I had to get in on. It was a no-brainer. There was no way this team wouldn't cover the spread.

To me it didn't matter, it was all disposable money, even when it wasn't. On June 6, 1999, when my cocaine addicted former mechanic sabotaged my car to try to make a quick buck, I didn't have the money to fix the car, which would lead to losing my job, reaching the very edge of becoming homeless, and scratching to stay alive. My situation in 1999 was far worse than it was in 1994 when I decided to end my life. I only avoided homelessness by swallowing my pride and reaching out to someone who could help me, my father, which required admitting that I needed help and that I had stumbled badly. This was something people had been expecting when I made the decision to move to Orlando without a plan. It was something I wanted to avoid at all costs, but then the cost became too steep.

The fall of the hero is as important an element of many mythologies as the resurrection myth. Often they are connected, telling much the same story as is told in my mythology. The resurrected hero is seemingly invicible. She defeats all her foes, dispatches all evil with style, and cannot be corrupted. They are larger than life. They are like the superheroes of yesterday, without flaws or defect, but that is an illusion. All heroes have flaws and weaknesses. Otherwise they have no business in existing being all perfect and shit.

The purpose of the tale reflects human nature, the core aspects of our being. If this great heroic figure falls and then rises again, cannot we do the same? We stumble and we fall. We get back up again. We fly the friendly skies for a while, but then we stumble and fall again. It is the way of things. It is the purpose of being, to have our true character tested through our interactions with people and how we respond to crisis, loss, and major disappointments.

In June of 1999, the hero of my personal mythology would face his limitations and be broken by them. Suddenly, instead of everything always breaking in the right way, producing satisfying and positive results, everything seemed to break in the wrong way. Where it had once been comical how easily the character known as Magick glided through life, it was now comical how everything I did turned out to be such a disaster that the stories are hard to believe. The simple act of buying a solid color polo shirt for a new job turned into a bus ride from hell that took me to the opposite side of town, losing my wallet and the last of my cash, and having to walk for six hours to get back to my apartment. I was three hours late for my first day on the job and why even show up at that point? After walking six hours in the Florida heat I was just ready to collapse. How does buying a shirt turn out so poorly? The universe was mocking my invincibility.

Translating the Literal into Mythology and Back Again

One of the elements of a great mythology is that it teaches us lessons about ourselves. We are meant to learn something from them, and usually that lesson can be translated into personal experience and seen in a different way by different people. You can go to a movie and different aspects of the story will stand out to you that won't stand out to the person sitting next to you. Each of you experience the film in a different way, even if those differences are very subtle. You identify with certain characters. Their story and their struggle become the reason you watch intently. Television shows keep viewers tuning in by providing a range of characters designed so that viewers can find one they identify with. The identification with that character, or with multiple characters, is what keeps you tuning in.

When it comes to larger than life characters, the identification is different than that involving a show where a mostly average person goes through trials and situations. The larger than life hero, the superhero, has abilities beyond what regular people have. They can fly. They can't be killed with bullets. They have impossibly good skill at fighting. Whatever it is, you don't have it, but you identify with them anyway. They are presented as being human at the core, regular people like you and me who have acquired special abilities we don't have, and not something too far removed from the human experience.

No Superman can exist without kryptonite. A hero that has no weakness, no flaw, is utterly useless when it comes to storytelling. There is no point, unless you are the kind of person who is addicted to the idea that there are perfect heroes who always do the right thing and never falter. Such fantasies have to be discarded if you want to see life as it really is instead of clinging to an unobtainable ideal. When the hero falters, it translates in our mind that stumbling and falling in the course of life is something that happens to everyone. If the great hero can fall then it is okay when you fall as well. It is going to be okay. Shit happens to everyone. You are not alone in the universe.

What I believe is that we have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind, although I am not comfortable calling it "mind." It is an awareness of sorts, but that isn't the right word either. We have those thoughts and feelings we are conscious of. This is generally our literalism. These are thoughts and feelings arising from actual experiences we've had and how we've dealt with those experiences. They are our own, but there is much we bury, most of which we are never aware of. We have rejected them on spec. We are attempting to integrate ourselves into a system, this life, and to enhance our interactions with others in some way. What will detract from those goals does not get consciously processed, or has been processed and shredded. There are things we consciously suppress, that we reject, and those are the things that usually come back to haunt us. Crusaders against the "evil of homosexuality" get caught getting blowjobs from other men in airport bathrooms. Suppression is ugly. It is like sticking your finger in a hole in the dyke, closing your eyes, and hoping for the best.

The unconscious is a different thing. It contains thoughts and feelings never processed. It is everything our internal systems has decided will not be of benefit in this particular existence. It also functions in a different way than our conscious mind. It cannot speak to us directly. It can only communicate through symbols and familiar images. The only language the unconscious understands is metaphor. It has no literalism. It has no conscious existence. It is our core engine. We may be conscious of our thoughts and feelings. We may know, to some degree, how we will react to different situations that arise over the course of our lives. The unconscious knows why we react this way. It contains the programming behind the reason we react that way.

In order to truly understand ourselves, we have to access the symbolism delivered by our unconscious, into something tangible we can relate to. What I do is translate it and then translate it back. I use the imagery of dreams and those captured through meditation, to understand my life, and then I send the literal truth of my life experience back in a language my unconscious can understand. It changes the nature of the core engine so that it is more accessible.

Legitimizing the Unconscious World

The unconscious is a world of myth. Absolutely nothing is literal there. It is the world of dreams, of imagination, and it often leaks out through creative expression. It is the driving force behind great art of all kinds. There is sitting and painting a peaceful landscape because it looks pretty, and that is not without value, but great art will stimulate the unconscious. We have a deep, emotional reaction to it we cannot readily explain. It communicates something to us we can't define. Some art can be overwhelming, from a painting you cannot look away from to a book that overwhelms you with tears. The depth of your reaction to these things is not readily apparent. Sure, you broke down in tears watching the movie because the character went through an experience similar to one that you went through. That is the identification, but why the strength of the reaction. You do realize these are just actors playing roles, don't you? Linda's dog didn't really get hit by a car. Mark's father didn't really die of cancer. The guy who played his father is doing an interview with a magazine right now. Are you daft?

That film, that book, that poem, that painting... these are just imaginary things. What the hell use are they? Escapism? Avoidance of real life? Sometimes we just need to watch some crap that doesn't mean anything at all. You just want to forget about everything. If that was all it was, just a chocolate bar passed to us by the soldiers that liberated our town, it would still have value, but that isn't all there is to a fire. Great art reaches us down to our soul, to the unconscious, and zings us in a place we never realized existed inside of us. Great art awakens.

What of our own art? Maybe we aren't a painter, a filmmaker, a novelist, a poet, a sculptor... but we have our art. We have the world of our unconscious mind, the place where creativity springs from, where great art is born. We have images and fragments of stories delivered to us in dreams. We see something in a display window that fascinates us for reasons we cannot consciously recall. Why does that red dress in the window draw me in? I'm not particularly fond of red dresses, I don't buy dresses, I don't wear dresses... so what the hell? Something has been processed as marked for destruction and submerged in the icy seas of the unconscious, something we can only access via a particular switch, what is basically a trigger like those that cause someone to relive a traumatic experience.

Usually with post-traumatic stress disorder, the trigger is not what one would expect. I have PTSD as a result of long-term emotional abuse over a two-year period of time. That would culminate in seeing a person who meant a great deal to me slice their body open in as many places as possible, trying to bleed out on the bathroom floor. I'm not triggered by blood, by people cutting, or anything like that. I'm triggered by driving a car alone. The night I came upon that scene I was traveling home through a snowstorm and white-knuckling it down country roads that were reaching the point of being impassable. When I got home I thought the nightmare was over, but it was just beginning. When I drive alone I have flashbacks to images of that night that are so pervasive I cannot see the road, along with a sense of great forboding that I am going to find something horrible has happened to people at my planned destination. I am unable to stop thinking, "Everyone is going to be dead." So, I stopped driving.

Trauma triggers are very similar to how the unconscious communicates with our conscious selves. You have to translate the symbols and images into something tangible. The unconscious has no time for literalism and it has no time for tangible things. The landscape of the unconscious is constantly shifting. It doesn't follow the rules of time and space we've become dependent on here. We're not talking about leaving Cleveland and going to Paris where life may be very different and strange, but still follows the same rules of time and space. The unconscious isn't a physical place with physical rules and dimensions. It has no time for your rules. All it does is reflect you back upon yourself and try to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you can get out of that mess and do something better. It is like a fucked up GPS system that doesn't say, "Stop at the red light." It says, "You may have to pause but the journey will continue," but we're too busy trying to figure out if that is some great philosophical statement when it is just our unconscious reminding us not to be discouraged by the red light because street lights usually change after a while.

In the mid to late 1990s, I was plagued by persistent dreams, all with related themes. "You fucking died. Now you have to do something with your life and stop doing all the shit that made you want to die." That was the gist, but it wasn't the whole picture. That was the literal interpretation. I needed to make major changes in my life. Sure, I was now happy and things always seemed to go my way with a few bumps in the road,, so why do anything different? My unconscious demanded it. My unconscious was relentless in telling me I needed to live a different life. My unconscious was concerned with my continued survival here. It is the most basic element of being human, the drive to stay alive.

Are you in a place where you are understood and loved? Are you with people who accept you as you are, who encourage you, and who give you strength? Are you surrounded by people who demand you be someone other than who you feel you really are? Is the place where you are at helping or hurting your growth and your personal journey? The unconscious is always asking these questions and sending you the raw data.

I decided to take control of the dreams. I taught myself lucid dreaming. I used drugs, meditation, and attempted to have an out-of-body experience. None of these things was successful. The only thing that was successful was legitimizing the dreams and using lucid dreaming techniques to interact with the dreams. If they wanted to play, if they wanted to cause me ongoing insomnia, then I would play. After all, I could do anything.

They became a second world. They became Rancho Nuevo. This was the place I'd gone to when I died, coming back in pieces to me in dreams and visions. It was still with me, but it wasn't a literal place. It was my unconscious mind translating my experiences into metaphor. The history of Rancho Nuevo, which doesn't follow a timeline that makes sense to our understanding of time, always contains references to "The Great Angel War" that destroyed Rancho Nuevo before it was rebuilt. That bit of history is a reference to my suicide. When I died, Rancho Nuevo was an endless desert wasteland. Then it became a wooded wilderness where it never stopped snowing, with a cabin in the middle of it, the place where there was no snow. Every aspect of the story of Rancho Nuevo can be related to events in my life in the waking world. It is a collection of metaphors meant to enlighten me as to my true nature as measured through my interactions with others. When I was alone, isolated, feeling hopeless and unworthy of living, my soul was an endless wasteland. When I was trapped in the world I'd given up on, despite my claims to have left it behind, my unconscious reflected the snow-filled woods with a single cabin as the only refuge from the weather.

The unconscious is not another world. It is not a destination. It is more like a fun house mirror, reflecting the image of you back to you in a different way. When it gets persistent, it is trying to tell you something. We usually get these things after a while when it becomes too obvious to avoid. You are in a job that makes you miserable and you can't stand it any longer. You are afraid to leave and take a chance in getting another job. Your unconscious mind is going to say, "Fuck this shit, get out of there, you deserve better than that," but it won't say it that way. Someone once told me of a situation like that and she'd dream that she was in this factory being asked to kill puppies so they could be stuffed and sold as toys. She was a great lover of dogs and the dreams disturbed her. Heck of a way for your unconscious to tell you that you hate your job and you need to do something about that. The unconscious really hates seeing you giving up and resigning yourself to failure. It is an engine. It tries to drive you forward.

To legitimize the unconscious world you need to accept it as equally valid when compared to your waking life, but you also must realize what it is. You must avoid literalizing it.

You are Captain Wonderful

You are reading a story about a heroic character named Captain Wonderful. In the story, Captain Wonderful leads a band of people against enormous odds and helps them overcome them all. Captain Wonderful is amazing. Captain Wonderful can defeat monsters, dive off cliffs into chasms, find the way out of certain disaster. You wish you could be like Captain Wonderful and be able to do those things.

You can. You are Captain Wonderful. That is why you relate to the character, but you have different tools and skills at your disposal. Captain Wonderful is larger than life. In dreams you may be Captain Wonderful. In my dreams I am the Jack of Rancho Nuevo. It means I am sworn to serve and protect the queens of Rancho Nuevo. In turn, the queens serve the realm. There I was once capable of feats that would not be humanly possible. I've spent years making the Jack of Rancho Nuevo human. Why? Because I'm not learning anything from an invincible hero. You only learn when you fall. You only understand the darkness when you've bathed in the darkness.

The invincible hero can be empowering when we identify with the character, but only to a point. The hero must have flaws. Someone is always going to find kryptonite to use against Superman, but beyond that, we've moved away from the idealistic and perfect heroes of the past. Movies about war, once used to promote the patriotic call to arms, have gone from showing us shining characters who were morally perfect and always won in the end to showing us characters that are human, flawed, and so much more realistic. We are seeking the stories that will inspire us, but often what inspires us is not the triumph but the struggle the characters went through before getting there. We hope they will show us the way to overcome our own struggles and stand up to our own demons.

It cannot be done alone. We need each other. My Captain Wonderful ran into a steam locomotive in the summer of 1999 and was so damaged he wanted to just give up, although he wasn't sure what he meant by that. It took another voice to inspire him to get back up again, the pivotal character of Tammy, a center point to my mythology, both as rescuer of the hero and the one he turned away from when she needed him most. How we interact with everyone matters, from family members to the homeless guy who asked if you could spare some change. You don't have to give him any change to show your character, all you have to do is respect him as your equal and understand how difficult it is for him to play the hand he was dealt. If you spit on him, you lose. That becomes who you are.

Every other aspect could be fixed, correct, or changed when it came to The Collapse of 1999, except the human element. A new job, a new car, money, and even facing down my gambling addiction were check marks on the exam to get out of there. The damage I did to Tammy continues to haunt me. We cannot be careless with people. We have to become more aware of how our actions affect others.

The Answer Does Not Exist

The search for meaning in the form of a simple answer to the question, "What does it all mean?" is pointless. I will tell you "Give everything you can to everyone you know," but this is merely the purpose of our existence in this place, in this life, in this world. That is what is asked of us. Who is asking this of us? We ask it of ourselves. Inside us all, through our unconscious, we know it to be true. Almost every great mythological tradition emphasizes giving of oneself for the benefit of other people. It is one of those convergent themes. We are not here to collect personal glory. We are here to help each other through our individual journeys and to be characters in each other's stories.

My belief system hinges on the idea of the conscious and unconscious self, but also on the individual unconscious being connected to the universal unconscious. What is this universal unconscious? It is something that cannot be defined, but people like to personify it as a deity of one kind or another. In my travels I have become convinced there is something that ties us all together aside from sharing the same planet, but I dare not give it defiition beyond that because it enters into a dangerous level of literalism. This is where you get into the nature of the spiritual experience, which I believe is personal rather than communal. You can't wholesale the spiritual experience, it has to be attained individually on the individual's own terms in metaphorical language they can relate to and comprehend. People who shop off-the-rack are really missing the point.

I believe we are in the midst of an eternal existence, the parameters of which are beyond our ability to understand. This life is merely a component of that existence. What is the purpose of this eternal existence? Humans are so ridiculously afraid of death that it isn't hard to imagine we would reject the end of our existence as horrifying to the point of us becoming spiritually unwilling to stop existing. Do we go somewhere else after this? Does it matter? What matters is what we believe will happen to us after this life. All of my literalism is your metaphor.

The spiritual experience is drawn from faith, which is drawn from elements of our experience we cannot rationally explain. We might write them off as coincidences or amusing twists, but sometimes this isn't enough. I'm directed in dreams to find some beautiful woman by going where there was no snow. A strange series of events brings me to Orlando where I find the woman from the dreams. I am told the sky will turn to gold and later find out the address of the restaurant where she works is Golden Sky Lane. It is a synchronicity that is hard to reconcile as something merely coincidental. How am I told repeatedly in dreams that I cannot rest until the Dark Queen appears and that I will know her because she'll announce herself, and then years later, when I was forcing myself to work through great pain and exhaustion to keep working full time, a new nurse starts and introduces herself by saying, "I'm the dark queen." Someone needed to tell me to stop working and rest because I was killing myself. These are just two events where my waking life connected with my unconscious world, but how does a woman, knowing nothing about me, or about this recurring dream I've had for two decades walk up to me and tell me she's a dark queen?

These are things I like to put under the category of "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio." I won't draw any conclusions about what they mean, because there is no answer, but it does lead me to believe in there being a binding agent between humans we cannot define. Real faith involves accepting that there are things you will never truly understand or be able to explain or file away in the back of the filing cabinet. We will never comprehend, but we are all going around on this spinning marble together and we've got a chance to get closer to the answer than we were yesterday. Just remember: The answer doesn't exist. Next step: Keep looking for it.

Love one another. Be there for one another. Live a life about more than just personal triumph and the acquisition of stuff. We're all messed up, each and every one of us, but damn are most of us loathe to admit it.

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