In the end the question always becomes: How do we live in the face of death? A question that, even those of us not close in proximity to death – the actual, physical, threat of dying – must contend with, whether we know it or not. (Sometimes the tragedy being that we do not even know that this is a question to begin with).
A lifelong question I suppose, but one of which the response can continue to stretch and evolve if we let it and are conscious about doing so. The matter of death in this world is not so much that it exists but that it exists in so many ways that we do not even see, and the ways that we can see are all-powerful, insurmountable and incorrigible by the efforts of a single soul or body or even by a determined and driven group. Group efforts can potentially address the different effects of ‘life-opposed forces’ but do not necessarily answer the question of how we continue as individuals, move on and push through the fumes that threaten to choke us out on a daily basis.
The facts stay the same: the forces of death and destruction are here to stay, and while they may take evolving forms, human suffering has not lessened with those evolutions. There is a time period I think, where many of us refuse to accept those forces, who outright downright will not STAND for all the unfairness and unnecessariness that the world brings with it. I know that I have been in this stage myself, and the funny thing is, in my determination not to accept the things that I cannot change, I was becoming more and more susceptible to their invasion in my body.
I think that maybe our bodies are simply sites for alchemy, and when we do not pay attention to the formulas being created within they run amok and create themselves. You know how it is said: choose your story, do not let it choose you? It is exactly that, except with the powers and energies and the other things-which-we-cannot-see-but-feel that exist in the air we breathe and are always present around us and within us.
Here’s a more concrete example as to not get too philosophized – my stubborn refusal of the reality that is racism has made me reject anything that I perceived as having to do with it: people, things, ideas, events, concepts. At the point where I still thought that I could carve out a clean separation within myself from those things, I was working so hard to create my ‘racism-free’ world, spending so much energy on this personal project that it exhausted me. I was worn down by the fumes of death, so trodden and exposed and raw that any little thing would send me spinning – the news would break my heart and a ill-placed comment my trust. Without even knowing it I was recreating the very *substance* that I was trying to avoid in trying to protect myself, because the most reactional way to fight death is with death itself – hate with hate, anger with anger, ignorance with ignorance; so on, so forth. I respired inwards the plumes of darkness, and in refusing to accept or acknowledge them, allowed an alchemy to take place in my body that I had no control over, that I could not even see. (Re-)sending that energy out into the world did not make me a better person, just a person with senseless reaction to a senseless thing.
Like poison, (misplaced) hate began to make residence in my body because as much as I tried to deny it, it’s in the very air we breathe isn’t it? I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t making me feel any better to refuse what was around me; I couldn’t understand why it felt that the space for my soul was becoming smaller and smaller, more closed up because there were always more things that I could not accept. (This is the part where I watch Samurai Jack and watch the character Ashi struggle to save herself against the literal black poison that was consuming her, a poison that was a part of who she was.)
Something changed for me the moment I was able to reach a glimpse of clarity – a breath granted in the midst of drowning – and I realized that my alchemy was all wrong. In my egotistic (and heartbroken) refusal of hate, I was refusing even to acknowledge its newly uptaken residence within myself; because when you pour a black liquid into a vial, it doesn’t go away just because you do not accept it. It keeps pouring itself and eventually you run out of room for anything else because you haven’t ‘dealt with the problem’ so to speak. I do believe in the physical element of things: the more room there is for A, the less room there is for B. Or at least, if A is hate and B is love, and the inverse. The impressive thing about both love and hate however, is that they each possess unlimited space for themselves without the other. Hate begets hate, and so on. Love begets love. Exponentially, love begets love, and it can multiply on itself like bacteria in heat.
Acceptance has not been an easy thing for me to do. It feels like giving up, it feels like grief. My refusal of things-which-I-do-not-accept is something that has made up an identity for me and gave me power in times where I’ve felt absolutely powerless, futility creeping up on me and almost goading me to clap back at it. But while acceptance for me has been a gradual process of letting go, it also means to understand myself anew, no longer as a ‘vessel’ for bad energies but like I said, a site of change. Death is here with us to stay, not the life-cycle physical death but the suffering-destruction oppression death, and its power is oh SO strong. But we can see always a testament to life if we look: in the (literal) birth of babies, in the (fantastical) open plains of children’s souls, in the (communal) feeling that is present within a shared laugh, in every decision we make out of thought for another. The nearly uninteresting fact of our existence itself is a testament to life. The forces of death and destruction work extremely hard to dominate, but life – tranquilly, almost lazily – continues along. We are still here, after all. The leaves, the flowers, the water – are still here. Death uses all of its strength to beat us to the ground, but life persists like a sprout in a barren desert.
So it is not easy – to resist death, nor to accept it neither. But when we realize that our very beings are ready laboratories for the alchemy of change, then perhaps we can find yet a different answer to that question that will always haunt: facing death, acknowledging its existence around and within us, and then using the always-present power of life within us to alchemize it into something different – more love, more life. When there is more room for love, there is less room for death. More life, less hate. Everything we have is inside of us; it is only up to us to be the creators of our chimique output, and not let it become the creators of us.
To friends, with love. ❤