There’s a soul-sickening here that steals dreams.
We live amid wonders. And hideous peril that makes us wonder what we’ve done. Future ages will call this a wartime, like we called the Civil War. World Wars I and II.
Now We Dangle
In those wars and others, we knew all hung in the balance.
Now we dangle, for we don’t even know we’re at war. We feel it but haven’t the words. We’ve stolen meaning—and worse, we handed over, without a qualm, our magik.
Magik never leaves us. It stands with us. In us. Is us.
Disinformation. Flirtation and outright adultery with fascism and nihilism.
“Why not?” we say, fey with the sheer acceleration of it. Every moment feels a cliffhanger, no chance to rest, heal, pause, and present ourselves … to ourselves.
Though we don’t reckon the partner who walks with us, she’s still here, calling us, as Lincoln said in a more seemingly perilous moment, to the better angels of our nature. What we miss is not just our razor’s-edge peril, but who we are.
What do we desire? What do we see as the ultimate prize? Look at the clothing we wear. The cars we drive. The persons we keep relation with. The places we live.
Breaking with the Broken
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has long been a tagline of homo sapiens.
What do we do when it is broken? When we are broken and just don’t see it but instead go on like we’re getting better?
At some point, we’ll see that we’ve been settling for something—anything—other than that which really answers our thirst. Dressed in chrome, brushed nickel, and ever smaller microchips, our costume is as superstitious and fatuous as paintings on cave walls.
“Yes, but look at our technology, ever outstripping itself and us!” we might say.
What then? We bank on ever-improving, ever-evering … to what goal? What’s the endgame?
A Never-Ending Cornucopia
Aristotle, then the Renaissance, set on course the technological revolution that was all along our choice and not destiny, not evolution.
We at first went with what we knew, to build civilization. Stepping beyond that, we crafted an alternate reality where we might live free of weather, catastrophe, disease, poverty, hunger, war, and one day, even death. From being subjects of a harsh universe, we turned the cosmos into our subject.
Still, We Hunger for Something.
For the last 600 years, we’ve bewitched ourselves with scientific method. We continually poke the bear we call the unknown. In the meantime, we consume, consume, consume. Techne is our religion. Its priests assure us that the bear won’t maul us and that we’ll continue to enjoy an endless supply of bear meat and fur.
Magik was an option for our ancestors, and to call that mere superstition misses that they were behaving no differently than we are now: going with what’s working for us.
Until it doesn’t.
Chanting what we know.
Until we’re not sure we know anything.
Unknowing the Question
The scientific/technological revolution, by its nature, can proceed in no other direction than to eventually undo itself.
Witches feel our world’s right now undone. The pandemic was a tipping point that made it apparent to a critical mass of humanity. For the last 250 years, only witches, artists, poets, and prophets had felt and proclaimed that something’s bubbling under the surface, against which technological prowess won’t avail.
We’ve so bifurcated our perception that we think we face a precipitous choice:
Should we use our world as a means to something, whatever that is …
Should we hallow it?
We haven’t tried unknowing. We might then see that the two questions are pointless. We’ve needlessly dissected the one thing in front of us—the thing that is us—till we fail to recognize ourselves.
We are the answer that never needed a question. We are the reality that was never a choice.
We are magik.
Sinead and Me
The death of Sinead O’Connor hit me powerfully. Of course I loved her magik voice. But she challenged me. She was a pop singer, for crying out loud.
Until she wasn’t.
She tore up a photo of the Pope on national TV. Hear what she said:
“We have confidence in the victory of good over evil. Fight the real enemy!”
Patriarchal “princes” like Frank Sinatra and Joe Pesce took turns bragging about the violence they’d’ve done to her had they been there.
But they weren’t. Like so many of us right now aren’t here for ourselves. I was 29. Pam and I awaited the birth of our third child two months later. I was a practicing Catholic who even then asked questions about the church’s soul-sickening monster of abuse. I didn’t know what to make of O’Connor’s lone voice in the wilderness crying out against the depravity that garbed itself in white robes.
For that’s where we were living and still are—in a wilderness of our own making.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We never left the garden, only built around ourselves a desert so that we could then righteously take water from those not powerful enough to keep us from doing it.
Water Under the Bridge of Sighs
Think of everything that’s happened since that October night. We no longer have “national TV.” The twin towers melted into the ground. The planet is taking arms against the virus called us who have sickened its soul. We’ve waged wars like a theater-goer missing the picture for trip after trip to the popcorn stand. Our democracy and liberal progress have been stolen by a contagion of misinformation in the grip of our appetites—the same misinformation machine that raped and vilified Sinead the rest of her life. We congratulated ourselves at our righteousness at having burned the witch.
Ah, But She Was Right
And she was a pop singer who heroically burned down her career to wake us up.
“There was no doubt about who this bitch is,” she said to us.
“There was no more mistaking this woman for a pop star … People say, ‘Oh you fucked up your career,’ but they’re talking about the career they had in mind for me. I fucked up the house in Antigua that the record company dudes wanted to buy. I fucked up their career, not mine. It meant that I had to make my living playing live, and I am born for live performance.”
We All Make Our Living Playing Live
So why, in the wake of her death, are we all still playing a lie?
Her words didn’t shake me then like they should have. I went on playing my life as righteous father, faithful head of household, slaving to build for Papa Culture the beach house he convinced me I could have, if I just worked hard enough, kept faith enough. When I woke up to myself, I found that the sand all around me was my own private Sahara, no sound of waves in earshot.
But her voice rang across the dunes and echoed in my heart. I kept listening to her music, finding prophetic the art she made after “the incident.” Clear. Ringing. True. Best of all—beautiful. Like this, her song:
Thank you for hearing me …
Thank you for loving me …
Thank you for seeing me …
And for not leaving me.
… Thank you for staying with me
Thanks for not hurting me …
You are gentle with me …
Thanks for silence with me …
…Thank you for holding me
And saying I could be
Thank you for saying "Baby"
Thank you for holding me …
Thank you for breaking my heart
Thank you for tearing me apart
Now I'm a strong, strong heart
Thank you for breaking my heart
Thank you, Sinead. By the cosmos, thank you.
You haven’t died. For I live. Beautifully torn by you.