"I am very comfortable receiving hate"
I ran across this quite potent quote this morning while reading an interview with 19-year-old artist Mary Bond. I normally don't like to highlight anyone's age and make it a thing, but in this case I know she has something to teach my own 56-year-old self.
Despite being midway through my fourth decade of practicing aikido, much of that time spent as a professional instructor, I still don't like receiving hate. I know I am happiest when in love, when enacting love, and receiving love. I assume most people feel this way, and if there is anything I can do to provoke a feeling of love and caring and bonding towards me, I feel that I have done not just myself, but the world a favor. Provoking any sort of ill will, whether inadvertently or through carelessness or lapse in my own good will, always feels like a failure.
Yet the very heart of aikido lies in the skilled reception of hostility. Can I possibly live long enough to learn this?
I shared the quote with Katie, my beloved companion and fellow traveler, and she, equally impressed, nevertheless wondered if Mary would be as comfortable with receiving indifference.
That's a good question. It is often said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. I'm not so good at receiving indifference either. Again, it is my own failure when others are too busy for me, too distracted, too uninterested.
I need to be noticed. I need to be valued. I need this very much. I need it from all my reliable and trustworthy sources, and I need it from new and unexpected vectors. I need this constantly.
Call me needy. That's ok, that much I can handle. How could that bother me when I observe the same is true for most other organisms? The difference seems to me largely how much it is worn on the sleeve.
I need the perpetual flow of the mutual, reciprocal, otagai
of being and relating. I need the intercourse that I have so often written about. Without it, I myself am not conceived, am not born. I can neither impregnate or be impregnated.
When I am my normal self, I can barely contain the impulse to trumpet this to all who will listen. I am the hermaphrodite, all tentacular and porous receptacle, swimming in a sea at once seminal and amniotic. Again, it's not just me. When I look upon the world there is nowhere and nothing for which this is not so.
They say that if you want to learn about the ocean, don't ask a fish. Yet here I am, a fish, a sponge, a mollusk, shouting Look! Water!
Normally, anyway. There are times when I am not normal, when I am not myself. Now is such a time.
Love descends on those defenseless
Idiot love will spark the fusion
Inspirations have I none
Just to touch the flaming dove
All I have is my love of love
And love is not loving
The pain of depression is something inexplicable to those who have never truly known it. Understandably they will try to reference it with their own experience and try make sense of it as sadness or sorrow or loss. They will try to understand it as a bad mood, or a bad attitude, or less charitably, a faulty habit of thought. It is these things (perhaps) but something far beyond these things.
Worse than the pain of depression is the realm of non-feeling. Analysts may refer to it as numbness, but after a trip to the dentist, numbness feels like something to me. Emptiness? Yes, but not of the vacuum surrounded by pressure. Desolation? Maybe, but compared to what?
For convenience, I like to say that depression is the failure of optimism. That pretty much sums up my experience of it in a nice sound-bite, and if you could read deeply into what it really implies, you might begin to get a sense of it. At the same time, it is not to be mistaken for pessimism.
(At this point I need to point out that I don't mean to speak for all depressives. It's highly personal and horrifyingly individual. I can only speak from my own depths, but I suspect there are those who will relate to my particular story. if so, my sincere and deepest sympathies.)
But no, not pessimism. Pessimism suggests a level of interest and engagement that's simply not there during these times. I can feel pain and notice beauty, but there is an indescribable detachment involved. I can think and I can problem-solve, but it's mechanical. I can put on my social mask and don the raiment of my healthier aspect, but it's an artifice. Not false, mind you, but a representation of something true while not the thing itself. (I can do these things through much of the arc of a depressive episode, but there are also times when I am catatonic, barely able to move or speak, and utterly dysfunctional.)
Inspirations have I none, yes, but during these times I even lose my love of love.
But love is not loving.
So here comes the turn…
For the severely depressed, the prospect of suicide can be a strange but constant comfort. For the depression that is beyond pain, suicide would be merely redundant.
Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
The isolation of depression is not one of simple loneliness. It is a disconnect between you and the world. I strongly suspect it is closely related to a kind of schizophrenia. In this case, it has nothing to do with hearing unreal voices or seeing hallucinatory things, but more to do with not hearing, not seeing, not feeling, not in a true sense anyway, but only in the abstract. It is not a multiple personality disorder, but a non-personality disorder. There is a separation between you and your personality, though neither "I" nor my personality seems to have much reality or substance or relevance. Again, in my case, I can usually function -- see, here I am, writing! communicating! But in many ways what you are reading is the voice of an automaton.
Oh no love! You're not alone
You're watching yourself but you're too unfair
You got your head all tangled up
But if I could only make you care
Oh no love! You're not alone
No matter what or who you've been
No matter when or where you've seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain
You're not alone
Indeed I'm not alone. Since I've been more forthcoming and self-unmasked this time around about my depression, it seems quite a lot of people step out and disclose their own stories. They say that misery loves company, but I'm really little comforted in knowing there are others who go through this. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, and I'd take it away from everyone, and I'd gladly be the freak unique. But it's not so.
So I am grateful when someone who knows is able to reach out, and reach in, and reach through. So far I've not found a fix, and I'll be sure to let you know if I do, but here's what I'm prepared to tell you today, mostly because it's what I need to tell myself today and to send a message to my future self if I'm to survive into any future self;
It's not about the feeling.
"Love is not loving." I am remembered in love by this urgent message from an artist I've never met and will never be able to thank. But Mr. Bowie has been able to convey a rich and constant reminder that really does help in my depth and my darkness. He has indeed helped me with my pain. Not comfort, exactly, because comfort is for those who can feel. More precious than comfort is the message, the program, the instruction. The algorithm.
Love when you're loveless. Care when you're careless. Give thanks even when you can't feel gratitude.
The truth is, most of what sustains me is beyond my ability acknowledge or repay even in my healthiest times. I do what I can and I try to play my part, but if I were to say grace (being secular) it would be to thank the farmers and the truckers and the grocers and the bankers and the city planners and the builders and the providers and all the nameless and unidentifiable ones, not to mention the plants and animals themselves, who make it possible for me to take this and eat, for it is my body. I would thank the artists who at times can make me dance and sing and wonder and at other times frame my suffering and anhedonia with meaning and understanding. I would thank you, and you, and you, and you. I would thank you until I really caught your attention and made you know that you matter, that you're important, real, and relevant, appreciated, noticed, rewarded. Loved and sustained.
That part of me, over there, that abstract thing I sometimes call myself, would really like to feel happiness again. That feeling of lusty craving for life's fingers and feelers and hot concavities is what makes me come into my own. That part of me knows the secret to happiness is no secret and is perfectly simple: Love, connect, care, be grateful and express gratitude, and maintain reasonable optimism.
I'd give just about anything to get that feeling back. But I've had to learn that so far it's not dependable, for me, anyway. So I must do without. Do, but do what?
Let me say it again: Give and receive love even when there's no feeling the love. Continue to give thanks even if appreciation is absent. Don't look on the bright side, don't bother whistling a happy tune, but do remember that the habit of optimism is often self-fulfilling. Continue to rehearse the habit even when inspirations you have none.
The zombie apocalypse is not coming. It's here and now, and always has been. I know, because I am one. I've been bitten and my brains are eaten up. I have contracted and I am the infection. To all the other lifeless undead who may receive my disease, let me say this: keep acting like a human even when you know you've lost your humanity. Be humane even in your uncaring apathy. Keep eating the brains of the healthier ones, because heaven knows we need the nourishment. But do so in communion, for all life is food. (Some of them appear to have immunity from us. Eat those especially.)
I myself have been a performing musician, so I know what it's like to go onstage tired, emotionally savaged, and drained of all life. Later, as sensei, the same. The discipline then as now is to give all and take all, even if it's nothing and nothing.
This, then, my gift to you: my whole self, my hollowed out shell -- my hole self.
Gimme your hands 'cause you're wonderful
Gimme your hands 'cause you're wonderful
Oh gimme your hands
Gimme love and joy and thankfulness, if it serves. Gimme also a measure of your hate and indifference. I am newly comfortable receiving it.
Because you're wonderful.
Mary Bond Interview: http://the-editorialmagazine.com/?p=3478
David Bowie: lyrics excerpted from "Soul Love" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide." You really should listen to the whole songs and read the full lyrics.
Still Point Aikido Systems
Austin TX, USA