The Crusty Lesions of The Practical World

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“The fact is clear: Western wars are backed by the Christian God, and we cannot dodge his draft because we are all Christians, regardless of the faith you profess, the church you attend, or whether you declare yourself utterly atheistic. Christianism is all about us, in the words we speak, the curses we utter, the repressions we fortify, the numbing we seek, and the residues of religious murders in our history… The murdered Jews, the murdered Catholics, the murdered Protestants, the murdered Mormons, heretics, deviationists, freethinkers… Once you feel your own personal soul to be distinct from the world out there, and that consciousness and conscience are lodged in that soul (and not in the world out there) and that even the impersonal selfish gene is individualized in your person, you are, psychologically, Christian.” — James Hillman

A person is both a unity and an opposition, so is a marriage and so are most social relationships as well… Each thing carries its own shadow and the inner oppositions in people repeatedly become reflected in outer conflicts that are even harder to get a handle on. Whatever we refuse to face within us will become a collective fate in the world around us. The wise come to know their own inner conflicts, while the unwise keep insisting that all the trouble is the fault of others.” — Michael Meade, “Fate and Destiny”

When I was twelve, I was in a serious accident. From that time on I was plagued by a combination of illnesses and ailments, from frequent migraines to scoliosis, bruxism, a persistent ulcer and inability to sleep lying down and just inescapable physical pain. I managed that physical pain in a variety of ways.

I blocked it from my awareness to the extent possible. I adopted postures that lessened the pain. I tried to avoid activities that exacerbated it. I tried to hide it by refusing to discuss it, though it became obvious even to my inattentive parents.

It became my self image, though, as I grew up. I was hard put to apply myself to the agenda laid out for me by my parents and society. I was always looking for a solution to the growing rift I felt between the norms I was presented with and what called to me in life.

I didn’t know it then, but I would never show a talent for the practical world. I was born with a natural interest in ideas, in beauty, in spirituality and creativity. My secret pain also drove a wedge between me and the world as it was presented to me. I was sixty years old before some of these symptoms began to dissipate.

I still don’t know why the pains lessened when they did, but I associate my healing with living in France. Maybe that lifestyle fits my spirit better than any other, I don’t know, but it was there that I began to feel “normal.”

Feeling out of step, an eternal outsider, led me to a life of questioning. My life always seemed to be an unanswered question, a conundrum, a constant puzzle, at least until I could put down roots in a place of mystery and beauty.

It helped me to live around people who thought I was different because I was American, not because I was wrong. I discovered in myself an unusual talent for imitating foreign languages. Speaking French, my Americanness disappeared to the point where I felt the need to remind new acquaintances that I was an American, not a stupid Frenchman, otherwise they would wonder why I had such gaping holes in my knowledge of French culture.

So, I reassembled myself in an old, foreign culture. I healed myself to a certain extent by getting out of my native environment. I still find it impossible to live in the Anglo-American world. English is a big, beautiful language, but I don’t want to be confined to it. I’m sure I will never exit the Western Christian mindscape that Hillman talks about, but moving to another neighborhood within it sure has helped me become more naturally myself.

The practical universe though, will always be a mystery to me. Here on Medium, there is a lot of practical advice on how to use the platform and get ahead. I read a lot of that material hopefully, but I admit my eyes glaze over when the nitty-gritty details are broached. I need to develop as a writer first, anyway.

I’m a dreamer. I insist upon being a dreamer. I’ll go to my last day on Earth as a natural born dreamer. I will always want to dive under the surface of concrete appearances with my questions. Yes, the culture I was raised in has put its stamp on me. Yes, it was painful. It weakened me early on, both physically and in my self concept. I had to find a path where I could build up some strength, but I was fortunate in many ways. I worked at it, I had help from the Universe and I was luckier than most.

That divide between the practical and the spiritual seems to exist in the ether around us. It causes us to think we are separate, that the practical, mechanical solution is the only one. That idea is self reinforcing. Quantum physics keeps telling us we are separate from nothing, but we can’t believe it. It contradicts the Christian ethos. It doesn’t compute in our world view. I’m no different from you in this respect.

I do notice though, that how I feel and think arranges the world for me in the most magical way. Working in the arts helps develop that ability. That’s why I encourage it for everyone, talented or not. It’s hard to turn it into a practical manoeuvre to make money.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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