Let me tell you a story:
There was once a guy who walked into his adopted brother’s house to find that his brother and all his brother’s friends were having a rip-roaring party and hadn’t invited him.
Now, this guy had a bit of a temper. I have a rather long history with rage-induced bad decisions myself, so maybe I can understand how he felt, though I won’t try to justify his response to it. He had at times done a number of things to help the people at this party – unfortunately a good number of those things were in direct response to a mess he’d gotten them into to begin with. So maybe it’s understandable they didn’t invite him, or maybe they could have been more gracious. Perhaps he had a right to be angry. Probably he should have handled it better than he did.
This guy, you see, storms into the party and demands a drink. The party-goers all get a little bristly, but at the order of their gracious host, the man’s adopted brother, he is given some mighty fine alcohol and they all proceed to drink. You might think all is fine and well in the world of the partiers, but the drunker this man gets the looser his tongue gets. He begins to insult all of the partiers. He calls a number of the women loose while calling the men womanly if not stupid and sometimes both. Each accusation he makes is handed easily back to him and each time this occurs he gets angrier and angrier.
The words exchanged become more and more harsh, until the man is kicked out. He is eventually tracked down, fished out of a river, tied to a rock with his dead son’s intestines, and forced to watch his wife laboring steadfastly to keep a snake’s burning venom out of his eyes.
If you’re not familiar with Norse mythology I just told you the story of Loki’s binding, and Loki’s not really a man at all. He’s one of the Jötunn, a race of deities that are often called demons in the Norse pantheon. Despite the whopping step back I’ve taken back from the mystic’s life I still identify this slippery, snarky-as-fuck trouble maker as one of my patrons.
There are a number of lessons that people have taken from this story. That’s the thing about mythology: anyone can read it in any particular way they need to at any given moment. How they read that story will be shaped by the background they’re coming out of, the experiences that have shaped their lives, how they view themselves and their own small piece of the world and the implications of their existence and their roll on this planet.
As a mystic I’ve had a number of daunting experiences that have really tended to tie my mind up into a brilliant cluster-fuck of knots. I have often doubted my experiences but right now I seem to be feeling fairly confident. Even if it’s just something happening in the chemicals and electric impulses between my neurons, those things are very real and they’ve had some pretty solid repercussions in my life. Most notable are the lessons regarding honesty that I have learned, or perhaps re-learned, from my interactions with this most gloriously devious of fellows.
When I read that story, I see a story about honesty and tact. That story has influenced my relationship to this patron to a great extent, as He has been very big on my total, unabashed honesty. When doling this out to the people around me I must learn how to select my words carefully (no biggie – I do that all the time. I am a writer, after all, and have to believe in the power and importance of the words I’m using otherwise what’s the point?) and be careful to use the right tone. If you don’t do these things, if you just go crashing into the party and pointing accusatory fingers at people, no one is going to listen to you. They’re going to beat your ass and kick you out.
In dealing with the self, however…
That’s a whole different game.
Before I can be trusted to be honest with anyone else (so the logic goes, and so I believe to this day) I must first be able to be honest with myself. Since being easy on yourself to the point of fooling yourself is such a real risk while attempting to be honest with yourself (no kidding – it’s hardwired into your brain. There’s even a name for it in psychology: the self-serving bias. Pretty straightforward and on the nose there) I was forced to take the gloves off. I got very good at being very brutal with myself, which has had its benefits and its downfalls.
I tend to be more self-deprecating than most people I know. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m more brutally self-deprecating than most of the people I know. Where they slap themselves on the wrist I give myself a solid ten minute flogging. I’ve gotten very good at figuring out when I’ve made a mistake and I’ve gotten even better at prostrating myself and putting forth the effort to fix what I’ve broken (my skill at actually fixing those things is totally up in the air – you would have to talk to the people who I routinely share space with for that one). All of this has as much potential to be positive as it does negative, and as I’ve been dealing with a lot of negative repercussions lately I’m in the process of finding a way to balance the brutal honesty to the self with some of that aforementioned tact and gentleness (while it’s good to use on the people around you, it shouldn’t only be saved for them, it would seem).
All of that said: I am well prepared to recognize a frying pan when it smacks me in the face.
Though I allowed myself to pull the wool over my eyes and pretend that everything was good all the while using my relationship to Divine to justify it, that did not last. It was never meant to last. And even though the ability to look at myself and say “You’ve been kidding yourself, making excuses, blubbering and hiding under the blankets because you have so little faith in yourself” has ultimately taken me away from the spiritual path which taught me how to look in the mirror and say that, I can’t help but believe that that’s exactly what needed to happen.
I was a mystic. For a long time I loitered in that world, looking for something else, trying to reach “the other side,” pretending that’s where I was supposed to be, making up reasons to stay. I learned a lot while there. I can be brutal with myself when I need to be, and tender with others. I’ve learned so many stories and have stored some away to share at later dates. When I take a deep breath and remind myself to look, I can recognize spirit and Divinity in everything around me – in the bonds between chemicals that hold us all together, in the amazing miracle of our very existence against all the outrageous, impossible odds.
I’m glad I spent some time there, but you know what? It’s also pretty good to be back.