Quests for Identity and Other Addictions: An Unfinished Manifesto
Day 2: Fall (September 22, 1999)
From the zero point at the bottom of this cone of becoming, opens another cone outward into the material world again. Here the principles I have called universal start to take shape again, to take on positive roles in my life. Indeed such terms as love and freedom are not meaningful in abstraction, but only in connection with actual external forms: love with my lover, thought with my particular thoughts; play with what I play at; freedom in and freedom from, as I care to define it; space in the form of wilderness or natural preserve; comfort in the small conveniences of home. To embrace the general does not negate the value of the particular: it just reorients our sense of self, our center of gravity.
The various addictions and identities I have discounted are tied up mainly with social life, with hunger for rank in the competitive hierarchy, with pecking order and status. They are costumes and masks, utilitarian attitudes, external behaviors. Yet there is a core value within these areas: a natural expression of life force, of personal identity unfolding day by day. If I more or less spontaneously choose to have sex, smell a flower, go for a walk, these are personal expressions of health, nature, space. The difference comes with attachment to results, anxiety about self-worth, dependence on the activity for happiness. Its cart and horse, plain and simple. Putting intrinsic self-worth and the other essential values first, the material and cultural activities follow naturally. Otherwise, seeking identity through these secondary pursuits, or becoming habituated and dependent on them, we lose our grounding in the more fundamental validation of ourselves in universal terms.
So when I awake today, I take my easy breathing in bed beside my lover while she rests awhile with her dreams; lightly massage her taut back when she turns and hunches over; rise and do my yogic exercises and wash my face in cold water, but pass on the grueling morning run--instead checking my e-mail and baseball scores, while she writes in her journal, and abstains from coffee for the first half-hour. Then I go out to open the chicken coop, feed the cat, start making breakfast.
Today I will take up again the long slow process of writing a novel, now ten years in the intermittent making. My lover told me last night that after the core, at the very edge when anonymity becomes who I am, I write. The public image, the external forms, come later. At the beginning, is the expression I must make, the work I must do to express the very soul of who I am--the very soul of the universe as only-I, or I-for-instance, experience it.
© Nowick Gray