This is a prelude to something I've been needing to write for some time, and it touches on one of the major themes of this blog and my life. You've been warned.
There is an "other side" Actually, there are lots of other sides. There are events in life that change the people who experience them on a fundamental level. These events change how that person sees the world, how they interact with the world-- the events change who they are. Mine, usually, have centered around risk or violence or exposure to subcultures that most people prefer to pretend don't exist. There are others, though- years of focused introspection in a monastary; immersion in an alien culture; surviving in the wilds with nothing; being diagnosed with a terminal disease... many others.
FYI- There are others that I consider invalid- the weekend meditation retreat, the 10-minute consultation and enlightenment with the guru, the guided survival camp with the emergency radio, the interview with the serial killer (who lies anyway). The good ways all have certain things in common- real risk and/or real deprivation and/or real fear.
There are people who have been to this other side and returned to the normal, comfortable 9-to-5 world. From that time on, the world never fits quite right. People from this side look at you and sense the difference. Some sense the otherness and respond with fear... nothing overt, usually, just an obvious discomfort. Sometimes they sense the insight gained and they wind up sitting at your feet like cultists (and some of the fakes and wannabes crave that for some unknown reason).
You want, so badly, for people to understand what you have learned on the other side... but. A big 'but'. I want my children to understand me, to really know me, but I will give everything I have so that they never see the whiteness of their own bones on a frosty morning, never see the eruption of meat and blood from someone they have just shot, never hear a man scream from a torn ear and never smell brains.
Until they see those things or something like them, though, they will not understand me. More importantly, they will not know who they are in the harsh times or what they will do. They will not know themselves until they have been to the other side.
Sometimes we are driven to share, some more than others, in the hope that with words we can create a few people who can understand without going through the events. But our words can become the fodder and the scripts for the wannabes and we recoil when we recognize our words coming from the mouth of a slick talking man with soft hands.
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