The Riot in My Soul

I talk about the difference between now and the previous year quite often.  This is something I do on an almost daily basis now, largely for the purposes of a daily confidence boost, because the difference is like night and day.  Everything in my life has changed, so much so that I wouldn’t be able to make a list of all of the things that are different.  It has been a total transformation, and one that has been serendipitously eased by both the entertainment industry, and recent mental health research, particularly on complex PTSD, the lesser-known variant, but I suspect far more common, of simple PTSD.

That has come with a big mixed bag of emotions that has relief and salvation on one end, and bitter rage on the other at having to spend the first 47 years of my life laboring under the yoke of patriarchal Christianity.  Since I am a philosopher by nature, and almost by degree (I have 110 hours of college credit, about two-thirds of which falls under the heading of philosophical religious studies), I have a greater-than-usual ability to see through this sociopolitical farce the world is dealing with at the moment.  The internet has given me the ability to conduct on-the-spot research every time I have a question, and as I’ve done that over the last year, some of what I have found has utterly sickened me.

But I digress, because it’s a topic that makes me spew verbal fire, and I don’t like setting my readers’ eyeballs on fire.  This post is about the good things that have happened in my life since May of last year, which largely revolve around my recovery from said complex PTSD.  I’ve used a number of tools to do this, primarily writing, astrology, inner archetype exploration (a la Carl Jung) using a wide variety of sources (books, movies, television shows, video games), spirituality, exercise and yoga, therapy, photography, and a substantial amount of inner contemplation.  Sometimes I just sit and think for a couple of hours and let my brain chew on something for a while.  I’ve found that sometimes leads to some very interesting places, which I express primarily through writing, art, and photography.  Having the background in philosophical and religious matters allows me to work through some extremely complicated personal questions that bother anyone with a compassionate soul who goes through the proverbial “dark night”, which makes me think of my favorite mortal superhero, Batman.

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is one of the storyworlds, as I refer to them (most other geeks use the term “universe”), that I’ve used to contemplate my own life and existence over the last year.  The movies came out while my child was younger and harder to deal with, and I was also dealing with my own demons that eventually drove me to seek help, although the “help” I received wound up putting me into a 7-year-long stretch of living “death”.  In my mind, while the specifics are different, that equates to Bruce Wayne’s seven-year-long disappearance into the criminal underworld (itself a reference to the ancient “land of the dead”) in an effort to understand the messy world that invaded his when his parents were murdered.  One could equate Bruce Wayne’s journey with Buddha’s abandonment of his cushy palatial life to understand the real world where everyone suffers from sickness, old age, and death, or in Bruce’s case, poverty, despair, and violence.

This scenario isn’t very dissimilar from reality today.  We now live in a world ruled by a cruel, wealthy, elite that inflicts poverty, despair, and violence upon its citizens, either directly or indirectly, the result being huge numbers of sick, old, and dead or dying people.  Buddha gets to the end of his journey to enlightenment and turns around and tries to pass that knowledge on to the rest of humanity, the result being one of the world’s largest faiths three-and-a-half thousand years later, one that preaches compassion for all living things.  Bruce’s effect isn’t quite so widespread, but he essentially does the same thing.  He sees the world for what it is, and then turns into a crime-fighting vigilante to fight for those who can’t protect themselves by using what he fears against his enemies, ultimately saving Gotham from not one, but three supervillains: Bane, The Joker, and ultimately, perhaps the entire criminal underworld that created his parents’ murderer in the first place, represented by Dr. Crane and Carmine Falconi, who are of course working for criminals who corrupt willing or vulnerable Gotham authorities.  Modern times require “peaceful warriors”: people with the ability to defend with force but who only use it when necessary, and the rest of the time use their words, carefully, because as Takeshi Kovacs observes in Netflix’s Altered Carbon, “When everyone lies, telling the truth isn’t just rebellion, it’s an act of revolution.  So be careful when you speak it, because the truth is a weapon.”

People who don’t understand Buddhism think that Buddhists “worship” an external Buddha, but we don’t: the Buddha is inside each of us, and the point of life is to awaken them in order to alleviate suffering and achieve your life’s purpose.  My purpose is to talk about my mental health and my life’s experiences in such a way as to effect change in a system that crushes the potential Bruce Waynes and Tony Starks of the world.  I can’t do it single-handedly (and neither can Batman), and I’m not a billionaire like Mr. Wayne, but I’m just as smart as he is and can wage a similar kind of war against the forces of oppression by passing on the knowledge that has helped me so much over the last year.

Stan Lee, the creator of the Marvel Universe which has inspired so many of us since May of 2008, is quoted as saying, “A… definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them—even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”  Again, there’s Batman:

Gordon: I never said thank you.
Batman: And you’ll never have to.

Carl Jung believed we are all comprised of base archetypes, Greek for “ruling type”: a kind of base mold for everything in the world around us, from our parents to the geography we live in to commonly occurring events, such as floods.  For a more GenX example, this is expressed in the John Hughes’ movie The Breakfast Club, where it is amply illustrated (albeit with some elements now questionable through the lens of “metoo”) that each one of us a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal.  There’s no difference between the concept and the movie, only we are filled with and have access to a far greater number of archetypes than just the five typical boxes most of us got crammed into as kids in the 80s.  At my school, like many, it was jock, nerd, stoner, princess, and slut, which far too many of us found out were definition boxes that were extremely strict and typically barred at the entrance by someone evaluating us for our clothing or the neighborhood we lived in.  So it is little wonder that many of us who were outcasts during those years turned to the fictional world to find the archetypes that represented our unexpressed inner selves.

And it is those inner archetypes that allowed me to discover my real self, which of course, like all of us, is a huge amalgam of different “inner people”: a child, a parent, a fighter, a victim, so on and so forth.  Most people don’t see their inner selves as being separate in this way, and indeed, the way in which I have done it has been rather extreme, as I have occasionally taken time to actually envision myself as some superhero or another in an effort to work through some personal problem that the character is also having.  In doing so, I see that I’m not so different from these characters, and that’s been a difficult thing to deal with.

People who grow up the way I did go through their entire lives believing they are unworthy of everything that seems to be offered freely to so many others, and so to find myself identifying with the characters who have become modern humanity’s newest manifestations of the archetypes took quite a bit of time, effort, and self-talk to get myself to a place where I can see myself this way.  It will be a while before I feel bold enough to go cosplaying as Catwoman, but she’s in here, and on the shelf above my art table, where I make art pieces, represented as a toy black Lamborghini, the car she stole from Bruce Wayne in Dark Knight Rises.  On the shelf above her sit two Funko Pop dolls: Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and a Captain Marvel bobblehead.  Death and Carol get posts all of their own, but not now (and if you don’t know who “Carol” is, go watch Captain Marvel.  RIGHT NOW.)

I also relate fairly heavily to the cop in the third movie of the trilogy. When he goes to visit Bruce and confronts him with his knowledge that he’s Batman, I loved what he said about being “angry in your bones” over being an orphan. As I’ve mentioned, I often don’t know how I feel until someone else says it, and that really rang with me. I’ve been angry since I was a kid and have never known why, and now I wonder if it’s not because I lost my father at such an early age, even though I cannot consciously remember him dying. I do remember an incident with my mother and my stepfather: we were at a drugstore, and she told me to “listen to your daddy”, to which I retorted “He’s not my daddy,” which got me a talking to. My therapist recently told me that anger is a behavior, not a feeling, and while I disagreed at first, now I see what he meant by that. Anger is the reaction against other negative feelings we don’t know what to do with or can’t do anything about. As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, “a riot is the language of the unheard”. This is true whether it’s a riot of actual people, or a riot within your soul.

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