Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Beginners Guide to Hell

Tonight is cool, not cold. I’m orbiting the block where I live like a stray comet.  I’m feeling myself breathe, trying to hear the chill air whistling through my old guy nose hairs.  The air smells like smoke.  It always does at night, after a lifetime I still don’t know why that is.  Even in the summer.  

This is November in the south.  The homes are quiet, a flicker of TV screens behind some of the gauzy windows.  Overhead the clouds seem as though they're standing still and it’s the moon that's moving.  Not bad for hell.

Its okay, I’ve got this. I don’t mean to make it sound like some big deal.  I’ve been looking forward to this a little bit because I’ve been training for it.  Mentally, anyway.  As much as you can train for something like this.  Things are bothering me, upsetting me tonight, but I've been given a good night to walk.  That's nice.  I feel glad.  Taken care of.

It’s not the worst kind of hell, totally not, the people in the houses, some of them know way more about Hell than I do, they just don’t know what to do.  I’ve been working on it, you know, as much as you can for something like this.

This is just baby hell, beginners hell.  But I got this.  Somewhere down the road I’ll probably be dealing with the real deal.  The hot seat as it were.

The Tibetan Buddhists have had this thing figured out for centuries.  They’re amazing.  Your Buddha Nature, your enlightenment, your epiphany, its not found so much where you’re at your best or where you’re happy. Why?  Because humans are primates, and we like to be comfortable.  When we’re comfortable, we hang back.  When you hang back you don’t learn that much, you just hang.  No transformation.  Things grow in the dark.  A stretched soul sings.  You got to sing.  You stretch until you feel it, the edge, where just a touch makes you quiver.  That’s hell.  Hell is for serious people.  Those Tibetans, they say that your wisdom is on the other side of your darkness, and you have to go straight through it. That takes fear. Show me what you’re afraid of and I’ll show you your God.

Are you afraid of being poor? Even if you’re not?  Your God is probably going to be security.  Good luck with that.  Afraid of immigrants?  Your God is your country.  Your God should never be your country.  That’s how wars start.  You don’t like people of color, your God is being white.  What is my fear?  I don’t know yet, maybe the dark will tell me.  I think I’m scared of being a schlub all my life.  That’s the short answer.  I think my God might be pencils.  I just really love writing with a good pencil.

This is beginners hell.  This is just practice.

There is Darkness in me.  Thank God for that.  

If you own your darkness, if you look it straight on and don't kid yourself, its less likely to take you by surprise.  Less likely to make a fool of you or to turn you into a werewolf in that moment when you most need to keep your shit tight.  Fear can be your friend.  It can be the energy you ride to make a bridge of compassion with what you’re afraid of.  

You have to make a separation.  There’s this story line that runs through our heads all day long as we go on describing ourselves to ourselves.  You drop the story line, and all you’re left with is the bare steel wire energy of the emotion, of the experience.  You grab that wire.  Drop the story, grab the wire.  The story is the teeth of the tiger.  You drop the story line and the energy of the dark can push you forward like a jet engine. 

Failure gets a bad rap.  We come from a culture where failure is like a moral statement.  It means you’re a loser,you’re weak or something.  Only losers find themselves in hell, even beginners hell, where the singing is.  But creative people know failure is part of the process.  Evolution is based on failure.  The infinite variety of life, beauty and consciousness on this solitary rock, all comes from one thing – mistakes.  Endless genetic mistakes, where everything that swims, flies or crawls has to play the cards they’re dealt.

Love and happiness are never a problem.  Everybody wants that.  It’s the other stuff.  Because it hurts, it makes your soul sing.  Everybody sings.  Every single soul.  Its what we have in common. 
Rubber souls 

We stretch, we sing.


  1. I never know what to say about your posts, Garce, except, wow. Somehow you manage to get your hands on what feels at least like truth, wrap your words around it, then share it with us.

    Thank you.

  2. Truthiness!

    I owe you some noodling too, I haven't forgotten.

  3. Beginners Hell, ha. What you say is very true, but none (or few) of us want to admit that comfort isn't good for us, and suffering (at least some kinds, in the right dosage) enables us to grow. This is what I told myself Friday when I couldn't order a taxi for love or money, so I walked three blocks to the bus stop when it was 31 degrees below 0 Celsius (approximately 0 in Fahrenheit). Like the mail that must go through, I got to the university and gave tests to my two classes. A little bit of this kind of character-building goes a long way, IMO. :)


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