For Aletheia. Against Comus, Against Erebus: An Invitation to Become Child-like, in Order to Save the World!
This piece is an invitation for intentional attunement in the face of external influences. It is a reminder to reject the pushes and pulls of changing tides, and to attune to the Aletheia of the self. It is against both the clutter, and against the minimalism of our selves!
This piece is also a reminder to recall the first lessons of our childlike wonder, of our imagination, and an invitation to use these old, first lessons to imagine how another World can be possible, as our old World rots away.
Lately, I have been thinking about authenticity, and how and where to find authenticity in spite of flashing passionate seductive external influences, but also to find authenticity in spite of a reactionary revolutionary rejection.
We sometimes seek to define ourselves by adding to ourselves names, slogans, taglines, titles, ideals, philosophies. We brand ourselves in the name of what we think we believe in, agree with, and obey, and we parade ourselves with flourishes, and labels; often just some pretty sticky stuff and nonsense. We pile heavy upon our backs what we think we need in order to appear as an exaggerated version of who we think we are. I think about the Junk Lady from the movie Labyrinth, eternally bowed under layers and piles of Junk. I think too of the hashtags we place on our Social Media posts, the short bios we write for ourselves, labeling ourselves as exactly this! Exactly that! As Marxist, or Witch, or Writer, or Communist, or Christian, or Feminist, or Editor, or Anarchist, or Queer, or Poly, or Artist, or Mother, or Husband, or Egoist, or Pessimist, or Leo Sun, or Aquarius Moon, or Patriot, or Anti-Fascist, or Fascist. As if we can be reduced to one, or twelve, or even 1,000 of these defining, identifying words! Sometimes we do this VERY LOUDLY so no one cannot see or hear who we proclaim to be with these words and these labels.
Or sometimes we go about it the other way. We take off all our layers, seeking to strip ourselves to the very core. We cast off our attachments and sentiments, seeking to unburden ourselves by repetitive negation and sheer rejection.I think of the hermits, and of the monks. I think of Zarathustra. A delightful path for some, but not possible for many.
And I’m not sure either way does much good in attuning ourselves to our true authenticity in this World.
Sometimes, on the way to find alignment with our authentic self, we might walk a very thin line, a very tight path. Sometimes we are committing a great feat in the form of a balancing act. We can be found being tugged upon by two poles, and we often trip, falling now to one side, and now the other. We can be in the middle of a quixotic tug of war. To not (fully) become engulfed in the passions and forget the self. To not (completely) tear off all those layers in rejection. To…what then? What is there left to be done?
For the sake of these ideas, listen now to this story that I have been told:
Once upon a time, there was a town. This town had rules and laws. Some believed in these rules and laws, and some didn’t. This bred three types of subjects within that town. One type of subject was called the Good Subject. A second type of subject was called the Bad Subject. And the third type of subject was called the Non-Subject.
Here are their traits:
The Good Subject saw fit to obey the rules and the laws of the town. They believed in the structure and the order and the laws and the ways bestowed upon them by the Authority of the town (or perhaps they were afraid), and so believing, they blindly followed all the rules that they could. The Good Subject is the Obedient Wage-Earner, the Systemic Capitalist, the Loving Developer of the Town.
That was the Good Subject.
The Bad Subject saw where these rules and laws were flawed. In response to these flaws, the Bad Subject rebelled. The Bad Subject rejected the rules and the laws and the orders and the ways, and fought VERY LOUDLY against them. The Bad Subject is the Revolutionary, the Rebel, the Reactionary, the Insurrectionary. They argue against every one of these rules, and they tear them off.
That was the Bad Subject.
In each case of Good or Bad Subject, the written and unwritten ways and rules of the World define them both, and define their two very different methods of engaging with the World. Both the Good Subject and the Bad Subject can be identified in relation to the rules and the laws, the status quo, the Authoritarian ways of the town. The Good Subject needs these rules to obey them to be the Good Subject. But the Bad Subject also needs these rules to reject them to be the Bad Subject.
But what happens next?
In this town, the Good Subject and the Authority of the town saw the Bad Subject and did not like the anti-authoritarian ways of the Bad Subject, either. And the Bad Subject, in their continuous, unrelenting fight, called attention to themselves while at the same time, began to slowly burn out. The Good Subject and the Authority of the Town then fought against the Bad Subject with tighter rules, crueler ways, and stricter laws, all created to bind and break the Bad Subject.
But then what of that third Subject, being the Non-Subject?
The Non-Subject saw the flaws of the rules in the ways that the Bad Subject also saw. But do you know what the Non-Subject did? Instead of fighting VERY LOUDLY against all the rules and the laws, the Non-Subject acted as if those flawed and folly laws were not there, and in so doing, lived the Good Life. The Non-Subject lived around, about, in-between, and underneath those laws and rules, and therefore, avoided detection. Only when the Non-Subject meets cruel resistance to the way in which they would conduct their Good Life does the Non-Subject rise up to fight like hell for the Good Life.
This is what the Non-Subject knew: that to fight loudly and to rebel widely against law and rule and authoritarian ways is to give those ways and laws and rules even more power. To challenge the laws, the Non-Subject first has to acknowledge the legitimacy or the power of the law. The Non-Subject does not acknowledge any legitimacy of the flawed and folly laws. The Non-Subject lives their life as if those laws and rules were not in place.
For many of us, there are ways we fit into all these categories. On my part, it is my cis-gendered, white privilege that enables me to comfortably benefit from injustices in many ways that would, could, might try to align me to the life of the obedient Good Subject.
Yet, my rage, anger, grief of loss, and severe malignments with systemic oppression and slaughter, inequality and hate, and the general degradation and torture of the World herself and her children (plants, animals, people, and the rest) often turn me into a regular rebellious and LOUD Bad Subject.
But it is when I find ways to truly love, play, and live well with my kin, and when I can imagine a different World so deeply and so thoroughly, and believe in it so strongly that it manifests in my very ways of engagement, interaction, and being with the World and all her children, it is then that I think I might be getting closer to living the Good Life of the Non-Subject.
In the story, the moral is to be like the Non-Subject. But the only way to be like the Non-Subject is to learn from the rest. We must learn from the Good Subject how to not be compliant—this lesson is a lesson of unlearning. We must learn from the Bad Subject how to be VERY ANGRY for those times that anger and defiance is absolutely required. Only then can we live with the readiness to be like the Non-Subject, who seeks to live only the Good Life they have dreamt up and imagined so deeply that it manifests in their very ways of living and being. It is this way of living that changes the World.
These three characters of Subject reminds me of a book I once read, which speaks of the three stages of mortal life: the Camel, the Lion, and the Child. These three new characters and their traits will help inform and ground the lessons we can glean from the different ways of being the Subject. So! Let’s meet first the Camel, then the Lion, and at last, the Child.
The Camel is the load-bearer. They carry the load of the World, relishing their strength to learn more, become more, bear more burden, baggage, and experience. The Camel asks to be doused in knowledge and experience, asks to be indoctrinated into every way of the World, and in this, they think they have found themselves. I am reminded here, again, of the Junk Lady from Labyrinth, only the Camel here is more inclined to carry immaterial weight, the labels, the hashtags we use to tell people who we are, thinking ourselves can be defined by those identifying words or experiences.
The Camel cries “YES, MORE!” to all the World has to offer.
For some, then comes the phase of the Lion, who uproariously rejects all that has come before. All knowledge and burden and rules and experiences, the Lion rejects, regurgitates. And instead, the Lion devours freedom, and self-discovery.
The Lion cries “NO” to all that the Camel bears.
But then, there is another way, and that is the way of the Child. Why is the Child the last and final stage? How is the little Child at once stronger than the Camel, mightier than the Lion? What makes the Child so special?
The Child is so special because they are at once both creator and occupant of their own imagined World. To watch a Child at play is as if to see God and Mortal as one being. The Child is the creator of the experience while at once experiencing it. The Child is experiencing experience while at once creating it.
Does that make sense?
The imagining Child is making up the story for themselves, and they are living that story while at the same time, they are telling that story to themselves!
Here, think about it like this: do you remember perhaps playing outdoors, perhaps with an imagined sword in your hand charging to slay imaginary foe? (Pretend that you do.) To an adult, to a grown up, you are charm and innocence. But to you and you alone, you are both Creator and Dweller of the innumerable Worlds in which you live.
“YES!” Begs the Camel of the World.
“NO!” Roars the Lion at the World.
“Yes,” whispers the Child, only to themselves, smiling at the World they make for themselves.
We were all children once, and we all saw the World with childlike wonder. William Wordsworth, in his poem My Heart Leaps Up writes that,“The Child is the Father of Man.” The very first lesson we are all made to learn is awe, and we are born into this World with an imagination so fierce as to be able to create new Worlds before our very own eyes.
I believe that the acquisition of wisdom is non-linear. To grow older does not necessarily mean that we also grow with knowledge. We may not become wiser as we become Elders.
So, don’t forget how you saw the world as a Child. Remember our very first lesson. Try to find a way to live as if the flawed and folly rules of our world had no legitimacy or power. Remember how to imagine new Worlds. Right now, we are living in a World that is decaying fast, while at the same time, it is one that is unfolding new, and we would do well to work to create the World we want to live in. But how do you create something new? You must first imagine it.
What other Worlds are possible?
Nietzsche, Friedrich, and Reginald John Hollingdale. 2006. Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Wordsworth, William. 2004. William Wordsworth Selected Poems. New York: Penguin.
 Aletheia is the Greek Goddess of truth and sincerity. To invoke her in relation to the self is to seek self-truth, and self-authenticity.
 From Freidrich Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra is a prophet who speaks to the people who will not listen. For a time, he lives in a cave upon a mountain and is with animals and the natural World, but then he seeks to return to the people to try to teach them again.
 From Friedrich Nietzhe’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, one of the many teachings of Zarathustra, the prophet teacher.
 This poem of William Wordsworth is about being amazed by a rainbow. It goes: My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky: / So was it when my life began; / So is it now I am a man; / So be it when I shall grow old, / Or let me die! / The Child is father of the Man; / And I could wish my days to be / Bound each to each by natural piety.