“Trail closed” so the sign says somewhere in the midst of Fish Creek Provincial Park. As I saw this scene, I saw colours and contrasts framing the sign, a world of animated vitality in suspended animation just waiting to be woken up as if it was some Sleeping Beauty waiting for the kiss of a prince. Taking the photo was a one shot effort as I was walking with my good wife and wanted to catch up with her so that we could continue our walk together.
“Trail closed” – it is important for me to truly understand this idea. It isn’t an idea of permanence, but one of transition or transformation. When I noticed this sign, it spoke to me of my own versions of trails closed or pathways closed. What really is being closed? Closed to whom? Why? And as I ask these questions, it dawns on me that I am closing pathways in my own psyche, nor for the purpose of re-animating, but for purposes of restricting access by consciousness. I am shutting access off to my conscious self and preventing something vital from coming to light. Why? Likely because it would involve too much change, force me to make hard choices which would mean losses. Of course, logic doesn’t play a big role in any of this as the unconscious is not about ego’s logic. Naturally, realising this, I get supremely pissed off at myself and say enough is enough. The signs tell me to stay out, but I am about to say “fuck the signs” and turn on the lights onto these denied paths in order to discover the ugly truths about myself, truths that I have unconsciously worked so hard to deny existence.
“Whoever has not gained a significant measure of self-loathing has not become self-conscious.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 41)
For a moment I saw this quote and said, ‘Yes, I have more than enough self-loathing, therefor I must be more self-conscious.’ And then I quickly caught myself with a bit of a swelled head, a swollen ego that said ‘Hmmn, I am more conscious, better than most others’ and faced a larger truth – I am not better than others, I am just as fucked up as others, just as negative, and cause as much harm as most others. So what if I perhaps see the mess I made earlier, it doesn’t undo the fact that I am nearly as worthy or as special as I try to make myself out to be.
Hollis makes this statement in response to Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground, a book I read many decades ago:
“But I ask of you, who on earth goes around showing off his sickness, and even glorying in it? On second thought though, I’d say that eveyone does. People do pride themselves on their infirmities and I, probably, more than anyone.” (Dostoevsky, Notes From the Underground, p. 93 – as cited in Tracking the Gods, p. 41)
So what exactly am I doing here in this blog post, this blog site if not celebrating my brokenness, my sickness? I sense that part of my sickness is a will to self-denial, to self-destruction. What do I mean by that? Well, I don’t mean a physical self-destruction, but one of burying the unique “Robert” in favour of a “Robert” that would fit well with others, a “Robert” that will find himself at home in community. To get there, in my warped way of thinking means the “real Robert” must be buried, denied, refashioned into a person who is a complete stranger, a person who is more like others.
Seeing this sign, “Trail Closed” has challenged me to be honest, to be honest with my fuller self rather than continue to betray my fuller self. Some lessons come slowly, and acting on those lessons, even more slowly. I am learning to stop listening to my inner voice of self-loathing and accept that is is okay to be less than perfect, a lot less than perfect. I am learning that I have a right to be here in community in spite of my differences. I am learning that the “real Robert” is real and that I need to learn how to accept and love that so that others can love me, consciously.