Reflections

The Room… Revisited

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Someone recently told me, “you’re not really schizophrenic, Lisa.  You know that.  Right?”

Yeah, I know that.  Or I did, anyway.  At some time.  Before…

She added, “those voices you hear, those experiences you have… they’re real.  They’re actually happening.  To you… around you… you know that, right…?”

Yeah… right.  And those cigarettes really are on the table, after all…

Allow me to explain…

Back in the early 90’s, in one of my unpublished books, there were a series of chapters collectively referred to as “Voices from the Edge…”  They were my first attempt to capture, in process, the experiences I actually had.  To explain them to a non-existent readership what it felt like to be me.  They were based upon the premise that anyone could learn to be crazy like me, if they so chose, by following a few simple steps down some twisted thought roads, to a place where reality was entirely voluntary, self-created and self-owned.  And this journey began in a room…

It was a large room, large enough to contain the many Others I would encounter in my life, and its primary feature was a large table, dead center, with many objects on it.  That room was a metaphor for the Universe I inhabit, the table represented “reality” with its many observable facets (things)…

The room itself was divided into a light half and a dark half, with the line running right through the center of the table.  The light side was densely populated, noisy, with its most prominent feature being a large sofa flanking the table we called reality.  I postulated that the light side of the room represented the “sane” of society, interacting with each other, sitting on the couch to discuss the nature, laws and experiences to be learned from the table and its objects…

The shadowed half of the room was more sparsely populated, with ill-defined forms (defined by “ill-ness,” perhaps?), keeping away from both the light and the table it illuminated.  These were the lost souls, and lost causes, hiding in the refuge of their own minds, choosing not to interact at all with the “norms” of society.  Occasionally one might wander up to glance at the table, muttering something unintelligible, but they would quickly retreat to the comforting shadows…

My chair sat right on the line between light and dark, facing the table.  The light side, with its many people lay to my left; the shadows reached for me from the right.  I chose to acknowledge the table before me, and all the objects upon it, including a picture frame that faced the couch.  Which meant that I could easily discuss that reality with those on the couch, agreeing almost completely with what they saw and experienced…

But suppose that from my perspective, I could see that there was a pack of cigarettes hidden behind that picture frame on the table.  Those on the couch honestly could not see it, being obscured as it was by the picture in front of it, but I clearly could.  I insisted it was there, and so our views of “reality” now conflicted.  But there were many on the couch, and I was only one…

If I went to sit on the couch, as I was strongly “encouraged” to do, I would no longer see those cigarettes on the table, though perhaps I might then be able to see what picture the frame contained; my angle overlooking the table would have prevented me from seeing it before.  But had the couch-sitters told me about the picture I would not have likely argued with them about its contents, since I could clearly see the frame, and had no reason to assume they would lie to me about it.  Ultimately, it was all about perspective, or so I believed.  The couch-sitters I encountered, though, preferred to call it truth.  And so we disagreed…

Was I now to assume, given my change in perspective, that the cigarettes no longer existed?  Or, even more disturbing to my “fragile” psyche, that they never existed at all?

When I returned to my chair, I noticed immediately that the cigarettes remained, exactly as they had been before…

What this analogy taught me, at the time, was that I could not fully embrace a consensus-based reality.  I was too aware of my skewed perspective on reality, and in order to honor my self, I must also honor my own experiences, real or not, true or false.  Judgment was not required, but acceptance was!  I was way too uncomfortable sitting on that couch, trying to deny what I had already seen.  Had I never seen behind the picture frame, I would never have had the conflict; but I had seen behind it, and I would not deny it…

So I learned…  I learned to focus my interaction with others on the objects we could both see.  And I only mentioned the cigarettes when speaking to someone I believed was open-minded enough to consider their existence a possibility.  For the most part, it worked for me, allowing me to “fit in” quite comfortably with the couch-sitters, albeit with the title of “eccentric.”  I could live with that, even revel in that, retaining my unique perspective while still engaging society as a whole and individually…

The only real problems I had came down to that picture frame, when couch-sitters insisted that the picture within it was Truth absolute, with no room for perspective.  Having seen the frame, I knew it was a very thin barrier indeed between those certainties and the shadows they covered up.  So, for me anyway, absolutes of any kind were to be avoided; religion, politics, academic proofs, etc., were but a thin veneer covering a much bigger background picture, and I refused to accept them as Truth…

These days it seems like the shadows are beginning to creep across the room, stealing into the corners and high places first, while threatening the light-needers’ very foundations.  One by one, the electric lights are dimming or blowing out, forcing the couch-sitters to cram together a little tighter, just to remain safely illuminated.  But such close quarters breed conflict, and fear drives them to act out, pushing and shoving, and forcefully evicting some from the perceived safety of the couch and its certainties.

Those evicted tend to close their eyes quickly against whatever their new perspective on the table reveals, but perhaps not quickly enough to avoid seeing things differently, however briefly.  I understand that particular internal battle, as you actively try to deny what you’ve seen, only to have the image return again and again, unbidden, to haunt you both in waking states and dreams.  Things truly are not what they seemed, and those certainties that brought such comfort before have become mere curtains, blowing in a breeze, threatening to open up and expose what lies behind them…

Soon the shadows may rule the room, the darkness may become complete.  And all those objects on the table will cease having any meaning or value at all.  And you who revel in the light today may be forced to acknowledge your shadow as well…

I choose not to fear that day, if only because I know exactly where those cigarettes lie on the table before me.  So many years I’ve focused on them, that I could find them in my sleep.  And I know, being a smoker myself, that no serious smoker keeps cigarettes without a lighter nearby.

Hmm…

Kinda gives a whole new perspective on the old adage, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

The darkness need not be complete, after all…

 

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4 thoughts on “The Room… Revisited

  1. This is very eloquent, descriptive and courage Lisa.
    I liked reading this because you put your own individual stamp by referring to your own distinct perception and reactions.
    There are many folk who will lecture (and there are their followers;) all with the message that ‘theirs’ is the true way, although in many cases the message seems to be ‘You are wrong. And I can prove it’, which is rather dogmatic and sterile.
    To read an individual’s experiences and how they relate to those experiences is far more rewarding and all mind-opening.
    Thanks
    Best wishes
    Roger

    Liked by 1 person

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