Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Strange pt. 1

I am an advocate of re-enchantment, and “weirding” of one’s life and practices. The honest truth is, and I tell you this as someone 25+ years into Whatever This Is, that you can assemble a fully functional practice out of thin air because of how weird, truly weird, “Whatever This Is” actually is. 

Consensus reality is not so different from the tectonic plates of the physical world. Consensus Reality is sort of just a slower, firmer, raft slowly moving around on a flow of High Strange and Cosmic Horror. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes the raft doesn’t wiggle, or break, when we least expect it. 

Sometimes, actually fairly frequently, I’ll dream of the thinnest upper parts of the earth - usually asphalt parking lots or parched clay - cracking apart and the ink-black gush of whatever is Beneath bubbling up, eating away, consuming and replacing. All the little bits sinking down down down into… into … well…

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

A few years back I was walking to my shop with a greenware (raw, unfired, clay) bowl, and dropped it. I watched the bowl make contact with the concrete sidewalk, violently jiggle, and drop through it. 

My brain did what I can only describe as “a bit of a wobble.” I took inventory of the situation - my empty hands still dusted with greenware powder, the absence of the bowl or any shards thereof, or any indication that it had struck the sidewalk. The obvious solution was that I never had the bowl in my hands, right? Right?

It was nowhere to be found. Not in the shop, not in any building or outbuilding, not on any horizontal surface between the house and the shop, not in my car (just in case), not in the trash (why not check there), not in any of the kitchen cabinets (might as well look), not in the refrigerator or freezer (please be somewhere), not in the dozens of bits it should’ve shattered into. Not in the grass. Not in my hands. Not where it had been before I opted to carry it to the kiln. My brain, however, had already supplied the happy answer: “Since it’s a physics object that did not behave as I expected it to, the collision box glitched out. Like any physics object it went wiggly before dropping through the world model.”

Now you just hang on a second there, brain. It’s a REAL OBJECT, not a piece of video game art. There’s no physics model at play here. That was solid physical matter meeting harder, stronger, solid physical matter. What happened to the bowl? “It’s fine.” Said brain. “The collision just glitched out. Don’t worry about it!”

I know that the human brain will composite and whole-cloth manufacture things to fill in the voids in its perceptions. It will morph a column of shadow into a man in a hat (and it is always a man, and he is always wearing a hat), it will matrix the absolute blackness of a cave into the image of ducks waddling by as if illuminated by a flashlight - complete with the sound of wet feet and rasping quacks, it will turn a half-seen pile of clothes or an amalgam of leaves in the dark into some of the most baleful monsters conceivable by our fleshy little forms. 

But in this case it put in something else where there was ample visual stimuli. This was not a Prisoner's cinema or a Ganzfeld effect. This was something else.

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

Strange is always an inch away, and yet choosing when, how, and to what degree we move that single inch is a life’s work. You can’t seem to get there when you try, but when you’re there trying to get back feels insurmountable. 

The “Veil” (for me) is a simulacra of stability on an ocean of that Strangeness. It’s the consensus crust I’m walking on that occasionally gives way, and I find myself knee-deep in a gopher hole of “What the fuck just happened?” 

This is the Cosmic Horror - Should I be grateful that I saw a video game glitch instead of what actually occurred?

How much of what we experience in Dreams-That-Are-Not-Dreams is a handy visual used to mask the real sights and vistas? Is the column of shadow that is matrixed into a man in a hat (always a man, always a hat) actually a man-shaped shadow or did the brain provide that as a convenient cover for something else? How much MORE sinister is it if there was never a shadow there at all, yet something there which our brain covers with a shadow instead?

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

I am often working my magic in a place where the thin, crispy, crust of the world has been carefully excised, and has only the most tenuous grip on consensus. In a place where the cracks in concrete are a chasm to the Abyss. Where places are bigger (yet… not, yet… are) than they are in the physical world. Where there is, for reasons probably best left unknown, a fully functioning rest stop bathroom in the spirit-world incarnation of my back yard. A place where I can “walk” a certain direction and hit a graveyard that extends for endless miles, that may or may not be All Graveyards. It is in this between, strange, unmoored, place where things can work - because the laws we know of don't apply.

Once, when I was walking home from the local grocery store at night I got incredibly lost. Now, that may sound somewhat reasonable except that the path to the grocery store was two turns and about a mile of total distance. After realizing I was incredibly lost I took note of exactly what path I’d gone (leave the store, walk to the street, turn left)... except in order to be where I was I would’ve had to have turned right. Except… the houses were on the wrong side of the road. In fact everything was the wrong way around. Distances were all wrong. It was clearly my neighborhood but it had been mirror-flopped, and distorted. 

It was that Dreaming place, that Circle place. Neither-here-nor-there, caught between. I had slipped loose of the Normal Road and was walking somewhere Fey. Awake, sober, aware. I shut my eyes tight, took off my jacket, and turned it inside-out. When I opened my eyes the world was back to normal. But the world will never, ever, be Normal-Normal again. Not with the knowledge that I am one liminal moment from sticking my foot through the thin layer of Igneous crust, sober, and outside the bounds of the carefully excised, holding a six pack of Kiwi-Strawberry Shasta in my hand. 

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

What is very important is to understand that the raft is temporary. One day it will dive downward, toward the liquid mantle of the world and melt. Even if it feels like solid rock right now it was once Strange and to Strange it will return. 

The natural state of the world is that dreamlike non-sense, with overgrown pineal glands saving us from the shadows that really do have teeth. It was only our unique ability to pretend that we could exit the natural cycle that meant we could stand on our raft, huddled around a captured flame, and keep the Strangeness beyond, and beneath.

But like the Chimp that needs enrichment and a natural habitat or it falls over from heart disease - we need that wildness. We need the scare, and the shadows and the Strange. We strive toward it in all things. Why is it so terrifying when we find it? 

Devil’s advocate: Let’s say I had a little seizure or was sleep-walking the day the bowl dropped from my hands. Let’s say that stress made me WILDLY hallucinate. Okay. Cool. Let’s say that dreams are only dreams, and nothing more. Let’s say that none of this is anything. I’d be quite comforted by that at times, lemme tell ya.

Where the fuck is the bowl? Why have I still never found a trace of it four years later?  

How is it that my own father dreams of the same stretched and squashed versions of the places near my childhood home, where the plants wave and dance in the moonlight?

I don’t want an answer. I don’t need an answer. I can’t use an answer. These things happen. The importance is in what is done with them, not in the proving or disproving of them. 

And next time this topic comes around - if the brain holds out against the executive dysfunction - I'll try to get into what can be done with these phenomena to strengthen, bolster, and even whole-cloth build a practice.

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

And before you go: I'm working on an as-yet unnamed Lenormand deck. If you hop over to you'll be able to drop a few bucks in the tip jar to follow along with the creation process. I’ve completed the watercolor art for two cards, and have begun work on the backs, packaging and other ephemera.