“When you say I am a force of nature, you're not saying I do not have responsibility. What you're saying is: I have responsibility.”
Beneath the Laughter
Do you know what I hate, man? Other people. Fuck. I swear to God.
Look at them: born into status they don't deserve, with intelligence they don't deserve, with money they don't deserve! With natural skills they don't deserve! Fuck. I hate it, man. How fucking dare they judge me when I've worked this hard, come this far? Fucking Christ.
It comes and goes. Back and forth the emotions go – buffeted from passion, rage, anxiety; underlying it all: why not me?
We judge others a lot over what they have, under the guise of what they do. We tend to come to assumptions that aren't just wrong: they're probably as close to heinous as one gets. It's an easy step: “that person,” who judged you (and how dare they, right?) to “those people.”
Of course, once you've made that little step you've come into a whole new world. Now you can reap wholesale justice and judgment all over. I can't tell you how many times I've heard folks talk about “affirmative action” with barely veiled disgust –
Those people! Lazy! It's not like they were slaves, themselves! And it's not like that mom working three jobs can't work any harder!
We talk about sympathy, sometimes, in the world of magick. Some of us talk about it a lot. Some of us take a new word and pretend that it doesn't essentially mean the same thing. (“I'm not like those eclectic Wiccans. I have rapport. It's adapted, to the New Age. Which makes me totally better.”) But then again, doesn't it mean something else, too?
1. Harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
2. The harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions.
3. The fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.
Let's take a gander at it's Etymology (while I riff off VI):
- Sympathy: 1570s, “affinity between certain things,” from M.Fr. sympathie, from L.L. sympathia “community of feeling, sympathy,” from Gk. sympatheia, from sympathes “having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings,” from syn- “together” + pathos “feeling” (see pathos). In English, almost a magical notion at first; e.g. in reference to medicines that heal wounds when applied to a cloth stained with blood from the wound. Meaning “conformity of feelings” is from 1590s; sense of “fellow feeling” is first attested 1660s. An O.E. loan-translation of sympathy was efensargung.
To be in harmony with something else: this is the goal of all magick, even if it involves an idea, a God, a group, or simply – other people. It is perhaps humorous at the rabid antipathy which swathes itself in the clothes of sympathy when it comes to magicians in groups: here we are, continually trying to put ourselves into communication with Something Else and suddenly what springs up is pure Hateraid. For fucking everything, man.
And I dig that. I share your rage. Well, I did. I'm sure in a week or two, the rage will maybe return. But it will be changed.
I've realized this game I've been playing. A game I played for a long time, and will probably run the risk of playing again: demeaning others, so that I can seem to shine. It's lame. I'm pretty retarded, you know?
All of that elitism, all the swagger? It was because I couldn't admit that I didn't know everything. Therefore, rather than look into it, I decided to just kick it to the curb. “Who needs that? Paltry moralism.” “But, why the fuck should I?”
And sometimes, that is exactly what things are. Sometimes, though, you're lying to yourself. And you're lying to yourself because – quite frankly – admitting that you aren't fucking perfect is hard. Don't you have the badass skills of super-Magi-hood that you had to tear tooth and limb from the fucking world? Did you not have to suffer to learn? And in an instant, it can be crushed. Smashed on the shores, by someone offering a gift with their left hand.
And that's not particularly auspicious, now is it? So you reject the gift. You say: “only those people do that. I'm not one of them! I'm better! I've done this longer!”
The subtle poison of elitism, fueled by your antipathy to the world around you, drips in. Because now you can just tell people that you're fucking better. You can tell them that, in the end, you went your own way. And look how awesome you are. Hoo, boy. Aren't you ever?
Of course, you're not in sympathy. Not with your fellows, who you will demean. And certainly not with the world, which you hope to influence. And a magician really ought to know when they're not in sympathy with something. When they're actively in antipathy with something. It's kinda like an exorcism, isn't it?
And so you shall exorcise all your friends, your contacts, your fellows. One by one as you run your mouth, repeat how awesome you are endlessly, and then continue on. Swagger into the sunset.
My biggest fear used to be that I'd die alone. That eventually, my rage would consume me completely and I would be lost – forever – and alone. I took a whole lot of solace in the Liber AL line, “I am Alone. There is no God where I am.”
I had no idea what those words meant, beyond what they conveyed. What was being described before me was accepted at face value. Now, at last, I could be Godless and Joyous. That guy was, and probably still is, a total fuckup. A fool who has no idea what he's doing, and can't admit it because then the sham would be up: just human, hardly divine.
So I got to piss on everyone's parade to my heart's content. Go back through this blog. You'll find plenty of it. Constantly shielding the blows with new stories. Constantly saying the same things. Endlessly. A loop – potentially played out for eternity. Antipathy taken to an extreme. I was wrong. But you knew that was the point of this half-mad diatribe, right?
I wasn't the elite. I wasn't as good as I let on. I never have been, I never will be. Only human, but strangely still divine.
Which is a funny thought – here I was raving about my desire for “Cthonic Divinity.” Did I know what the fuck those words meant? No. I still don't. Not yet, maybe never. Maybe I die, and I never finish what I started. Maybe I fall asleep, and just – don't wake up.
It happens. All the time. Believe me, I know. So, here I am thinking about it, and suddenly I wonder: what kills elitism?
Sympathy. Actual sympathy. Not this: I take X and put it in Y, and then it becomes Z. Not some hocus pocus mishmash of thought. Actual sympathy. Also known as “giving a shit.”
When you “give a shit,” that is to say, when you can enter rapport with something else – because you care then it is a great gift. For both parties. This is, as I understand it, the essence of agape. The ability to “give a shit” about the entire community. To love them, feel with them, understand them.
Not telling them that they are shit, and they're fuckups. Not telling them that they're broken because of – whatever. But remembering that you falter, too. That you fall down, and that sometimes you just do not know and this absence of knowledge (ignorance as Anti-Gnosis, if you follow me). Of course – if you realize that you don't know, and that your tacit assumptions are wrong – then you can actually make use of Gnosis. You can seek that information in one way or another, or perhaps, multiple ways. Who am I to tell you how to seek what you seek?
Or you can decide you've gained 100% true knowledge of the universe, and that anyone that questions this is ignorant or wrong. And then you can piss on them for how much they don't know, really let them have it.
Watch the person scuttle off, feeling miserable and injured. Aren't they pathetic? Weak. Willing to give up! And look at you – so powerful.
Of course, you're probably denying yourself something when you do this. You're probably restricting the possible flow of information (and while that's not wrong, as noted above, it has it's own distinct drawbacks). You're probably making a lot of assumptions, constantly. You're probably not asking the right questions.
People told me this, of course. And then they gave up. Because, you know, why bother? Clearly, I was perfect. I'm a little less perfect today. That's okay with me, though.
I know something, now. First: I know that I will not die alone, in a state of isolation. Second: I know that I “give a shit.” Sometimes, I give too much of a shit. But let's take one step at a time.
My name is Jack Faust. I don't know shit about the universe, but not long ago I thought I had it all figured out. Except that part about why my life sucked, and people occasionally hated me.
I'm just like you, maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe you're not like me at all. That's cool, actually. I like that: that means you can give me access to your understanding of the universe. You can help me know it better, if I let you.
But if you're running around talking about “those people,” and “how wrong they are,” then maybe what you need to do is can the hateraid. And start giving a shit.
Of course, that doesn't mean being a doormat, either. Giving a shit is not the same as letting people manipulate and lie to you, and then just taking it. It's not blindly accepting whatever you're told, and just going about. You have a right to tell people antithetical to your development, as a person, to get the fuck out. It doesn't mean they're bad people. But who wants to have the same fights, over and over? Who wants to go through the same bullshit, over and over?
No one. So, seriously, try giving a shit. A little bit of sympathy goes a long way.