Tag Archive: Old One-Eye


Seven bears

There was a girl, and she had six bears.  She was a very little, and very odd girl.  Her mother and father never quite knew what to do with her, because she called them “mother” and “father” in the same way she’d address royalty from a foreign country whose titles she didn’t understand very well.  She talked to other children the same way; trying to be friendly, and trying to fit in, but never quite understanding what it was she was supposed to be doing.

Needless to say, she didn’t have many friends.  She had six, to be precise, and they were her bears.  She’d gotten one a year, every year, on her birthday.  She talked to them, and asked them questions about things she didn’t understand, and they talked back (but only to her, when no one else was around) and told her what they thought about what she asked.  So she always had six answers, and she could figure out what she thought was right, and what was silly.

On her seventh birthday, two terrible things happened.  Neither one was supposed to be terrible, but they both were, because they couldn’t have been anything else.  She wanted very badly to blame her mother and father for them, but couldn’t quite manage it.  They hadn’t done either one meaning it to be terrible, only through a great misunderstanding that couldn’t quite be explained.

The first terrible thing started like this: her mother cut the cake, and she ate a piece, neatly.  Her father and mother both sang the birthday song to her (after the cake, but she supposed there was some leeway in how these things should go), and then she opened presents.  There were books, and a calculator, and a wooden pony that rocked back and forth.  Mother and Father could never quite decide what age they thought she was, so presents had a tendency to orbit around her chronological age in a three to five year span.  This suited the girl just fine, because she didn’t put much stock in ages.  They led to people treating her as though she were silly or stupid, which didn’t make any sense.

But every year, she could rely on a bear.  She was looking very forward to this year’s bear – she had Monday Bear, and Bear Tuesday, and Thursbear, and The Friday of Bears, and Significantly Saturday, and Son of Bear.  She was only missing one, and she knew (as the child places in every mind knows, with a certainty that is more sure than gravity itself) that she was missing one.  She only needed one, and now she would have all the bears she ever needed.

So, of course, the first terrible thing was that there was no bear.  She couldn’t even rummage through the wrapping paper to see if she had missed it somewhere.  All the wrapping paper was folded neatly and put in a trash bag as the presents were opened.  There was no bear.

“You’re a bit old for bears, don’t you think, darling?” Mother said, too brightly. “And, well, we know you talk to them when you’re supposed to be in bed.  So it’s for the best that you don’t have any more, you see.  It’s time to move past bears, dear.”

And the girl nodded, and very quietly set about not crying.  This is not at all the same as when she didn’t want to cry.  Now it was work not crying, and trying not to think about crying.  Crying wouldn’t make there be a bear, and even if it did, it would be the wrong bear.  She knew it.

The second terrible thing was an accident, and it wasn’t supposed to happen like it did, or when it did.  It was supposed to happen, just in an entirely different (and, theoretically, much less terrible) way.  Father and mother got into a fight.  They fought pretty often, and it had gotten worse.  They used to be loud fights, with yelling and doors slamming and all sorts of noise.  Now they were quiet fights, and the quiet fights were worse.  The silence could fill up the whole house and make everything quiet, in a dreadful way that was the sound of people waiting for a terrible thing to happen.

There was a quiet fight, after dinner.  The silence poured into all the rooms and pushed out all the air, so everyone felt like they would suffocate, even the bears.  The silence filled up everything, and didn’t leave any space.  Then, when there was no space left for anything, the sound of the front door closing clicked to itself out on the front lawn, where it had space to click in.  The girl heard it, through her window, and saw her father get in his car and leave.

Then the silence was embarrassed by what it had done, and pulled back a very little, as much as it could when it was all stuck in the house and was too big to get out.  It left just enough space for the sound of her mother crying, quietly, in the front room.  It was a very little sound, huddled in the tiny space the embarrassed silence had made for it.

 

Now, let the years roll over the terrible things, and make them fuzzy and less painful.  Let them be memories, with much less power left to them.  Let the silence leak out of the house, and be replaced with voices that are too bright and brittle, trying to talk to each other in the same language that isn’t the same at all, really.

Seven years, all of them full of minutes and seconds and hours and things, with time in them for the girl to grow up, but no less odd.  Years where she learns not to let her mother know she still talks to her bears, and listens to what they tell her.  Years where she still has only the same six friends, but learns to pretend there are more.  Years where every year, the orbit of age that her father and mother think she is gets bigger and bigger.

 

So, now that the years have worn away at the terrible things, there is another birthday.  She knows her father is not invited to this one, after how he was drunk and angry when he showed up to the last one.  She knows her mother is punishing her father, but does not really understand why, or care.  So he has sent presents, by mail.  Each one of them has a card, with a little sentiment in it, trying to show her love at a distance, when she never understood it in person.

There is a bear.  It is the right bear – the one that should have been there years ago, but got lost on its way to her.  It’s had a rough seven years.  It is gray with washing, and missing one eye, and the fur is all worn down until it is smooth and soft like velvet.  But it is here now, and has found its way to her.  It looks like it’s winking at her all the time, and perhaps it is.  The card with it says “I know you love bears, pumpkin.  I hope this one will do; it’s got a lot of history and love in it already.  I hope you’ll love it too.  Love, Dad.”  He’s always called himself dad to her.  “Your dad,” he’d say, or “her dad,” and mean himself.

The bear doesn’t talk during the party, of course.  It doesn’t talk at all until she takes it up to her room, and sets it down by the other bears.  They are all shinier than it is, better cared for and less worn.  They don’t smell, vaguely, of dog.  The other bears don’t say anything about the new bear.  They’re putting off their own sort of quiet.  It’s a waiting, watching, nervous and hand-wringing kind of quiet, as though they’ve afraid they’ve been slacking off and the teacher just walked in and asked to see their work.

“Hello, creature,” said the bear, in a gruff and growly bear voice.  “We’ve been waiting a long time to meet, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” the girl says, quiet and wondering.

“You are called Wednesday by the people who made you, so I will do the same.  It’s a strange sort of name for a creature like you, but it fits.  I am a Wednesday too, as you know – so you may call me Mr. Wednesday, to tell the difference.  Very pleased to make your acquaintance.”  He is smiling, and she can hear it.  It’s a charmer’s smile, a snake’s smile, and one she at once immediately trusts and would not believe for an instant.

“Hello, Mr. Wednesday.  How do you do?”  This seems like a good start, for a new bear who is not new at all.

“I do very well, Wednesday child.  Now, let’s see what we shall do about this fine mess you’re in, hmmm?”  And he seemed to wink at her, still, and she leaned very close to hear his voice, which had gotten very soft and gruff indeed.

Mr. Wednesday bear whispered all sorts of things to her that first night, some of them very silly and some of them seeming very smart.  And the other bears didn’t say a thing, all night long.  A very long night it was, and the sun overslept and left the dawn for what felt like very late indeed.

Mr. Wednesday rode to school in her backpack that day, so she could listen to him whisper.  He did just like he promised, and told her things all day long, even when other people were around, so long as she didn’t say anything back to him.  She learned a very big lot that day, and wasn’t sure if she liked it or not.

Because today was a day full of work, and then tonight was a night full of work, and now it is almost today all over again, and I will fuck up today’s work quite thoroughly if I don’t at least pretend I intend to sleep in between.

But there are things that need writing, and will not leave me alone until I acknowledge them.  It’s been a very right-brain-eating-my-face week, and for some very good and very interesting reasons, and some very bad and very interesting ones.  I am sorting through all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, and now here is a list, because that way I can pretend to the things that need writing that I will get to them, at least long enough to sleep.  And maybe, when I wake up again, I will remember what I meant by all this – or, even more interestingly, I will half remember, and make something not-quite-new-but-curiously-rewrought out of the bits.  Upcycled memory.

Words mean things.  It needs writing because it is true.  Because deserve is a blessing and an epithet.  Because need is a plea, a bargain, a comfort, a curse, a coward’s way out, a pretty lie, a naked and trembling truth. Because words mean things, and people mean things by words, and what we mean by things means everything – and when what we mean is not what it means to someone else, things can go very awry, or just very else.

The trouble with torture.  The trouble with torture, O Best Beloved, it’s that it’s predictably and practically pointless to do it to anyone else but one’s very own private, potent, purulently penitent Self.  No one else has the tools to hone the edge of the tool so fine that it cuts precisely where the intent meets the deed, so that the Self is reminded of what it couldn’t be bothered about before any of this silliness began.

Hookers, whores, call girls and storytellers.  We lie.  We all lie.  And the ones of us who are paid the most to lie to other people are paid to do it because our lies sound like something that those people want very, very badly to be true.  Find the truth that your john wants, and feed it out, micron by micron.  Get paid in the coin of your choice for every morsel.  Wrap as much of what you believe or want to be true in it as you can bear – every word that comes out of your cocksucker that you can believe, your john will believe because you believe it, and it will be easier to sell the ones you know are lunacy and pap.  Cut yourself on true words to feed him watered down lies that taste like lifeblood just enough to make him want more.  And while he’s swallowing, pilfer his wallet.  Or tell him why he had the idea to sign the contract.  Where is the line between fantasy and sociopathy?

Brains are tuning forks. Songs are the note to which mine resonates right now.  The shortcut drug is in full effect, and it is digging things up out of trunks long left locked to rust in the dark.  Pieces of Split City are slotting together, and I think I expected that to be a good thing.  It is definitely becoming something very else, though, and I don’t know what I think of that.  I am becoming, slowly, hesitant to think of these things that I am putting words to as part of some linear work.  There are too many parallels, overlaps, whorls.  Plotlines run like fingerprints.  It is confusing, fascinating.  I have told and retold the story of my own life to myself so many times, in so many ways, trying to make sense of it – perhaps I have worn parallel sorts of paths in my brain, so that it creates not single things, but what if bouquets of possibility and potentiality.

We shall see.

Mythology of self

We tell ourselves stories all the time, every day.  You’ve heard me talk about this before, and it’s a theme I come back to a lot, primarily because I spend a fair portion of my time asking myself what story someone is telling themselves about a particular set of facts, events, circumstances, whatever.  There are lots of stories to tell about any particular event, and the story that you tell yourself will materially and significantly change the way you look at the event, how you feel about it, how you feel about yourself and other people in relation to it.  The facts form a very, very low percentage of the actual opinion and emotional resonance that a human forms around any important event: most of what goes on in our heads is the story we are telling ourselves about what happened, what is happening, what will happen, what might happen.

That becomes even more pertinent, even more common, even more influential when we think about people instead of facts.  People are mutable and interpretable in a way that facts are not.  Though we spend a lot of brain power excusing or ignoring internal motivations, on some level we (as humans) are basically incapable of ignoring the fact that other humans’ internal motivations DO exist, in a theoretical sense.  So, based on the fact that it can only ever be a theoretical sense, we create theories of who they are, what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they might or might not think or feel or do in regards to us and what we feel and think and do or do not do or think or feel.

How, then, do we reinterpret and recreate ourselves?  We are, from an internal perspective, a complex mix of both fact and perception, of concrete certainties and guesses.  When you ask someone why they did a very important, very emotionally loaded thing, they will often have a logical, rational, prepared explanation.  They have a story.  They will tell you their story about why they acted the way they did, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and why all of that makes sense in the context of what was going on.

The problem with that (or at least, this is my theory today – ask me again tomorrow, it’ll probably be different) is that it’s bullshit.  It’s a story they’ve devised to explain to themselves why what they did was right, or why it made sense, or just why it was okay to do at the time.  It’s a construct, a fabrication, a creation designed to uphold their certainty that they do have reasons for doing things, and that they understand why they do things.  People, in general, devise their sense of self and identity from identifying common characteristics in the stories they tell themselves and other people about themselves, and then basing their future stories and behaviors on those characteristics.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of identity reinforcement.

Here’s the chink in that armor: ask someone why they engaged in an action that has no real resonance, that wasn’t important, that didn’t have any real meaning to them at the time.  Preferably, ask them about it both right after they do it, and then again some time later (best if you ask after they have forgotten the first conversation about the action).  At first, usually they will not know why they did that thing.  It was a small action, an unimportant thing, that didn’t need a story.  But when questioned, they will create a story, no matter how small, no matter how poorly constructed, to uphold their self-identity.  They will seek a story that holds a reason that somehow jells with the way they see themselves, through the lens of years or decades of stories repeating the same themes.

After they have forgotten the first conversation, ask again.  The story will probably have changed, although in many cases not by much.  It will hold together better, and small details will be altered to make it flow more freely and coherently.  It will be more according to the standards they expect of themselves, positive and negative, and it will be a better brick in the wall of self-identity.  The story gains stability the further away from the action the person is – because memory is a strange and mutable thing, and we color it in with details that make it easier for us to make sense of it in context of our world.

So, the thing I am going round and round trying to get at is this: we create our own set of stories, our own mythology of self.  My mythology of self is complex and at times incoherent, and interacts with others’ mythology of me in interesting and sometimes very surprising ways.  Everyone I know has a mythology of self – a series of stories that they have told to themselves and others that is part truth, part fiction, told and retold, honed and refined so that it supports and reinforces the person that they have convinced themselves they are.

The mythology of self is a critical part of human experience, I think.  It is utterly inseparable from the way people self-identify in a more scientific and psychological sense, and it is crucial to creating a bridge between separate people, so that they (like fractious deities in totally unrelated pantheons, forced to overlap and interact) can mingle their mythologies to help form a society that we can all thrive and find wonder in.

There is something in this idea, I think, that I will find really useful for exploring the concept of deity as self, and self as deity.  I will have to chase it down one day soon.  For now, I am having great fun poking holes in my own mythology, squinting skeptically at what ego and mis-memory created to convince me that I am me, and there is no other way to be.  We are humans and gods, children and crones who have a fascination with the other and the self, and we are inherently mutable and adaptable.  The mythology of self may well be one of the most powerful tools we have in reinventing our selves and our worlds to be people and places that we are invested in, joyful about, and in love with.

I have always had a soft spot in my spirituality for the All-Father, Odin One-Eye.  He of Thought and Memory, who made a sacrifice of himself to himself, to find the wisdom writ on the things he had made or the things he knew nothing of, depending on which legends or stories or truths you believe.  There is a warm place in my mind for him, because he had the right of the spirit of sacrifice, you see.

 

Once upon a time (because all the best stories begin with once upon a time, O Best Beloved) there was a man who was a god who was also a man.  There are many stories about him, true and untrue and half-true and never-true and should-be-true and will-be-true.  One of the ones that should-be-true is that he made a sacrifice of himself to himself, to find wisdom that no other man had, so that the might of his mind and spirit could not be gainsaid by any other creature, in this world or any other.  He stayed in his place of pain for nine days (three times three, because three is a number of power, and three threes is the most powerful of all) and when the time was done, he was a new thing, a different man, a changed being.  He had wisdom, to match his thoughts and his memories, and a new seeing to replace the eye he had lost before.  Some say the eye had nothing to do with the tree, and some say they were intertwined so intimately that the tree grew from the eye in the depths of the world below.  Some say he gained a new magic, a new rune, for each day he spent on the tree – some say one for each night – some say three for every day, or every night, some say one magic for every three days or nights, and some say that he gained only one magic in all that time, the magic of knowing and speaking.

 

I say that for me, they are all wrong.  Old One-Eye had the right of it, and had to learn it the hard way.  All of us who are stubborn hard-headed war-mongering trickster deities do.  We have to bleed to learn, because we are too stupid and convinced of our own cleverness to learn any other way.  We have to bind ourselves to our World Trees to learn the magic of sacrifice.  There is no sacrifice but yourself, because you cannot bind anyone else to the tree.  The nails slide out, the ropes fall off, because you cannot magic anyone but yourself with sacrifice.  No one can be forced to learn from your pain but you.  The magic of sacrifice is this: your blood sings to your blood, calls to your bones, thrums in your brain.  Yours.  Your flesh is yours to burn on your own altar, and no one else’s.  That is the beauty and the price of it.  Your pain will buy pleasure and magic and knowledge like no other: yours.  It is a coin good in no other realm, and a price good for no other treasure.  On any other altar, in any other world, it is ashes and smoke.  Good for nothing but signals and hope that someone else will find the way to a tree.

 

The magic of sacrifice is also this: in burning yourself on the altar of yourself, you can learn how to make men into gods who are also men.  Old One-Eye had the right of it.  A sacrifice of yourself to yourself, and the price you pay is worth the coin you receive in return.  Knowledge is power, and the only coin worth having is the one that can’t be stolen.

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