autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

The red book

Running through the archives tonight, I encountered a reference to a red velvet book. It made me laugh because I just obtained the first edition hardback of Jung’s “The Red Book” and the memory and thought of the one from the archives swims to surface like synchronicity, or perhaps kamma. I never really know anymore. Perhaps it is both.

I once knew someone who collected books. Empty books. Journals, really. As memory serves, it was for some project that kept them occupied when nothing else would or could. I believe they, too, often found themselves looking at a red book. Perhaps they too, had a red velvet one. I no longer remember. I do remember my surprise to hear them speak of things (themes, symbols, and such) that have so often shown up in my thoughts, dreams, and the odd, intermittent spaces that linger between those two.

Actually, what I remember most is how annoyed and angry they used to get when I would tell them I had very similar thoughts or experiences. In retrospect, I think they must have believed I was lying. That is somewhat amusing to me, since the core of the Jungian effort posits and deals with the concepts of the collective subconsious and shared archetypes, symbols, and such. I finally concluded it was simply that they needed to feel as if they had something unique, special, and “theirs”. A human penchant, to be sure. It stopped rankling some time ago and, here, now, is mostly a tangent of associative memories.

I mention all of this because the collision of memory and this moment sent me curiously looking to see if an older item was still in my possession. It was… is… and I sat and stared at the recording for a time, trying to decide if I really wanted to listen to it. Happy memory or psychological cutting? These kinds of things are important when you’re recovering from a serious lapse in judgment. After a bit of consideration, I decided it was as good a test as any to see if or where the sore spots still existed.

(I do realize this is woefully lacking in specifics that might render it more enjoyable reading. Apologies, this is essentially me documenting a moment’s progress. Feel free to skip it if you like.)

I listened as the halting, stumbling voice described a technique and then sought to demonstrate it. I remember when I wouldn’t have noticed the skittering manner. For that matter, I remember when I used to listen to this piece simply to feel as if it belonged to someone I knew and not some odd stranger who saw ghosts and demons and ill intent lurking around every inch of me.

I listened to it earlier tonight and was pleased to find I thought none of that. In fact, I laughed at myself that I still had it at all. Then, I thought about deleting it. I’ve deleted quite a lot lately and I have to admit to a certain sense of weightlessness and liberation for it. Burying old bones, if you know what I mean. Relics are only helpful when they hold positive meaning. Those that do not are no more than skeletons and really should be set into the dust to fade and dissolve.

My problem, of course, was that I spent about three years refusing to admit I was dragging about a corpse. No, actually, it was worse than that. Refusing to admit that I was dragging around an illusion that I thought was someone I knew. And I allowed myself to continue carrying it even as it shrivelled and withered into an equally illusory corpse. And I continued carrying it until it was nothing but clanky, bleached, porous bones. Yes, illusory bones.

All the while, I told myself this was someone important and precious and special that deserved to be remembered as such.

Sad, isn’t it? Sick, actually. Mostly because it was so untrue. I wanted it to be true. In many ways and for many reasons, I needed it to be true. But it simply wasn’t. And since I couldn’t accept that, I carried around my version until I could find a way to accept it. Right down to the bones. I suppose I shouldn’t admit that, but I think this too is likely a much more human thing than we like to admit and now that I can admit it, by golly, I’m gonna do it as fully and truly as I refused to do it before. So there.

I still have moments when I try to think of this illusion as alive. Real. Even with the bones clanking over there in the corner. But the thing that is important to understand is that it has very little to do with “that person” and much, much more to do with what they represented to me. It isn’t “them” that I’m having trouble burying, it’s all the things woven into this pitiful, poor, skeleton I had been dragging around.

Past tense. That’s important. That’s real progress. I’ve figured out that it’s ok to leave it sitting over there in the corner. And it’s ok to look at it now and then. And it’s perfectly fine to remind myself how and why I got so knotted up over it. And why, even now, the occasional urge to pick it up flutters.

But if I’ve learned anything from Mr. Jung and his beautiful Red Book, it’s that Chapel Perilous is aptly named and the point and purpose of this little red book (for all it isn’t red, isn’t a book, and is about as unlikely a mirror of Jungian insight as may be imagined for anyone but me) is very precisely to accomplish the same ends. Good ol’ C.J. said it best himself, so I’m going to close with a quote from him:

“I should advise you to put it all down as beautifully as you can – in some beautifully bound book,” he instructed. “It will seem as if you were making the visions banal – but then you need to do that – then you are freed from the power of them. . . . Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your church – your cathedral – the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them – then you will lose your soul – for in that book is your soul.” 

We all have our Red Book. Just as we all have our dusty, bony skeleton(s). This is my place and my way of managing mine. Sometimes, I bury them. Sometimes, I dig them up. Sometimes, it becomes such a goofy graverobbing mess that I lose track as I stand, shovel in hand, trying to remember which way the damn thing was supposed to be going this time.

The way I have it figured, it’s just life. Some days you plant, others you harvest, and as long as there’s benefit in it eventually, I reckon that’s all that matters.