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 Xartis Psyxis - "The Last Confession" (contd)

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nordmann
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PostXartis Psyxis - "The Last Confession" (contd)

The religious man will tell you that there are two lives, this earthbound one where our spirit is caged and tested, and a heavenly one where it gambols for eternity in bliss or toils for ever in despondency, both options sounding much like Hell to me. This marks the cleric out to be a naïve fool.

The pagan will tell you that there is only one life, and heaven or hell are to be made and found within it. This marks the pagan out to be an intellectual fool, the worst kind of fool there is.

But there is another life that both men have missed, one which I dearly hope never to have experience of again, and from which you also are spared, Abby. This is the life where the spirit has departed from the shell but has left the machinery of consciousness in its wake. The brain conjugates thought, the lips move to speak and the body goes through the motions of living, but the reason and purpose for all these activities have left.

Add to this travesty of existence the exquisite courant profond of pain which ran deep within me at the time and you might begin to understand the life I led for the eternity that was my first days in captivity.

Captivity of course is a subjective and much abused connotation. To a large extent we are all captives and I am sure I need not explain to you, of all people, in what way I mean. We all can identify the walls that contain us. We all can sense the chasm of time between our moment of contemplation and the end of our sentence. We know how feels approaching doom and we know, or think we know, how also feels eventual liberation. In short, we know what it is like to be trapped. Whether the cause of our captivity is just or unjust, intended or accidental, the prisoner is a prisoner nonetheless and in this small way we are all equal. If one can see that small truth and understand it, then no cage of man’s devising can trap a man any more than he already is. And of course if truth is liberation, as Hobbes and others have told us, then by this simple ironic truth has our captor freed us.

What makes captivity a different experience for each of us is our relationship with the concept, not our understanding of it. With my spirit absent it could not therefore be crushed by false hope or oppressed by any malefactor. So I found that I merely had two components of life to nurse in my captivity, my mind and my shattered body. My relationship with my surroundings was therefore not based on being a prisoner, but solely based on finding that I now had time, but little else. This would have caused a freedom loving spirit to despair, so in its absence I found not despair but an odd serenity. The moment I realised all this, and believe me it was all in a moment, I also knew then that I was surely dying.

What prevented this from happening were two odd things, or at least they struck me as odd at the time. This motivated my mind to make sense of them, and my mind, not having the guile, strength or intelligence to do it alone, slowly hauled the other attributes of my person which it required back into activity to achieve this purpose. The first odd thing was that my physical world was no longer behaving in a way to which I was accustomed. Light became dark and darkness light. Sound became silence and the quietest moments shrieked in my ears to the point of pain. But even the pain did not behave as it should. Like a play of colour on the waves of the ocean it shrank and grew, absorbed me and then threw me away, washed over me and through me, so that I was sometimes floating free from it and sometimes submerged in it, but never less than fascinated by it. The other odd thing was that my thoughts became words and were indeed spoken, but not by me, nor even in my own voice. They became the voice of an old man and the words he phrased did much more than echo my thoughts, but in truth embellished them, gave them meaning I had not realised, and a lucidity they had never enjoyed before. I found those words reassuring. They were like companions I could depend on as the rest of my world went mad, and were there as I tossed about on that ocean of pain, guiding me towards a shore of safety, where pain was no more, and night and day could resume their natural place in the order of things.

I took to seeking those words out at the worst moments when I could feel myself slipping into the freezing and murky brine, as a shipwrecked sailor reaches to find a timber with which to stay afloat. And when I found them, to keep them in my company, I entered into a dialogue with them. I asked myself questions and then heard myself answer them in the old man’s voice, and always they were reasonable words. I played games with them, invited them to crescendos of indignation, anger, even laughter, just so I could accompany them as they subsided and then play the game all over again. And as with the luckiest shipwrecked sailor my timber carried me eventually to that shore. Then, one painful day as I clambered up the shingle into a world with which at least I was part familiar, I saw that old man waiting for me, sitting with hands on knees and a playful smile on his ancient bearded face.

“Welcome back,” he said to me “I hope you are such diverting company still, now that you are sane!”
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