The Account of a Lifetime

August 6, 2011

Demon the Third: The Creature of an Ashen Home

Filed under: demons,Reflections,Tea. Earl Grey. Hot — xisor @ 6:48 pm

Through this summer, I’ve found plenty of time for introspection. Mainly with a feeling of being on the outside looking in, on my own life. Not a sensation of being ‘out of control’, but of not quite having the prolonged, guiding/directional control most folks feel fairly comfortable with.

In that manner, I felt some discomfort. Not an immense amount, mainly because it’s been a rather pleasant summer, but a subtle discomfort, a nagging that things weren’t quite the way they should be. And it’s ruddy annoying, I’ll say, mainly because it seems there’s nothing to be done to rectify it except actually getting on with things. Life is certainly not in a position, for me, where if I’m not doing something I’m somehow ‘dead’. I’ve prided myself for a very long time on the maxim brought to my ken by way of Marcus Aurelias “To think is to live”, which seems pretty reasonable to me.

The trouble is that, though thinking is al well and good, it would seem that being able to sustain longer, focussed and organised periods of thoughts is something I’m yearning after and which, for the past … well, recent history, it’s something that’s generally been escaping me. I can think well enough to hop from A to B to C, but all the way to Z without touching down in the middle? No, I’ve not done that.

The thing is, I’ve not tried either. Which leads me to the simple case that to really have the perspective I’m mooching after, I need some metric by which to measure success.

Victory is Life

I’ve also been watching a fair amount of DS9. Not that I have any ambitions on serving the Dominion, it does strike me that for a while now, I’ve not actually been held to account for…anything. Not that I’ve done anything terrible, blimey no. Mainly that there’s no opportunity for…measurement, to check progress, to judge between victory or defeat in any given thing. In that respect one might well argue that I’ve just not done a damn thing, not seen anything through to the end.

I’m not sure I’d be able to argue against that, having no metric I also have no useful evidence. Just a big ol’ pile of anecdotes. And I’ll tell you a story: anecdotes should be worthless. They’re not, but they should be. See?

Case closed, your honour.


Demon the Third: The Creature of the Ashen Home

I think it’s fair to say that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have a very powerful (and very nagging) sense of shame. A shame in lack of achievement, of amorphous worthlessness. I threw away a perfectly fine degree in Theoretical Physics, I really under-exploited a trip to New Zealand and now I’m almost at the and of, possibly, having threw away a respectable degree in generally unrespectable IT. But that sense of unrespectability has joined me as companion; I don’t think all of this year (2011) I’ve said one good thing about IT, to anyone. I’ve belittled Stirling and the department because, ultimately, I’m fairly ashamed to have stuck at this.

Beyond that, I have a sense of shame in ‘never having fought for what I want’. This is mitigated readily because I never have a good damn clue about what I want, so the shame’s genuinely misplaced. But that’s beside the point, the sense of shame is a factor of a deeper thing: an arrogance that has no business in existing. If it did have business in existing, I’d be doing damn grand with my dissertation, not frittering it away, not inexplicably having lost months due to lack of concentration, to indescribably evaporating enthusiasm or ability.

The motivation to pass most of the miniscule hurdles that assail me should be readily available. I’m aware of the extent of my competencies and I’m well aware of the things that I can do, that I can learn. The trouble is…I don’t. Underachieving. Shame. The most overwhelming thing about the damn sentiment is this: it’s extremely underwhelming. It’s trivial, or at least it should be.

The demon follows in the most easy of moments, the moments in the prelude to prosperity. In moving towards any given goal, a person will feel a dawning sense of opportunity, a sense of change and ability that was not there before. The demon feasts on this, it saps the will and seizes upon the mere moments of doubt and uncertainty, of reflection. It whispers “this is not for you”, it colours the shades of the world around you. Worst of all, it speaks truths, it forces you recollect the greyness, the bitter tastes of desires long since lost, long since passed your grip yet often still visible. But for a different road, the demon suggests, you might have moved to that brighter goal.

The demon, squat behind your shoulder, will open its mouth at the edge of sight, as if to say something. It won’t, it’ll pause and clamp shut its maw, it’s suggestion or insight held forever separated from your assailed mind. A subtle reminder that it doesn’t even need to mention that which troubles you. As soon as the demon manifests the reminder it will not speak springs forth in your mind. It won’t say, it can’t say, but you can.

The demon conjures a darkened grey-scale image, it dulls the vibrancy of reality by distracting you from whatever opportunity awaits, by simply offering you that pause, that alluring moment to, in the guise of righteous, prudent introspection, allowing the opportunity for self-doubt. But the demon doesn’t speak, it also doesn’t last. The memory of its apparition, the imprint on your life is sufficient for it to depart, soon after, the lingering sense of guilt, of spiteful providence where before there had been ambition, a sense of achievement, a drive to seize opportunity.

The demon rarely shows its face; you always suspect it to have a faint disapproval, a familiar, trusted face, a visage dear to your heart. Yet it does not. You expect it to be a beast reminiscent of corrupted familiarity, of stolen warmth and wrecked enterprises.  Glancing at it, it is none of these. It is small and it is pitiable, it is worthless yet it typically blocks sight to those most useful devices, the mirrors and repositories of your true memories…always as a spectre standing between you and any sense of objectivity. Sometimes it simply isn’t there.

The Demon’s name is the Creature of the Ashen Home and it can be fought.

How to fight it?

Preparedness. If the Creature of the Ashen Home preys upon your doubts, your shame, your shame is nothing compared to that should it catch a glimpse of itself.

Recognition: shame is a terribly worthless emotion. Of course, humility, a sense of perspective are worthwhile, but shame itself, being upset, crippled by failure? No. Failure, if that is indeed the wellspring for shame, can be turned against it. Any moment of failure, moments of weakness can be turned around. They can be dissected, analysed and turned back on it. Failure is just one more step on the road to success, right?

(Well, no, of course it’s not, but that’s beside the point.)

Shame cripples ambition unless it spurs it. If shame can’t be dispelled, it can be harness in the short run, turned to service and used as a tool in your own design. It’s not easy, but even recognising and standing against shame is surely the first step in undoing its power; by doing something innately respectable and ‘standing up to it’.


In Other News

Last week I finished my Earl Grey loose leaf tea. For the first time in a very long time, I haven’t got any. Possibly since 2008.  It’s rather disturbing. And yet, it’s rather liberating too. Regimenting myself, dispelling what I’d say to be ‘luxury cases’ (such as my loose leaf Earl Grey) might do me some good, focussing more on the actual work of doing something and less on being distracted by (dearly beloved) distractions.

Who knows?

July and August have become most perplexing months for me. This time last year was both hell and heaven in almost equal measure. I really did have some excellent times…but, by Jove, those idiots plagued me and almost ruined everything. Possibly they did, possibly I let them. I’m not sure, I don’t think the knowledge is beyond discovery, but I think I’m at a point where I can say “I don’t want to know”, for now, because there are more interesting things to know.

There’s allegedly some pressing concerns about what’ll happen over the next couple of months, but, for myself, I’m more interesting in banishing the current demons without conjuring a whole host of new ones. In any case, salvation is the only option!


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