Yes, I am still watching the volcano in Iceland. It’s not really slowing down, although there were numerous fissures at the start of the eruption, and this is the last one – Gelgingadalir. It’s sort of like a lava geyser, ejecting a fountain every few minutes from its bubbling cauldron of molten magma. When seen from above, it seems like an unmistakably feminine image, as though the Earth is giving birth, expelling some progeny from her fiery, red depths.
If that’s the case, I wonder about what is being introduced from below. The lava that is flowing, in practical terms, functions to create new crust, specifically to fill in the fissures where geologic plates are diverging. It’s a fascinating process of recycling on some gigantic scale, as above so below. The incredible volume of energy involved in greater than I am able to comprehend, and to imagine that it all sits beneath our feet continuously is fantastic.
There are volcanoes erupting all over the planet, on a daily basis. Some erupt non-stop for months, even years. Geldingadalir is expected to be actively erupting for an extended period of time, and it seems to be capturing the attention of quite a number of scientists, and ordinary geeks like me. There are live streams directly from Iceland, and those tuned in on YouTube chat with each other, all day and all night. There are numerous people hiking up the hillsides near the volcano, taking pictures, getting as close as they can to the lava flowing into the valley.
When there is a great effusion of energy, people are drawn to it like moths to a flame. Some of us are compelled to be as close to it as we can get. We need to feel the heat, be touched in some way by that energy. It feels like it’s alive, and sometimes I think we don’t feel as though we’re fully alive. There are so many opportunities to hide parts of ourselves, to not express our feelings, to not communicate honestly. So many times during any given day that we hide, and avoid, and deflect truth. We try to package unpleasant or unglamorous things more attractively, make it more palatable somehow. It seems that being so close to raw energy is unpleasant, unless it’s something in the natural world.
I find that to be an interesting circumstance – we are drawn to the raw energy, but frightened of it at the same time. If the raw energy is part of the natural world, we often have a macabre fascination with it, but it remains inexplicably attractive. We don’t understand it, we know that we can’t truly relate to it, but still it fascinates us and compels us to get closer. It happens with natural disasters, powerful animals, inanimate objects like boulders, mountains, machines. It seems that we comprehend our frailty and our smallness, but as long as it’s something outside of the human experience, we accept it with something akin to adoration.
When another human being is the source of unbridled and raw energy that seems incalculable, wild, and impossible to tame, we are fascinated, but we also tend to do our best to contain it. We are just as afraid of that as we are of getting too close to an erupting volcano. We shame people who “blow their tops”, like volcanoes, and attempt to contain them in random codes of civility, of respectability, of “normal” behavior.
People who are prone to operate at the level of unfettered raw energy have a difficult road. I speak from experience. The roiling, bubbling lava lake is inside me, and it cannot be contained, certainly not by me at times, and definitely not by anyone else. Still, many have tried and failed to put some kind of lid on an effusion of mine. This does not go well, to say the least.
When I am in an eruptive mode, it’s not always about rage, not always about grief, not always about a dark emotion. It is sometimes about excitement, about glee, about creativity. When it’s about creativity, I am definitely in the place of wanting to give birth to something, to expel something back to the Universe. This seems to be the least I can do, since I take so much from the world around me. Who are you to stop that?
I was chuckling at one of the videos from Iceland, where it was reported that the nearby town had built a “lava wall” to contain the river of lava that was creeping further and further into the valley. They had to admit that it would eventually be futile, because humans don’t generally have any viable way to contain a volcano. The wall has now been breached, and, well so it goes.
My effusion frequently meets with resistance and attempts to squelch it. When I am erupting about something, and another human being attempts to contain me, squelch me, I can only interpret that as a power play. I am being who I am, and someone else is trying to decide for me that who I am is incorrect. When I have expressed that sentiment, the would-be controller assures me that it’s only a question of my behavior, not who I am. But…but…sometimes that IS who I am. You are asking me to be less than who I am, to leave some part of me outside in order to make you more comfortable.
I am not sure I feel the need to control anyone in such a fashion these days. If I did, it would be as futile as building a wall out of dirt to contain a river of lava from a constantly erupting volcano. I correctly recognize that i do not have sufficient power to do that. More importantly, it’s really not the right thing to do. Who am I to control anyone else? When people make me uncomfortable, I find that I don’t enjoy their company over the long term, and keep my distance. They are welcome to be as obnoxious as they want to be way over there, in the distance. Best defense, no be there. (thanks, as always, Mir. Miagi).
I wonder about this issue of power, specifically on the individual level, quite a lot. As I’m contemplating that, however, I am clear that when I feel that I have no power, I’m apt to make non-productive efforts to elevate myself. I found out that male dogs raise one leg when they pee (well, some of them don’t, but most do) in order to make themselves look taller. It doesn’t really do anything for the pee stream, but dominance is a real thing. I at least want to LOOK like a bad ass even even if I’m a chihuahua.
My point is, we all react differently to feeling powerless. When someone is doing their best to control me, they will usually go to shame. I must have a neon sign over my head that says “Use Shame”. I can remember my mother using that quite a lot with me, so these days I am particularly hostile to it. I really can’t think of any reason to do that to someone, and it just seems like cheating. My response is usually rage, because I have been down that road one too many times, and I always break down and need roadside assistance when I’m there.
If something I’m doing is harming you in some way, you can say that, and I will be the first one to modify my behavior. That only applies to harm, though. Not violation of your arbitrary personal rules and codes of conduct from your childhood. Not just what you like and think is correct. I have my own codes, and when other people violate them, I usually don’t say a word unless there is real harm. If you cuss, or don’t cuss, I don’t much care. But I cuss, and I’m really not interested in your opinion about it. That’s not harm. Real harm is you cost me a job, you changed my economic status through your actions, you made it impossible for me to walk successfully through the world.
All of this controlling takes a lot of energy, and once again, it’s usually futile. I was taught that when you wrestle with a pig, the pig likes it and you get dirty. So I try very hard not to wrestle with pigs, and people who are controlling are usually pigs. They are generally socially awkward and rude, and take up more space than necessary. The consume a lot of energy and give back little. Just because someone can overpower me because they are larger (and not physically, I might add) does not mean they are due a larger degree of respect. Sometimes, quite the opposite.
In my life, I have been a pig. I have taken up more than my fair share of the available space, chewed with my mouth open, sat on people when I wanted to control the situation. I was not always a nice person. At some point, though, pig behavior stopped working for me on any level, and I was not liking it. So, I stopped doing what I was doing and now I do things very differently.
Before I got sober, I was convinced that I was going to kill someone. I would fly into violent rage episodes when I could not control situations, couldn’t make people do what I wanted them to do. The rage was so intense, I truly feared that I would lose my own self-control and do something I couldn’t reverse. There is such tremendous pain in feeling that you are out of control of your own life, and you want to do anything you can to ease it. In that hazy world of intractable discomfort, it seems that if you teach a few people a lesson you will be in control again. If you go away as well, that’s a value added benefit. That’s part of the delusion, but it’s not supposed to make sense.
Fortunately, my life took a different turn and I am not that same person. Everybody doesn’t get there, however. When the volcano is erupting in a person who has no tools to understand how to let it flow, and who believes they can simply control it, there’s a disaster soon to follow. There was a shooting in San Jose CA today that killed eight or nine people. Seems as though it was a former employee who returned, with a specific mission to inflict harm on certain people. I would imagine this is someone who still believed this was a way to control an out of control situation. The lava lake had been bubbling for a while in that shooter, and it finally spilled over. This was the only way they could see to relieve the pain of being out of control, of feeling as though everyone else had control over them.
The only person I can truly control is myself, and there are days I’m not terribly successful at that (today, I ate nearly an entire package of double-stuff Golden Oreos despite pledging to stop at four). It took me quite a while to realize that, however, so I try giving other folks a break for not being there yet.
The difference with me, though, is that I never really had systemic power. The best I could do was flatten some tires or break some wine glasses, the occasional pizza on the windshield of a car. I couldn’t manipulate public policy, or employment status. People that have such a degree of systemic power, however, can do very real damage, and they do.
I do not mean to imply that hurting someone on a non-physical, emotional level does not constitute harm in some fashion. I react more to hurt on that level than any other. But, I must distinguish between harm and hurt, between the systemic and the individual. On the individual level, it’s emotional and it’s messy and there are definitely things we shouldn’t do to each other in that arena.
On the systemic level, however, there is nothing fair in love or in war. It’s about power, and it doesn’t matter if you love me or hate me. Because it’s not just me, it’s hundreds, thousands, millions of people like me, and not like me. It’s the delusion of power given to the captains of our society by those of us who have forgotten that we’re the ones with real collective power.
I have worn myself out tonight. Not happy with the job search, not happy with the world as it is. But, nobody ever said I had to like the present circumstances. The only thing I am sure of is that something will change, and I will be in a different place in another second, another minute, another year. Getting a job would make a lot of things easier, but I’m really having a hard time settling for something I know is not to my liking. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Outgrew the t-shirt, got a larger size. No need to do that again.
What I’m saying is that I want a different experience this time. It won’t be for a really long time, and I don’t want to bring home that same t-shirt. I want a different trip, a different souvenir, a different relationship to myself in a job. That shouldn’t be all that hard, but right now it is. (Of course, I’ve only been seriously looking for a month or so, but I’m still not understanding why people aren’t banging on my door to hire me, sight unseen. Don’t they know who I am???) No, fool – they don’t know who you are, so – as my mama would say – get some gumption and get off your ass and something’s going to happen.
It’s good to remember those pep talks (i.e. screaming diatribes) from my mother during times like this. I still don’t know exactly what gumption is, though, but I kind of get the point. Just do it. Stop kvetching, and just do it.