Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Void

"In so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not...the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void."
-Ursula K. LeGuin

When I was a wee lass of 14 or 15, I fell in love with Jack Kerouac, and from him, I learned all kinds of things. Jack Kerouac might be responsible for the kind of marriage I'm in, now that I think about it...

But I did love him. I learned to be vegetarian from him, and I learned a lot about Buddhism, and I learned that drugs were fun, and I learned a lot of ways of envisioning possible worlds, both positively and negatively, that stuck with me and set me on the course for where I am today. I also learned to think about the Void.

Kerouac is obsessed with this void, and some of his most poetic passages go on and on about his void. Sometimes, the void is dark...the closing, cold emptiness of, "And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time."

That was the void that got me first...that feeling of being a pit...that feeling right underneath my lungs, or right in between my lungs...that feeling between and underneath my lungs of emptiness, of existential despair, of chaos and crisis. It's the feeling that kept me drawn to chaos and crisis, constantly seeking out something, someone, somewhere to make me feel as wildly empty on the outside as I felt inside.

But there's another side to Kerouac's void...that feeling of blessed emptiness, of oneness, when he says things like "believe in the holy contour of life."

I was thinking yesterday about that void problem, and I looked underneath my lungs in the pit below my heart where I am accustomed to finding all that stored angst. I was hurting. I'd been on the phone trying to find a rehab that would take an indigent heroin addict taking a whopping dose of methadone without access to medical detox. I was trying to find a way to help him get into medical detox. Everywhere I turned, there was a wall...and it was hard, and I was upset and hurting...but my insides weren't empty. The chaos all around me didn't have anywhere to go, because that place deep down in the secret recesses of my heart is full. There's a diamond there. It got made from exposure to pressure and heat and the most intense of conditions...but it's there, and it's radiant, and nothing will ever touch it.