Friday, April 19, 2002

The Chthonic Challenge
While I was quoting to death Camille’s obsession with the chthonic, Tom Shugart was considering Jeneane’s challenge to blog “Not the outside stuff. The *inside* stuff” -- to write from the depths of the heart, from the chthonian netherworld of our deepest fears, angers, hurts -- and not just from the heights of the head.

I couldn’t help notice that when Tom mentions some of the bloggers who, he thinks, do write from that messy and fertile place, the names he offers are all female. Which brings me back to Camille Paglia’s assertion that it is the “female” that embodies the chthonian in our human natures. That disturbing, emotional, chaotic stuff makes many men uncomfortable (RageBoy notwithstanding.) So most men continue to blog from an emotionally protected distance.

So, Tom takes a step closer to accepting Jeneane’s challenge and looks at an emptiness he feels, despite a full and loving life. He admits: And yet….. there's a big hole somewhere in the middle of me.

I believe that that’s the “hole” into which the Shaman willingly strides, the rabbit hole into which Alice falls; that is the messy chthonian chaos of our unconscious that, if we traverse and survive, we come out much wiser for the journey.

I found this poem on an aptly entitled site:

Chthonic Rising
Many things rise from the earth --
the steam of ancient whispers,
seeds that fall like a vast blanket.
howls too playful to be lonely.

But these days ground yields only ash
and yellowed grass must
blink away the smell of blood.

Those that are wise
will walk with toes bared
to feel the rocks loosen

before they take to the air
proclaiming the return
of a red-eyed mother

Tom’s blog quotes Jean Shinoda Bolen's directive: "Show up, and pay attention." I believe she means that we should show up at the empty entrance to our own chthonian netherworld and pay close attention to all of those rocks that we loosen on the way down.

Have I made the journey? Yes, when I needed to confront my shadow self in relation to my failed marriage. It was a lengthy and eventful journey, and eventually I was able to “take to the air, proclaiming the return of a red-eyed mother.” And then this is what I wrote, based on the synchronistic discovery and purchase of a disturbing art work depicting Eve wrenching herself from Adam’s side as he lay, spectral and spread-eagled, upside down, with red raining down on both of them:

The Real Birth of Eve
Don’t fail me now, Adam.
I did not choose this path,
this pain.
He woke you slowly.
With care he molded your form,
stroked your face to smile,
sang your ears to sound,
shaded your new wide eyes
from all but his vision of paradise.

He gave you a place, a name,
a chance to lie
with the fullness of earth
before his restless breath
stirred the question on your tongue.

But I --
I had no time,
no sure sense of shape,
no songs of promised lands
to free the reach of eager arms.

I have only had the quest,
the question
that has grown into this pain
--your pain—
and the pain of my knowing
that my only way out
is through you,
through the final rending
of heart and mind and will,
of the fabric of our common sky
that rains fire and blood
upon this sacred and willfull act.

Forgive me, Adam.
I can no longer be both self and other.
I need my own breath, my own blood.
He left me no choice
but to tear from you what belongs to me –
my sex, my soul, my song.

Forgive me, Adam,
for making my Word
from your flesh and bone,
for forcing you to share this eternal exile,
for taking it anyway –
my only way out.

So, yes, Tom. I agree that the emptiness is a gift, an invitation to take a journey where no one has ever gone before. As Jeneane said, “Not the outside stuff. The *inside* stuff.” Deep. Messy. Chthonic. True. And there are those who believe that not only daemons [not “demons”] live in that place, but also god.