Sinking Ships

Last week I talked about how life has a tendency to show us that we are off course in a variety of ways. Maybe through tragedy or malevolence, betrayal or rejection. Maybe life is telling us we are a few degrees off, or that we are going the complete wrong direction. Maybe we are shown that we need to relearn, rethink, or retry. Regardless of the message, life has an odd way of telling us that something is up.

How does one move forward when they realized that they know nothing? Or when, even worse, they realize that everything they every thought they knew was wrong? How does one find their way when life tells them they are in the wrong ocean? This is easier than it sounds. You, as the person who now has a completely clean slate and nowhere to go but up, can truly start wherever you want to. When we are at zero, or incredibly close, complete chaos is essentially a blessing. When life destroys your ship, the answer is usually easy: build a new one (or drown). But this chaos, while initially startling and sudden, is not the chaos that seems overwhelming, because it is easy to identify and gives you a fresh start.

When I was 18, the crashing waves destroyed my ship, and after debating on my few options, I decided to build a new one. Sometimes I talk about that process here in my work, but overall it was fairly simple: wash away everything (because obviously nothing is working) and start from scratch. Build a life with a solid foundation one step at a time. Education, diet, exercise, wisdom, morality, etc. If you find that everything you had was either wrong or ruined, creating new is just a matter of effort, as almost anything with good intention will be better than what once was.

But what do we do when our ship survived, and we look up to realize that we are off course? This is where I think the true pain and struggle of growth lie. Where did we go off course? How far off? In what direction? Do we turn around and start over? Or try to find our way back? When the majority of things seem to be working well for us, but just something is off, how do we find it without tearing ourselves apart?

We have no idea how much of us is just dead wood. Just lies, and falsities stacked upon itself pretending to be a human. We, as humans who have a moral responsibility to become authentic and actualized, must burn all of this off. This is the first step, as described previously. Pouring the gas and lighting it all up to see what stands is easy. But what about when we know there is a splinter somewhere inside, and lighting it all up would do more damage than good? We feel the splinter, we feel the pain of unseen potential, but how do we find it?

This is where I am now. I’ve spent years developing a self that is close to being on the right path, but lately the tension manifesting inside and in my relationships tells me that I am just a little off. But where? How do I find where I am wrong without destroying the whole foundation of who I have created? Is it in my interactions, in my mannerisms, in my thoughts or routines? How do I, as one who survived the onslaught of Nihilistic Chaos, now fight back and withstand the endless repeating prods of a chaotic tension?

There seem to be archetypal themes that manifest themselves wherever we find we find stories. This is the hero myth, the tyrannical father/wise king, the woman’s taming of a wild man, etc. When looking at creation myths, we seem to find a theme that plays out as well: something, or somehow, the world is created out of chaos.

Chaos the feminine balance of the Taoist Yin and Yang (Order is the masculine) balances the capacity to create and destroy with perfect intensity. Having the power for both destruction and creation, it holds in its domain the things that we fear, but also what can become of that fear. Therefore, it seems that chaos, within it not only holds what we are at this very moment, but what we can be in the future. Too much chaos and the world wrecks havoc. But too little chaos and stagnation, dictatorship, and apathy take hold. Chaos, unlike order, has the capacity to completely annihilate while also holding the ability to establish something from nothing.

To answer the above question, what do we do when we feel chaos emerge? When we feel slightly off course, but are unsure where the chaos lies (but we know it is there somewhere), we can look to the Mesopotamian creation myth. Since I am not a student of cultural myths, there will be some people titled without names, and maybe a few inaccuracies. Regardless, I will quickly summarize:

According to the Mesopotamians, Tiamat, the goddess of Chaos, was the most powerful creature of all. She was married to the God of Order, and began to wreak havoc on the other gods. The other gods needed to defeat her, but lacked the capacity to. Marduk, an odd god with eyes all around his head who spoke magic words, volunteered to fight Tiamat. After a vicious battle, Marduk killed Tiamat, cut her into pieces, and created the world out of here.

Short sweet and to the point was that story (There are many more fascinating details, so I would recommend looking up the whole story). Breaking it down, the first oddity is Marduk’s powers. Why is it that the god with eyes around his head and the capacity to speak magic words was the only god able to defeat Tiamat? Because the Mesopotamians are telling us that in order to defeat Chaos one must be acutely aware, and one must speak the truth. The ability to be aware and speak precise words will allow one to overcome the worst chaos. And what do we do once we destroy chaos? We build the world out of it.

What do we do when we overcome some sort of adversity? We use it to our greatest advantage. What relationships are the strongest? The ones that use their fights and disagreements to grow and adapt. Chaos holds the potential to grow, and if we can defeat it using the tools the Mesopotamians showed us, then maybe we can use the thing initially perceived as negative as a positive.

How do we act like Marduk? We commit to a cause. We pay attention. We speak the truth. We stay grounded in reality, and acutely aware of the chaos manifesting around us. We use precise words to heal, instead of words lined with insecurities and resentment. And we commit to a cause, understanding that with the determination of commitment, awareness and truth, we can create the world.

Why do we commit? Why is the first step strict determination without any outs? Why do knights fight dragons? Why did Marduk fight Tiamat? Because the alternative is worse. If the thing that can destroy you is not destroyed itself, then you and those around you will perish. So we first commit to conquering chaos, and we provide no outs. How do we solve a failing romantic relationship? We first tell ourselves that we, by no means, are leaving. Then, when your significant other manifests behavior that seems complex and complicated, the only option is to work on fixing it. If you can leave, if you can divorce, if you can move away from the dragon, or hide until it leaves, then you will. It is only when the only option is to fix the current situation, will one conquer chaos.

So when life tells us that something is up, or that we have gone off course somehow, or that our whole sense of being is falsified, what do we do? We commit to getting better, providing us no other option. We pay attention. To our surroundings, to ourselves, to others. We speak the truth, precisely, without baggage and weighted words. And we create the world out of chaos. Because, if our ship seems to be sinking, what is the alternative?