"A secret may be sometimes best kept by keeping the secret of its being a secret."
Henry Taylor: The Statesman, 1836
by Jon Deisher, Copyright 2007, all rights reserved.
Confiding nothing from our private cavernous sanctums of safety, we of the shared baptism struggle between the lights before and the shadows behind, hungry for comprehension. Our hungers plague us differently. Nevertheless, they are voracious; feeding them, expensive. Struggle is our price. Few are sated. They must be fed again and again, their emptiness bottomless, their satisfaction temporary. They glut, digest and then return to reassert themselves; hungry once more. The feeding cannot abate. Expected and not, throughout life our struggles to relieve appetites continue. The price must be paid. We explore our cavern seeking awareness, shedding light within and without. As we seek, through discussion and conversation, struggles are executed, consummated and continued: sometimes together, sometimes alone, sometimes both: as we are doing now.
Discussion is how we discover. We discuss within and between ourselves. We question and answer. We find moving targets hiding in darkness. We feed appetites. Some questions are simple, the answers complex. Some are complex, the answers simple. Some questions are impossible and pull no hidden answers from the night: yet we ask, we seek. Often answers are infinite. They are the process of seeking. The asking is the answer. The quests on which they send us define our lives. This we must do or die. Indeed, if we do not death may have already occurred. Some questions require conception, gestation, birth and growth before finding maturity. Finally, they form, build a stage and step into the spotlight to profess themselves where meaningful answers no longer hide behind undisclosed curtains. In a kind of marriage, there and then answers join their questions and reclusive secrets reveal themselves for all to see. In this union, we seek peace.
Secrets shun light. Whether we seek them or not, they hide: often in obvious places. Some we wear like garments donned on ordinary days without knowing in what we have draped ourselves. Clothing us all of our lives, the contexts of yesterday are imbedded in the fibers of our coats and pants. They bulge from our pockets and stick to the bottoms of our shoes. Some are nefarious, sweet addictions. They hide stealthily, penetrate our skin and, desperately hugging our bones, drive us to eternal quests of false fulfillment. They hide even from we who hold and protect them. With reluctance, resistance, even agony, we must reach into ourselves, grip them firmly and pull their mysterious hold on us from the dark. If we succeed, once bathed in light they rarely return to unlit seclusion. They either glow and grow in their truth, or wilt and die in their falsehood. Each may require time's passage for growth or death. Those concealing truth may survive interminable darkness before light finds them.Those false, may require the erosive movement of uncertain months or years, perhaps decades, of dancing in the light to fail and fall. Either or both maybe elusive friends of our deepest crevasses and only flirt from our depths, playing with us from their place of shadow. Once in the light we may continue to deny them, their truths or their errors. Worse, we may deny their respective consequences. In this way secrets endure.
There are secrets about secrets. One of the most illusive is that our private inner sanctums and their contents, regardless how closely protected, differ little from each other or from those of our brothers and sisters. Whoever we may be, most secrets are not secret. We simply hope they are and want them to so remain. But they are common feelings, treasured thoughts, evil events, diaphanous dreams or stealthy fantasies contained within shared sacred walls, hidden poorly. Unasked, unanswered and, perhaps, unknown, they hide in our marrow, lurking behind subliminal barriers of consciousness. We spend our lives constructing subconscious walls of porous sponge and hardened steel, inner ramparts, beneath and behind which we secure and protect them, or ourselves from them. Their security is illusion: another secret. The cage we create does not assure the safety of our most vulnerable, private visions and passions. Yet we tell each other and ourselves it does. If our secrets are vulnerable, can we be safe? The cage cannot hold them. The walls are penetrable and often leak. They cannot contain that which is truly secret. Like layered lotus petals, some secrets hide within secrets hiding within secrets. That we have secrets is secret. That mine are like yours, yours like mine, is another. We believe in and pray to them. And the walls behind which they are hidden leak. Mine are leaking now. Seeping in and out. As are yours. Whether we know or not, believe or not, secrets are unfaithful. They seek lovers in the ears and hearts of others. They flee our containment and escape us. We are not less for it. We are more, much more. We ourselves are blooming lotuses: open, layered secrets.
We wish our appetites were secure. Porous and leaking sanctums hold them. Restrained reservoirs ebb and flow with the gravity and tides of our lives.They settle in low places, find paths of least resistance, and break free. Yet we entrust them there. We have no other place of preservation. Adoration, anxiety, fear, frustration, grief, hate, joy and passion: these are our appetites. Often held secretly, their lingering and seductive drives invade our dreams, speech, and deeds. We speak of them evasively, reluctantly and incompletely. They reach from the marrow of desire and touch our souls with fingers of fire, fueling passions. Even as we burn, most of us acknowledge them obliquely if at all. Whether flames of fantasy or reality, they motivate, move and inspire us. From them our beliefs, attitudes and values rise creating a kind of organic compost of our lives from which we as plants reach for light. We act. We bloom.
Some visions are beautiful beyond the ecstasies of life or living. They seduce and lure. Others are horrible and agonizing beyond redemption. They punish and exhaust. Most lie between splendor and suffering and from them spawn the ovum of questions and answers, stories and dreams, actions and behaviors. The stories and dreams become myths, told, retold, and untold; modified, embellished, and withheld. Whether they happened or not we accept, tell, believe, and believe in, them. Some are never unveiled except to and within ourselves, and perhaps not then. The ghosts that haunt them haunt us. Other stories, or myths, repeated ad nauseam in the first person by many, are retold as if the same event belonged to each teller, as if it were their own experience: even if it wasn't.
Whose stories are they? Whose deeds? Myths? Appetites? Mine. Yours. Ours. Everyone's. They are public property believed in by each teller as if they were personal possessions: but true or false, even if they never happened, even if they happened to someone else, they are still ours. They belong to us all, collectively and individually. The memories are not of one person's experience: no history is one person's story; no hurt one person's pain; no dream dreamed alone. Owned by all, possessed by none, each is everyone's story. In each telling and retelling, in each untold and withheld, shared impatient yearnings are revealed and yet another deeper, daring, elusive secret is concealed. One we deny, even to ourselves. Especially to ourselves.
What is it we cannot confess? Some think it profound. For some, complex. For others, simple. From it both our wondrous beauties and painful horrors are fed. What is it? It is this: we command our hungers. We command them and then they consume us. Knowing or not, conscious or not, we control our appetites and visions, our questions and answers. We control their intimate, infinite details. From them, whom we become follows. Then we believe, or profess, that they control us. As the wall crumbles and this truth seeps forth, escaping the sanctum, penetrating our awareness, finding its stage, seeking the light, we deny. "No!" We say. "Impossible! It's not so." But the secret is free. Our wall, like Pandora's Box, restrains not its contents. The contents were never contained, only unacknowledged. The sanctum is not secure. Our fear of exposure, how and what we think and feel, like a king with new clothes, walks naked for those who would see. Like it or not.
In places of light within our darkness, baptismal siblings gather to remember. Brothers and sisters share experiences and their stories recoil across the rocky surfaces of cavernous discourse. Each is a familiar story, bouncing from irregular to uncertain wall. Whatever the story and whomever tells it is flayed boneless for public view. It matters not who may be the teller nor what the story. It has been told before. Long before us or before our respective births, whenever that may have been, our story has been told many times. None is new. Only our experience is new. And when it is told again, we all are newly naked, exposed, dissected. Each story, told or not, is shared. Each, including this one, is an echo of ancient loss or victory, grief or joy, of incomplete memory, of unrequited yearning, of pain, suffering and hunger. As they rebound repeating against the rocky walls of our cave, an unspokenness, a presence unexpressed moves among and touches us. In adoration, anxiety, fear, frustration, grief, hate, joy, and perhaps, indifference or revenge, She moves and touches.
Who is She: She who moves and touches? Is She the unspoken desire, the concealed passion, the unfilled appetite that dwells within, sought and found, yet not? Lost and discovered, yet not? Starved and sated, yet not? Is She whom within us we have not yet possessed? Our unpossessed Selves? Is it She, who urges our striving, our fulfillment, our feasting from life's cornucopia? Is it She, who suckles our sorrow as if grief were an infant at her breast? Is it She, who kisses our real and imagined pain as if a brush of her lips alone would soothe our hurt and damaged hearts, bind our tender wounds and cure our lusting loneliness? Is it She, who seduces from us our eager promises, our impulsive generosities, our vulnerable reachings and yearnings? And, is it She who ruthlessly, silently, cruelly punishes our wanton greed, our calculating lusts, our predatory takings?
Who is She? Her touch is as familiar as our own. We know Her well. We are the caves in which She dwells. She arises from within our deepness but we confess not whom She is nor from where She comes. Whoever She may be, even after or despite our questions, answers, and supping from the horn of plenty with bellies full and taut, our bottomless appetites remain. Like addicts craving Her again and again, we have Her, but we acknowledge Her not, possess Her not. She is both appetite and fulfillment. For Her we pursue. Passionate, engorged, and unfulfilled, we hunger. Impatient, insatiable, we want. We command. We need. We deny.
Once among men within a cave while stories were told and retold, where ghosts of the unexpressed haunted, a silence slept. Through discourse, the doors of the irinner experiences dissolved and enlightenment's rising sun spread light and shadows upon the chasms and uneven walls like a Platonic allegory. We each asked and answered, shared and withheld, our insights, experiences and stories. Everyone spoke and listened well. Finally, the story-telling course was consumed and silence fell, but appetite remained. We heard it breathing, craving. Then, from the quiet slumber, a question arose within one wounded, undefeated and ardent warrior. His question swelled from wounded passion as if his invisible scars would speak like a voice of molten lava from a frozen volcanic peak.
The sharing of stories serves both the past, relived or revised, and the truth, revealed or hidden. They are different masters. The truth might not reveal the past nor the past the truth. Our stories are not true images of the past, not history. Nor are they the truth, not facts. Our stories are sometimes vehicles and sometimes passengers sent as fantasies, illusions and beams of light that are themselves similes and metaphors whose meanings hide.
On this night several veteran riders rode vehicles of the past. Tired, with eyes closed, and heads nodding, they had traveled the difficult way a great distance. Their destination approached. The perpetual repainting of illusion was done, and the empty silence listened hungrily for the tired warrior's voice. He had waited and this was his moment. He turned his light to awaken the sleeping darkness, to bathe his target in its glow. His question shone into our cavern's hidden recesses and blackened corners. Then he waited for the shadows to move.
Answers may or may not require courage. They may reflect confidence, innocence, or ignorance. None of these require courage. An answer may be poor or rich, complete or meager, accurate or devious. Its source may be ancient or not, insightful or not, sound or not. As flowers and weeds alike that both follow the sun or anartificial light, both good and poor answers arise to follow questions across their sky. Blooms seek light or die. Answers seek questions.
Some questions arch as rainbows across our heaven with false-light promises of golden treasure where they lead. We follow. They fade. They are illusion, fantasies never reached. They fill us with atrophy and leave us hollow.
Others are the sun itself. They offer light and promise the affirming struggles of life. They fill our emptiness and leave us hungry for more. They lead. We follow and are fulfilled.
Our questions consume any response, accurate or inaccurate, redeeming or corrupt. The better the question, the greater the courage needed to fill the silence. From birth we are disposed to ask: Why? It is our nature. What is our nature? We seek meaning. We question, then chose to follow or not where answers lead. We do nothing more. To ask gives thought birth. It forms us. "Why?" leads to thought, how to think, to answers, to quality of life. Questions point our way. Our questions, profound or not, attract our answers, accurate or not, and together they guide us to fulfillment oremptiness and ultimately to who we are, to our secret selves.
Questioningis not courageous. Nor is thinking. They are genetic. They are responses to stimuli. To question and think are to us like purring to a cat, and as natural and as perennial as green to growing grass. They require nothing except our existence. If questioning and thinking are twin blooms of our lives, when does courage rise? Courage comes from accepting risk. How much and for what we risk defines our courage. Expression and action expose one to dangers: our jeopardies. The internal dialogue of asking and seeking are not enough. Questions must break their surface and thought's voice must rise. Their quality comes from how they are shaped, disciplined, articulated and acted upon. These come from experience and in turn experience comes from them. Then they, and those from whom they take their shape and from whom they escape, become targets.
Thinkers are thus defined. Confronted by those whom make them targets, they become stimuli for the "why?" responses of others. Our targets of thought endure other's, and our own, arrows of "why?" The more elusive the target the more penetrating the "Why?" An answer by one prompts a following question from another. Herein peril lies from the consequences of our actions. In asking and responding, one's heart of hearts is revealed to the burning crucible of public scrutiny and to one's uncompromising self. As seeker and thought flower together in the action they inspire, they become objects for social plucking, judgment and rejection or, worse, the vacuum of indifference. Where questions point and answers suggest, there courage bares its chest. Should action arise, then from the quiver of hungers, arrows straight or not, true or not, are pulled to the string. Bows bend, strings released and targets large and small, moving or not, are hit or not. Then, courage is our defender. It thrusts and parries, bobs and weaves. We offer our courage that our acts, our truth, and our experience, which may be impaled, or consummated, or consumed, might live. From this new experience previously unknown risks and more courage are born. This is life's continuing cycle and our experience of it is our reward. Always, thoughts unexpressed, questions unasked, remain. Quivering like the bow's released string, they beg, waiting a honeyed moment of unsated hunger.
It was the warrior's time. The silence waited. His hunger matured and he shaped his question to echo among us. He filled his lungs to the bottom of his chest; pulled daring from the air he breathed, and then calmly sent his voice into the crucible.
"Have you met The Woman?" His voice was soft but against the stony walls it repeated, "Have you met, met, met, met... The Woman? Woman? Woman? Woman? " The silence extended like a starving, cavernous stomach, begging to be fed.
The echo faded. Like radar his eyes scanned the corners and remote crevasses, feeling the horizon for movement. The room was motionless, mute. His voice rose again, "And if you have, have, have, have.... Whom did you meet? meet? meet? meet?"
The answer swelled pregnant upon the minds of those of us who knew. And we did know. We all knew. The silence awaited our answer. A shadow moved away from the warrior's light awaiting the valor ourresponse required. But his audacious question was not matched with brevity's answer. Our voiceless answer inarticulate, cowered between us, among us. The silence invoked, provoked, the shadow. She rose from us, touching us, known to all, possessed by none. Then She moved deeper into our darknesses. Our hunger unsatisfied, voicelessly begged Her, "Show yourself!" "Reveal yourself!" "Heal, me!" "Reveal me!" The tide of silence ebbed from our lonely beaches, swelled with a rising moon, flooded and swallowed us. No one spoke. As the echo died and the courage for our answer wanted, She settled safely into the insecure, permeable, familiar, leaking sanctum. She was silent, invisible and careful, But the warrior's radar felt Her move.
Causes Jon Deisher Supports
Rotary International, Alzheimer's Association, Alaska Blood Bank