Reflections from the Other Side of Reason – Ember’s glow

Since 2013, recognized author and community leader for mental health, David Gibson, has battled the inner world of PTSD to find some measure of hope within. He uses his writing to explore how his journey as a survivor has enabled him to come to terms with PTSD and the new reality of his life. His 'Reflections from the Other Side of Reason' not only invite the reader into his life, but offers insights on how to grow and build resiliency. By sharing his experiences he takes away any toll for others to walk down the same road.

[Lost within]

Shadows move freely in the summer evening’s breeze.
Flickering flames dance in front of me.
An ember swirls into the night’s sky.
Lingering for just a moment in the stillness of the air.

Through light and dark it moves swiftly.
Casting streaks of color across the heaven’s above.
This starry night light will be gone far too soon.

"It was rapture enough just to sit there beside her in silence, alone in the summer night in the white splendor of moonshine, with the wind blowing down on them out of the pine woods." ―L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle

To stare into flames dancing, listening to the crackling of the fire, with a loved one to talk to, is food for the soul. No matter where you stay, a fireplace or open fire experience is cherished and enjoyed by most people. This is the very space where we reflect on our lives, we discuss future plans, do some soul searching and learn to listen to the wisdom shared. It feels like we can handle all our problems and ‘reignite’ lost passions.

As my wife and I sat across the fire enjoying a warm summer’s evening by the lake, I couldn’t help but reflect on the notion of our complicated, fun, difficult, and beautiful thing we call the human experience. 

You’re on vacation David, why in the world would you be contemplating something so philosophical and existential? (This is my hidden voice inside me) Yes, why would I indeed?

Before the accident in 2013, I believed that I needed to become this ideal notion of what ‘me’ would become in life.  A construct that was made up of ideas and experiences about what a husband, parent, brother, son, and friend should be. Of how things like success, happiness, and relationships would be defined by ‘me’ and what ultimately what my ‘whole world’ would look like as I moved through my made up life. 

In 2017, Jim Carrey shared in an interview with the Buzz, the startling realization he came to after years of fame and living with depression: it’s totally pointless to spend our whole lives creating and curating some specific identity for ourselves.

Essentially what he came to terms with is that this human experience is all about our ego: desiring to be important, to be someone, to matter. In reality, this grasping at a singular identity brings us only pain and suffering, for three main reasons. One, it introduces a separation between us and all other beings that dishonors our inherent, interconnected nature. Two, it deludes us into thinking that things are not supposed to change—that we are not supposed to change. Three, it leads us away from resting in our own basic goodness as it makes us feel that we aren’t enough just as we are, right now.

The antidote to this suffering is to let go of this desire to be “someone.” As Carrey beautifully puts it, “The feeling of wholeness is a different feeling than me-ness.” To feel whole, we must let go of trying to maintain an image of “me.”

From my perspective, I find it so amazing that in this visible world of nature’s backdrop – a fire on a summer’s evening by the lake, a great truth can always be found. Like Jim Carrey’s reflections in 2017, I am discovering that depletion and beauty, darkness and light, loss and growth are not as they seem – opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the hidden unity of changing seasons. In this paradox of life, opposites do not cancel each other out; they share and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of our reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on our ability to breathe in and out.

Because we live in a culture that prefers the ease of either/or to the complexities of both/and, we have a hard time holding opposites together. We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, the pleasures of life without the complications of problems. We make bargains with ourselves hoping to get what we want, but they never truly invigorate us and cannot possibly sustain us in hard times.

When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. The moment we say “yes” to both of them and join their paradoxical dance, the two conspire to make us healthy and whole.

Let’s give ourselves (what is “self,” anyway?) a break and let go of whatever identities we’ve worked so hard to create. Let’s instead live with an open heart and a sense of humor about ourselves and our world—since, in the words of Jim Carrey, none of it matters anyway.

Until next time.