Mind, like body, has a point of satiation. Eating to excess overflows the dam. Sex brings sleep. Reading an excellent book in a short time buffers out subtle thought as the mental digestion floats like a packed stomach.
The book I mentioned in my last post, Doctor Sleep, fills to fullness. It’s excellent, but the story about murdering gypsies and people with the shine is secondary. Even Dan Torrence, the kid nearly killed by his father in The Shining, is secondary to his fight.
What’s gotten me filled up just now, so that I’m picking without hunger at McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, is the story of recovery from alcoholism.
Doctor Sleep has horrific and fantastic visions, murder and depravity… these things we knew going in. It is Stephen King, after all. But remember Jack Torrance’s mock happiness with the fantasy bottles in the bar staffed by the spirits? His son carried that torch forward in the darkness.
The Clear Sea
It’s a sad and lingering truth, our carrying of torches from our parents. They struggled mightily, and their coping lights become our own through no sin or virtue. We simply live what we know, walk how we’ve seen our patron saints walk… for good or bad, whatever that walk looks like. This we do, while we live in reactivity or secrecy. Or, later, just if we forget ourselves.
Twenty-six years buried in the jungle and I still became my father.
Robin Williams, Jumanji
The sea’s dark when we wander with only those inherited lights. There’s murk of our parents’ sins alongside our own – the travesty of false dramas from our own lives combined with theirs. We put in our own fuel, of course, we heft the torch in our own way and with our own weariness. And when there’s addiction in it, or compulsion, or whatever depth of inward failing… we add our own bottoms to the bottoms we’ve seen. There is predestination in those things we carry, if we swim without awareness in murky seas.
The silt can be filtered out… it can rejoin the sea floor. It’s through acceptance that we can at last put down those old torches. We can be free through faith in our light and heart, that we will be able to see and swim without those false little burnings of self. It’s not just discarding the torch once… for addictions, both those we’ve invented and those we’ve inherited, recur again and again. Fail, and you seek solace in your version of the bottle. Succeed, and you seek celebration there. Compulsion, and a complete discomfort and unwillingness to be uncomfortable, are the hallmarks of the living dead. Like Dan Torrance’s struggle, no matter how his battles went, his thoughts beheld and thirsted for the bottle.
But he found his freedom, and so it is with us when we choose to take it a day at a time. For the clarity of the sea is only in mindfulness – only in living here, now, and trusting in whatever nebulous outline we draw around God in our hearts. Letting go of the pain by accepting the pain, and loving ourselves and our parents despite the burdens and baggage. Love enough, and the sea clears.
If we have become able, deep in our unconscious minds, to clear our feelings to some extent towards our parents of grievances, and have forgiven them for the frustrations we had to bear, then we can be at peace with ourselves and are able to love others in the true sense of the word.
Klein, as quoted in Personality and Personal Growth (5th Edition), page 61
In a mild spoiler, Dan’s father – our dear old Jack – comes and gives his son a small spiritual boost toward the end, toward the victory, toward the final move into the clear. In the clear waters, we know that it is each our task to lay down the burdens and only pass on the hearts to our children – that there is nothing enabling or excusing about inherited dis-ease. Forgiveness and acceptance, faith in self and love…
Rubies Under the Clear Sea
I mentioned rubies under the clear sea in my last post in a reference to the attraction I feel toward Stephen King’s writing, toward the blood and guts in his occasional and almost-surely-accidental profundity. So what’re the rubies of Doctor Sleep? The shine, the sacrifices, the spirits and the hauntings? None of that, for me.
Just the alcoholism and the recovery. The bottoming-out and crawling climb back up has the reddish glint of the mad prophet’s eye.
The reason for my mental fullness is the glittery glow of that gem. King drew on his own alcoholism to write Doctor Sleep, and it shows. He knows how swimmers can be thirsty.
Perhaps your thirst isn’t for alcohol. Perhaps you don’t see how you learned at least some thirst from your parents. Or if you do, perhaps you think that makes it inevitable that you keep that thirst. Perhaps I can’t communicate this well, and perhaps you think I’m writing a fan letter about the book.
But I offer the rubies to you regardless.
Can you see and release your resentments against your parents? Can you clear your waters?
Can you see how important it is that you allow yourself to wither with thirst? Can you see how the rubies will only glitter when you put out your torches and let the moonlight penetrate the water?
Books and stories shine just like the people in King’s book, you see. You can let that shine fill up your mind until you’re full to bursting. If you do that, you’ll be satiated just while you endure your thirst.
Then you’ll shine too.
Blessings, and I hope your weekend is wonderful,