Go to the ant thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Bible, Proverbs 6:6
Even the wishes of a small ant reach heaven.
Bugs & insects—what’s that about?
I am feeling more comfortable, so I thought I would stick my head up out of my flower bower for a moment or two. Christmas and New Year are receding into the past, and I can feel that the ground is getting firmer under foot. Here in my bower I can leave my courage at the threshold, drop my smile in the umbrella stand, kick off these boots that are made for walking, and give myself over to my memories. I can forget my usefulness, estrange myself from kindnesses—but only until my guardian angel calls in to ask how long I intend to keep this up!
The smallest bug I have ever noticed just walked across my laptop screen. It may well be my guardian angel. There’s a thought. Where has it come from and what might it be searching for? I can’t imagine what it feeds on? How does something so small manage to live long enough to reproduce? It paraded across my screen twice and now has disappeared. It doesn’t know that I saw it! I love the role bugs have come to play in my life ever since I answered Elle’s bug haiku.
That is an example of just the sort of slap to the back of the head I get when I spend too much time with that ever beguiling spirit, Self-pity! Another thought—it is bugs who are apparently to blame for so much that goes wrong with us. That nasty cold you caught a while back, apparently that was a bug. And isn’t it bugs who sneak into our computer programmes and cause all sorts of problems? For me, I shall always think of bugs as friendly and helpful little creatures who work hard to keep things on the straight and narrow for us humans, who offer us endless examples of the benefits of working together, and some might even say—without them humans will not survive. And they never get any thanks for it either. We are constantly looking for new ways to exterminate them.
Actually, I also popped up to say that one of my current favourites to listen to on YouTube is Terence McKenna. You may think this is probably the final nail in the coffin of my sanity, and drives any chance of credibility straight out of the window. But I find his enthusiasm and expansive thinking, his brilliant mind and mastery of language, exciting and thought provoking—definitely keen to find me some of that DMT! It is sad to think that we have left the most important jobs in our countries to the most boring and inadequate of human beings that we could find. I doubt whether a Benjamin Franklin would get past the selection process today because of him being a polymath, and heaven forbid he should tower above the crowd! I find McKenna’s use of language mesmerising and utterly convincing, and his ideas to be extremely logical. In my view, there is more logic in them than the list-ticking version of the reductionist scientists who would have us think that the universe and human life is a wonderful and extraordinary accident, although statistically, ironically, it doesn’t look at all possible.
He helps my mind create new pathways of thinking, to see new colours that help me read life in sharper focus. He gives me a new sense of feeling life rather than only perceiving it. The best time to weigh in on him is always in the stillness of the nights I find. In fact I have come to look forward to the possibilities of the night generally, whether in complete darkness or accompanied by the moonlight. What will be revealed tonight, and where might I go in the hours of darkness that lie ahead? I have decided that it is time for me to come out of the closet. It is not a massive closet—just my wee one. I have always had something of a secret ‘secret life’ that mostly revolved around thoughts and understandings that I thought better not to share. Something Leonard Cohen and I have in common apparently, going by his song of that name. I didn’t need to make things any more difficult for myself than they already were. I was a girl, with no completed higher education, no profession and what’s more, no desire for one either, and not too sure about whom I was, or where I was going, therefore best not to get too bold with philosophies on Life! I think, with hindsight, that what I was doing quite well though was going some way towards learning the art of the yogi: mindfulness—I found it relatively easy to empty my head for a period of time—and to be in the moment. The number of times, as a young person, I was asked what on earth I was thinking about, still makes me chuckle. People genuinely seemed to assume that I was deep in thought. I used to throw off moodily, “Oh, nothing really”, when in actual fact that is exactly what was going on—nothing! Eventually though I did start to do some deeper thinking, and learnt quite soon that much of what occupied my thoughts would be best kept to myself! As my children grew into adults that filter seemed to lose its robustness, and soon I found myself sharing some of my unusual thinking with both of them. Even though I have some regrets, I do wonder whether I was only doing what was required of me. One of my main refrains in life is that there are to be no regrets—even swamps and perceived mires have their own unique and fruitful purpose.
The other day I was doing some research on Rene Descartes, a name I was familiar with but that was it. I had a sense of what Cartesian thinking was, and it got to a point that I needed to find out more about him because of how often his name was coming up. Descartes is often regarded as the first thinker to emphasise the use of reason and measurement to develop the natural sciences.
In a lecture that I had been listening to it was pointed out that a revelation came to him through three dreams that were delivered by an angel. I couldn’t help thinking that it was somewhat ironic that out of a dream was born all future reductionist thinking. Descartes was born a long time ago in 1596. He was a deeply thoughtful man of faith, and I am sure he would be horrified to think that, along with Nietzsche, the two of them, almost singlehandedly, had ‘killed God’, although, in both cases, this would be a wrong assessment of their intent. The revelation that was revealed to Descartes was that ‘the mastery of nature is to be achieved through numbers and measures’—and this has come to be the basis of all rational scientific investigation that has held to the present day, although its grip is beginning to slip.
Later, and following up on another lead—I think I had been reading about the awaking of the base chakra, or Kundalini—and I saw something that nearly had me laughing in the aisles—EHS, or exploding head syndrome. It was finally named in 1988 but has been documented since 1876. It tied in very neatly with Rene Descartes. It is thought that, instead of a vision, it is most likely that his was a case of EHS. The desire to adhere to what is rational, and to snuff out as delusional superstition all that cannot be reasoned or measured, repeatedly has become the bedrock of society today. If not rational then not real! We should view EHS as something pretty interesting, but instead it is described as a ‘sensory parasomnia’, or simply put, a sleep problem. (I have included a description of EHS at the bottom of this piece.)
Another one of these ‘simple sleep problems’ is one I experience, called Proctalgia Fugax, or, as a doctor told me quite casually after my first episode, an anal panic attack. I now assume that it was something he, too, had experienced because of the speed of the diagnosis. Most people, including doctors I have mentioned it to, have never heard of it. It is interesting because I remember thinking this doctor had something of the surfer dude hippy about him, giving me a sense that perhaps he had a more open mind. Doctors and open minds, like lawyers, don’t often go together, and I can understand why. I had my first attack about two years before Elle died, and perhaps had one or two more during that two-year period, but I have had many more since she died. This is how Healthline describes it:
Proctalgia fugax is anal pain that doesn’t have a specific cause. This pain is usually caused by intense muscle spasms in or around the canal of the anus. It’s similar to another type of anal pain called levator ani syndrome. The pain is slightly different in levator ani syndrome, and may last days instead of minutes.
Anyone can experience proctalgia fugax. However, it doesn’t usually affect anyone prior to the start of puberty and seems to affect more women than men. It’s unclear why this is, or if it’s due to more women reporting the issue, as many people don’t do so.
It goes on to say, and I can confirm this, that it only ever happens at night. Along with other experiences I have at night, I have come to look upon it as something of a painful guiding light albeit it at the back end, if you get my drift. I now understand that my base chakra is awakening, and without much expectation, I am grateful for any help received! As you can imagine, my nights have become a lot more animated, entertaining and informative, and as long as the periods without sleep don’t make my day times hard to get through, I shall continue to enjoy whatever they throw up, from carousels with words instead of horses on poles, to dreams and visions, and a voice that now and again intrudes on my thinking. I have ways of requesting a cessation, or rest for myself. Peter is going through his own night-time thought processes, and so whoever is first awakened quietly shuffles off to find another bed.
A preceding nightly accompaniment is what I have always called my ‘hot ones’. For years now I have thought that they were the vestiges of the menopause, but the confusing part was that none of the doctors I questioned about them seemed to recognise what they were. The way it goes is that I awaken for no apparent reason, and truly wide awake, and about two or three minutes later a heat starts rising up my spine and up into my head. The heat is always strong and sometimes even feels unbearable. Sometimes my brain seems to flicker or vibrate. My body is not hot to the touch, and I would describe what I experience as an electrical heat. These days though the events are much more about shimmers and vibrations. When I tried to find out more about what I was experiencing always the doctors’ faces turn to disbelief. I would quickly add that my mother had these in the last fifteen years of her life. I have a vivid memory of the little bowl of flannels she kept on her bedside table. I can see her now as she squeezed out their excess water, fold and place one behind her neck, and another would be for her forehead. Perhaps it is hormonal, which is all her doctors and mine could come up with, but again these never happened to her, or to me, during the day—a bit like the inexplicable anal pain. Perhaps her throat chakra was opening and her chi, prana or some eternal energy was beginning to flow. My mother was certainly a changed person as she approached the last years of her life, and less the fearful servant to authority than she was as a younger woman. She found me difficult to like as a child and a young person. My thinking scared her because it strayed so far from the conventional—a place where she preferred to reside. But we made up for it later when the need for the mother/child relationship had slipped away. Perhaps it never felt normal to be my mother—one of those peculiarities of life of which another example exists. Only when a moment comes up that connects, even remotely, Heather, my sister, and Kate, my daughter, I find myself calling whoever of the two is with me by the other’s name. It is a standing joke amongst us that only the Gods understand why this happens, but my theory, as usual, is that I am meant to look at the deeper meaning that this represents. I have a few theories naturally!
The reason I have decided to write about all these nocturnal goings-on that spill over into my daytime creativity is because perhaps someone else may still be in the confused state that I was in two years ago. In my case it took a catastrophic event to break open this egg. I doubt whether I will be able to put all the pieces back together again, but I will do my very best at trying to at least see how this might work out. Elle, in the most gentle of ways, kept prompting me to turn away from my time wasting activities and negative energy, in other words, my stasis or stagnation, and to open myself again to more fruitful ways of engaging with the world, and hence the path that I am here to tread. She would encourage me to find ways of meditating, and the one I remember best, and I can easily see her with a newly picked rose in her hand, would be to observe or even draw it. I am vigilant to unexpected and unconnected thoughts that arrive from nowhere in my mind. I see that it is important to engage gently with the process of observing my awakening mind. Too much haste could lead to an unhinging! The more patient and still we are, the more likely we will catch the right end of the stick. Where on earth does that saying come from?
A total aside, and never to miss a trick—I have been collecting sayings recently, and that one has now been added to my growing list. Perhaps a good way of looking at this particular saying is that it illuminates the duality that holds our version of the world together. A stick always has two ends. If something doesn’t feel quite right when ‘caught’ then look to its opposite where perhaps you will find something more comfortable and easier to hold onto. Ha—duality is the glue of life that stops its fragmentation by Time that is its energy or life force. How is that for a definition! If we don’t have a yesterday, we have nowhere to put what has already happened, and without a tomorrow we have no way of knowing where we are heading towards today.
And back to my reason for popping up from my bower. In late 1999, McKenna described his thoughts concerning his impending death to an interviewer, Erik Davis:
“I always thought death would come on the freeway in a few horrifying moments, so you’d have no time to sort it out. Having months and months to look at it and think about it and talk to people and hear what they have to say, it’s a kind of blessing. It’s certainly an opportunity to grow up and get a grip and sort it all out. Just being told by an unsmiling guy in a white coat that you’re going to be dead in four months definitely turns on the lights. … It makes life rich and poignant. When it first happened, and I got these diagnoses, I could see the light of eternity, à la William Blake, shining through every leaf. I mean, a bug walking across the ground moved me to tears.”
I shall forever hold Terence McKenna in one of the many newly-discovered pockets in my heart for also noticing and loving bugs as Elle and I do. Terence McKenna died on April 3, 2000, at the age of 53. I am sure his ethereal bower is one of endless amazement, lit up by colours way beyond the range of the seven we are familiar with, surrounded by beautiful young things all with flowers in their hair and twinkles in their eyes. Definitely a place where bugs would feel most welcome.
EHS: Individuals with exploding head syndrome hear or experience loud imagined noises as they are falling asleep or waking up, have a strong, often frightened emotional reaction to the sound, and do not report significant pain; around 10% of people also experience visual disturbances like perceiving visual static, lightning, or flashes of light. Some people may also experience heat, strange feelings in their torso, or a feeling of electrical tingling that ascends to the head before the auditory hallucinations occur. With the heightened arousal, people experience distress, confusion, myoclonic jerks, tachycardia, sweating, and the sensation that feels as if they have stopped breathing and have to make a deliberate effort to breathe again.
The pattern of the auditory hallucinations is variable. Some people report having a total of two or four attacks followed by a prolonged or total remission, having attacks over the course of a few weeks or months before the attacks spontaneously disappear, or the attacks may even recur irregularly every few days, weeks, or months for much of a lifetime.
Some individuals mistakenly believe that EHS episodes are not natural events, but are the effects of directed energy weapons that create an auditory effect. Thus, EHS has been worked into conspiracy theories, but there is no scientific evidence that EHS has non-natural origins.