Liminal Space 4
Labyrinths and unalomes
Welcome to Liminal Spaces, a place for me to put my brief and scattered thoughts (and invite you to share yours) between essays.
Labyrinths and Unalomes
About a week ago, I applied for a scholarship to the Write of Passage online writing course. The application involved sharing three links to my best writing and answering three questions in no more than 750 words total. I answered each of them as honestly and succinctly as I could, and then I ceded control. I should find out next week if I’m in or out. But I’m not sweating it. I trust that they are better at knowing if I’m a good candidate for their course than I am. So I’m good with whatever they choose.
The second of the three questions—“What’s your vision?”—is the one I needed the most time with. Most of the things I’ve written over the past decade or so have begun from a vague discomfort or dissatisfaction or yearning—a fixation on the thoughts and feelings that have been building up and now want out. This is why an essay I write on, say, the paradoxes of human progress and suffering might begin from somewhere else before finding its way to where it’s going. Or why the next essay I write might be a kind of response to its predecessor that begins with the lyrics to a 23-year-old Bright Eyes song and ends with the lyrics to a 7-year-old Conor Oberst song, but only after returning for a time to those nasty and nagging paradoxes of human progress and suffering.
It’s not what you’re supposed to do. I know. But it’s how I keep doing it anyway. When/If I end up making an argument one way or another, it’s rarely because I intended to. I’m almost never moving toward a fixed point on a map. I’m just out on a drive, clearing my head and exploring. My “vision” has always just been whatever’s in front of or inside me, or in the rearview and eating away at me.
There wasn’t room to get into all of that in the application, though. So I tried something else. I tried to stay honest and concise while also developing a vision. And I think it kind of worked. In the week that has passed since submitting my application, I’ve edited and revised my vision, line by line, over and over again. You’ll find it on the Symbols & Rituals about page. But here are the main points and additions:
Symbols & Rituals is a running meditation on life in a mind and society. Here you will find personal essays that explore human behavior, the relationship between the individual and the group, and the symbols and rituals we use to make meaning.
You will also find meandering explorations into the spiritual poverty that I think afflicts many modern humans and societies.1 Meandering because I’m looking for solutions, or at least explanations, and I don’t know how to find them without walking into the problem and then just wandering around in it.
My goal, insofar as I have one, is to help alleviate our psychic hunger by writing in opposition to it. In other words, to bring about spiritual nourishment through my writing. Not in a light, vacuous, motivational-Instagram way. But in a more meaningful way, one that explores the heights and depths of the human condition soberly and in equal measure. This is where I find purpose and how I think I am able to bring value to others. My broad vision for both my writing and the future involves an emphasis on developing more mindful and resilient individuals and more enriching and fulfilling groups.
That may sound highfalutin, and I imagine that it will probably turn some people off. But like I said, I did my best to be honest and true to what is driving me, and what I see in front of and inside me. So make of it what you will. I cede control.
As well as the updates above, I’ve been slowly reworking the design of the Symbols & Rituals site. I invite you to go there and poke around, but below are two samples.2 The first is a screenshot of the new homepage. The second is one in a series of related designs I’m working on. The new logo seen in both images is a seven-circuit classical labyrinth. The design in the second image was inspired by both the unalome symbol and the Gao Yord Sak Yant tattoo design. I will likely write more about each of these at some point. But for now, I will just encourage you to use your imagination and run wild.
I’ve started recommending other Substacks. You can find those recommendations here. More will follow. Have any suggestions for me? Please share them.
- at blew my mind. It has already inspired much further reading on my part and will no doubt summon my many subsequent returns.
Likewise re: this new piece by William Egginton for Aeon: Quantum poetics: How Borges and Heisenberg converged on the notion that language both enables and interferes with our grasp of reality
Solid and inspiring advice from a homeschooled 17-year-old to her peers (and us all) here: A constitution for teenage happiness:—the winner of ' high school essay contest—urges her generation to read old books, memorize poems, and invite senior citizens to parties.
Solid and inspiring advice from a generous 66-year-old to a despondent 20-year-old (and us all) here: Humility and curiosity in a bizarre and temporary world: Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files Issue #252
If the word spiritual turns you off, I get it; think instead of your innermost being. The part of you that has only nonmaterial needs. Whatever that is to you. That’s what I’m referring to here.
In fact, I encourage you to always go to the site to read posts rather than read them in your inbox. I’m human and fallible and regularly make clarifying edits and/or corrections after clicking send. I can’t and won’t be stopped. And now you know. Do what thou wilt.