¨I have come to tell you that you are free. Many ages ago, My
consciousness left man, that he might develop himself. I return to
find this development approaching completion, but hindered by fear
and by misunderstanding.
You have built for yourselves psychic suits of armor, and clad in
them, your vision is restricted, your movements are clumsy and
painful, your skin is bruised, and your spirit is broiled in the sun.
I am chaos. I am the substance from which your artists and scien-
tists build rhythms. I am the spirit with which your children and
clowns laugh in happy anarchy. I am chaos. I am alive, and I tell you
that you are free.¨
I came across this quote last week when I was getting ready to write a book review (Naming the Goddess). It is a quote from a work titled Principia Discordia, the primary sacred text of the Discordian Society. According to WikiHow.com: ¨Discordianism is a modern religion (only in existence since the late 1950’s) centered on the idea that chaos is as important as order…¨ Discordians follow the goddess Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord. She first appeared on the scene in ancient Greece where she was credited with being the force behind the Trojan War. In more recent times she has been recast by the Discordians as a feminine Loki or Coyote, a trickster goddess who revels in creative discord.
When Christian theologians and orators speak about finding the Holy Spirit in moments of crisis, the argument has the same properties as when considering the role of Eris. I have long known from personal experience that one finds the Holy in moments of upheaval not in moments when everything is hunkey-dorey and sweetness. In fact my life has been a sequence of such engagements with the Holy so, when I read the story of Eris, I realized that I have long known this goddess. Personal growth, whether positive or negative, is impelled by Eris, impelled by extreme discomfort. I don’t think we grow because we want to; I think we grow because we have to. Perhaps that is the reason why people with everything in their favor are so stuck and unable to see beyond themselves.
Living with cancer is also a series of encounters with Eris. Everyday life is thrown up in the air by new symptoms, by test results, by insults to body, soul, and personal identity. Trying to find what is creative in that occupies more of my time than I would wish, but if I am unable to find the Holy, the Creative, in it I am doomed. It is in finding the Creative in such moments that has allowed my quality of life to be so high and allowed me to go on living.
Recently, my friends will know, I have had another encounter with Eris around my desire to travel. I love to travel. I love to meet people and explore cultures different from my own. I also have dear friends and what I call ¨brothers and sisters of the heart¨ who live in foreign places and I long to see them. My oncologist knows that travel is important to my mental health and she has worked with me to keep me travelling in spite of this horrid disease.
Two years ago, on a trip to Britain and France, I experienced cardiac myopathy where your heart just cannot pump an adequate amount of blood. I returned from the trip breathless, swollen, and dispirited. This was soon followed by a cascade of physical problems resulting from my tumors pressing on nerves and interfering with my body’s ability to function. Within six months I had a window cut in the sac around my heart to reduce pressure; I had a tracheostomy placed because my vocal cords were paralyzed and I could not breathe; I almost had a feeding tube inserted because my stomach is partially paralyzed and I couldn’t eat or get value from the nutrition I was able to force down. Then six months after this was stabilized the cancer moved to my brain, necessitating gamma knife ¨surgery¨ to remove three tumors. All in all it has been a very chaotic time, and I don’t find much that has been creative.
Now that I am medically stable once again I would like to travel some more. Rather than travel back to Scotland, I found a Scottish Celtic festival on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia that looks wonderful! (celtic-colours.com) I hoped that if I didn’t have to take a 20+hour flight that I would be able to go. I wanted to test my travel ability before embarking on another BIG transatlantic trip. I talked some friends into going with me and we were set to have a wonderful time. However, living where we do, it is impossible to get nonstop flights unless you are going to 4 hub cities (Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake, Minneapolis). So, the trip would take around 13+ hours and involve 2 transfers. I could find a nonstop in Canada but that would involve a 5 hour drive to Calgary. Maybe Eris was taking pity on me but more and more I was thinking about these flights and whether I really could manage them.
When I travel now I have to travel with a lot of medical equipment. My days of one carry-on are also over. Just thinking of the logistics for this trip made me increasingly anxious and a few days ago I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I could not do it. I am both profoundly sad that this part of my life seems to be over and profoundly relieved that I will no longer have to pretend that I am stronger than I am.
I guess this is where the creative part will come in, where my new found freedom will be of value. Notice I am using future tense here because I haven’t seen anything generative or creative come out of this yet, just a profound loss of something that I love and something that is a part of the way in which I understand myself. There is a big hole here. That I am not wailing in anguish has more to do with the fact that I am just so f..king tired. Eris has brought me here and now I just have to live with the chaos until, like the Phoenix, my heart rises from the ashes again.