Fear in our time; what is Hell?

Photo: CK (I wrote out a journal entry during a trying time. When I ran out of room, I simply wrote over what I had previously written. I did this several times for a few hours. I curved the piece of paper around a candle, and then took this shot.)

On facebook, I recently posted a link to a video of an upcoming computer game, titled AGONY, which gives us perhaps the most realistic depiction of Hell we have yet to see, and thanks to graphics technology, one that is quite close to tricking our eyes into seeing it as a real place. WARNING: it is graphic and disturbing, and some elements really make me question my own comfort levels. 

I wanted to share on this blog that late-night post in full, as I feel what it explores is very valid, and often seen in a very narrow field of vision:

"I did debate sharing this. It won't be for everyone. This is perhaps the most ambitious art direction ever for a computer game, and we now have physics-based rendering, meaning everything looks quite real due to how light behaves with materials.

I think there is something very healthy in the ritualistic observation of our fears. Halloween is
important to me for this reason. Everything comes out, kind of universally for our neighborhood. There is permission. This demo lets one have a meditative walk through our carnal, Jungian realities, nightmares, unconscious. Lit by torch light, swatting away flies, hiding in dark corners from terrible demons and acknowledging the HORRENDOUS depictions of pain and suffering of others, of ourselves, the kind of suffering where nothing can be done at that moment. Buddhists may find resonance with it. It isn't scary, nor do I think it is meant to be violent or cruel. It is a powerful and artistically detailed creation, one that has thick feelings of isolation, ancientness, but also an odd sense of calm. It is a safe, unhurried space to vicariously acknowledge inner conflict or torment.

Photo: CK. Ifhac, my gargoyle from Winners. Gargoyles are our nocturnal protectors, coming alive to face foes we cannot. They are watchmen. The watchmen suffer, too.

I'm amazed by it all. And yet, there is twinkling and magic and glowing--what an interesting choice! It reminds me of the feeling the original Quake conveyed. A far away place that feels oddly familiar. If we are to heal from our darkness, all things must be acknowledged, allowed to have their inner existence. Then, both our resistance and addiction is broken. We can find balance and get on with things. Usually, lightened, and alight. We can escape the hell we may not have known we were in.

I suppose if you have played Amnesia, Quake, or seen Tool videos, you are ready for this. Otherwise, you may not like this at all. It is vivid and unflinching.

When Minecraft created a Hell for itself, there was a similar feeling; a sudden access to this otherwise closed-off realm. Even this depiction felt grand and ritualistic at the time. I still can't shake how strangely healing these kinds of things can be--if they are approached with, openness, awareness, respect and the potential of ritual.

Photo: CK (Taken soon after another trying time in life.)

I think this is what the future will be: the ritual acceptance, observation of pain and fear rather than suppression, conquering and held-suffering. It can be easier. We can be more resilient. In a time of trial, a wise friend once told me that any fear is actually an incomplete phenomenon. If we give it a chance to complete itself, in meditation, then it will live out its brief life, and simply leave, which can bring much clarity to our worldview. Like a guest who has overstayed welcome in your house, you have to remember their name in order for them to rise out of the dusty chair awkwardly, thank you for your hospitality, and walk out into the dawn. The door shuts and your home is empty and peaceful again.

We cannot be afraid while simultaneously claiming we know why; if we knew, our fear would cease immediately.

I think it's time for us to admit that we don't know why we are afraid."

Photo: CK

As a singer, I am invited, and occupationally forced to look at my suffering, mental, emotional, and physical, for the simple reason that cognitive dissonance and tension interrupt flow, spontaneity and the ability to be honest in the moment with whatever the music and circumstance invites you to face. Be it an opera role that deals with extreme loss and desolation, or sacred scripture that implores us that the only way to find healing and salvation is in accepting it, and giving it to God, Christ, Jesus, letting go. It is the conduit. Scripture informs us that there is a wondrous way to see our troubles in a way that does not confound us, and makes us realize the deeper, wordless truth of our existence, which goes beyond our human experience. We are also our ability to see life from a perspective other than human. 

Photo: Phillip Tanner (It was a zombie photoshoot, for use in a portfolio, and for a make-up artist friend of his to have a chance to try special-FX techniques.)

I can say that as I explore my fears through ritual and meditative approaches, my body changes, and loosens and is open to creating even more space and shape, and to being fashioned by life's currents and air and passion and, as I recently discovered, ENTHUSIASM, this child-like boundless agitation that just wants to have everything in motion and life all the time--I admit that finding a tempering in this quality has been one of the most important challenges this past month. Having too much enthusiasm got in the way of me being able to do a good job of something, and the experience really made me go back to the drawing board. 

Photo: CK (Another difficult time in life. Seeing this reminded me of a friend and mentor who died suddenly from cancer years ago, and the deeper role she played.)

It's not about the victory; no victory is ours alone. We are in relationship with all things, and when we acknowledge these relationships, both good and bad, we grow, we heal, we connect with something wonderful that makes every day feel like Christmas, rather than an endless Halloween. There is a time for ghouls, and a time for sun. 

It can be easier. My new motto.