(Not a) Poetics of the Hero’s Journey
by Michael Dickel
Every kind of priority gets noiselessly suppressed. Overnight, everything that is primordial gets glossed over as something that has long been well known. Everything gained by a struggle becomes just something to be manipulated. Every secret loses force.
—Martin Heidegger, Being and Time1
Confronting my narcissism, working on images of emptiness at the center of myself, I imagine mylar—not the overhead transparency type, but shiny mirror-finish mylar, a huge role of reflecting plastic. The hole at my center renders me invisible to introspection and investigation, unknowable to the world; it decomposes everything; constant annihilation lives there, fear.
I wrap that void with this mylar—that shiny plastic material that appears translucent, almost transparent, until layers of it turn into a poor-quality mirror—wrapping a shapeless mass, giving form to the monstrosity of dissolution and chaos at the center of being: in the beginning, chaos.2
These mirror-configured carbon chains reflect to the world around me my imagining of the world around me, as self. What I show of self is a reflection of what I think you want to see.
Know my poetry, then, through the distortions in the mirror, full of conflict twisting into a battle I wage against myself, my fear, my loneliness…seeking an Other and reflecting myself to the Other while seeking to destroy what I abhor in myself in that Other. This battle of monsters within trying to destroy themselves outside (without) me roars in my sleep but does not yet waken me.
This is the essence of our narcissistic society: projecting as Other the images we reflect of self in a spiraling failure to cast out the monsters within—a feedback loop of projected anxiety reflecting back fear and terror, thus fueling rage.
Our society swirls around a vortex of fear: fear of annihilation the decaying center of the vortex, the center of the vortex a void called “alone,” the void a presence replayed in empty media image after empty cultural icon after empty political act to convince us to buy, fear, follow—multiple reflections of this void spread out into the swinging arms of Chaos, the milky-way galaxy spiral we call the twenty-first century.
The annihilation, the physicists might call it entropy, which we feed in this way and which feeds us and on us, reflects itself in violence, destruction, greed, consumption—feeds on us and corrupts any chance for equilibrium and harmony not based on power differential and surrender—feeding us with war, terrorism, fear and offering its false sense of security as the ultimate venus flytrap honey bait.
Annihilation. Entropy. We fall into the dark pit.
At the center of our culture, the core of society—that other void, the real possibility of total annihilation suppressed yet remaining at the nucleus, nuclear destruction—drives our decomposition, whirls the void round and round.
So, society wraps protective mirrors around this center, fearing that the act of confrontation with the void leads to destruction. Society’s mirror reflects back to us what we think we want to see, reflects back our own anxiety and fear of the void in order to keep us away from its emptiness—consumption and greed for material wealth and power.
We must conquer this mirror. We no longer connect to earth or heaven when swept into the vortex, because the earth—and heaven itself—may instantly burn in nuclear fission. What other force could shred the soul?
We suffered this narcissistic injury together as a culture: a childhood trauma for some of us, a pre-nascent trauma for most, that keeps us locked into our own self-destruction. The mirror we wrap around this injury provides a surface for, but also covers the form of, the void by coating its nothingness with reflected images of something—but something superficial and unreal—seductions pulling us toward annihilation even as it seeks to hide and deny that destruction.
Know the void, then, by the distortions in these reflections.
Let our poetry confront the reflections, distortions, projections and thus, face the void. Let our words unwrap the fiber that simulates cultural and personal self. Let us destroy image and language and self, as necessary, in this poetry. This is not nihilism, but faith—faith in a renewal to follow.
I can only fail in this undertaking as I, one. We must move beyond e. e. cummings’ lonely leaf3:
I hope that we succeed. We must choose life, not death. We must choose to do what is right, not what quiets our fears. For what there is to know, it is in your mouth, in your heart.4
1 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John MacQuarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), p.165.
2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep… Gen. 1:2 (Biblical quotes from JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, The Jewish Publication Society, 2005)
4 It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. Deut. 30:12–14
This essay also appears in Fragments of Michael Dickel.
© 2015, essay and illustrations, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved