“The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding.” Hermes
You may think you know your dark side or you may know someone who has been devoured by theirs, but until you’ve been seduced by madness, breached your sacred boundaries, and tasted the forbidden fruit; you won’t experience the boundless breadths and desperate depths of darkness in your psyche or know your abyss.
While purging my darkness in Scorpio nine months ago, I began writing a post for my blog about a shadowy experience of over thirty years ago. That tale has morphed into an illustrated novella, based in fact, but camouflaged and exaggerated by fiction. I hope you wonder what actually happened. I’m only promoting the first of ten weekly episodes. Sign up for more if you like it. Episode two won’t automatically appear in your feed.
This is a tale of hands and of how I tempted fate and lost my sanity. My story is painted in black and white with insanity as black and sanity as white. Oppositions fuel our awareness as our allegories guide us from our whitest whites to our blackest blacks. Love and hate are extremes of the same essence with like and dislike represented by varying degrees of gray illuminating the halls of opposites. When does pleasure stop and pain begin? Where does happiness end and misery begin?
One bleak November evening, as I was leafing through the magazine section of the Tartarus Times, a display ad caught my eye ~ ‘Forensic Psychiatric Center Seeking Industrial Designer’. I’d been an industrial designer. The concept of combining function with beauty while creating something useful and meaningful had inspired me to sign up. I believed an industrial design degree would enable me to manifest my innovative ideas for sustainable energy and transportation. Many of my fellow student designers were searching for that ‘pet rock’ that would transform them into instant millionaires. I too wanted to earn my fortune, but hoped it would happen from working on meaningful projects. I had no interest in fashion for the sake of fashion and hated waste.
Overly optimistic, idealistic, and ahead of my time, I was soon to learn the harsh realities of self-serving economics and unchecked capitalism. Sadly, producers and sellers get more money for fashion, hype, and soundbites than for good functional design. Because of my own pressing financial needs, I adapted to serving my clients’ basic needs and conformed to the unnatural practice of wasting natural resources and polluting our planet in the name of convenience and thrift. I spent too much of my time and energies depleting natural resources and polluting our planet’s body, circulatory, and respiratory systems in the service and glory of ego, money, and fashion.
How much would I have to compromise my ethical principles to make a decent living? How much grayer was behaving in ways that work than being real? Which shades of gray exchanged money for values and traded thinking for feelings? It became too easy to analyze, rationalize, and compartmentalize my creations as useful, profitable, and valuable. I no longer thought about their final destination as landfill decoration.
One day, I had an epiphany. As I perused the isles of Bloomingdales’ to see how my products were being displayed and merchandized, I realized that waste streams were already chockfull of award winning design without mine. If none of my products existed, it would not make a real difference to anyone but me. I accepted responsibility for my insights and changed my focus from industrial to environmental design. I soon became known as the ‘Guru of Garbage’ for my innovative uses of recycled materials.
My ‘Designing with Garbage’ and ‘Eco- Design’ workshops and classes at local design colleges became popular. As an expert in materials and manufacturing processes, an industrial designer, and a member of purgatory’s solid waste advisory board, I spoke about recycling and reuse for the tiniest of stipends at design colleges and for free at environmental conferences, local grassroots groups, and community board meetings.
Clients would ask, “Why’s it so expensive?” And then exclaim, “It’s only garbage!” Everyone loves a good cause until it’s time to pay for it. Very few people were actually practicing what they were preaching. I rationalized that something was better than nothing as I was hired by manufacturers and marketers to facilitate their appearances, a practice known as ‘greenwashing’ (guilt-free polluting). I always had too much to do and never enough time or money to do it right. No matter how hard I tried to be frugal, not having enough money got in my way. I’d gone from planning to buy my private jet to trying to figure out what to do with a bottle cap. I could no longer afford to bankroll my principles or preach to the converted for pennies.
Before and After
Destiny compelled me to be responsible for my values. Ambition impelled me to create something of significance. My astrology fit perfectly. My Leo Zenith is closely straddled by my ninth house Saturn (guru) and my tenth house Pluto (garbage). The shoe fit, so I decided to reuse, recycle, and recreate it. That process was a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. Being the ‘Guru of Garbage’ had been an accident. The media was inspired by my creative attempts at recycling trash. They gave me a catchy name to sell more advertising. I enjoyed the name recognition, but needed to get paid.
I decided to tackle the mother of all garbage, psychic garbage. Instead of spending my time and energy on material concerns, I’d go directly to the source and wrestle with subjective matters like behavior, values, thinking, feelings, will power, health, work, relationships, marriage, creativity, death, philosophy, purpose, dreams, fears, and spirituality. My favorite obsession and part time avocation became my vocation as I began practicing astrology, palmistry, and tarot.
Being a psychic garbage man was more financially lucrative, emotionally fulfilling, and fun than transforming physical waste. My perpetual quest for physical and spiritual enlightenment and sustainability was morphing into an intriguing journey of self-discovery that would inadvertently guide me down the dusky path to darkness and lunacy. I wondered what it might take to awaken my insanity and was soon to find out.
Criminal minds fascinated me. I knew from my study of astrology that each of twelve sun signs has its own unique criminal style. Here are some gross generalizations. Gemini / Mercury rules con artists and pickpockets. Taurus / Venus commits sex crimes and breaches of trust from petty theft to grand larceny. Aries / Mars loves warfare and commit crimes of passion. Sagittarius / Jupiter wears white collars. Capricorn / Saturn rules master criminals. Aquarius / Uranus rules arsonists, terrorists, and unexpected bad shit happening. Pisces / Neptune rules drug dealers and users. Scorpio / Pluto rules seduction, rape, and murder and lustily awaits you at your final destination.
Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto revolve very slowly around our sun. They represent the collective unconscious. We personalize our outer planets through their relationships with our inner plants. Outer planetary pictures provide a karmic backdrop for past and future generations of actors and actresses striving to learn their roles. Life is a play of plays. Unconscious creates drama. Subconscious directs plot. Consciousness is stage manager. Sun enlightens. Moon reflects. Mercury connects. Venus senses. Mars energizes. Jupiter expands. Saturn limits. ‘God’ is Master Playwright.
As a life-long student of craziness, I coveted this opportunity to serve criminally insane people. I might never get another chance. Back in college, I minored in bizarre psycho- ideologies and isms. Being an active member of a twice weekly study group at a Gestalt psychology institute for two years whetted my appetite for more. Now I had a chance to explore genuine craziness incarnate. I imagined the weird hands, astrology, and odd people I’d meet and held my breath in anxious anticipation as I set up my interview.
As I drove north along the Styx River Parkway, I felt like Don Quixote applying for his first real job. Approaching my destination, I could see three ominous- looking beige brick buildings rising starkly into the distant sky like dead poplar trees. They stood on the western banks of ‘Cuckoo Island’ in the middle of the Styx River between Tartarus and Purgatory. Two buildings were psychiatric outpatient hospitals. The third was a forensic psychiatric hospital bounded by high electric fences, lethal courses of razor wire, and panoptic video surveillance. A two‑story block structure on the right housed sheltered workshops for mentally and developmentally disabled people and an alcohol detox center. A fleet of city garbage trucks and a truck drivers’ training course was on the other side of the island. Purgatory’s sewage was treated there. The whole damned island was devoted to one form of waste treatment or another.
I entered the premises through guarded locked doors, metal detectors, a bag inspection station, faded beige paint, and buzzing fluorescent lights that zapped my vital essences. Hospital staff appeared to be the dregs of humanity’s helpers. They wobbled and limped, were scarred and splotched, and gazed silently in hopeless desperation with myopic eyes—even when they were smiling. I hoped it wasn’t contagious. It was.
As Director of Rehab, Dolores was beaten down by too many years in state service. Her sad name complemented her careworn face. A telltale twitch made me wonder whether she was actually smiling or frowning. Her unhealthy looking teeth were yellowed from too many cigarettes and too much coffee. A deep raspy voice coughed her words.
Respiratory, pulmonary, and circulatory problems could be seen in her bulbous whitish nails. Her square palms and short square fingers revealed a practical nature, while her dry, reddish, dishpan skin had weathered many storms that seemed to endlessly arrive from every direction. I was concerned she was ineffective. Despite our differences, we liked each other.
I squirmed awkwardly as I learned that the hospital actually needed an industrial arts teacher. Human resources had made a mistake. I wanted to experience this population, but I was overqualified. Dolores encouraged me to take the job anyway. She painted alluring pictures of my designing vocational programs. I’d work directly with patients by lecturing and giving ongoing classes and workshops. I’d have access to patient records and treatment plans. I might be even able to attend treatment team meetings with psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. It felt too good to be true. It was.
Dolores was impressed with my qualifications and enthusiasm. I never mentioned any ulterior motives when I told her I was prepared to commit selflessly to public service at this point in my life. I’d start at the bottom. ‘Grade 12′ was a pay scale similar to being fresh out of high school. I couldn’t afford a full time position and didn’t want one. Dolores assured me I could work half-time. She’d find someone else to fill the other half of the position. She promised full public employee health benefits. I accepted.
Stay tuned to meet the rehab staff in episode two.