The first time I thought how pleasant it might be to extremum vitae spiritum ederewas in 1994.
I was sitting at a set of traffic lights at the corner of Turton and Maitland Roads in the city of Newcastle. The lights were red, it was 10 past nine in the morning, I was heading off for work and I had on a starched white shirt, black pants, and a yellow ochre tie that my wife had made me.
The time of year was late winter, the morning sun was in the northern sky and beamed through the windscreen. The sun made me a little drowsy as I watched the traffic buzzing past.
The suggestion of the pleasantness of death, of non-being, crept up on me like a soft shadow. It started with a smell - the smell of fresh loamy dirt infused with the comforting aromas of rotting leaves.
One moment I was sitting in my car, the next I was transported to a grassy field. I lay in that field, sinking slowly into the ground, the blue sky dimmed slightly by the delicate tracery of the leaves that fell on my face and began to cover my eyes. The leaves were soft and diaphanous, they tickled my skin, and the skeletal lace patterns of their xylem and their phloem diffused the sunlight so that it was like a warm, gentle mist above my head.
In that moment I was hidden from the world - and at peace.
Welll... as the traffic lights went green I shook my head from side to side, jammed in the clutch and popped the gear into first. As I raced toward the next set of traffic lights I began to wonder what it all meant - this feeling of death, the comfort of non-existance.
Of course it soon became obvious. As humans we place order on chaos. We look for patterns. We seek to make meanings out of nonsense. We look for meaning in our life. And one of the ways we do this is by extremes of contrast.
Good and bad. Black and white. Consciousness and unconsciousness. Pleasure and pain. Sadness and happiness. Life and death. Self and other.
But perhaps there are no extremes - just graduations.
As Carl Jung writes: "The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself ..... became for me the key that opens the door to the way."
Make of that what you will....
This image is for Illustration Friday's "Hibernate."
In keeping with the theme of contrasts, in some ways it shows the opposite to hibernation- in that the cherry tree is just coming to 'life'. The boy himself is in his own dream world. His consciousness is hibernating, while around him the world carries on - as an epihenomenon.
For him the world doesn't exist. He is fading into the rhealms of nihilism - and is looking for a way out.