The wasteland ~ a geography

T.S. Eliot's poem, East Coker, as quoted in the previous entry, describes perfectly the geography of what I call the wasteland.  I came across it when I was in the depths of my own wasteland, a deeply troubled inner world.  When I read it I wept.  These were tears of recognition, of relief at reading words that someone else had found for a state that is largely indescribable.  When I read it now, some ten years later, the tears still well up.  East Coker is one of a set of poems referred to as "The four quartets".  I wonder what experiences in Eliot's life fuelled their creation.

Many things propel us into the actions we choose in life.  It was a conversation with a friend a week or so ago that decided me on setting up this chronicle.  He and I have been through parallel wastelands; our circumstance and troubles had different roots, but the task of getting through those experiences, of surviving, threw us both back on the last vestiges of our strength and for each it was a very narrow pass.  Few can accompany a person in such extremity, and we were fortunate indeed that our friendship endured, fortunate also that we were not traversing the wasteland at the same time.  We emerged much altered and both agreed it would have been helpful to have known a few of the things then that we know now - about the nature of the wasteland, and a few pointers on how to get through it more or less intact.

For me recovery is ongoing.   There is much I still don't understand.  I have struggled to find words for it, and even now talking about it seems almost impossible.  Hopefully I can articulate some of it here so that it makes sense to others which may also help me make sense of it.  This may sound back-to-front, but it needs to be: just as a mirror shows the reverse image of the viewer.  Without communicating some of what happened that part of me remains isolated and snowbound.

I often recognise the signs of extreme experience in others: I see the tracks which shock, rage, terror and grief have written on their countenance, not in a disfiguring way but in the nuance of expression and in their bearing, a certain remote otherness.  The watcher within is wary.  I can stand alongside them and say "I know."  Yet for the most part these people look so very ordinary.  We would pass them on the street or in the supermarket without any such flicker of recognition.  How many there are...

The wasteland seems trackless and endless and the odds insurmountable, but if we have the right prompts and support we can gradually begin to make sense of things, and as we do so, the intensity of our suffering gradually loosens.

Although I won't go into much detail about what landed me in the wasteland, I will share some small part of it along with insights and suggestions that may be helpful to others.

I've written the articles in five cohesive groups, as shown in the blog archive to the right.  Articles should be able to be read individually or in sequence, depending on your interest.  I've used the labels system like an index so that relevant articles can be easily identified and accessed.

To those of you who are at present in the wasteland I wish you safe journey, and to those who stand friend to you, patience.

To go to the next article click this link:
Descent into the Wasteland ~ the falling tower

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