The Dark Lake


I don’t know to what causes modern historians attribute the Trojan Wars. But I do know, in essence, what the authors of those wars believed: that their gods made them do it. Not for any logical or noble reason, simply for their amusement. The sport of seeing honourable men (and women) hacked down in their thousands.

The dark lake rises where the level road of reason falters and gives out. Sunken reaches of shadow; beauty and ecstasy too extreme to tolerate. Intoxication, atrocity, responsibility; the fine art of every faceless, unfaceable human aspect. Uneasy evolutionary residues of the immediate animals we once were, creatures who did not defer to abattoirs or law courts to obtain their food or settle their scores. Escher depths of unconscious nested within unconscious unto some originating void. Our molecular inheritance of the universal laws and forces most insulting to rational human grip and achievement: chaos, fragmentation, destruction, obliteration, death.

The great dream of rationality is to drain the dark lake and turn it into a thriving farm or housing development. A pinch of history and a short clarified glance at current reality should be enough to show how successful that ambition has been.

You might have heard the one about the man equipped with a hammer to whom everything looks like a nail. In the dark lake, nails are rusted and twisted beyond any profitable application of a hammer. Things that are not nails insist, forcefully, on recognition as themselves. The rest of the toolkit is missing believed obsolete. Replaced by some gadget more sophisticated and efficient, or discarded from fear that it might cause injury.

Yes, when we hit the dark lake at the end of the road now, as a culture we are utterly lost. Maps, navigation charts and instruments, the experienced guides who know the lake’s routes; all are somewhere between invisible, ridiculed and demonized in the public spheres of advanced modern civilizations. The names of the god/desses who make us do things are hotly disputed, laughed at, then forgotten. The more lost we become, the more the lake haemorrhages its worst, its frantic reminders, through and out of us into the manifest world; the less we are supported to confront and comprehend its existence.

Fear of the dark lake is prudent; seeking to avoid it is fatal. Avoiding and denying the lake are what, via myriad enlightened instruments, we are coaxed and coerced and conditioned to do. So the pressure of its persistence, within our own psyches before all else, becomes intolerable, terrifyingly misunderstood; discharging through the conscienceless cruelties of nice, ordinary, blameless people; through the multiscreen projection of the darkness onto the nearest available scapegoat. They are it, it is they who keep steeping the world in its filth, so they deserve every punishment that advanced ingenuity can inflict.

The consequence of avoiding the dark lake, if it’s your time to run out of road, is ducking out of what it means to be the human being you are meant to be, and instead spending your life dithering, in muted terror and ritually displaced rage, on the accumulating thresholds of psychic maturity. Finally I grasp the prevailing childishness observed in contemporary civilized psyches. Bereft of guidance through its waters, people are left stranded, like children without parameters or capacity for discrimination, feeling the violent surge in themselves but afraid of drowning in what they have been led to believe is a shapeless, borderless morass of pure evil; ignorant of the fact that the right rope and helping hand might – it’s only ever might, mind – have got them safely across the particular stretch that they were facing, and so on to the next stage.

Always there are people who manage somehow to forge, sucked under, across the dark lake. Some discover or have the fortunate instinct to sense that there is a journey to make, and manage to locate whatever maps and guidance they need. Most of the people known to me who’ve made it (are making it), were driven by some unasked-for suffering, often combined with an insistent creative gift. Hard lore and support for navigating the dark lake is still here; even from a certain perspective increasing, in visibility and refinement – although it pays to be wary of those who promise to lead you deep across the lake, only to apply a blindfold and lure you down some shortcut. Yet the fact remains that anyone who undertakes the crossing from inside modern civilization will be forced against the grain of her own culture, with all the additional risks that that piles upon an already risk-fraught undertaking.

Nothing in this lamentation feels original; what I do feel acutely is the pressure increasing, as the props of the civilized world totter, and people who so deeply believe themselves lambs without spot, safely cushioned by some out-of-sight-out-of-mind elsewhere to export their darkness, weakness and waste to, literally have no vantage from which to look into themselves which is less terrifying than the alternative: keep denying, keep jeering, keep blaming someone – anyone – else.


This post brings me to a crossing: I’m taking a wee break from here. Creeping computer use has crept up on me as back pain, and until I can reorganise the ergonomics of my space, long stretches at a keyboard are off bounds. I’ve been delighted, though, to have so many visitors dropping by; thank you all for looking and reading and I hope you will bear with me in my absence.


One thought on “The Dark Lake

  1. Tony,Thanks so much for this response. It’s really helpful to remember these good reasons for taking advantage of the on-line world, while it is still with us. I’m going through a very similar phase with social media in fact: I find it so hugely enriching, being provoked into new areas of easily-accessible knowledge and contact with like-directioned souls, and I feel very at home with the discipline of the blog format. At the same time, the same feeling of scatty, obsessive behaviour taking over; and the too-muchness of trying to keep up – the flipside of riding the spontaneity. Resulting in my computer use creeping up, and because I’d got used to perching on the sofa I was asking for trouble! Hoping that the break will be short, and indeed conducive to getting back to poetry, which I can pursue better with pen and paper. Also, for the spontaneous manifestation of an ergonomic chair 🙂

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