8 July 2021
Above the Veil
A few days ago, via the magical internets, I encountered a concept altogether novel to this here malleable grey matter: living above the veil of consciousness.
What’s crazy and coincidental and altogether magnificent is that before even researching the phrase, I knew instantly precisely what it meant. My entire life is one of recognizing veils, calling out veils, removing veils, and objectively inspecting what each veil obscured.
In truth, the theory is not different from mindfulness; it involves diving deeper than what is seen to learn why we view the world a certain way, why we react to certain situations in a particular way, and what motivates and moves us to behave in the ways that we do (on our own, but equally importantly, with others). Moving to live above the veil is all about deep, fearless introspection: looking into the self without fear of what you might find – and accepting what you find there without judgment. Perhaps Sigmund Freud would call this exploring the id, ego, and superego.
For me, it is a regular practice. When I look out upon the world, when I watch others – parents with children at a supermarket, new lovers, individuals alone with a book at a coffee shop – I see the veils and question what they protect, what they hide, what lies beyond.
Of course, for me this began quite young. I was a solitary child with a mind full of ideas and a penchant for the magic found in books. My understanding of the world and ulterior motives was heavily influenced by Stephen King, when, probably too young, I read Needful Things. We all have secret desires. What are mine? How do they influence my decisions? What are yours? How do they influence your decisions?
I see them.
The veils. I see them – everywhere I look.
…and you can rest assured that if we are close, I see yours. Whether I fully understand them is another story; yet I am magnetically driven to speculate about them. It’s fun…but it’s also important to me; knowing what your veils safeguard can help me to relate to you on a more meaningful level.
For many, perhaps that is a touch scary. But I promise to withhold judgment, and I do mean well.
Very few of our intentions in this world are whole, pure, and perfectly innocent. But self-serving, dark, and morally questionable motives are not, in themselves, abhorrent. They are human. They are natural. They are so, so real. Especially if we are broken (as most of us, in some way or another, are), these do exist – they’re simply hidden from the self (and most importantly, from others).
It is acting upon such motives without knowing why – or acting upon them in a blindly reactionary, thoughtless way – that makes monsters out of mere humans.
Here is where I’ll dive deep with a personal example I have judiciously edited (slice, hack) to make it shareable…
Yesterday in my world, I was browsing the web, bored, waiting for … some people … to return from their lunch breaks so that I could pepper them with questions about a job opportunity. I stumbled upon a news article that Halsey released the cover artwork for her new album, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. And I stopped and stared – gawked – at the artwork.
In the cover photo, Halsey sits like a queen on a gilt throne, a monarch, bedecked with riches, topped with a crown, nestled in colorful layers of silk. On her knee, a brown-haired wide-eyed swaddled baby of about nine months stares directly into the camera. Halsey’s bodice is unbuttoned and open, revealing her full, perfectly round left breast and its flawless, pregnancy-darkened nipple.
I don’t care your gender, I don’t care your sexual orientation or preference. Can there possibly be a soul in this world who might look upon that imagery and not be moved? It is unequivocally and unarguably beautiful. Moving. Magisterial. Regal. Sexual. Carnal but maternal. So potently human – just so…so…
When I saw the image and read the accompanying explanation that it was a statement about the dual purposes of the female anatomy (sexuality and maternal nurturing) and the normalization of breastfeeding – I just got so mad!
I. Got. SO. Mad.
When the people I waited for never showed, I stormed out of the building back to my car. I was fuming. I was feeling small, insecure, ineffective, unimportant, insignificant. It wouldn’t be long before all of this roiled within me and burst out – like a covered pot containing too much boiling water – landing on the hot stove below and sizzling, evaporating into steam. Emotions, hot. Fuming.
I reacted. I was upset. And I knew instantly: I’d encountered a veil worthy of inspection.
Why in the world would Halsey’s cover art make me so angry?
It didn’t take me much hard work to identify the source of that reaction: these were truths I already knew, felt deeply, and yet Halsey, in her 20s, beat me to their overt expression. I wanted to share this first. It’s a common thread for me with Halsey. I am so deeply jealous of her freedom, her insight, her fearless self-expression. I want that. I want it, and I can’t have it, and I’m butthurt by that. So I continue to love to hate Halsey…I follow her with a bitter taste on my tongue that she beats me to it every time.
…because in spite of the fact that she beat me to it, this blurring of the line between sexuality and maternity has weighed heavily on my conscience since my breastfeeding days. There is something mystical, mysterious, inexplicable, and yet undeniably beautiful and human and natural and – my chest explodes with raw, carnal emotion – about this. There is something so very theory of evolution and survival of the fittest about these revelations.
Yet Halsey beat me to it.
Why let her steal that spotlight, though? That is just one veil. Inspecting Halsey’s message reveals yet another veil. This culture in which we survive (absolutely no, we do not thrive) asks us to deny ourselves our truth: we are all sexual creatures, in one way or another. Everyone’s sexuality is different – like living snowflakes, we each experience and express our sexual desires differently, in various ways, and to different extents. Yet we are not allowed to discuss it. Why?
More importantly, why does Halsey get to do it, but I cannot?
…and I cannot.
But I digress…
Let’s be real about those veils: they exist everywhere you look. We all have them.
I may see many veils (most are oblique - vague), and I may even see through some peoples’ veils, but I cannot save anyone from their veiled realities if they do not choose salvation – if they do not choose clarity for fear of facing the discomfort and potential change.
Because you cannot show someone beyond their veil if they cherish their veil too much. A person cannot introspect if they do not wish to – and they are afraid to come face to face with what they might find. This makes deep connection impossible. This is why I have such a difficult time making friends, I think. If you do not know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your overt and covert motivations, then I cannot know you. And if I cannot know you, I am not willing to take the risk on you. I have to protect myself from anything untrue because I know, deep deep down in my core, that those who are untrue to themselves are blindly broken in a way that can only cause others pain. And I will not willingly make myself susceptible to any more pain in this world, if it can be avoided.
…but I tell you this: although what lies beyond many of my veils (and there are so, so many layers of veils in everything I do) often makes me squirm in discomfort, I would not prefer to be blind! Although 90% of my writing explores veils in ways that cannot ever be shared (because who needs to know what happens deep deep down in someone else’s id), I refuse to deny myself these truths. Better to know the truths, inspect them, learn from them, apply that knowledge, and then grow – even if that growth is uncomfortable.
Having veils is human. Veils are necessary for surviving.
Growing out of them – away from them – pulling them from our eyes – that, my loves, is thriving.