Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

At every single moment of one’s life one is what one is going to be no less than what one has been.

I feel as if I want to say I wish I had read Wilde’s letter from prison, De Profundis, sooner, but, as one of the themes of the letter, the continuance of the travels and development of your life suggests, I may not have been ready for Wilde’s themes of suffering, art and Christ. Not ready because I hadn’t suffered in the years before the wars, not ready because I was too blinded by drunkenness to understand myself or to care to understand myself, and, more recently, not ready, because I don’t think I was open enough to appreciate Wilde’s transition in life and his growth through suffering, as his own transition and growth without trying to transplant my experiences onto his.

Trying to learn from others, without trying to become others, has been a difficult process for me these last few years in recovery. I am not sure how many other men and women like me are beguiled by this trap, this trying to put a square peg in a round hole approach to “fixing” your life, but it has been a steady and challenging presence in my recovery. When someone else’s solution doesn’t fit, doesn’t take hold, transform and reveal a new life that leaves behind all the suffering, sorrow, guilt and anger of the past, discouragement and exhaustion give way to depression and despair, and one of those inevitable setbacks in my lifetime of recovery overtakes me.

In response Wilde offers: This New Life…is of course no new life at all, but simply the continuance, by means of development, and evolution, of my former life. So throw away those pegs and walk past the holes, find your way ahead, embrace what life has given you, what you have found through your decisions and through Nature’s circumstances, and understand your life as your life through the reflections of others, through art and through the Divine.

Keep moving forward, don’t give up and have the courage and compassion to love yourself-even you men whose lives have been testaments and self-edicts to leadership, self-sacrifice and duty. There is much strength, wisdom, and, ultimately, purpose in understanding and accepting your suffering. With such compassion towards yourself comes not mawkish grousing, but rather galvanized fortitude, sustainable confidence and insightful concern, not just for yourself, but for others and for our world. Denying yourself compassion and rejecting the concept of understanding your suffering to have a purpose in your life, although macho and tough, will put you in a place where ultimately the alcohol and drugs no longer bring the numbness that the barrel of your pistol can only achieve. It takes courage to do the above, but what other choice did I have, what other choice do you have?

Others have suffered, it is what unites us as men and women, it is our greatest commonality. Do not hide from it.

He [Christ] understood the leprosy of the leper, the darkness of the blind, the fierce misery of those who live for pleasure, the strange poverty of the rich. Some one wrote to me in trouble, ‘When you are not on your pedestal you are not interesting.’ How remote was the writer from what Matthew Arnold calls ‘the Secret of Jesus.’ Either would have taught him that whatever happens to another happens to oneself, and if you want an inscription to read at dawn and at night-time, and for pleasure or for pain, write up on the walls of your house in letters for the sun to gild and the moon to silver, ‘Whatever happens to oneself happens to another.’ Oscar Wilde.

Peace and Merry Christmas.

Moral Injury with Pete Dominick

I had the chance to discuss moral injury, PTSD, depression, alcohol abuse and suicidality, all the things that makes a veteran’s life so full ;), with my friend Pete Dominick on his show on Sirius/XM. Helpfully, we had an Air Force Combat Psychiatrist call in to lend his expertise and observations. Please take a listen:

 

 

Tattoo as Therapy and Testimony

It’s still a little red and raw in this photo, but here is my new tattoo:

IMG_5131

When I worked reconstruction and, because of the very large amounts of cash I possessed, conducted political efforts in Iraq in 2004, my chief engineer, an Iraqi about my age, very bright and my friend, devised a seal for our operations. The Iraqi date palm with two crossed shovels or a crossed shovel and a hammer, I can’t clearly remember. Symbolic of rebuilding and hope in a new Iraq, the reality of  what came was destruction and horror. So an ax is more appropriate and a blood drop or a tear drop, I’m not sure which, is necessary.

I have no idea if my friend is still alive and certainly I know too many who are no longer living or whose lives in Iraq have been subjugated and imprisoned by terror and suffering. Ten years later and it seems to be all that matters to me.

Others have done it and say it helps, so by writing what is inside of me on my body, telling essentially who I am and what haunts me, I hope to find some relief and keep testimony with the broken and shattered lives of people who were my friends and, more importantly, believed in what we had promised them and have had to live with what we actually delivered to them.

Thanks to Ray Alexander at Blue Flame Tattoo in Raleigh for the design, the tattoo work and the therapy.

Peace