To quiet his existential horror, a brooding young man seeks to understand life. Cliff Gogh is out in the dark, a solitary ghost examining himself in the night, with all of his mental faculties directed toward the intangible, pain, darkness, despair, fearlessness, love, and the incomprehensibly vast.
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About the Author
Cliff Gogh is an observer of life with a unique psychological and spiritual outlook regarding the deeper unconditioned nature of being. His background is one of travel, wandering, and mountain treks. His work, which has spanned over twenty years of self-searching and reflection, is an effort to both candidly reveal his own inner landscape and highlight the way the being can be open to other beings.
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Beyond the Furthest Edge of Night
By Cliff Gogh
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Cliff Gogh
All rights reserved.
Lethargy defines my life. I wake late in the afternoon, if I don't sleep all day. It came over me in my adolescence, verging on exhaustion, a tiredness too strong to fight. If I explain my life, maybe it'll become clear why I'm so tired. At the end of a decade, I look back to see I've slept through most of it, usually unwilling to get up in the morning.
However, sometimes I'm seized by a feeling. It might last for hours. Peace of mind comes into my senses and intense concentration enlivens them, like I've taken a seaside journey, walked beside the whole depths of the ocean, the currents and the life, the infinite creatures and the submerged quiet, in the midst of a storm, with howling wind and lightning. It produces a strong sense of significance, an opiate of sorts, and this feeling throbs in my limbs and my brain. I'm usually not so supremely happy, but sometimes I feel this uncanny elation and it crazes me like an ecstatic religious experience. It's calm. It's furiously peaceful. A cheerful, patient aura of rapture coming from something universal: If I could put it into words, maybe it would last forever. I seem to understand something hidden, the essential goodness of the universe.
I tend to call it being. It's the deeper self when all the surface difficulties and upsets no longer have power. I feel a presence, like stillness amidst a tornado, the eye of the storm that's forever there waiting. It comes with the mental acuity of a deep, long, thoughtful dream. If I have a purpose, mine is to delve down through the shadows and return to the surface with this being.
The first of such elated experiences occurred when I was still quite young, as I observed the stars. I sat looking out the window of my parents' car. Somewhere outside that window, I felt myself floating in space. I was lulled by the car's engine, and the magical universe reverberated right along with it. A great multitude of stars stretched everywhere overhead, infinite, and the sight made me feel alive. The stars radiated mathematics; they hummed with the magnificent magnitude of existence. A feeling of benevolence came and gathered around me, and I drew close to it, as close to it as I'd ever been. I know now what it was, though at the time I just let it be. It was the unmistakable euphoria that comes when awake to the inner being. It leaves a comfortable lassitude in the limbs and the sense that everything will be all right.
But things returned to normal. It wasn't a lasting happiness. It never is. By the time the night was over, I was back to my childhood self, nervous. My family was out in public, visiting a carnival. We were surrounded by a crowd. People stopped here and there to look at the prizes on display, and they meandered in lines up and down the fairgrounds. In public, I was in the habit of burying myself. When I saw another young boy walking before us with his family, I felt the urge to remove myself from the open air. When we passed other families, parents eating pretzels and children holding stuffed animals, I wanted only to fade into hiding somewhere where I could be alone. That was my regular state. From my earliest years, I felt like a tiny voice in a crowd of the self-assured. According to my own estimation, I was deficient. My anxiety was built upon the feeling of inferiority. I'd been sick with the feeling since the very beginning.
Throughout my adolescence, I was the same. My social experiences left me feeling awkward, and my demeanor conveyed oddness, an inescapable impression I left. In the street, my nervous hands hid themselves away in my pockets, like little mice afraid of being seen. And during conversations, my eyes habitually averted themselves or looked up into the sky, as if disinterested, just anywhere but my companion's face. All day I went around absent-minded, totally withdrawn, in the manner of someone who couldn't figure out how to exist like normal people. It startled me every time someone addressed me, maybe because my eyes were constantly shifted downward on my boots. I couldn't find my place in the world; instead, I left to fantasize in dreams or circle about inside my thoughts.
After all these years, I've not changed much in my unusual bearing, but I did change. I wound up keeping the shy mannerisms and the disordered contact with reality, but I've found my self-confidence in my own way. Eventually, dreams became very important; to relinquish the desire to be in the real world and to retire into a private mental landscape, that provided its own alternate form of self-confidence: to be a talented dreamer.
In order to abandon the uncomfortable world, I began to linger about in abstraction. Because the world suffocated me with inhibition, an unrestrained fantasy life proceeded to remove me from it for release. It was the natural result of my anxiety to seek some tranquil escape, and my dreams became elaborate, wondrous things to explore in moments when trouble would otherwise have eroded my sense of well-being. I became better and better at dreaming, entering the invisible every time I felt uneasy. Over the years, I refined my fantasies, gliding along languidly in my thoughts, until my gestures were either feeble with hypnotism or ethereal with half-sleep.
These days, my methods are those of a ghost. I've haunted the periphery of life for countless years, meditating on my private sanctuary and my uncertain beliefs, which are a lack of beliefs. My beliefs shift, always, then return to the center, to non-belief. All the while, it's been impossible to strain myself in order to exist in social circles. I've tried on occasion and it ends in solitude. Solitude is far easier to deal with for someone who practically speaks in a whisper. And anyway, dreams are a magical world to live in. Sometimes when I sleep I dream unexpected and impossible things. They are such unusual dreams that I often abandon life to recline in bed for thirty hours.
I dreamt once of being taken down a river by a man in a darkrobe. He rowed our small boat beneath an archway, silently, and at the moment we passed through the archway, a flight of doves scattered above us into the air. We entered a domed enclosure and arrived shortly at a great work of architecture hidden at the end of the river. It was a university, a magnificent one, like an ancient castle of mossy stone, and a strange one: Dark-robed scholars dwelt within, working on projects inspired by self-searching and seeking for the sublime. They were students of the meaning of life. Their long, hideous fingers were scanning the pages of withered books. Just as we arrived, they all left. They headed off on a journey into the dark, dismal landscape outside the university. They turned at the foot of the mountains and said to me, entreating me to follow: "Come with us, to anything that can ever be known."
I live a strange life, half removed from reality. It's nice to become a phosphorescence, a little ethereal speck barely noticeable in the ordinary world. Ghostliness has its own rewards. I consider what life is, and I delve into my being, like a sleepy diver searching for treasures. Countless nights I've discovered new things. It's that late-night solitude in which the metaphysical and the mystical conjoin. The beyond breathes its sweet breath near to my skin. I feel the same feeling I felt as a child, the peace of mind and the elated awe for the majestic universe. The intangible comes closer and closer until the eye of the tornado is seen as a penetrating soul, an interpenetrating soul, the presence of being, a behemoth of all beings.CHAPTER 2
I remember being very young, lying in my bed, considering my future. It was a desperate future I imagined. I'd seen myself being worn away, like a wound rubbed against with sandpaper, until there was little left of a person. Yet, lying in bed, I made the decision to be gentle. It was in stark contrast to my father to be soft. If the world and life demanded a certain hardness of heart, my reaction was to rebel wholeheartedly.
Nearly every night, my father stood with his face just a few inches from mine and spat insults about my incompetence at me. You aren't fit. You aren't capable of living a life. If I defended myself, the attack would become physical. He would throw me around the room, push me down, slap me, until I quieted, grew passive, and listened to a further hour of belligerent screaming.
One evening, he entered the family room to discover my shoes on the new wooden floor. I had them placed beside me. He'd told me previously not to walk on it in my shoes and I hadn't. The wooden floor was supremely important to him at the time. Under the impression that I had, because my shoes were beside me, he threw me onto the couch, held me down, and proceeded to beat me. I was ten years old, a tiny little thing, and he was quite a lot bigger at thirty-five.
Situations like that occurred day after day, a ritual of lessons that successfully reduced me, like a derogatory schoolteacher with a terrorized student. The message was emphatic: You aren't worth anything compared to me.
The rest is more difficult. I was suicidal. I remember fantasizing about the lightless world after this one: calm, peaceful, without suffering, without hostility or the desperation of victims. At ten, I hung a noose in my garage. Suicide had already become a viable option. I threw a rope over the beams and tied it into a noose. I wanted to see what it would feel like to embrace death. I saw it as a method of escaping the incidents that were shaping my personality, a way to put an end to everything before I had to face the psychological results. I left the noose hanging out there for years. It never moved. Any time I grieved, it served as a reminder.
Life was never satisfactory. An escape was the first thing on my mind. When a young boy knows his future is already broken and will continue to be broken until the end, he'll desire more than all else to put an end to his nightmare. After a bad start, all the decrepit grime of life is too powerful: weakness is the prevailing demeanor; a sickly madness is the outcome, spent in listless paralysis in some hell. I was tired, dispirited: my spirit was broken. Adulthood comes on after a thousand years, far too late. Too much has been ingrained, too much of what leads to bitterness. I'd flailed away against a brick wall too long.
I know enough about suffering to recognize the desperation in the eyes of another and to know with precision from where it arose. Just like in me, I see the tiredness of survivors. The result isn't nice. It goes like this: The wretches punish themselves. The bitter descend into despair again and again. The people walk the streets with sallow faces, their limp hands hanging lifelessly at their sides, having given up hope, having forgotten anything else is possible but their desperate circumstances. That's what I see. I know how it feels. In the eyes of every stranger, I can see a hint of what lies within, down at the core, beneath the hesitation and the self-loathing, where being itself seems to suffer.
For these people, their minds must wonder: Why do I feel so alone, unknown, and bedraggled in the middle of the night?
Some would say that to begin one must annihilate the self and then rebuild the self. Others suggest love is the cure. It's certainly a quest. Life's great quest. To find sympathy for the self, to find love for the whole self, to strive for something that eliminates the pain once and for all. How many countless generations have gone on this quest? It's in religions, art forms, lifestyles. Spiritual experiences are at the heart of it; the sense of being is at the heart of it, lending an outstretched hand to help with the first step. When the feeling comes that life is too hostile, I rededicate myself to the task. To be a dabbler in the spiritual increases peace of mind. To be like a reclusive monk for a month out of the year changes the whole year.
The way for me to begin is to write down myself, to set out on a ruthless, unremitting examination of my own character. Self-examination. I do it once in a while. It's time once again to exit the fake and find what's under the surface, exit the illusory and search for the whole being. I'd like to find the heart of it all by spending some time looking inward. Shame, guilt, fear, feelings of helplessness, the ways in which my mind tricks itself to rise above it all, temporarily, for much needed relief: so many mental states hardly noticed, so many undetected habits, all of them shadows. But deeper lies a magical thing, the deeper being, the unconditioned being. Life's burdens are lessened by a few sessions of self-therapeutic self-examination. For me, self-examination is a self-insurrection, an intellectual suicide, an eye peering into myself in order to untangle the intricate traps of existence in which I've been caught, and a delving downward to the inmost.
I'm engaging in such a self-examination here. The object is to force nothing, to plan nothing, to let thoughts arise of their own accord, as a practitioner of meditation might sit for an hour allowing any thought, without denial of anything, with a fixed eye that doesn't turn away from anything. The thoughts themselves are what dictate my direction. They come from an intuitive understanding, without interference, of what needs to be seen. It's necessary to trust that something deeper inside has a better idea of what I need to see, like an automatic writing exercise in which the unconscious is allowed expression, or a dream that tries to make conscious something as yet unrecognized within. I observe in language my mind working, and the direction plots its own course, with nothing obscured and everything allowed in one prolonged meditation, until I'm carrying on a conversation with myself. I'll continue until I've depleted my energy on every pleasant or unpleasant subject that needs expression, even in the remotest hinterlands of my psyche.CHAPTER 3
My deranged father barked at me to get out of the house, and he meant for good, so I simply left, that very moment, carrying nothing with me, walking out the door at fifteen years old. I vanished into the night. The air was chilly, a windy midwinter night without a single star in the overclouded sky. An old field left the neighborhood in which I'd grown up. It was dry weeds that time of year. I meandered through it for a while, silently, imagining a new life of sleeping in the streets, eating from the dumpsters behind the grocery stores in the city, where there could always be found expired loaves of bread, donuts, and other such perishable foods.
I also felt numb. Since morning, I'd spent the day lying in bed determining whether or not I should kill myself. I'd given up, unhappy with the world as a whole, sick of my insecurity and loneliness and fully prepared to submerge myself in the placid nothingness after life's disappointments. My feelings were deadened from a day spent in despair. All day, I'd essentially held a bottle of pills in my hand, ready to swallow them, and then I'd run into my father. He told me in his loathsome manner that I wasn't welcome in the house anymore.
I went out into the world, unsure if there was a future for me anywhere, feeling the sort of anger a young man feels when rejected at the precise moment he can't stomach any more of life. Memories of my life in that suburban neighborhood went through my thoughts. From the field I could see the houses in a line along the street. Each was invariably lit by a flickering television screen.
I walked aimlessly at first. The weeds thinned more and more as I walked, eventually revealing a train track crossing my path. It went on and on in both directions, toward pinpoints in the distance. I took it, trekked along it without concern for where it led. It was my final exodus out of town, a straight path of immovable steel that left the dismal and connected with the rest of the world.
Soon enough, I found myself in the middle of nowhere. It was a crossroads of sorts. Miles and miles of nothingness expanded from where I stood on the tracks. In every direction was a black distance, a vastness, another world. I watched as the moon appeared from behind the clouds and lit up the dark landscape. The world turned a pale gray in the moonlight, the tracks a mesmerizing silver, luxurious with light, but it was a forgotten world; out there beneath the moon was a world nobody ordinary had ever seen, a world of invalidating loneliness, with old office chairs, garbage bags, and broken television sets dumped here and there like someone's unwanted life.
I wagered that nobody was anywhere for miles. Thus, when I saw a little blue car parked in the dirt, I thought I might sleep inside. When I pulled up at the door handle, however, the man already sleeping inside was alerted. He quickly swatted the car lock, and I hurried away.
Excerpted from Beyond the Furthest Edge of Night by Cliff Gogh. Copyright © 2015 Cliff Gogh. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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