“It was with great reluctance that I found the figure could not serve my purposes . . . But a time came when none of us could use the figure without mutilating it.”
—Mark Rothko, 1958
First Layer: We have an aura. It’s said to hover above our head and around the edges of our body. Best bet: wear white and sit in a room with white walls. Ask a friend to look at your aura for you. We can’t see our own aura. We are inside it, like a dry cleaning bag. A woman once told me my aura was red, and that was bad. (Anger.) This happened a long time ago; maybe the color has changed. Maybe not.
Aura is the visual cousin of what people call “energy,” that unseen vibe that follows us into a party and affects our social success. It can also influence sex life and salary. I would talk about “chi” here if I knew anything about it.
Second Layer: What people see, smell, taste, and hear when they get close enough to touch us. What we are trapped inside of. The bag of bones and the skin. The thing we dress and clean and feed and stroke and long to have stroked. Pretty simple, stupid even. The outer body.
Third Layer: The inner body, blood and guts. Biggest element? The brain, which has DNA telling it how happy we get to be. The same DNA tells us how lonely we feel, regardless of the people in our lives. The brain is going to do exactly what the DNA tells it to do, unless we intervene with chemicals. But the brain ALWAYS wants to revert to its original DNA-directed balance. And it will keep trying to get back there, like a stubborn horse, which makes higher doses necessary, and which also makes psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies lots of money. And drug dealers, and big tobacco, and alcohol manufacturers, and candy/cookie/ice-cream makers. You get the idea. A lot of people make a lot of money off the stubborn brain.
So screw the brain. Just go around, and hang out with the heart.
That’s right, circumvent the brain. It’s easy.
No, it’s not, it’s damn near impossible.
Still, the heart is much more relaxed, and forgiving, and elastic and fuzzy and melted and delicious. And it’s the size of our fist, which is adorable.
Fourth Layer. Ah. Dropping down into the depths below the organs and the blood. Where bombs go off on our arrival. And after the bombs, the hot lava. And after the hot lava, the clouds and the swollen oceans, crashing waves. And after the crashing waves, a tiny glimpse of light. Which is hiding behind this layer. Except this isn’t a layer. It drops away into something else altogether. This is only going to happen when we are sitting around alone. Probably close to suicide. In fact, maybe the glimpse of light is the thing that suicides are looking for, but they take a wrong turn and end up dead.
Fifth Layer: Let’s take that back, that comment about suicides. We are all presumably alive if we are reading this. So let’s leave the suicides out of it. But you do have to figure that they were either missing a layer, seeking a layer, stuck in the wrong layer, or involved in some kind of out of control soul-diving exercise when they took their own lives. That’s all we will say about it. (Except that the brain should have been able to put a stop to it, and it didn’t, which is why I say, boycott the brain.)
Fifth Layer: Let’s try layer five again. Well, there are more than five layers. Too many to number, if we could actually find a way to describe them. Let’s be cheerful and optimistic about this fact. And also acknowledge that there’s very little to be said about what goes on down there, or out there, or beyond. We would need new words, new language, maybe a new alphabet. Maybe a version of cyrillic. Maybe clicks and beats. But this is where we need to rest and grab our water bottles. Resolve to keep going.