“Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds.” Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
I am keen to bring this story to a close. At least, to close this chapter of it. The Road to Misery becomes a metaphor for the roads we all travel in life. Expanded outward, it becomes about Suntup Editions, born out of the sum total of the life experiences over the past few decades, and out of an inevitable period of destruction; out of the ashes. And it is about what is possible. What we are capable of.
But what’s all this about ashes, and destruction? In part 2, I wrote about a certain dark period. In other posts, I have described events leading up to that time. One of which, I have not written about. The death of my sister.
There is a concept known as the Dark Night of the Soul. It is a term that goes back a long time. In early 2012, I returned from South Africa, after having spent three and a half months there, helping to take care of my oldest sister, who was terminally ill. I did not realize it at the time, but that experience became the catalyst for what I wrote about in Part 2 of this series. One of the contributing factors to the health issue was related to symptoms of PTSD following the traumatic experience with my sister.
Of course, there were no labels to attach to what was happening. But looking back, the best way to explain it, is to understand the concept of the Dark Night. Much of the explanation that follows comes from Eckhart Tolle, who does a better job of explaining it than I could. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life. It is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there is no purpose to anything. It can be triggered by an external event, some disaster perhaps. The death of someone close to you could trigger it.
You spend your time building your life, you give it meaning, you achieve things, you have some clarity of where you are going and what is considered important, and then for some reason it all collapses. It can occur if something happens that you cannot explain away, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. The result is a dark place. But there is the possibility that you emerge out of it into a transformed state of consciousness.
You can awaken into a deeper sense of purpose. It is a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. Of course, death is painful, but nothing real has actually died there, only an illusory identity. Some people who have gone through this transformation realize that they had to go through it, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.
For me, it is a place where you begin to operate out of the essence of who you are. After discovering these concepts, much like Mike the shuttle driver, it all made perfect sense to me. It offered an explanation, and it felt right.
This time, there was no single epiphanic moment. The emergence was gradual. It was a quiet time, a time where you could hear those birds that Vonnegut wrote about. Looking back on some journal entries, I wrote that I could feel that I had come back into myself, and what I found was this structure. This architecture, that had existed since the beginning of time. I had emerged from it all, and I felt reborn. Rebooted. Rewired. And I began operating out of my twenty-year-old self again, just like back in the comic store days. Paul version 2.0.
The road was clear. All it took was a decision. A mad decision. A wild and impossible goal. It happened one day while I was sitting in my parked car. The thought entered my mind all on its own. It didn’t feel that I had willed it into existence. It was more a ‘knowing’ than a decision.
I’m going to publish the first signed limited edition of Misery by Stephen King.
The thought repeated itself several times over in my head, and I knew immediately what I had to do. I even knew what the outcome would be. All that was left was to set about manifesting it.