Candlelit by Jeremy Hadfield

They urge: use mania as midnight oil.

The last calories in an emaciated stomach, a trickle of water in a dessicated bladder, the fumes in an empty tank. I must burn it before I run out, or I will be left with mere paucity.

I am a candle. My function is illumination. And if I don’t illuminate? Throw out the wax with the other litter.

So I must live it all forwards and understand it backwards.Throw out tatters for my future self to weave together. For him to follow clues as Sherlock, searching for a kidnapped child. To bumble and stumble along a thread of M&Ms a child left for me to trace. Coalesce fragments into coherence, weave strewn strings into tapestry. Solder shards of glass into a transparent stained mosaic.

The wax must melt and create light or it will be gone forever, the light impossible to reproduce again. And I fear: are they right?  I question if my wax is insufficient. Maybe the luminance I have witnessed is impossible to package, to wrap in the dry cardboard of words. An unmappable territory.

What are but words but mere maps, and thoughts territories? And the more intricate our map the more the terrain is obscured. “The more elaborate his labyrinths, the further from the Sun his face.”* We dig into the system until our heads barely emerge from the pit, engulf ourselves in the model. The futility of mere concepts and tools, yeastless chimeras of the objective. Theory is inevitably less complex than life itself just as round numbers are always false. Then how can I communicate this?

Understanding life is a supertask: the complexity is impossible to understand because an accurate model must be more complex than the system itself. Therefore the system cannot contain the model.

Existence, in all its menagerie of particles, movements, forces, cells, beings. We fumble at understanding, writing equations and laws and theories that are simultaneously elegantly true and hopelessly inadequate. We reach desperately for a meaning, something to give sense.

If we could see the universe transparent, exposed, true, we would not find our thoughts there.

Everything we have constructed, our desperate web-making and model-forming

— all absent.

And yet, if it was all absent, then this theory I am writing now could not be present either. Contradictions, doubts, convictions shattered by uncertainties.

Contorting in an agony of agnosticism.

Why do two colors, when put together, sing?

Why do words, bound by punctuation and structure, shriek for release and ravage the mind? Words are just the motes on rainbow, but aren’t my words different?

I am worm-wriggling through dirt, but am I glimpsing light through aerated soil? No. Nothing can overcome these bonds. My thoughts caged birds and even upon escaping their wings are clipped. A prisoner in the need to express. And if I fail I will have committed the ultimate and unforgivable sin. Doomed myself to outer darkness, But maybe that is inevitable? Impossible to avoid? I begin to doubt.

They call it a disability but they fetishize bipolar artists.

As long as they enjoy the products of this disease they accept it. If bipolar manufactures The Starry Night than so be it. Van Gogh can keep his disorder, we will take it and mythologize it — people will say things like “Van Gogh swallowed yellow paint to produce happiness in himself,” and then have voyeuristic mental orgasms over their own genius angst. If bipolar squeezes A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea out of Hemingway and onto paper, then we will acquiesce and accept the disease as a miracle.

Are we so terrified of anything that resists easy ordering?  Imagine Plato given tenure. Virginia Woolf in a psych ward. Van Gogh completing applications. Does our system of repression, constant organization, scheduling, elimination of the non-normal, even allow for people like this to exist? Why are we so afraid of being labeled a disorder? Is chaos a horror?

Psychiatrists say “as long as bipolar is allowing you function it is not a disorder.” They act as if this is a liberating insight from the ancestral Tablets of Psychological Research. But they are in fact repeating a simple vernacular verdict: if you can produce, you are healthy. For what is the referent of “functioning” in our culturo-linguistic context? The ability to produce valuable work, where value is measured, calibrated, computed. Churchill, they say, ransomed his life to vanquish Nazis. And since Winston won the war, his “black dog” is exempt from judgement. But if he didn’t? We blame the bipolar.

Bipolar makes us sinners. Our redeeming grace is creation. To complete our repentance, we must become our own Messiah. We have only a static set of paths through the Garden of Gethsemane. Bipolar gives us only a few options, all generated by the same formula:

[ chaotic genius, tempestuous artist, troubled savant, unstable scholar, volatile virtuoso ].

A simple formula generates a finite set of final points: concatenate a word that denotes bipolar to a word that denotes creative product.

Apply a label to yourself, make it reality—————————and be atoned.

But if bipolar destroys you, if it rips you apart from the inside. If it tears through your mind like an inferno through a building, leaving it a charcoal husk. What if you find no way to express it, actualize it, or translate it into some form of art or commodity.

Then you have two options: end the bipolar or yourself. Medication or self-medication, with noose, needle, nicotine, gin, anti-nephalism, innumerable more.

If we get another masterpiece from Kanye than bipolar is justified. If not? If you don’t create a masterpiece? Your existence as a “bipolar person” is not warranted. And the first word of that phrase should be eliminated or inundated with lithium.

And then they use the “bipolar” as an insult, an adjective.

How can I express this all?

Exulansis engulfs me but I cannot exculpate myself: expression is the only route to expiation. The rest of my life I will carry this burden. And if I fail I will carry its guilt instead until it collapses upon me. Who has given me this task? No one. But I have to do it anyway.

*Na'ima, Mikha'il. The Book of Mirdad. Unknown page.