Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The My In Myth

In Mister Feher's grade ten math class I experienced something that would forever change my life. It was an otherwise normal day, the teacher regaling us with the enthusiasm he derived from mathematics. We were teenagers with better things on our minds than functions. The teacher himself was a bit on an odd duck. Proper, turtle necked, eye glasses Carl Sagan would wear if that makes sense, Carl Sagan's hair around the facial equivalent of Hush Puppies. Always some kind of wry semi-smile. His signature was signed, on important documents like test deferrals or late notes, via a fine rubber stamp bearing his name in a light cursive. He enunciated clearly.
    I was sitting there, spacing out or trying to understand the topic, one of the two, when I wrote something out in my exercise book. I don't think I still have this Ur document but I have it's near descendants. I wrote four capital letters, block form. A B A C. Not those letters, I'm simply showing the repetition and relative sequence. I wrote this un-word, this geometric arrangement, each letter having no curves or diagonals. Nice vertical or horizontal lines only. X and Y axes. Maybe I was picking something up from the lessons after all.
    Nonetheless, I wrote these four letters down in my book and the world stopped.
    I wrote down this code, this gibberish, this … name. My eyes widened, my breathe suspended for an instant. The world stopped. I was flushed with meaning completely unknown. I was in class, I couldn't exactly turn to my mates and say, "It came to me ! It came ! A magic word ! A secret name !" Nope, couldn't do that. Still can't do that. Not allowed.
    Here I was, some fifteen year old kid and I stumble upon a sequence of letters that opens a door to the mysteries. I took this name home, this cypher. I tried a two letter suffix, an add-on. Nothing. I kept it as is, all caps. I drew a picture and realized it was only good to associate this new name with this new style of drawing. I still added my civilian name. I was not convinced that this ABAC was my name. I still don't think it really is, even though I used it in art and eventually in scads of global correspondence art, signing and yes, rubber stamping, the name on postcards, envelopes, letters, poems, collages and drawings mailed to artists around the world. The stacks of mail I received were addressed to this name. Years later I attempted the awkward process of conflating the two names, my magic one and my real one, transitioning to get my affairs in order and have only one name that represents this artist, the name I go by today, the one my folks gave me.
    I searched for the meaning of this secret name, one half could be construed as Hebrew. But my tetragrammaton wasn't in the angel dictionaries. The stoner junior cabalist I knew wrote out what each letter or it's Hebraic equivalent might mean in gematrical values. Tables of correspondences followed. Elements, animals, minerals. It wasn't Enochian. No entity revealed to John Dee came close enough to sporting this name. It may be as yet unrevealed Atlantean but I've never been able to commit to full time space cadet, I'm still too shy for that kind of thing. What would my cynical friends, some no where near as cynical as I am, say if I cracked out the lavender robes and started channeling entities? I know I shouldn't care but sadly I do. Maybe I'll save this crazy shit for my old age. Hopefully I'll still have my wits about me to take the plunge in earnest.
    Of course I had dreams where I saw the word. One time it was tattooed on the back of a male First Nations person, another time hidden in plain sight amid the text in an antique Shakespearean folio. The internet has given me English and foreign acronyms, it means 'relative' in one language, and describes a carved domestic item in another. All in all, it remains more mine than anything else. That strange elation that came over me in class kept my imagination busy for years. It has, of course, faded into the background of my life but is an essential part of my personal mythology. My origin story. I sometimes think that my capacity to encourage and develop a personal myth is mostly responsible for the good cheer I enjoy. I have given myself meaning, regardless of any objective standard that may exist. No one can call me out on it, no one can whistle bullshit in my direction. These are my sacred things, these are the details that prod me towards wonder. I spin yarn in my own service, I spin yarn into gold and you can keep your baby. I'm still trying to figure out how to spend my earnings, I'll get old and hopefully wise trying. I may end up on the street corner, staff in hand, amethyst headband, beard Darwinian in it's glory, twinkling eyes to those that walk among us but are still afraid to describe themselves as magical.
    It's important to pay attention in math class. To something you feel if not the lessons.