THE FEAST OF OFFAL
I am sorry that you ate that… That thing that came out of me and which is now in you. It’s my own contamination which I could no longer stomach or hold; which I had to get out; which I wanted to share, because I was mean, and petty, and hurt and did not otherwise know what to do. And so, I stuck my finger into my mind’s gullet and craw, invoking some ancient social gag reflex, a reaction to spit and to spew and to contaminate the world with my pain and confusion and fear. Yes, I did that. I spit my mental waste and excess onto you. I deliberately–though I will never confess that–chose to do this in your presence; because only with you to receive does the despicable giving have any meaning at all. For this universe does not care if I hurt…what is will not mind if I hurl, but you will. Because you care. Because you CAN care. That is why I need you and why you are special to me. Because you are able to care. How strange then that I chose to hurt you. Why would I? Why do that?
I attempt to hurt because I know no better way. What hurts grows inside, where I hold it, and it holds, and I struggle, and I try but at last I fail; and I turn to you because you care and though I will hurt you in the process at least you acknowledge my pain and sordid release. I am sorry that I do this to you. I know no better way.
I know you gave that filth to me to eat–and I did eat it. It was terrible, yet exactly what I did want. Because though it was something awful to consume and keep down. It told me clearly of your pain, and of your weakness, and your faults, and of all the things I fear in myself. This is better than not eating–this knowing of you pain. And so, I consumed in eager mouthfuls, your lustful release of pain. And I remembered that I am not alone in this pain. And I was strongly consoled. And I was strongly relieved. And I was somehow at peace with my own illness. Not cured but consoled. And so then will I do the same one day hence. When I have had enough of the world’s nonsense, I too will spew. And I will spill. And I will give up my suffering for anyone to see. And they will eat it…my offal. They will dine upon my Feast of Offal. And they in turn upon each other. One upon another. They will take, and they will be strangely consoled, and then they give hence, on and on, this banquet of pain and upset and unrest. Person after person, generation upon generation. Always hurting, always sharing, always greedily consuming.
But there is another way. A better way. A better life. A Good Life. This other way is a life of defined Objectives and Considered Principles, and deliberate action. A life of well used time. A life of becoming and being prepared to die. A life of reason, of honest reflection, of not denying our mortality, or our frailty, or our nature as things here for a moment and then gone, perhaps with no absolute will, no absolute purpose or reason for being, yet capable of making such from the things we find in life and the things we ascertain as good and true and worthwhile. This is another, a better way to go. A good life to be made and had and lived. No longer dining upon the suffering of the undisciplined and unprincipled but led alone by our own true values and means. Walking alone together with our family and our friends among society and the peopled earth. Living The Good Life now and tomorrow. Living well to the end of our days.
Dining upon our emotions
The Feast of Offal is the banquet of our feelings openly offered to the world as a consequence of our unprincipled and undisciplined living. We cast out our emotions into the social space, hoping to find some relief in the energetic shedding of feelings we cannot otherwise easily bear. The others deserve it we say. How could they slight us this way we think. How dare they. We'll show them! And thus the feast begins when we do indeed begin to "show them."
The others watch our show and take it all in. There's often someone to whom we direct our anger, and then those around who happen to see. We let 'em have it! We tell the person, the people, the world and the universe even what's what! We're not going to stand for it! Not for a second! Take this! And take that! And listen to these angry words and watch this raised fist! No more!!
Doesn't that feel good to get it out? Only for a moment. And maybe not even that. We're lucky we didn't get in a fight...
The emotion after is a mix of satisfaction, regret and some personal embarrassment. How did I let myself go like that? Why didn't I control my emotion? We rationalize our way into acceptance, telling ourselves "they deserved it" or "had it coming" or some other words to serve as accomplice to our immature utterances and deeds. But we're not proud of ourselves, even if we later brag about the incident to others, highlighting our angry outburst, we're not proud. We know we could have done better...
To the Stoic mind there is just what is, and what is not, within the scope of our control. The offence we received was likely beyond us; either being the result of circumstance, accident or folly. And if our own folly, then maybe we deserved the offense we received—a good lesson to us, perhaps? If the folly was another's, then what might we really do about that? If an accident, then again what's to do? In nearly all cases there is little effective response when the machinations of life churn against us; we've only small recourse when mindless fate causes us to stumble. Our upset then is merely that—upset. We'd do better to remember what is—in fact—within our control in such cases; namely, our reaction to what is happening, our reaction in the moment, our response in the here-and-now.
And so, we strive to be alert and recognize when life presents such opportunities of good response. We train our minds to act at once to the prospect of feast or fast. Will we feast now upon our own anger and pain and fury before throwing the spoilt leftovers to the world? Or will we fast instead through temperance while the unworthy banquet is laid before us and the smell and savor of delicious upset tempts our minds to immature reaction. Which will it be? To live well in disciplined self-control or tuck-in to a feast of empty?
Knowing when to stop watching
It is not easy to not watch someone else struggling with life. I am not referring to not seeing them struggle, but not watching them do it. Seeing is to observe and note a fact, to then add it to our catalogue of what is true; something to remember for the purpose of influencing and perhaps altering our coming decisions and actions. Seeing someone else struggle is necessary if we are then to help them in any way, as awareness is prerequisite to informed action. Watching though, is to play the role of a spectator; to stand at the sidelines for the purpose of enjoying what we observe, to pass the time at someone else's expense, witnessing their joy or suffering - suffering usually - as a distracting relief from our own. Watching gets us, and others, nowhere; it is voyeurism and should be avoided by all means. Seeing always precedes watching, as awareness is always first-person as our consciousness must take in what is happening around us if we are to respond to the world. Maturity is in the moment of recognition that we have seen enough, and we turn our eyes to our own business, having noted the fact of what we have observed without engaging attention beyond the necessity of seeing, to watch then for the sole and entertaining sake of watching.
My eyes light upon a scene;
Someone else's business and pain.
I note what I see,
Take in the essential facts,
And then turn back to my own life—
Always ready to help,
Never willing to gawp.
And then we move on to other things. And we remember what we have seen. And we adjust the course and trajectory of our lives in small ways which may offer relief to those who we know now are hurting. And our lives becomes helpful perhaps, and a blessing even, by virtue of our informed, constrained, and decided action.
We become actors then rather than audience. And life is then maybe made better for our ability to both temper our observation and to consider our action.