Below is the introduction to my 2018 book, Double Meaning.
This is a brief introduction to a short book. I would’ve written more, but I strained my eyes searching for inspiration.
Three chapters follow this introduction. They contain revised posts (originally written between September 2016 and August 2018) from my blog, Sharp Left Turns.
To maintain flow, I made every word count. No throwaway lines or bloated paragraphs. Still, being human, I’ve made mistakes. Please forgive me for retaining here or there unnecessary words. Or adding dashes—sometimes mid-sentence—to impress you.
We can read “double meaning” two ways. First, “double” as an adjective. Second, “double” as a verb. A statement of purpose: I doubled meanings in Double Meaning to undermine Meaning itself—to fight the (t)error of systematic reason and question (my own) authority. This wasn’t a license to peddle nonsense. I wrote a book full of non-answers in which I tried very hard to make certain words mean something profound.
This book puts me in a vulnerable position.
I wrote in my first book, The Intimacy of Communication, about enduring years of physical and psychological abuse, but I didn’t reveal the whole truth.
I’m ready now to share that I was sexually abused as a child. I’ve hesitated for years to share my story outside of therapy, but the #MeToo movement inspired me to come forward.
Without minimizing the experience of female survivors, I can say that male survivors of sexual trauma who tell their stories risk looking weak in the eyes of other men—and women.
We’re taught that a real man protects himself, defends his manhood, and hides his insecurities. There’s no hiding, though, from this fact: according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one out of every ten rape victims is male.
Sexual abuse is a violation of touch. Adults abused as children often fear intimacy, which adds to their suffering. Survivors—compared to people without a history of trauma—need more touch in their lives.
I was blessed in high school to fall in love with a smart, caring, beautiful girl named Jenny. She provided the loving touch I needed in a moment of crisis.
I remember our walks together in the summer of 1995—the scent of her perfume on my shirt after a long hug goodnight.
In the midst of a winter I feared would never end, I found within Jenny an invincible summer I’ll never forget.
The Otherness of Me
My favorite thinker, Jean Baudrillard, writes in Cool Memories: “There is reason to be jealous at being seen by others from the outside and having only that distorting mirror of oneself that is self-knowledge.”
I recognize myself in Baudrillard’s description of “that distorting mirror.” Despite the love and support of family and friends, I struggle to show myself compassion. I beat myself up for minor mistakes, discount my accomplishments, and blame myself for being abused.
Healing hurts. I can’t move on without acknowledging the shadow within me—the Otherness of me that, long before the birth of Consciousness, sprang from Nothingness to be me.
Dark fantasies, violent dreams, death wishes: I’m incomplete without my shadow, imperfect without my flaws, unoriginal without my sins.
The Spirit of Mystery
The search for meaning ends when we think we know ourselves, when everything is crystal clear, when every word speaks (only) for itself.
To keep the spirit of mystery alive, I need my shadow to mislead me, my double to deceive me. If I ever found myself, how could I go on living?
“When you gaze for a long time into an abyss,” Nietzsche proclaims in Beyond Good and Evil, “the abyss also gazes into you.”
When I stare too long at a blank page, the blank page stares back at me.
I had an outline for this book, a series of visions and re-visions, but the book wrote itself with little help from me.
I’m nothing more than a blank sage.
Post-trauma, my body lost its sense of direction. I’m working in therapy to reconnect with my body, to feel what I feel without judgement.
Post-trauma, my soul lost Direction. I’m learning to identify and verbalize my values—lofty goals I’ve pursued in Double Meaning.
After years of saying no to life, I see this book as the start of my post-traumatic yes.
Going forward, I must accept that I will remain conflicted—that I will suffer but endure the burden of being a deep (over)thinker.
Going forward, I must accept that I will remain afflicted—that I will suffer but endure the burden of being human.
Insight: a glimpse into the mirror of one’s shadow inducing double vision.