as above, so below
In high school a friend of mine told me that love and hate are the same emotion. It’s a simple and trite idea now, but as 13 year old kids the hyper novelty of these ideas became an earthquake in our developing psyche. It was an offhand comment in an otherwise shallow conversation, but I tied my brain in knots trying to put my finger on the deeper truth he was trying to map out. We discussed these ideas often, and they revolved in my mind for years.
He said that hate was love inverse. That at a fundamental level, both love and hate were each a face of the same interconnected collection of imagined selves. Like a mandala, his reflection on the limitations of the finite self became the center, spiraling out as a framework to understand all things. I watched that seed grow from an ephemeral idea to dictatorial truth. This sort of thing is born in trauma, and it is absolute. He lived in that evolutionary state between the two - not quite one or the other, but definitely both.
He had pain written on his face. He was a truly miserable person, and awfully good company. Well read, we talked much about Nietzsche, Kafka, Bukowski, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller and various other disparate works of beauty, loathing, and existential dread that we thought we understood (we didn’t). He reveled in nihilism. Not by choice per se, but by circumstance. He was a tortured kid for valid reasons. Stripped of choice, he built a prison in his mind and moved in.
‘And I am you and what I see is me.’ - Syd Barrett.
As if we were the first, the only and the last who looked into this abyss and were captured. We were struck, raptured as it stared back into us. We were young and we were on fire in our attempt to map our inner universe - stabbing in the dark to identify the source of it all. Occasionally brilliant and always wildly naive, we were kindled madness. We bonded and we became great friends.
Skip ahead a year.
His mother had been, from all outward accounts, a good mother. She was the mom that everyone wanted to have. I didn’t know it wasn’t true, but she played the part well and myself and his other friends adored her.
And then his mom deserted him; moved to Hawaii with a man she had met a week prior. She had attached herself to this man as if letting go was a sort of death that required a firm, permanent grip.
Her sudden departure shocked my friend. Her and the world she cultivated were just simply gone one day, for good. To this day, as far as I am aware, she has still not returned. She was a no-show at graduation. He had to find a way to survive this.
So, then, with this foundation, a deeply jaded philosophy of love and hate as two parts of a whole - the line between them undefined - seemed pretty reasonable.
He killed himself a few days ago.
I wonder where his nihilistic tendencies took him. And I wonder if our conversations contributed to his inability to fully actualize an integrated identity. I wonder what seeds were planted from our discussions in those early days of despair as hyper novelty. I wonder if he thought of me, 20 years later, and realized the naïveté of our ideas. I wonder if we had festered those wounds and turned the knife inward. I wonder if he had found a way to survive this; was there a moment of peace for him, ever? I wonder if our ideas leaned toward actual truth, or if our leaning into them made them our truth.
Rest in peace, my friend. I love you and I am sorry.
And from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you so much.
I hope the mystery has proven to be everything we imagined.