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Don't Look Back
(beware both resentment and nostalgia)
[art: Emily Balivet]
In the myth of Orpheus the famous musician loses his wife Eurydice—and then, miraculously, is given the opportunity to go to the underworld and bring her back from the dead. Provided, as he leads her out of the liminal realms, that he does not look back. But he cannot resist and when he turns to glance over his shoulder at his beloved, he loses her forever.
As a child one of my earliest and most terrible memories is watching Dark Shadows with my older siblings. One episode, in particular, a tangential storyline to Angelique and Barnabus, was about two lovers crossing a narrow bridge beneath the worlds and falling apart into an abyss of time, never to see each other again. It haunted me for years. In truth, it haunted me until I met my beloved Clark when I was 30 years old, from whom I was sure I had been separated for lifetimes. I think deep within me was the terror that perhaps the television soap opera and the ancient myth were both—and that which I had not lost (my name means lost) would never be returned to me.
Only it was—and I have come to know that there is nothing that we love that will not find its way back to us. No one is ever lost to us.
Except that the myth of Orpheus is also true, and a wise and powerful warning nevertheless.
We will never find our loves again by looking backwards. We can, as beings in time, only step into the future, into a new world that awaits us, into relationships and intimacies and magic we do not yet know. But we cannot recover what has already gone.
Eden is gone. That world has vanished and, in truth, we have no idea what that world is that we would try to reclaim. For, as the remarkable paleontologist Thomas Halliday writes in his account of deep time, Other Lands, “nature forswears nostalgia.” Nature is not looking back. Nature is looking forward.
One species goes extinct and another invades the niche it has vacated. One class of beings vanishes and another emerges. Continents collide and divide. Almost all life vanishes from the face of the earth—and upon that blank slate the planet creates an entire new diversity of creation. Life is endlessly, wildly, exuberantly creative. Because it does not look back.
So much of modern personal psychology is rooted in looking backwards—at the crimes of our parents and the origins of our neurosis, cultivating our resentments and yet also nurturing a nostalgia for the good times, some lost Eden that might have been and to which we long to return. Fascism, too, is rooted in resentment and a folk nostalgia for the lost good times before the problems arose. So much goes wrong when we are always looking over our shoulders at what might have been and what has been.
As someone who collaborates with the dead and thinks often about the mysteries of deep time, it might be easy to get stuck in the past—the endless traumas and abjections of civilization or conversely some bucolic moment when all was right with the world. On the one hand I feel like I want to know about the past, claim its teachings and wisdom with the help of my ancestors, but I certainly do no want to fall into an abyss of time. Instead, I want to collaborate with the dead to create entirely new possibilities of relationship, I want to be part of the efflorescent animism that regreens and revives the world…in ways we most certainly cannot control and probably not even imagine.
Eurydice can be returned to Orpheus. In fact, we will all be returned to each other. But she will not be the Eurydice that was…she will be reborn with a new body and a new life and Orpheus can step into a new relationship with her. Who know what new music they might sing together? But if we are always looking over our shoulder we may miss the opportunities that lie before us…the new loves, the new relationships, unfolding all around us.
I collaborate with the dead because I trust them to help create these new relationships, to return those I love to me in unexpected and astounding ways, and to help life itself blossom with flowers we have never seen before.
This has been the Free version of my Substack. Thank you for reading. I also offer a paid version which includes not only excerpts from the books I am currently writing but a monthly Zoom conversation about our collaborations with the unseen world.
I would also like to recommend two upcoming FREE events with The Shift Network about how to navigate life beyond the veil.
The first is Robert Moss’s Journey to Your Life Beyond Death Through Shamanic Lucid Dreaming on August 29th which is all about accessing the possibilities of our future selves!
The second is Karen Curry Parker’s Explore Quantum Human Design to Manifest Your Unique Soul Purpose on August 16th! [TOMORROW!]