Musings on back to school and cycles repeating themselves

Children make you begin to see time more in cycles. Had Nietzsche ever bothered to have kids, he would doubtless not have worried so over the concept of the Eternal Return. Living day in, day out with miniature versions of yourself that reflect back to you every regrettable word and deeply flawed behavioral trait forces you to realize that the apparently linear nature of time—like the seeming flatness of the earth’s surface—is the real illusion. Having a child gives you the vantage and vistas of sufficient years and hard-won experience to begin to pick up on the subtle curvature and ultimately cyclical architecture of it all, until you realize the deep and abiding truth in what the childless usually take as mere empty platitude: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The past two evenings have had us at our two daughters’ elementary school, dropping off boxes of supplies and meeting their new teachers for the fast-approaching academic year, my wife in her corporate attire because she didn’t have sufficient time to get home, eat dinner, and change clothes before rushing back out again; me in my usual all-black, Luciferian sigils on ring and necklace pendant, right forearm tattooed with Satan’s hands making the sign of the cornu but clasped together as in prayer, enwrapped with rosaries bearing charms featuring the inverted pentagram and Leviathan Cross, all above an unfurled scroll emblazoned with the words “Let us Prey.” It used to be that, when I met someone, their gaze would keep straying to the symbol on the pendant draped atop my sternum. Now I’ve noticed them not-so-subtly scanning over that Devil’s hands tattoo, one teacher even going a little wide-eyed at one point. And then I had a flashback. Series of flashbacks, really.

There was ninth grade, when I wore a tie—usually bowtie—to school, and everywhere else for that matter, every single day. Then, before that, my technicolor propeller beanie hat phase, when people would stop and stare as I strolled around the park or strode into the hospital where one of my grandmothers had ended up again, the blue plastic blade spinning my whispered prayer wildly out into the world on a shaft studded with multicolored beads and even a green plastic frog, topped with a red star. Even before that one, there had been a long period of wearing old suit vests unbuttoned, layered over teeshirts, even while donning shorts, even clad in pink-&-gray Chuck Taylor high tops that prompted the other kids in school to call me “fag.” On one of our family trips out west for the summer, I had gotten a pair of knee-high, lace-up leather moccasins with hand-stitched white rawhide soles: those garnered even more snarkery from the Georgia good ol’ boy crowd, especially since I wore them over my jeans. All this came long before a dedicated coterie of self-declared nonconformists in high school began sporting crazy colored knee socks with their grunge boots and flannel shirts tied carefully about the waist. I had been the OG outcast-n’-loving-it. And I did love it.   

I’m used to submitting myself to the bemused, wary, even slightly hostile gaze of others for my choices of self-presentation. Not in the all-in, totally outright way of full goths in make-up and facial piercings or neck tattoos that all but completely foreclose on the possibility of good-willed interaction. Just in a manner that immediately marks me as out of place in a sense that my behavior and overall bearing do not. The dissonance keeps people off balance, unsure of how to take me: Is this guy for real? Why’s he wearing that? He talks like the other dads, but what’s that tattoo all about? And so forth.

My own daughters are originals all their own as well, especially the oldest. She doesn’t yet dress the part, but as soon as she opens her mouth, spinning incessant stories and showing off precocious vocabulary and math prowess, she gets the reactions too. Her peers stand back, unsure of how to engage her. Her teachers chuckle uneasily, not certain they will be able to contain her exuberance and enthusiasm, channelling it along what they deem constructive courses. Will the circle be unbroken by and by? 

As an open Satanist father, I’ve had to consider the impact of my choices on my little ones, and will doubtless have to consider them again and again, still more seriously every time, going forward. I’ve spoken with another Satanist Dad whose own kids are grown now, but whose open practice of his religion brought with it more than a few difficulties for his children over their years in conservative Texas schools. 

There is always a price to pay for self-possession in a world that usually wants to lay its own claims on you, over and over again. Nothing is more frustrating for people than a thing desired that simply will not be possessed by another. Communities have burned witches for such crimes of originality, non-conformity, and complete n’ total self-possession. 

Since we’re reminiscing here, cue the quotes from Ayn Rand’s Anthem and William Earnest Henley’s “Invictus” that were so near and dear to my indomitable fourteen-year-old heart: 

“It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect.”

AND

“In the fell clutch of circumstance 

      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 

Under the bludgeonings of chance 

      My head is bloody, but unbowed …

It matters not how strait the gate, 

      How charged with punishments the scroll, 

I am the master of my fate, 

      I am the captain of my soul.”

One thought on “Musings on back to school and cycles repeating themselves

  1. I enjoyed your discussion about self-possession and the dangers of being self-possessed in a world that almost constantly attempts to claim any of us. Your closing remarks reminded me about the Bene Gesserit’s litany against fear that appeared so frequently in the early Dune books by Frank Herbert, and to an extent the Mentat spice chant that David Lynch created for his 1984 movie adaptation.

    Though Lynch’s Mentat chant never caught on to the extent as did Herbert’s litany against fear — I suspect this is because the Mentat chant is worded in such a way that it cannot exist outside of the fictional Dune universe and its ubiquitous spice — it has persistently occupied a special place in my heart owing to its repetition of the statement, “It is by my will alone I set my mind in motion.” I often wonder if that sentiment is so attractive to me if only because it gives me the feeling that I am above being influenced by my environment and the other people in it?

    Though I suspect that the Buddhists would take offense at my gross simplification and probable misunderstanding of the affair, it’s thoughts like this — and essays like yours — that make me think about the concept of escaping infinite, repetitive cycles of reincarnation as being a lot like back-to-school and other observations parents learn from their children.

    Of course, watching my own kids grow up reminds me of the Who when they famously sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Liked by 1 person

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