Why I’m zen in the midst of chaos: Spirituality for me as a recovering-Christian who worships Art & Beauty

“What happens when people open their hearts? – They get better.”
– Haruki Murakami

(As with all of my writing since re-remembering to write for me, this piece is a #notetoself for me to reflect back on, when I need to re-remember to re-remember to look up at the clouds).

There is beauty in both nature and the human-made.
Nothing is either good or evil.
There is light and shadow in everything.

Images: copyright Germaine de Larch, 2013/14

People often ask me how I escaped the jail of The Depression That Almost Killed Me in my 20s*, and how I continue to live life writ large. [link to blog post Loony Bins: #lettersfromselvespas(t)sed]
As a Recovering Christian, I remember the day clearly, in the midst of the Blackest Black Dog Depression where I said to myself: I am a Thinking, Rational human being who believes in the power of fairy tales but not in God or the Soul or any omnipotent, omniscient Presence.
BUT: People have Faith for a reason; it gets them through life. This has been the way of the world since humans first inhabited it. I’ve wished for a lobotomy so that I can have that blind Faith. But my depression has lobotomised me anyway… If it works for them, I need to acknowledge that it might work for me, even if I’m not sure I can do blind faith, because I am not blind. I need to put my cynicism aside; I need to suspend disbelief*. If I do not choose, very rationally and scientifically, something to believe in, I will die by my own hand. [link to blog post Suspension of Disbelief: #lettersfromselvespas(t)sed]
So I chose my own delusion, the one that as a Recovering Christian made me feel least nauseous: Things Happen for a Reason.
“To be willing at any moment, to give up who you are for who you could be.” 
In the Dark, I held onto Light: Beauty in Everything. I forced myself to find Beauty every day.* I’m still alive. [Link to photographs I began taking to find Beauty]. I’m still alive. And not just existing, but living. And writing life large.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde
I still experience darkness. But it only becomes Darkness when I stop seeing Beauty, stop looking up at the clouds. I “took the path less travelled”, because ALL paths are less travelled.
Not believing in God is not a belief in Nothing, but a belief in Everything. Including all beliefs and the power of those beliefs. For me it matters not what we believe, but that we believe it. Faith is Powerful, because it’s blind.
  • The red rose, The Dark Tower. Even Stephen King, The Lord of Darkness has a spiritual side.
  • Throwing roses into the abyss: even the Nietzsche of “God is Dead” had his spiritual side.
  • Ursula Le Guin, The Mother of the Fantasy genre, always includes dystopia and utopia.
  • And the list goes on – Shakespeare, Blake, Yeats and co.
There is always Shadow and Light, in all of us, in everything. We all have our Chosen Delusions when being human in an inhumane world; where being Mad is the only sane response.
And even the inhumane, mad world is both
“oh, the horror, the horror”,
“things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”,
“do not go gentle into that good night”,
“in the forests of the night; what immortal hand or eye, could frame thy fearful symmetry?” 


My desk, while moving things around to put in my room for pre-surgery recovery, post-surgery recovery and general recovery.


A re-gift from two beautiful soul friends: I am a seeker (Sikher) – Sat Nam is a Sikh expression. Sat means truth, and Nam means word, as in the sound of the universe otherwise known as Om, which, roughly translated, means this sound is the closest to truth that we can get. (The cave in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, for example). Namasté is a greeting which means: the divinity in me sees the divinity in you. The Sikh greeting is Sat Sri Akal, meaning: there is only one truth, signifying the unity of all religions. Shukria, Sherene ji and Justine ji.



The text tattoos I have, in order of getting them. They tell their own story… (These are just the text tattoos I have). All of these are before or after a psych hospitalisation, unless otherwise stated.


Anomaly. Artist: Damian Martins.

Early 2000s. If I remember correctly, this was my first text tattoo. Just after my first hospitalisation. At the time it symbolised my alienation. Now I reclaim the words “anomaly”, “freak”, “outsider”, and celebrate my difference, while recognising that I am not alone in it. We’re all freaks.


“The freedom of the wholly mad, to smear and play with her madness, write with her fingers dipped in it” – Adrienne Rich, from: The Phenomenology of Anger. Artist: Some guy in Brixton, Johannesburg.

2003-ish. Adrienne Rich came to mean so much more to me years later in my search for Beauty: See “Diving into the Wreck”.


“And I have known the eyes already, known them all— The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume?” – T.S. Eliot, from: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Artist: Some guy in Brixton, Johannesburg.

2003-ish. Says SO much about the alienation I felt. I’m more of a Four Quartets fan now.


Create… Artist: Some guy in Brixton, Johannesburg.

Early 2003-ish (part of a two-part tattoo. See next image).


Or Die… Artist: Some guy in Brixton, Johannesburg.

2003-ish This two-part tattoo symbolised my realisation that as an artist, and a human being, if I am not creating, living, I am only existing, dying. My one hand (self) could choose Life, the other could choose Death. It was up to me.


“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen. Artist: Some guy in Port Elizabeth.

Early 2004ish. Trying hard to focus on the positive in the midst of the negative. This would later come to mean so much more and became so much more real.


Fragile. Artist: Damian Martins

(2006/7) From the album of the same name by Seether; before one of my last psych hospitalisations (Last hospitalisation: 2007). An acknowledgment of my fragility despite my appearance as strong (both physically and mentally). Complexity. Trying to embrace my contradiction instead of being ashamed of not being “normal”.


Beauty. Artist: Damian Martins.

2010/11. Designed for me by my second internet friend whom I formed a real connection with – Nicole Nox. An acknowledgement that there is Beauty everywhere, flowing towards me, and flowing from me through my writing into the universe (hence the feathers), if only we recognise and see it (embracing internet friends as real as any “real life” friend.


Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces. Artist: Damian Martins.

2011/2. From the album with the same name by Seether. Again, looking for Beauty as part of my spirituality. This was around the same time I started taking the photos of Beauty every day around me (album mentioned above in text)


“O heart, if you recognise the difference between joy and sorrow, these lies will kill you.” – Rumi. Artist: Damian Martins.

2011/12ish. Tattoo adapted from a Crimethinc poster by Anastasya Eliseeva, the first internet friend who became a real friend, when I started moving from behind the screen into the real world. (Crimethinc image original wording: Confusion is a small price to pay for beauty. A re-remembering of my spiritual side. Rumi makes it so easy to do that… Thank you, Justine ji.


Close-up of the image above. Artist: Damian Martins

Confusion is a small price to pay for Beauty: instead of killing yourself, “blow your brains out” by spreading the Beauty that is within you. Part of my love for birds and paper aeroplanes – freedom, flight, soaring.


Hope is a feathered thing. Artist: Sean Perrins.

2011/12ish. Adapted from a poem by Emily Dickinson (“Hope is the thing with feathers”). When I realised and celebrated that Hope is eternal. I just needed to hold onto it in the midst of Darkness.


Form. Artist: Conrad

2014/5.Part of a two-part tattoo that will say “TransForm” once done – Designed by one of South Africa’s greatest graf graffiti artists – Bias. I decided on graffiti as I love graffiti – a reclaiming of an old, conventional object through decorating it in an individualistic style – a reclamation of the city, walls, the body.


Another view of tattoo above.


Another view of tattoo above, with Beyond Binaries text.

“Beyond Binaries” – a celebration of my nonbinary identity as part of my trans-formation.


Design of the tattoo above by Bias.

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“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes” – Walt Whitman. Artist: Tristan Knight.

2016. Once I’d decided on top surgery. A celebration of my complexity, contradiction, the fact that the parts of me are greater than the whole of me. A celebration of the love of ME, not what others thought of me. Also an acknowledgement that we are all, and everything is, complex and beyond understanding.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson

 As with everything, these are my own thoughts, for my selves, about my selves, to my selves.
Second blog post in this series: #notestoself to/while heal/ing #2

5 thoughts on “Why I’m zen in the midst of chaos: Spirituality for me as a recovering-Christian who worships Art & Beauty

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