The Coward in The Void

The Coward in The Void

My quest to understand the notion of the void started about a year and a half ago. On a night when we had the house to ourselves, my partner Isaac and I took the opportunity to enjoy some edibles. Once they had kicked in, I was drawn to wander outside to explore the treehouse in the backyard. This structure was beautifully made, housing furniture that looked like it was put there about 6 years ago, and only occasionally used now. I laid down on the old mattress and allowed myself to sink in and get cozy. It made me feel so utterly relaxed; this was a realm of peace. After a while, I started to sense a presence. It was giving me a message, a very important one. The words made themselves known in my head. All I can offer for the direction of the phrase was “we must not go dreading after things past.” That is the emotion that I can recall, however all I can truly remember is, “We must not go…” That is all. When I received the message initially, I remembered it clearly and repeated it in my head. I just needed to go inside and write it down before I forgot it. I left the treehouse and went to the back door where I had come from. It was locked. Panic. Can I write this down on the chalkboard outside? Search for chalk. It’s slipping away. No! What can I do? Why is the door locked?! There’s nothing to write with. Where is Isaac? I need to stand here and wait. Finally, the message is gone. In the moment of panic, it disappeared, fluttering away into the universe. I hadn’t told Isaac that I left the house. He didn’t mean to lock me out; he had gone to look for me and habitually locked the door behind him. After all was said and done, I had to wonder: why did this message matter so much? The lost information that may never come back slipped away into a place that I started to call the void.

I have had many ideas and wonders concerning the “void”. I may be wrong in the ways that I interpret it, however I find it hard to believe that there is any fixed way to understand the concept. Not valid, or empty, are the primary definitions of the word. I have thought of it as a black hole; a place where information goes and may never be retrieved. I have seen it as a lost place. A place where my mind will get trapped because I so desperately want to retrieve what went missing. I eventually tell myself that it is useless to go searching. If I need something from there, it will come. I also have to learn to live without it.

What is emptiness? What does it mean to be empty? This can go a couple of different ways. When we mourn over emptiness, we view it as having lost something. Deep within, there is something gnawing at us because what used to be there has been eaten alive. It is terrifying, soul-crushing, and mesmerizingly evil. It’s that great idea you had in the shower that disappeared when you left the bathroom, or that crazy thing your friends say you did last night but you can’t remember because you were too drunk, or the brilliant musical phrase you wrote that escaped you. Gone: into the void, never to be encountered again. It can be very disappointing not to share these memories with your future self.

Perhaps emptiness or void can be viewed in a different way. Alan Watts changed how I view this concept, connecting it to a form of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism called “Zen”. This is pronounced in Chinese as “Ch’an”, which is the Chinese way of pronouncing the Indian sanskrit word, “Dhyāna”. Watts explains that the closest English translation of these terms is emptiness or void. The English dictionary definition for ‘void’ provides, “that which exists absolutely and without predication.” Watts explains that it is characteristic of Eastern philosophy to be based on experience, rather than ideas, whereas philosophy in the Western world is mainly a matter of thinking. In the Western world, we try to solve all of our problems through a manner of logic. Watts says,

Zen is the experience of a way of feeling. This may be called the void, as demonstrated by this circle. It is not a void that is just emptiness… This isn’t the idea that people believe that the universe is ultimately nothing at all. It is rather that the void represents complex spiritual or psychological freedom. In Japanese, it is called Satori. In southern Chinese, ‘NG’, because it is something that happens to you; something you feel rather than something you think. As if quite suddenly that you become convinced that everything in the universe is just right, however appalling, however terrible, and you know it beyond a shadow of doubt. There are two other aspects to this experience. First: feeling that everything is right. Second: everything you see and feel seems to come to life in an extraordinary way. Third: you no longer feel yourself and what you are experiencing to be separated. It seems to you that your skin does not divide you from the world, but it instead joins you to it. In this experience, the center ego, the ‘I’, is joined to the universe. You say, having seen this, ‘I can die content’. This is what it was all about.” Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts: The Void (1959) [full length].” YouTube, uploaded by The Partially Examined Life, 18 Feb 2012,

It is the most spiritually open and accepting state of being. The void now seems a lot less terrifying and hopeless than I ever imagined. Instead, I am ever more thrilled and intrigued by it.

The void has indeed haunted me, just like the album The Emptiness by post-hardcore band Alesana from Raleigh North Carolina. This is the first part of a story, later coined as the Annabel trilogy, which is the result of three records creating a cohesive whole. The music on the record sets off after the line: “The emptiness will haunt you,” spoken by a woman in a dissonant half-whisper. The band cast this, asking me, and the audience, to sink our imaginations into the tale. I allowed it to haunt and intrigue me. I needed to digest every word, every sound, and know everything that I could about this story.

The Emptiness is a psychological thriller: a man who is a sketch artist, simply known as The Artist, wakes up to find the love of his life, Annabel, dead. Next, he suffers the succeeding emotions of despair, guilt, vengeance, and defeat. The emptiness: the fear of not knowing that tears the soul apart and sends any rational person into a dark, downward spiral. Using clear references to Edgar Allan Poe’s works, Alesana eloquently blended the gothic style of writing with modern day prose, creating a wider vision of what the hardcore musical genre is capable of.

In the story, The Artist is afraid that he himself may have killed Annabel in a sudden fit of rage, so he hacks apart her body and hides it under the floorboards out of fear of being discovered. Next, he runs away, leaving his sketchbook behind and starts writing journal entries about his experiences. While he is on the run, The Artist convinces himself that he really must have been the one who killed Annabel. He eventually lands in a small town, and enters a bar. In a twisted endeavor to reunite with Annabel, he murders seven people in the bar, just for the thrill of it. The song Hymn for the Shameless is about his lack of guilt over his actions. Feeling a new sense of purpose, he decides that perhaps this was all for the good. He dreams of more murder, but eventually holds a knife to his own throat when he realizes how lonely and evil he has become without the love of his life. Suddenly in this desperate moment, a woman who seems like Annabel finds him and he spends a day with her. He is in love again, but wakes up too soon to find that it was only a dream. The Artist then catches a glimpse of a man whom he believes was the true murderer. He chases the man into the woods to confront and kill him in revenge for Annabel’s death. The final track is from Annabel’s perspective: killing The Artist with his own knife for the monster that he had become. As a 14 year old, I was madly in love with the content, expressed through a sweet balance of heavy screams and clean vocals giving a strong emotional voice to each and every word. They stood out as true storytellers, something they inspired me to strive to be.

When this story was first released, I was amazed and obsessed. Alesana included the lyrics to all of the songs in the album booklet, as well as another booklet with every song expanded into a whole chapter of a story. Sometimes you can only understand so much from lyrics; one may never know the true intentions of a songwriter. The band took the extra step to clarify what they really wanted to say in this album, to make a story that their fans can connect with, and to spook them. Each chapter is a song on the eleven track album. The story was riddled with confusion, murder, false hope and enemies. There are motifs of mirrors, rooms, knives, and journals. How does a sketch artist become an avid writer during such a traumatic period in his life? How does he find the time or the willpower to write while journeying outwards for answers? Someone who is acting upon feelings of vengeance and guilt would not be documenting their actions so descriptively.

The fans were all drawn in. We didn’t exactly expect a second album, but A Place Where The Sun is Silent was created just under two years later. This album was a masterpiece: the band explored their musical style in a deep way that I couldn’t begin to understand at the time that it was released. It was beautiful either way. I spent a lot of time trying to get closer to the album, to understand the psychological depth and characters that were introduced, to draw connections to The Emptiness. This was a bit harder, as the story was set in a different world. A mysterious place riddled with bad intentions and seemingly impossible to escape. This is a world that I could better explain as a void. As the story progresses, you see the man who you believe to be The Artist from the previous story become consumed in a purgatory. He knows that he is on a quest to get back to his love, Annabel, yet is lost and distracted in the circus of this new world that traps him in a labyrinth of evil presences. His being is slowly dissolving down the Circles of Hell, a plot point inspired by Dante Aligheri’s Inferno in his epic poem Divine Comedy. The Artist finds himself being made a puppet in this place: a woman referred to as The Temptress wearing a veil and thin silky clothes who teases him, yet he can’t resist the urge to pursue her. He is haunted by shrill laughter, false terror, and a lucid awakening to the repeating cycle of events, “it’s round and round and round we go.”

Was the Temptress a demon that the man encountered? At first she was attractive, but then betrays The Artist. She exposes him to great bouts of horror, and chases him through a labyrinth of mirrors with “an angry, hungry, guttural laugh”; the voice of a demon in disguise. He must learn to face her head on and “pull back the veil” of illusion, because running from his problems only results in worse pain. Could this be the place where the emptiness started? Could this be the place where a lost soul travels to: the void? When things go awry, hope is lost, and there doesn’t seem to be light. The lack of light is like a silent sun. It is in this darkness that demons make themselves known; their identities are revealed.

Confessions is the final chapter, the third album of the trilogy, which ties the loose ends together and reveals the characters for who they really are: all one and the same, and more. It is a representation of the inner turmoil resulting from being thrown into a reality completely unlike the one you have always known. In the first two albums, the story is told through the perspective of a man, The Artist. Now we are introduced to the first person perspective of the ever elusive and sought-after Annabel, whom we only heard from once back in The Emptiness. Annabel quests to travel through time to change the callous and cold dystopian reality in which she lives, in order to create a brighter existence for her family. What kind of person could have dreamt up the world they live in now and succeeded in making it real? Is there a way to destroy it all and rearrange the past? The plan is for Annabel to use a time machine to travel back in time to track down her prey, The Artist. She must win his love in order to change the way his power influences the world. When the execution of the plan does not go smoothly, she struggles to find out how to bring herself back home after she realizes how colossal a task this really is.

Annabel lands inside of a place called a tesseract, which is also known as a hypercube, used in literature as a means of time travel. This plot point, and the Confessions story as a whole, is heavily inspired by Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, with direct quotations from her book blended into the lyrics. The tesseract is a confusing place with no sense of time. There is nothing and nobody there to give a hint about what is happening. Visual projections of Annabel's reality are displayed upon the many walls, with memories she does not recognize. Time changes her as she struggles with trying to control its course. It fights against her will until she learns to resign her futile attempts at conquering something that she does not understand. She is in a battle with the void which gives her both great power, but also makes her fear she is losing her true self. Annabel sinks deeper into the void: “Imprisoned and banished within a nexus of my own design.” The fear consumes her, leading her to the arms of The Puppeteer, another demon in the void. This character mocks her new found power, while encouraging the demon within her to come to the surface.

In the Confessions album, and expanded upon in the Annabel book, Annabel experiences a schizophrenic episode entertaining a series of delusions of grandeur: she develops the identities called Fatima and Rusalka. These names represent the angelic and demonic sides of her, both of which she must explore during this journey. Annabel travels outside of the self whom she is familiar with, and learns to see the potential in other aspects of her identity. She perhaps experiences a most traumatic event of ego-death. Fatima was a name given to her by a guide, Aaraaf. This guide convinces Fatima to save The Artist instead of killing him, that love instead of violence will result in a better outcome. Annabel crosses into Hell after agreeing that she will be Fatima, Goddess of Light. This path leads her to the Puppeteer, who tells her that she is Rusalka, and to think better than to try using the name Annabel or Fatima. He encourages her to make The Artist suffer when she visits him by playing the role of his one true love, and then killing her. When her work is done, she may return back home to her family. This does not go as planned, and the tesseract continues to trick her.

The tesseract seems to be a projection of one’s own consciousness, and perhaps of others. “Incarcerated by so many walls, within a nexus of her own design, Annabel laid still, terrified of who she was, of what she was becoming,” (Annabel, 150). Our personal consciousness in higher dimensions builds the tesseract for our own use: it shows us what we need to have projected to our eyes. There are an infinite number of walls of possibility that one can travel through and choose from: to experience, to learn, to change. Having a deep connection with somebody will make them appear. You find a way to communicate with them. In the tesseract, all possible variations of every situation are available for you to observe. Were Fatima and Rusalka really her, or just projections of herself? In the void, all is possible. All is real.

The distinct moment when you realize that you are entirely alone in your mind, you experience both terror and personal willpower, all at once. You have to find your own way out when everybody else is gone, or unavailable, or won’t give you the answers you need. The answer you seek is in every question you ask. After diving down a spiral of crazy events, and new experiences inside the tesseract, Annabel loses touch with her purpose. She sees her memories projected across the walls of the tesseract, but many of the new ones do not feel like her own. The tesseract is a timeless place, so perhaps things that have “yet to happen”, according to her consciousness, are in fact always in existence, and thus always available for observation. Once again, the tesseract projects every possible variation of any moment in time: past, present, or future. Realities that feel more like dreams cause Annabel to second-guess what she experiences. Isn’t everything, including dreams, an intrinsic part of our experiences? Whether we remember them clearly or not, they seem to have happened.

I propose that The Emptiness, and the expanded story as a whole, was inspired by a child’s nightmare. The Emptiness is the event of the void: waking up to find the love of your life dead, and having no recollection of what happened. Imagine being a child of five years, and seeing your mother die in a nightmare. Absolute terror and drama would consume you, causing a cycle of grief, confusion, loss, abandonment, anger, fear, and so many other emotions. Life is no longer what it used to be: all innocence and sense of security is altered. How does a child process this new perspective in the wake of this event? How do they distinguish a dream from reality when they are laying in the darkness of their bedroom at night? A Place Where The Sun Is Silent is the process of learning how to come out of the dream state and into a more “sober” frame of mind. Eventually, people come out of nightmares being able to distinguish between the dream world and “real world”. At such an impressionable age, perhaps the implications of the dream are harder to set aside. At any age, people have dreams that turn out to predict the future, or give us clues about our lives.

The world inside the tesseract is unlike anything that people have ever seen. We as humans often have a habit of being afraid of new environments, rather than keeping our minds open to exploring new possibilities. Should we be at fault for that? Maybe. If so, we just need to retrain our brains to see opportunity rather than despair. A child who is cared for is used to calling upon their parents or family members for support. The void where their nightmare has taken them is scary because they are there alone. There is quite possibly no way to show somebody else what that world was, and thus nobody can offer empathy for the situation. If all we know is to be scared, then it will be harder to find the truth. Resist fear, move forward. Unlearn what you know and absorb new information that will help you to move past the obstacles put in your path. The void is a place of learning and growing; it is not necessarily a dead end. It is a path. It offers us freedom. We choose our realities. The human mind is strong and complex, capable of creating new worlds all the time.

I am starting to see how my interest in the void is connected to childhood: a time when people are very impressionable; imaginations are strong; thought is free; and reality doesn’t make a lot of sense yet. When something strange or scary happens, it can be very difficult to understand how to conquer that fear, or even to understand why it is scary at all. Imagination is generally understood to be something that only children and artists have access to. It is a way to explain an experience that cannot be concretized in a critical approach to thinking. It can be the scapegoat to explain things that are hard to believe, or do not seem to have a place in normative or consensus reality. If anybody who does not fall under the categories of child or artist starts to express experiences of their vivid imagination, things start to go awry. People begin to question their mental well-being, and decide that they need help. Perhaps they do need help, if the point they’re trying to get across isn’t coming through clearly enough. People who suffer from schizophrenia indeed have these experiences, and they need to learn how to cope with their invading sensations. How different is this from a child waking up from a nightmare in the middle of the night and trying to sort out the “real” from the “fake”? In my twenties I had to go online to make sure that a friend of mine was actually still alive after I had a nightmare of his death. I dreamt that he hung himself immediately after his wedding, leaving behind his new wife and two daughters. It was a very dark and foreboding nightmare, and it did not make sense in terms of who he is, but it left me wondering about the capabilities of my own mind.

My first big encounter with the void was a turning point for me. When the voice in the treehouse told me “we must not go,” I wondered why it was so important. I had to teach myself to let it go and just accept that the message is missing. For the most part, I wasn’t clinging, but it’s one of those thoughts that linger in the back of your mind until you have time to think about it. What made that event so special, and what is it that I must not do? Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy: that it was telling me not to go looking for this particular message?

What would make me more powerful, or what would be more cowardly: to search and retrieve what I lost, or just move on and let it be? It’s a tricky dynamic to play with, and there is absolutely no way to get a straight answer for this question. Nobody could tell me the truth because the truth cannot be conceptualized. Even if the full message came back, it would only be up to me to believe, to be satisfied with the answer. I decided that letting it go until it comes back to me is the best course of action. There is more peace of mind and less obsession through that route. In the words of Alesana, “Obsession is such an ugly word.”

The void is a place of alternate reality. There are many different examples of alternate realities in literature and media, and how the mind may be connected to them. They can be physically different places, or they may only be accessed by the mind. Options for travel include technology, portals, or projection of consciousness. I will start off with the alternate realities which are accessed through the means of technology. Some media examples of these include: The Matrix, Inception, Avatar, Neuromancer and Interstellar. In each of these works of fiction, technology is involved in transporting a person from one version of reality to another. In The Matrix, the film begins inside of the alternate reality and Neo must find his way into “normative reality” in order to discover the truth about life. The truth, he finds out, is that his body was always attached to a machine; his mind was projected into the Matrix program for all of his life until he broke out. This was a monumental film that made people question what reality really is, and the power of the mind to create necessary change. Instead of stepping into new worlds, people needed to step out of the “false reality” that they have been experiencing artificially. This correlates to Annabel finding her way into the tesseract in order to change the world she lives in. Stepping outside of the Matrix as well as entering the tesseract allows you to see the bigger picture of reality. They get to be on the outside observing, and are able to affect the world in ways that they never could before. Inception, Avatar and Neuromancer have more direct paths, which includes some kind of technological equipment which connects the mind to where the person wants to go. Interstellar begins with a spaceship, transporting the characters off the Earth to find a new host planet able to sustain life. The astronaut Cooper discovers how gravity affects time, and eventually reaches the tesseract where he experiences time as a tangible instead of conceptual phenomenon.

Travelling into an alternate reality via some kind of a portal stirs the human imagination into wondering about magical passageways. A portal is a spontaneous but intuitive magical event. In these stories, characters stumble upon the alternate reality by being attracted to a glow or an aura, beckoning the character into the new world. Technological travel introduces a quest, whereas portals ask you to enter without precise reasoning. They act as thin places, a veil between worlds beyond our own, but live simultaneously beside ours. Some stories that include portal travelling are The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Coraline, Annihilation, and Stranger Things. Each of these stories explore how the “other” world is connected to consensus reality in various ways. The other world affects and reflects this one, and if we enter the other world, we can consciously affect ours upon our return. If the outward world is not changed, then the person who travels comes back changed. The old wardrobe is of course the portal into the alternate reality of Narnia. Years can pass in Narnia while time stands still in consensus reality. Alice goes down the rabbit hole and experiences the same freezing of time while in the other world. Although the world she came from doesn’t change, she comes out as a changed person. When Coraline goes through the door to the world of the Other Mother, her world is mirrored with a reality constructed just like her own, but with the other mother holding darker intentions than her real one, whom she wished to escape in the first place. Annihilation has a physical veil between worlds made up of an energy force, which people can travel in and out of… but rarely out. This world beyond the veil challenges evolution and consciousness. It is depicted as a place within consensus reality, with a launch point that expands and consumes the space around it. Finally, Stranger Things has portals through which creatures from the Upside Down travel into consensus reality, and vice versa. The show explores interdimensional passages and psychokinetic power: what the mind is capable of when faced with the challenges of communicating between worlds.

The most indefinable method of travelling between realities is through the mind. Conscious awareness or general open mindedness is necessary for this form of travel to occur. The worlds of The OA, The Wee Free Men, Horton Hears a Who, and The End of Eternity all explore aspects of this travel. The OA is about near death experiences, and how the mind theoretically travels interdimensionally during the event. The show explores how people are affected physiologically, or gain certain talents, especially musicianship. The Wee Free Men is about a young girl named Tiffany whose home is attracting the attention of magical creatures crossing into her consensus reality. She understands that in order to take action and protect her home, she must attempt to work with the magical elements instead of trying to shut them out. Through this approach, she learns to be brave rather than aggressive. Horton Hears a Who has a similar message: learn to listen and not to fight. This way, various realities can live in harmony. The End of Eternity focuses on time as a malleable phenomenon. The bureaucratic system called Eternity plays god over historical events. They have the power to manipulate reality by erasing, or overwriting events, using mathematical equations to predict their most favorable outcome. The protagonist, Harlan, starts to see the problems with this system, and its ability to suppress evolution. The character Noÿs encourages protagonist Harlan to change history’s path to allow for infinite possibility, a chance for human growth, instead of reliving the closed loop that would create the first “kettle”, the device used for time travel. Destroying Eternity would make everything that happened after it a void. Would there be a part of the universe that recognizes its existence, or would nobody be aware besides those who escape it to start over? If somebody can recall those events, then to some degree they must still be real.

The greatest commonality between all of these examples is that the mind experiences something dramatically different from what it has normally been exposed to. It is often depicted as a dreamlike state: not fully touching base with reality, magical-type events that are out of the character’s control, but also extremely vivid and lucid. These worlds can be mirrors of our own, a veil between worlds, or something brand new all together. The significance of these stories is that they force us to think, “what if?” Is the mind actually capable of entering new places, and how will I come out knowing and proving that it was real, and not a dream? The technological form of travelling is the path that is easiest to believe in because it has calculable results: build a machine and enter it to travel to where you must go. The portals spark our imaginations and conscious awareness. Voyages through the mind are the hardest to explain, for you have to get there and do it in order to believe it. Each of the above examples have some overlap between the listed travelling methods. A person who chooses to travel through a technological portal would surely be open minded…

The world outside of consensus reality is the void. The characters who go to these places have outlandish stories that hardly anybody can believe, but they come out as changed people. These alternate realities are significant because they are empty. Photographs and souvenirs are not brought back after the adventures. There are only the stories told by the conscious mind that went there. How do we ever believe in the stories that we are told?

The Fatal Optimist video by Alesana suggests a playful approach to the darker themes throughout the story. Dolly from Toy Story 3 appears as a silhouette, twirling in the air. This was very curious to me; how on Earth did this character make her way into an Alesana song? In the Toy Story series, the toys are conscious. That is what makes these films so powerful: seeing the toys as alive. Every child who has developed a personality for their favorite toys loves watching what they could be getting up to when the humans are away. When Woody gets lost and is taken home by Bonnie, he is brought into her bedroom with her other toys. Upon introducing himself to another toy named Dolly, she remarks, “Woody? You’re gonna stick with that? Well now’s the time to change it, you know, new room and all. That’s coming from a doll named Dolly.” She offers Woody a chance to change his identity, now that he has entered a new world of imagination. This is like Annabel meeting Aaraaf, who offers her a chance to change her name as well as her purpose on her mission. Woody denies the opportunity in order to remain loyal to his old friends. Annabel does try to be both Fatima and Rusalka, her inner angel and demon, but then struggles with her identity as time goes on. Dolly in the Fatal Optimist is a symbol to help us to examine and reflect on where our minds take us when we are playing. Sometimes we get too far into the game… or maybe the storyteller is just having a lot of fun. It is later revealed that Rusalka was in fact the mastermind behind The Artist’s journal entries in The Emptiness. She imitated his handwriting and wrote in the journal while he was asleep so that he could find the entries in the morning, and thus go crazy with horror and confusion. She then stabbed herself for him to find her, to validate the story that she told, and ultimately drive him insane. The biggest plot twist: Annabel had been a stranger to The Artist before the tale began. How far are we willing to go before we realize that we have done more harm than good? Does hurting other people really solve our own problems? As a separate identity, Annabel wrote herself into death just to prove a point.

We tell stories of angels and demons. We use them to understand certain truths in consensus reality. All of the existing depictions of such archetypes influence how we understand them. We internalize them as imaginational constructs that are filtered by personal experiences. Truth is perception, for everybody has different interpretations of every concept. I understand angels to be spiritual guides, and demons to be mischievous trouble makers; not all with bad intentions, but there to challenge you.

It was almost two years after Alesana’s release of The Coward streaming video when I noticed and watched it. The artwork is of The Emptiness' album cover, which features an oval shaped mirror in a frame. Inside the frame is a man with his back turned, and the words “The Emptiness” are written above him on a wall, appearing backwards. In this video, the image inside the mirror shatters and reveals a shot of The Lost Chapters' album cover. This song is the “lost chapter” from The Emptiness; a song that didn’t make the original cut for the release of the album due to an incomplete vision of the vocal melody. Looking closely, the art on The Lost Chapters has changed. Originally shot with mulch scattered on a wooden surface, there are now new forms: shapes mirrored symmetrically upon a vertical axis. A shape that looks like a headless dark knight with weapons protruding from its armour. Below it upon the same axis another figure of a head with a totem-like face, its eyebrows pointing downwards, merging with the nose, and below it a fierce mouth. I presume that they are demons belonging to the void; the emptiness. The perfect symmetry of these demons may represent their ability to match your movements, or that they are mirror reflections of consciousness. They look as if they’re trying to grow out of the frame of the mirror. Mirrors reflect light and truth. Spiritually, mirrors represent illumination, awareness, and wisdom. Psychologically, they symbolize the threshold between the conscious mind and unconscious; through the mirror, one may look into the depths of their unconscious. The symmetrical figures in the mirror represent the shadow figures that challenge us as we look inside of ourselves.

The end of the song Catharsis, the last song on Confessions, goes: “Foregrounds burst to nothing as symmetry explodes. Did man even notice as he was erased?” Is this the event of waking up? All of what seemed real dissolves before your memory; the recent events of enormous significance are now gone. What happens next? Is it the end, or a new beginning? The next, and final line of the album,“Have you ever actually seen yourself without a mirror?” Mirrors show us surface level reflection. We must look deeper. These lyrics make a closed loop with the first words of the album. Could it be the spell that cast the void, the existence of this whole story?

Alan Watts taught me to embrace and appreciate the void. It is freedom, both in the form of mediation, or immersion into the things that compel you. While freedom is wholesome, it is also dangerous: for it allows us to do immoral acts as well as conceptually good ones. Alan Watts says, “let experiences arrive; don’t go searching for them.” He uses the word Nirvana, which means to blow out, to not hang on to or clutch life. Nightmares are real if you allow them to be. We are in control of the matrix we find ourselves in. Our intuition tells us what is right: if you stick to your path, you will find the answers you seek. It is better to not cling to thoughts or situations, but to revisit them after some time to remind yourself of your purpose. The void does not have to be a scary place. It is an event which you must allow to happen… then find clues on how to deal with it.

A pink flashing light, like the reflection of the sun on glass, shining at the base of the mirror. An oval of light, more narrow than the mirror, glides across the right of the frame, illuminating the image of the album art every six seconds. The art is only barely visible from the constant shine from the little sun at the bottom; the oval light expands to a large circle which illuminates most of the screen. The lights expose small bits of fluff and dust flying through the air. Look closely, follow the light in the dark, and glimpse into the threshold between worlds.