Have you ever seen those directional guides at a mall? The brightly colored spaghetti mix of letters and numbers breaking down in visually confusing detail the location of every department, parking lot, and individual store? It’s like injecting a maze straight into your eyes. Because none of those destinations and euphorically lit arrays are worth a single stick of Correllian spice if you cannot discern the image of max importance. The Shape-Above-All. You know the one I’m talking about. Sometimes it’s a diamond. Or a star. Maybe even a circle. It’s the one that tells you where you are.
You are here.
The funny thing is… these maps are scattered all throughout the mall. Meaning that your “here” will vary based on your location.
Well duh, I hear you saying. That’s how it works.
I agree. That IS how it works. That’s how here works. It’s not one location; it’s several.
You are here.
Interesting concept isn’t it? I’m here. And you’re here. But my “here” is your “there” and our last “here” is now “was.”
“Here” is a fluid concept. You can be absolutely clueless as to your location and still be “here.” And you’d be just as “here” as the person who can effortlessly rattle off the latitude and longitude of their location to the last digit.
Here has nothing to do with awareness.
It has to do with existence.
“Where am I?” is a boring question. Dead ends at the cul-de-sac of the breath it took to ask it. It’s easy. You’re here. You see?
Blah. Done. Hands washed.
Period on a broken sentence halfway down the page. No my friend, there’s a better question. The next time you feel led to ask yourself where you are, try this one on for size.
How am I being?
I have a friend who’s actually a really good friend. She’s one of those people you want in your corner, because when the chips are down- whether y’all have seen or spoken recently or not- she’ll help if she can, even if it’s just listening. We have energetically fascinating conversations because her obsessive life view does not very much take into account a whole lot beyond what she’s currently doing, while my obsessive life view is constantly pondering the paragraphs of potentiality swimming all around us and my place in it. My being.
Understandably, life is fairly easy for her to navigate (not to be confused with life being fairly easy), because she keeps her parameters simple. “Here” is irrelevant and “how she is being” is moot; she does what pleases her with wherever she happens to find herself. The appeal to this manner of life approach is instantly tangible.
Sole focus on doing what makes you happy.
Easier to show the fruit (benefits).
By no coincidence, these are the very factors I constantly seek to enhance in my own life. But that’s how story works right? We always see in someone else’s narrative the perks and favor whose absence we wrestle with in ours. It serves me not to view her story through her lens; I’ll only see what she sees (making the point that every useful skill is not universally useful- one cannot go on seeing things from everyone else’s point of view, for eventually one will have no personal view of anything at all).
I know what I want.
What I believe in.
What I’ve seen to be true.
And when I look at her life through my lens, I see that…
She doesn’t know where she is.
It’s a look I’ve seen in many eyes, several cases being my own staring back at me from the reflective inner surfaces of my mind’s eye. I call it the “Inescapable Innocence.” Scrape away all the damage and the pain… all of the setbacks and hard life lessons… scrape off the betrayal and the confusion… the bills, and the relationships, and the failures… scrape off the tough skin and the hard shell you had to flexibly construct in order to successfully sail the undulating seas of daily existence… take all of that away…
And you’re left with your purest self.
Unstained by the world.
Untouched by darkness.
A pure beam of light.
Inescapable Innocence trapped in a horrible forest we’ve elected to call “real life,” with no bread crumbs to follow home. Just idling there. Lost. With nobody looking for it. Why would we look for something whose lack we’ve come to expect? By hinging “real life” on everything BUT innocence, we are more or less saying that to lose our core is the essence of life. Yet we search for a wholeness and simplicity to living that we cannot find. This is not a rut; it’s a paradox, albeit one we can choose not to subject ourselves to.
For that innocent part of who you are has one very simple longing.
To be innocent.
And to follow the path of “here” that flows from it.
Because, of course, that’s how it works.
How we are being exposes the “here” we inhabit.
It’s the True North inside us all, the unyielding call of life, the undying Eden summoning us back to the core of our story.
We all have it.
You are here.
The greatest obstacle to your here-ness is guilt. Shame. We all know that we are going to egregiously err on occasion, that daily mishaps and imperfections are par for the course. But such faults are taken as the wind blowing, or that startlingly inconvenient traffic jam on your way to work or school… they are simply the bane of the day. Born upon the merciless graces of “out there.” We can re-attune. We can open back up to how we are being. We can follow our True North to our appropriate here. Not always easy. But we can do it. Because those bad things are out there.
Guilt and shame, however, are different.
Because they speak a different tale about the bad things.
The bad things are in here with you.
The bad things ARE you.
And when you know that whatever it is, is your fault, it can be hard to disagree. I am being how I am. Which of course is not true, but it doesn’t feel that way.
Feelings account for nearly everything we do.
Or don’t do.
So, what do we do when the world has flipped upside down, but the spirit of Atlas was on our shoulders to begin with? When it’s all our fault? When our privately kept best intentions have turned into social devastation? When everyone around you is pointing in shock and disbelief, questioning how someone like you could ever do something so… hurtful? So mean. Pinning you to the wall with questions you’re still asking yourself, drowning in the rivers of bleeding ink running all over the place, making a mushy glob of unintelligible gook out of your story?
The first thing is to own it.
Yes, I did this. Yes, this is my fault.
Why. Why do this.
Honesty is your Excalibur.
The blade that cuts through anything.
All the crap, all the years, all the weight, all the justification, all the failures, all the hypocrisies, all the accusations. Cuts through everything, unearthing the core of your narrative once more.
And oh yes, it’s going to hurt. You’ve got people bombarding you on the outside, deserved consequences from your actions swirling all around your head, intense conversations nailing you to the wall about things you haven’t figured out yet. People have all types of thoughts about you and how to “fix” you. And then on the inside, you wield this sword that cuts to the core.
And the pain is unbelievable.
But through the pain, you are free.
This is not freedom to continue part and parcel down misguided path.
This is freedom to finally drop your facades.
You see, we all have a little Adam and Eve in us, deep down. When we violate our Inescapable Innocence, we have a tendency to cover up other things as if that actually offers any resolve or redemption. Rather than becoming adept at leaning our exposed pieces into the light of honesty, we become masters of illusory concealment. Trapped in the suffocating folds of the false freedom we tried to cloak around ourselves. We all have a little Jesus inside of us too though. That’s what He was all about you know. Being honest, so that you could be free, because once free, you could be powerful. Honesty honors the Inescapable Innocence that makes you here in the best way.
So own it.
Remember earlier, when we said that “here” is not just one location, it’s several? This is a special feature coded into your adventure, like the secret passages in Super Mario that you travel into, slide down (or up) a pipe and pop out a few levels beyond the one you would have reached had you resigned to only the play the game linearly. Consider your own life for a moment. Has there ever been a time where you’ve been pissed, but had to attend a meeting or gathering that required you to be in good spirits? And somehow you pulled it off? Or a time you’ve been depressed, but then a child or someone you love very deeply needed you and you reached down to some hidden cavern of your soul and found a way to comfort them, to give them useful advice? Peruse your memories, summon any instance where your state was negative, but you wrenched positive behavior out of it.
You weren’t lost. You weren’t broken. You weren’t crazy. You weren’t beyond reach. You had simply chosen to land in a “here” that did not require you to be present. Self indulgent maybe, or self aggrandizing… but these are not the same as being present. Presence is when the internal world moves harmoniously with the external world. Where introversion and extroversion meet in a sweeping dance, catching up the time spent, metamorphosing it into a moment experienced. Remembered.
What happened in those times is that, rather than being here over there, you chose to be here over here. Your focus shifted to your greatest priority, which then induced the necessary change in your state, which then resulted in you being here and present. That’s not just a gift you bear to give to others; that is a gold coin you can give to yourself as well. While you are in the midst of accepting responsibility, owning whatever it is you need to own up to, dealing with the madness-
Focus on your greatest priority.
Change your state.
Don’t just be here; that’s the easy part. Be present.
Bring some presence to your here-ness.
You are not your mistakes.
You made some mistakes.
Don’t let them make you.
And the second step is simply to steward your Inescapable Innocence well. Take good care of your story, even as it guides you through its pages. How are you being? You have influence over that, jurisdiction over what form it takes in your life. Upsets and tragedies will occur; some of them may even be your fault; but the allocation of blame is not what makes a story. Life is happening for you, to drive you into the most wholesome expression of the innocence at your core. This is what we call fulfillment.
You are here.
Happy trails friends.
Ask better questions,
Do interesting things,
Live your best story possible,
Keep your wings up.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!