Monday, July 21, 2008

Splits

When people find out I subscribe to GQ and Esquire (and read them cover to cover) they react like it's Playboy and I've just said I'm "reading it for the articles." They assume the worst and that I'm lathering myself in a kind of cultural cologne. But I do read those magazines for their articles, and not for materialistic pointers. GQ, in particular, is the most consistently intelligent, frequently mindblowing, and occasionally soulful thing I can get my eyes on. And Esquire is often not very far behind.

Esquire does a section a few times a year called "What It's Like," where they publish first-hand accounts of random and rare experiences, like getting hit by a car, being mauled by a bear or scuba diving for gold. In this month's issue they ran an account of Coral Hull, who has multiple personalities.

My first impression was that it was beautifully out and had a kind of raw transcendence. I remember being intrigued to see the movie Brokeback Mountain, hoping that, if the film made its case for love, the story of closet gay cowboys in the '60s could be the closest a movie can come to looking at love in the abstract - as a thing disembodied and thriving in spite of human structures. Like a Romeo and Juliet, where their love had to exist outside of the societal pressures of a family feud and seemed more pure because of it. (As it is, I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came a lot closer to nailing this.)

The other thing that came to mind when reading Hull's account in "multiple" first person was a story I read a few years ago about people who were signing up for voluntary, unnecessary amputations. These people claimed to have had an obsession all their life with removing a particular one of their limbs - an arm, or a hand - and were finally doing something about it by having it surgically removed. To me it conjured an image from The Matrix of all of humanity existing in a higher, more primary tier of reality, asleep in a womb state, hooked up to a program for dreaming. I thought of these people with their "wrong" limbs as having truer bodies in a Matrix-like honeycomb that had somehow been maimed and, now dreaming, were experiencing a phantom sense that something wasn't right. That limb doesn't belong there. An idea like this, or anything like it involving higher versions of our physical selves, would explain a whole lot of other ways that people feel not at ease in their skin. From the gender confused to your average raging poet-dreamer.

(Thanks to Peter Artemas for the gift subscription to Esquire.) The piece:

What It's Like To Have Multiple Personalities.
By Coral Hull, et al., 42, writer, artist

The following was taken from interviews and e-mail exchanges with Hull and her other selves.

I am one self who is co-conscious with a multitude of other selves. As one person, my name is Dr. Coral Hull. As a system, we are the Crystal Voyager System.
We have discovered between forty and fifty others. They are of both sexes - adults, children, other kin, and fragments. A lot could be written just on Celeste, a mermaid.
Sometimes the shifts are dramatic, such as when a business-oriented human adult is overcome by a fairy child who prefers to observe humans from behind trees. We've learned how to handle this, particularly when dealing with the more unconventional selves, who may act in socially inappropriate ways. We can't sniff at plates in restaurants or bare our teeth at people when we feel threatened.
I first became aware of the personalities in 2004. I remember hearing someone say, "Oh, my God! There are other people living in my body!" Then I heard what sounded like several internal thought dialogues whispering, "She knows." I lost consciousness for a number of weeks while an android named Witt took responsibility for the body. Witt did funny things like call our mother and say, "Coral Hull no longer exists. My name is Witt."
Physical relationships are a challenge. Daniel is a male self in a female body. If Daniel happened to become conscious while one of us heterosexual women was involved with a male, he would panic. It probably seems like I'm complex, moody, and inconsistent, when the truth is that each one of us is simply being ourself. Raven is a shaman, whereas Jackie is wary of anything she considers to be new age and refers to people who believe in this as "a pack of crystal danglers." Some of us drink Scotch and others don't drink at all. Each of us has come into being as naturally as you did. It's just that we happen to share one body.

Hi, I'm Bonnie. I'm human, at least I was the last time I looked. My interest is psychology, particularly criminal psychology, which I've studied for many years. I'm agnostic. There is very little that surprises me. Anyone, mental-health workers included, who thinks that they can dictate or impose their idea of reality and consciousness onto others, as fact, is deluded.

The others call me Cynthia, but I prefer Amelia. Bonnie is helping me write this. I am coming through her mind. I came into the body in 2005, just after some terrible things had happened. I do not know where I came from. I was just thinking last night how I would be afraid to have my own body. There would be no one to look after me, and I don't really understand your world and its ways.

Hello, my name is Daniel. I have often felt like I've failed to be a man and that I would have done better inside my own body. Then again, I am blessed to have existed at all.

- AS TOLD TO NATALIE GHEIT

2 comments:

Marie Lasferatu said...

GQ is AWESOME!

Meg said...

that was wonderful. i love those mags. i learned of the theory of schizophrenia being caused by a bacteria (t.gondii) only present in feline feces from an amazing article in esquire. go dan.