I am animal, human, and symbol at once. Animal is my instinct, appetite and desire; my will to survive. Human is my mind, ideas, and imagination. Symbol is my identity and legacy; my place in the world. Symbol is the only one that will transcend mortality but in and of itself, it’s out of my control, as it is dependent upon how other people view me. If Animal and Human harmonize to attain clarity of purpose, then Symbol would reflect my sense of self.
There was a time in my life when I was stripped of my goals, my dreams, my youth, my independence, my pride. All that was left of me was my will to survive. I battled imminent death for months, unable to move or swallow, then emerged with most of my faculties, but not my voice, which was my passion, purpose, identity, and lifeblood. Beyond that, I knew I would be dependent on expensive medicines indefinitely, unable to work much. My IQ was lower due to brain damage from high fevers, I lost my hair, I had arthritis which made walking difficult, and I could not sleep without an onslaught of medications.
I was stripped of my humanity and laid bare. My photography and self-expression was the only thing that made me more than just an animal at the time. At the very best, this turned me into a symbol. The art represented what I really was: a naked, scratched and bruised animal, with nothing to love but its memories of being human. My photos displayed this. Outside of artwork all I wanted was to feed, fuck and compete. I had no friends, only allies and adversaries. I had no love, only flesh and innocence upon which to feed.
What it means to be an animal, stripped of your humanity, is: fearless, shameless, apathetic. Fearlessness is not courage, shamelessness is not confidence, and apathy is not strength. These states of mind are emptiness, nothingness, animalism. Some people reach this state and don’t want to live but, having fought for my life, I was in touch with my survival instincts. I wanted to survive, and I had this tiny modicum of hope that one day, I would live again. That the ghost of my past would be resurrected.
I crashed and burned until the phoenix burst and I was reborn over and over… and each time, I came closer to finding my passion and purpose, until finally I sang lead through my whisper on my album which was the last piece of the puzzle that made me human again. Human: compassionate, vulnerable, scared, ashamed, angry, open, wounded, alive.
In my case, this episode of animalism has been deeply incorporated into my understanding of myself and the world. For a while, I tried to reject the animal altogether, but then it came back full force, twice as hungry. The only way to move past it was to stop hating it. To embrace it. To love it. To know that it is part of me, but there is also more to me than just that. I am animal, human and symbol at once.
Embrace the animal and you will know what makes you human as well as what makes you you, what gives you identity and place in the world. When someone rejects their inner animal – or mine – honest communication is impossible.