First off, do NOT read this blog post unless you read yesterday’s first. In this post, I explain the results of a game I played twenty years ago, and I want you to have the chance to play the game. In yesterday’s post, I invite you to play the game yourself. So please, go back and read that one. Click here to play “The Cube.”
It’s okay. I’ll wait.
Okay. Good? Great.
I hope you enjoyed playing “The Cube.” I hope you found it to be as intriguing and thought-provoking as I did. I discovered this game when I was in college. My sister gave me a book about it by Annie Gottlieb and Slobodan Pesic for Christmas. I found it intriguing, and I “cubed” myself that day. I spent a lot of time over the next few weeks, months, and years “cubing” friends and family. Here’s what my landscape looked like:
- My cube is large and transparent, made of glass, almost like a ray tracing. It hovers in the air, in the center of the landscape.
- The ladder is long and sturdy, made of wood, connecting the cube to the ground. It has many rungs.
- The horse is a white pegasus, flying around in the air near the cube.
- The storm is actually inside the cube, and looks like smoke swirling throughout. The horse is flying in rhythm with the storm’s swirls.
- The flowers are all over the ground, in many different colors. They are like wildflowers.
It’s funny…to me, this seemed like such a “stock image” of what this landscape had to look like. What else could there be? Yet, it’s nothing at all like how my friends saw it. Everybody has a different image. And what does it say about me? I think the most telling part is the storm. It’s not outside. It’s not on the horizon. It’s not threatening the ladder, the horse, or the flowers. It’s completely inside the cube, hermetically sealed in that strong glass structure. It does affect the horse, though, since she is flying, almost dancing, in rhythm with it.
The storm symbolizes trouble. Where does my trouble come from? Where are my problems? Well, inside me, of course. I’ve had such a privileged life. I have few external problems to complain about, certainly nothing that should cause the level of sadness and worry I so often feel. Because that’s the nature of depression: it has precious little to do with the outside world. It’s a storm inside me. A storm that swirls constantly, filling me and in some ways making my identity. I am an open book…the transparency of the cube is appropriate, given my willingness to share my feelings and my self with those around me. (Witness this blog itself.) Yet within me is not clear. Within me is a mess of trouble, and I use this blog to help you to see what it is that makes me who I am.
The horse symbolizes my lover. I played the game before I met my wife, and I think in my case it symbolizes an ideal more than an actual person. I always used to think that once I found that right woman, everything would be okay. Love would save me. Love would fix me. Love would make everything good. She would be magical and superhuman: thus, not a horse but a pegasus, a majestic, magnificent steed with angel’s wings. Yet the truth was right there for me to see…the horse didn’t break into the cube. She didn’t take the storm away, but she danced with it. It affected her, but didn’t hurt her. That’s the gift that people truly can give to those of us with mental illnesses…they can’t fix us, but they can acknowledge the illness, and dance with us. That’s what my wife has indeed done. She has stood by me, believing me and trusting me. I know that my moods and my illness affect her, yet she is able to stay aloft, dancing and living so close to me.
The ladder symbolizes my friends. I have so many, and they are so strong, and they ground me. They keep me connected to the ground, to the source of being, to the source of all goodness. You, dear reader, are one of the rungs on this ladder, and I thank you. Again, you haven’t somehow poked a hole in the cube to let the storm out, but you show me there is a world outside my brain. You show me that there is life out there, that maybe there’s hope out there.
And the flowers? Well, they’re supposed to symbolize children. When I played this game, children were the last thing on my mind…my daughter wouldn’t be born for another thirteen years or so. So they’re just pretty, I guess.
I was about twenty when I played the cube, and saw the image I described above. By that point, I knew I had depression. It had been about two years since my suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization. But I still thought I had it under control myself…I didn’t see any need for ongoing therapy or medication. I knew the storm was inside me…that much made sense to me. But I still believed that I could do it, solve it, fix it, without any outside help. It took me many years to finally admit that that’s not true.