SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - What's Within?
A scoop of falsity, a dash of authenticity, topped with a tiny monster (optional)
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, no hermeticism required.
Teratomas — Our bodies are weird. Bodies do a lot of important things but also a lot of weird things, most of which keep us alive, some of which try to kill us. Sometimes bodies do weird things for no reason, things that don’t harm us but also don’t help us. Teratomas mostly fall into this category. They are tumors, which are a bodily occurrence usually lacking in folklore, but teratomas are the weird outsider kid in high school of tumors — they intrigue and repel.
Tumor is a word that conjures an image of a mass of flesh caused by abnormal tissue growth, more technically known as neoplasia. This tumor stereotyping is what gives teratomas their mystique — teeth and hair anywhere they aren’t expected is horror movies 101. It’s gnarly, but with teratomas, the gnarlier the better. Developed teratomas can have long strands of hair, cartilage, even nails, and eyes, but are most likely harmless as opposed to those sneaky underdeveloped teratomas that can be cancerous.
Teratoma is a meshing of two Greek words, tera meaning monster and toma meaning tumor. Though usually harmless (don’t go down the Web MD rabbit hole), they do sound undeniable monstrous. Fetiform teratomas solidify the evil twin aura — these occur when the tumor is so well developed it starts to resemble a malformed fetus, i.e., your twin that should’ve been but found the will power to exist a little too late.
No, I am not going to post a picture of an actual teratoma. I will post what might be even weirder — the surprising abundance of teratoma art. Try not to trigger yourselves.
Despite the de-mystification of biology that science has gifted us, there are some things our bodies do that are just weird. Teratomas remind us that science-fiction is really just our innate human desire to marvel at the unbelievable weirdness of real life.
Who are you when you are with you? Who are you when you are with others? We have many selves that can be categorized in many ways — the self our grandparents see is a slightly different self than our friends see which also differs from the self our employers see. With all these selves, how do we know which is true?
We may feel we are static and clear personalities but our selves are fluid, moving back and forth between true and false.
Living Mask, 2019, original art by Supa-Alien
You might argue they are all different versions of true, like pages of a book taken out of context. Donald Winnicott prefers to break the self in two — the true self and the false self. These selves exist along a gradient of 5 levels:
At your falsest, your true self is like a shadow in the shade that no one sees but you believe exists nonetheless.
Above the falsest self is a self that uses falsity as armor against the world.
In the middle of the gradient of selves is the version of you that is learning to balance falsity with authenticity.
The truest self is not devoid of falsity but retains a false self only in times of social necessity — we invoke the false self to refine our emotional expression in ways that don’t terrorize others. Consider those people who cloak their malice with I’m-just-honest; they are not only unkind but un-true for failing to properly use the false self.
Let’s get to the psychoanalytic meat: it’s time to blame mom and dad. Winnicott created a lovely category called good enough parenting that protects against the struggle with falsity. If your parents were less than good enough, you might play an eternal version of the most dangerous game, camouflaging with your world to comply with its desires and feel safe.
Building ourselves out of what the world wants from us may keep us safe but ends with a patchwork identity that comes at the cost of wholeness and authenticity.
Chameleon, 2019, original art by Supa-Alien
Being authentic is risky. You upset people — parents, employers, social systems — which in turn upset you. Erich Fromm warns against self-commodification that leaves out those pesky unmarketable aspects of us, like a resume, but instead of text, that fabricated and heavily edited document is you.
There are symptoms of being too far hidden behind the false self; the sense of being frozen in time, the sense that we have sold ourselves short or bitten our tongues too hard begin to weigh us down and drain us. Living in the false self is a lonely and exhausting world — there is no home to return to within ourselves when a fickle world turns on us.
Finding the balance between our true and false self is both a process and a path.
Original art by Luis Colina
The authentic you is the you that does not sacrifice itself to please others. The authentic you is the you that does not hide itself to protect against childhood fears of rejection or punishment. Look for the ways you hide from and twist yourself for others. Authenticity is risky, but every other option is false.
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.