The Liminalist # 84: The Safety of Roots (with Steve Hail)


Two part conversation with Steve Hail, former Stormy Weather Existential Detective Agency participant, on recurring patterns,  putting down roots and disrupting patterns, growing Bonsai trees, Brave New World, the value of hardship, the experience of the roots, wanting fruit without roots, constant transplantation, seeking happiness as a compulsion, the failure of the geographical cure, becoming real, the contentment of being grounded, how growth happens, the death of aspirations, resisting aging, escaping the past by constant self-reinvention, connecting to the ancestors, changing the soil, the hostility of the modern social environment, traceability in the age of the Internet, the arrival of the dispersonal, the Facebook lineage, losing the line of the real, society as role-playing game, shifting realities, Game of Thrones, sticking with the narrative, TV deterioration, culture as addiction, intentional chaos, a hypnotic method, the psychology of prior investment, the fear of losing face, trusting a sense of enjoyment, the trap of The Secret, a lost baseline of enjoyment, the safety of roots, numbness and trauma, trauma symptoms and alcohol, shedding the role of victim, a pattern for moving, moving as self-medication, externalizing patterns.

Songs:  “The Kommema and his Religion,” by SunWalker; “Not Enough,” by Hazelwood Motel; “Woo Hoo, I’m Just a Little Bird,” by George.

25 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 84: The Safety of Roots (with Steve Hail)”

  1. Hi Jasun:

    I listened to your podcast here. When I first started listening, I thought, “Man, these guys sound half dead, like they just rolled out of bed and haven’t had their coffee yet. A monotone in the speaking.” I feel for your friend Steve Hail. Where he’s at is familiar to me, that headspace he’s in. I could hear a fidgety anxiety in his voice, nervousness in his snickers and guffaws, when (no doubt very hard for him) he was honestly trying to explain without giving too many specifics where he’s at in his life presently, wandering around, trying to make a change with a different and better outcome or result, and only finding that he finds himself in the same place, again and again. He sounds close to the end of his tether. You could hear the frustration and weariness in his voice. The internal grind of being unsettled and constantly worrying and the whole stress of it eventually depositing him as a wreck, him not being able to feel much anymore, a numbness setting in. One might call that the body’s natural response, shutting down to recharge. But of course the alcohol doesn’t help. I no longer drink alcohol, have been dry for quite a while now, but alcoholism is in my own family. I’ve never been a fall down drunk or have abused it to blackouts, but I know intimately (being the high-strung and hypersensitive fellow that I am) how it retards the surfacing of very important emotions one must feel fully and experience; and that process, not pleasant and can be quite agonizing – painful not as in one being wounded, but painful in a good way – is precisely one’s roots pushing down into the dark earth, seeking nourishment for the whole.

    Greetings to you, Steve Hail, if you read this. I tip my cap to you for talking about yourself like that. That takes some guts. Never easy coming out into the open and talking about where one is actually, the unvarnished truth of it, no fictionalizing, no makeup or cosmetics on it. Jasun, we appear to have a similarity in childhood of moving every three or so years. My Dad got transferred all the time when I was a kid, and I had my heart torn out a couple times, moving away from best friends at such a tender and impressionable age. I think such a thing affects various individualities in different ways. With my own particular nature and temperament, it drove me when I was younger into being more to myself, more introspective, shying away from getting too deeply involved with others. Fear of getting hurt again, of being uprooted and having to move. I have two sisters, one around a year younger than I, and one around a year older, and it affected them and manifested in them in interesting ways. Some serious personal struggles resulted and problems, cycles of self-abuse and such. Of course there are still struggles, relapses, but it helps to be more aware of what’s going on, and to talk it out, as you’ve done here with your friend Steve Hail.

    It’s interesting the place I’m in now. I’m still somewhat guarded, I’ve always been a bit of a neurotic, but I no longer have this debilitating fear or even terror of being uprooted in the way I was in the past, when I was younger, which led me, being so self-protective to such an extreme degree, into vicious cycles and self-defeating behavior. A dog chasing its own tail. Roots have grown much deeper, to where beyond locale more Universal is felt in me now.

    • Hi,
      Thanks for your response!

      I think I am close to the end of my tether and feeling weary as you said, it’s an OK place to be if you don’t deny it. I was always good at pretending things were fine, especially to myself.

      It sounds that you recogised a lot of my frustration and struggle.Thanks for your supportive words

  2. To me Steve sounded quite alive, both at the time and listening back, more alive than most people I have had conversations with for this podcast. Alive as in embodied, speaking from the roots not the topsoil, or from the gut & not merely the throat. Perhaps the confusion has to do with mistaking hysteria for feeling, which is an especially American tendency? (A voice that isn’t shrill can seem monotone with a general backdrop of such voices.) Most people sound to me like they are just on the edge of hysteria, probably because they are. I found Steve’s end of tetherness to be simply proof of a relative lack of illusions. But maybe it takes rooted ears to hear a voice that comes from the roots? Or maybe it’s just that the Liminalist fruit is still a bit tart & green for most palettes.

    John: you seem to have experienced a shift in perception between the start of the podcast and the end. I wonder if we’d still sound half dead if you went back to the start again? Maybe it required a period of adjusting to “the bends”?

    • You may be overthinking my remark at the beginning of my overall comment, Jasun, but even so, your observations are always interesting and worth considering. I think I can recognize the difference between hysteria and real feeling. I’m certainly not an “Ugly America”, fitting that stereotype – lacking in fine discernment, emotionally colorblind, obliviously rude and happy stupid.

      Stepping back, maybe there is something in your reply to my remark. I’m aware of a dryness of wit in you Englishmen, a pregnant deadpan. I can pick up on it better when accompanied by the live visual of the person expressing. Don’t we lose so much of fuller “reading” of each other, strained and sifted through these forms of media, the written word, or the voice alone?

      So I concede your point, Jasun. I’ll keep it in mind going forward. I’ll mutter under my breath, “Bloody Englishmen, dry as toast without jelly.” And you guys can mutter under your breaths, “Listen to this fool American. Won’t sit still. Animated and all over the place, can’t settle on a color, and so ends up choosing too many and making a muddy mess. They have no discernment for all the shades of gray.”

      Great pleasure to meet you, Steve. In this world it can suck balls (or I should say bollocks) for explorative minds who go on liminal trips. I’ve been too cowardly to take the leap and actually do it, but I’ve had this idea bouncing around in the back of my mind for a while of buying an R.V. and trying to live off the grid. A big middle finger to Corporate America. You mention “Faceborg”, Jasun (first time I read that got a hearty chuckle out of me) – I’ve never been on Facebook before, don’t have an account, never had the desire, but I’m grateful for this same technology, the computer, for helping me find guys like you and others with whom I’ve had very stimulating and satisfying interactions. I just recently made Jasun’s acquaintance, Steve, and really like his vibe. It’s not just a surface vibe. I totally get the teetering-on-the-edge-of-sanity courage of the kind of exploring he – and probably you – do. His observations and insights harnessed to his gift with words, where it may blow the mind of others and scare them off, actually returns me all the more confirmed in my own.

      • You may be overthinking my remark at the beginning of my overall comment, Jasun

        More likely overfeeling it, then using thinking as a compensation for the feeling. I don’t suppose anyone likes to be told they sound half dead when they sound 100% normal to themselves!

  3. Hi Steve
    Thanks for this, Jasun too. I am on my third attempt at listening to the podcast. Something or other will interrupt me and as I am interrupted I catch a brief glance of memory, a recollection of being moved on by life to another spot, moment or displacement, interruption breaking but also making power. Concentration, staying power removed as though by an invisible force that knows that if one can concentrate, fight off distraction, stay put and defend one’s ability to defend; ‘it’ will have lost power, authority and purpose. The power becomes greater and more powerful the more it is disobeyed. This nervous, anxious emotion to move on is, for me, linked to wanting to find the best possible place to be ready for death. Death may not come but the invisible priority and urge to be ready is paramount and sensing psychic movement the ‘pattern’ comes alive and asks once again to be obeyed. Truth for oneself manifests in trusting that one is walking along an altogether vital path and the more one obeys the lure to move on the more exciting and meaningful life becomes. Moving and uprooting becomes a ritual and through the desperation and stress caused by the effort and sacrifice, to not lose sight of the search for that holy ground, all the past becomes the present and all the present becomes the future and such purpose becomes a guidance, a battle for self-prophesy. Or, is the call to roam a Siren’s call of love one cannot accept from the disincarnate. Eventually, Hercules’s ‘Twelve Labours’ make sense. It is as though our adventures and roaming can only be completed in honour of an ancestral time, place and personage. Fragments of our psychic lives never left behind but at each juncture carefully and as carefully as we can, we venture again to test life’s roulette wheel. There is cosmic relief in being nomadic. There is loneliness, enormous quiet and a companion will be hard to find but our souls answer better to mystery than drudgery. Assuredly, we find wisdom in our tribulations and travails at the centre of ourselves. The fear of death finally lessens and the need to survive being a moving target weakens and we close our eyes upon another day aware that we are not alone. Part of an invisible wave that crashes upon the shore ceaselessly bearing the weight of our needs to rest eventually where we finally fall. (Alocohol is like a jealous ‘spirit’, it wants too much of our precious human selves). All good wishes.

  4. I’m glad you put a follow-up reply here, Jasun. I don’t like how that came out either, and I take responsibility for it. I recall your comment, referring to the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. Sometimes my own pen gets away from me, slipping off the page, and I end up pricking someone unintentionally, drawing a bead of blood, and causing in response some equivalent of the reaction, “Ouch, you bastard.”

    I looked over what you wrote, Vivian, and you have a good and eager heart. Your words in their intention are beautiful, but I groan inwardly when I think of the effort required to match them. Presently in relation to you I feel like a swamp at night filled with frogs and crawfish and alligators, the surface buzzing with bugs, with you being a holy Will-o’-the-wisp drifting by.

    Hey Steve – Cheers, buddy! Since it’s all I’m capable of presently, being totally exhausted, literally drained to my sludgy dregs, I raise a Goblet of swamp mud to you! Frogs’ legs for appetizers.

  5. Thought it is a really interesting podcast so far. Keep up the good work! I watched ‘Complete Unknown ‘ film last night before even knowing what the subject matter of the podcast was so thought it resonated quite a lot with moving on. Thanks.

  6. Hi John

    There really is no need to try and match my words’ intentions if you understand them, as I am sure you do. Misunderstanding, or misrepresentation, though, is often caused by a form of psychic fright which we are all subject to. Fright is not pleasant. Fright affects the will and I am curious about your ‘groaning’ at the effort required to match my words when you are eloquent and charming in acknowledging their intention. I know from reading your posts that your mind is well able to trigger the will to match mine and vastly more. As for the ‘holy Will-o’-the-wisp drifting by’, well, I take your point humorously. However, I am reminded by the tenor of your post of a comment Jasun made which you also picked up on, I think, though from a different angle on ‘The Hamlet’ thread.

    I have to second John’s impression that your own brand of faith has the tell-tale burn-marks of one who got too close to the inquisitional fires: if not in this life then perhaps another? There is a particular quality of Christian faith that speaks of a defense against, not just that perceptual abyss (psychological and theological) but its shadowy inhabitants also (fragments of a psyche shattered by premature exposure to the “terrible sacred”?) I fear that such faith can serve as glue to stick those pieces together again prematurely, rather than being willing to endure the hollowness of apparent damnation for as long as it takes for those most rejected/suppressed shards to emerge and speak their traumatic history, and so lead the way to integration. And the last shall be the first….? This for me at least seems to be the way, and the reason for my distrust of too-easy religious or theological “solutions.” The presumption that the Lord’s Prayer is any less a case of self-willed magick than a lesser banishing pentagram ritual (or than Bowie’s heavy occult songs) only holds up if we believe that language has inherent meaning in the context of eternal formlessness. Hence I am obliged to reject all names of God in order to approach that which cannot be named and hence has so often been mistaken for the simply unspeakable, and rejected accordingly. (Hence my long-time love affair with “Lucifer.”)

    Leaving the ‘Inquisitional fires’ reference alone for a possible future post I was struck, in particular, by the following, ‘The presumption that the Lord’s Prayer is any less a case of self-willed magick than a lesser banishing pentagram ritual…’

    Have either Jasun or yourself ever thought about exorcism as a healing promise? Am I completely out of order with this comment here or what?

    Pax Vobiscum


    Jasun and yourself remind me of two knights on a chessboard.

    • It’s notable, Vivian, how some courtesy and a kind word to you stirs a spiritual vanity and condescension of which I’m not even sure you’re aware. Instead of relating and participating in the discussion, just regular people down to earth, you dole out spiritual advice and suggestion as if you are plugged directly into the Heavenly Way, the one true way of salvation, becoming quite inflated, and then anyone who claps their hands loudly (actually feeling like slapping you), you fall to and play the part of humble and obedient servant. It’s crazy and maddening to me.

      The spiritual vanity of it is that I believe you take this maddening of me, and others who you madden, to be a good thing, a confrontation with the Dark One, the Adversary. It makes you feel that you’re doing the Good Lord’s work. It’s interesting how you use flattery in combination with the maddening. You piss one off, then move in with flattery and apply it like a band-aid.

      I can see how you could only view me as one of the blind leading the blind, needing so desperately for putting one foot in front of the other the assistance of one who “sees”, being “saved and secure in the Lord”, treating me like an invalid (which to basic human decency and dignity is insulting), or as being possessed by the Devil and in urgent need of your help for driving it out. The suggestion of exorcism is ridiculous to me.

      I certainly have my faults, my own self-destructive drives, bad tendencies and habits, my hatreds and aggressions, my personal obsessions, I struggle daily and nightly, in waking consciousness and in my dreams and nightmares, with things so difficult and perhaps impossible to put into words, ongoing battles are going on inside me, skirmishes breaking out around my heart, all out war going on down in my soul, but all in all, when push comes to shove, and everything is shaken out and weighed in the balance, I’m a fairly decent, regular guy, Vivian. Something I should’ve added to my first comment, mainly addressed to Steve, is that from what I hear on this podcast, the good and honest camaraderie with Jasun, I like Steve. He’s the kind of dude I’d hang out with, sharing laughs but also getting down and dirty in the Real, trying to figure out together the meaning of this life we find ourselves in, how certain phenomena actually work and if they’re good or bad for us, wrestling with the big questions and trying finally to get to some inkling or glimmer of the Truth.

      Speaking of alcoholism, or abuse of alcohol, and other kinds of addiction (television shows, etc.), there is also I believe such a think as being a sloppy drunk of God.

      • Thanks John for answering my awkward question. It is very good for me to hear your analysis and feelings. I meant no harm in asking the question only I needed some clarity as to where everyone was coming from. You are right to be offended but I hope you will forgive my need to enquire. We are talking about important matters and through such dialogue we can learn a lot. I am not upset by your description, perception or analysis of me because I am pretty sure you are not as accurate as your upset demanded but that is for you and others to decide, perhaps. I don’t see you as ‘one of the blind leading the blind’ far from it. I just intuited that Jasun’s overarching dependence upon Luciferic sensibilities and orchestration had somehow affected your otherwise formidable intelligence. The esoteric, psychological and emotional strains of staying sane and well in an already mad and often extremely unwell world is not easy and friendship in all its forms including this platform is a blessing. When I first heard the the beginning of the interview with Steve and Jasun I too felt as you did. I was shocked but I kept returning and finally it clicked. The podcast was humble and beautiful and I could relate with Steve all the way and saw and heard in him a fellow traveller. That’s what inspired me to write what I did. Something I have not been able to express as well before. Steve and Jasun liberated much and that ‘much’ included me; so I shared it with all the risks that that attenuates. So, naturally, I can’t agree that I am preaching as though I am set on a godly way and for all sakes and purposes, elect. So I don’t know where that came from or how you felt the need to say it except as I have inferred you might have taken an unconscious siding with Jasun. Jasun is the one who is preaching and appearing to be on a special path back from enlightenment. The only problem is, and I trust Jasun will forgive me for saying this, is that Jasun is condemned to play out the Luciferic because there is every chance he is possesed by its power. The Luciferian Light and the amazing philosophical and Miltonian interpretations he has come to love and adore are familiar to me to and countless others but Jasun seems to have no alternative(s). Brilliant expositor, beautiful man, a great thinker and communicator, he is the business, but he has stopped trying it seems to dig himself out of the labyrinth he is trapped in but aristocratically brushes aside ‘easy’ answers as infra dignitatem and, in so doing, doesn’t just quite spot himself being watched switching masks. I look forward to his answer to my question, if it is forthcoming, and know the ensuing narrative will be an enormous help to anyone reading it. It has been easy for yourself, John, to lampoon me but you don’t know me, the same goes for Jasun; you only do what we all mostly do when confronted and alarmed and that is, attack. Equally, I don’t know you. That’s cool though because it may take us further along the way once we can get nearer to discovery and deeper reflection. Yes, there is such a thing as a ‘sloppy drunk of God’ and it is a very unpleasant image. It is important to also not forget how important this opportunity is to talk about matters as we do. We can’t all be the same. Lastly, Jasun’s complaint about the posts becoming too refined and high-minded, well, I don’t think that was Jasun talking but an inferior spirit who has no place being near his mind or lips. Jasun is a nobler soul than that, but if he isn’t then we are in danger of being cultural fodder (organic); an entertainment special .

        • What question?

          What attack?

          You, Vivian, seem to be wrestling with phantom projections. We are all, it is true, but there’s a correlation between how unaware we are of the inevitability of doing so and how much we do it. This is the high-mindedness I speak of, what Dr. Freud called the superego and what John, rather humorously, called a sloppy drunk of God. & what the superego giveth, the id taketh away. Your excessive praise demands an equally out of proportion uprush of hell-fire and brimstone, like an old-time preacher frothing at the mouth about the evils of sex to shore up the crumbling walls of his own holiness.

          The dichotomy of Godliness vs. Luciferic is another false one, IMO. What really determines how true or ensouled an expression is relates only to how much we have owned and integrated our unconscious trauma-drives.

          I do cop to be overly identified with knowledge and hence enslaved to it, which is the essence of the Luciferic, except that ironically, such overly dramatic mythologized diagnoses are themselves symptomatic of the very same condition. By which I mean: It takes a possessed soul to prescribe an exorcism.

          • This reply is not convincing. For the first time I can sense your insecurity. Will look forward to speaking with you on Skype when you hopefully make contact with Hull (not Hell!) if you still want to. Did you manage to research phenobarbitone usage from the 1970ss onwards?



  7. Lovely to hear from you Steve,

    Fine job of reporting on the modern experience (do you bog?).

    Seeking the Real, not the happiness (can’t remember how you said it) 🙂

  8. @Vivian/John: This comments section is not really geared for discussion.

    On second look I presume the attack in question was John’s which i read as a somewhat delayed reaction to Vivian’s series of comments over at the blog, combined possibly with a misunderstanding of V’s question about exorcism, this being the question V referred to later on:

    Have either Jasun or yourself ever thought about exorcism as a healing promise?

    John took this as a recommendation of an exorcism & I ended up following that cue in my later comment to V. I ignored the question as I didn’t really understand it. V then went off one calling me Luciferic, etc, and it seemed as tho John’s worst fears about V were confirmed.

    If Vivian wishes to clarify the question he can do so, tho at this point I’m rather leery of getting into it, especially after V’s condescending dismissal of my last response.

    • The question above is clear. It is not a recommendation as you rightly interpret. I have moved past the point of interest of receiving any reply. Best wishes, V.

  9. I don’t mean this to take a nasty turn, Vivian. I’m not siding with anyone. I never presumed to speak for Jasun or for Steve or for anyone other than myself. I seek to understand individualities, and have been trying to participate sympathetically in a conversation, while respecting so far as it’s within my ability each person’s point of view. I’m not sneakily jostling for position and aligning myself for the sake of surprise attacks. I’m still open to trying to understand your point of view. I extend the same openness and respect, however, the same willingness to understand, toward someone who professes Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or whatever, extending it also, and with even more wondering indulgence, toward the lost souls of the world, and toward those who’ve become really hard-boiled cynics.

    Yes, you and I don’t really know each other, Vivian, but I’m completely within my rights to defend myself, addressing you with candor and frankness as I did, when you suggest in all honesty, with a perfectly straight face, that I get an exorcism.

    It may be that how I’ve responded to you will only make you more fervently believe that I’m possessed and under an evil and malign influence, that you’ve really rattled me and exposed an underlying insecurity. I think there’s something to the observation that this may be only a manifestation of a more personal battle one is fighting, a struggle within one’s own soul, spilling out in projection into the world, for relief needing to see others in a bad light, and finally, while hiding behind a Holy Front which inflates and expands itself, and makes itself seem like it speaks for the whole world, giving in finally to the temptation to demonize anyone who begs to differ, disagrees or has a different belief or point of view. To me that’s more likely the real triumph of evil in the world. I myself willingly admit to personal vulnerability, and to having plenty of my own shortcomings and faults, anxieties and fears. I try to take responsibility for those bad things about myself, my own unresolved issues, whenever and wherever, to relieve internal pressure, I displace them, inadvertently hurting others or really trying their patience. Truth is if you persist as you have been, at least toward me, Vivian, my head won’t start spinning on my neck like a top, my eyes won’t roll into the back of my head, and I won’t start projectile-vomiting pea soup at you. I’m merely human.

      • I just got in from a night jog, Vivian. I’m sitting here cooling down and it’s approaching 2 am here in San Francisco where I live. My Dad and I joke that it’s “San Fran-psycho” or “San Fran-sicko”. There are a lot of broken individuals roaming the streets in this city. I’m somewhat of a nutty fellow, going out jogging after midnight. I like it when no one is around, the moon in the sky, the water lapping up against the rocks down by the bay. I saw a family of raccoons in the shadows this dark early morning. Once I almost stepped on a skunk on a trail that goes up through a small park, the home-stretch of my jog. I saw the skunk just in time to veer wide around it.

        I wish you the best too, Vivian. You know, behind all these words, whatever argument or conflict there may be, I do sense the quality of your heart. I must say, it’s not a bad one. I have this feeling if we wound each other, or go astray, we can reel it all back in and try another approach.

        The relationship between you and Jasun is interesting to me. I wonder to what extent a symbiotic thing is going on, each of you bringing out in each other an extreme. If we were in person, you’d see I’m fascinated by the occult, the Luciferian, the darker, scary ambiguous areas in us (Milton is fantastic – I love Paradise Lost Milton, and if Jasun can tap into that spirit, all power and praise to him), but I’m also attracted to Jesus, and the mystics and saints. I understand the power of both. I’ve explored both sides. I’ve gone down into some very dark places in myself. I’ve been to where everything falls apart, and whirls around the abyss, pulled into total destruction. Much that Jasun expresses resonates with me, but so does much that you express. I personally think we carry all of these dimensions in ourselves, from brightest light to darkest shadow, from presence which overflows and fills the whole universe, to absence which drains all to meaninglessness, the whole spectrum, and in interactions with this or that person, depending where each is in life, moods and a host of other elements and influences hard to put one’s finger on, through resulting chemistries, certain combinations come out and predominate, while others are more muted and repressed.

        • Thank you, John. Yes, Milton really holds a key of understanding to all this rumble in the occult jungle. We are all doing our best to do our best! Keep well, it is always a pleasure to read your comments. V.

  10. I always thought you could make a living being a reader for some audio book company, Steve. Your speaking voice is rich and soulful … quite rooty, actually. Glad to hear it again.
    From a former fellow SWEDA crew mate
    Pukey / Page


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