…You’re so vain you have no chance of understanding that these writings are about you…
Directions For Use: Apply liberally. Read. Rinse. Repeat.
Endecay Museladder I A Great and Varied Scrapbook of Mostly Vampire Selfies
We continually forget that there are no beginnings or endings. And that’s all that needs remembering: there are no beginnings or endings. And so whatever we imagine between them can only be these precious fictions.
The Sky beyond the sky is the colour of impermanence.
The lever, the dream, and the fulcrum…
“People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.” -Neil Gaiman, American Gods
…and that is the whole of it…
Cold Caterpillar Soup
I dream myself unenlightened
just to belong.
I pour all of my life’s energy continually
into sharing this lie.
Wanting only to be counted among you,
as one of you,
I try to forget
That I’m not even one of me.
Rather, I am caterpillar soup,
Cold in the chrysalis,
And there is no pretence of butterflies
Context is everything.
And the context for everything…
Is everything else.
What do you know about that? What can you know?
For all its lack of lasting gravity as it accelerates faster and faster, youth gathers an impossible momentum that carries on quite well into middle age. To it, life ever lies ahead, still an unknown destination. There’s plenty of time… always. Until there’s not. Then youth abruptly ends, and it’s as though something has already— definitely— died. Perhaps it is that youth is defined precisely by its inability to recognize its own individual mortality. You just wake up one day and youth is gone. And that’s only something you can look back on. You can’t see it coming. There’s no sneaking or creeping, just the cold clarity of hindsight, and the shadow of death now lurking in the corner by the closet. At least, that’s how it’s been for me.
And then suddenly the concept of legacy exerts a new pressure on the mind. It seems terribly important on the one hand, and absurdly pointless on the other. I mean… failing to produce a lasting impression while alive, artists, visionaries and megalomaniacs alike dream that death may still confer an automatic poignancy upon all that which previously garnered only shrugs and polite dismissive lies. And for everyone else, all their hopes, by default, are heaped upon their children— their living legacy. But being still blissfully youthful, their children are incapable of genuinely giving two fucks, or even one. And when their own mid-life crisis finally, inevitably strikes, their parents’ stale wishes and outdated aspirations are nowhere in their minds.
Legacy, therefore, is a tricky thing. And although it outwardly appears to be an act of selfless giving, I rather think that formalizing one’s legacy is supremely selfish, wholly personal and unabashedly indulgent. So I will understand perfectly if in this reading you often find yourself not giving a single fuck… let alone the requisite two.
Eagle Food 1 Kill ‘em All!
The Time I Murdered My Family
I must’ve been 15 years old, a special mix of volatility and arrogance, exploring my individuality. Lying awake in bed after midnight when the consensus of the world’s reality was somewhat sloppy and loose, I sleeplessly dreamed with uncommon clarity the death of everyone I loved:
I saw myself coming home from a fun time with my friends to a back door ajar. Alarmed to the oddity— but recognizing the lateness of the hour— instead of calling out, I went around to investigate. I found my parents murdered in their beds, silent and bloody. The dog had been strangled in her basket in the kitchen. My brother was shot in the chest in the chair facing the TV in the downstairs family room. I was coldly alone.
I cried in my bed, allowing myself to grieve… even though a part of me knew perfectly well that I had just ignited it all in my imagination. It wasn’t real. But, for a time, I made it real with my grief.
And that changed everything…
Tales From My Crazy Uncle Nilly
I was six years old when I, along with my younger sister, came to spend a summer with our crazy Uncle Nilly. Prior to the day that we packed up the car— a sky-blue VW bug— I had never heard of our crazy uncle. No one had ever mentioned him before. And that was odd. But I was only six, and so didn’t realize the oddity, along with many others, until these many years later, in trying to recount and rekindle the magical grace of my own unique childhood.
The second oddity that was wholly lost on me at the time was that it was my mother who drove us to the remote mountain home of our long lost uncle, even though he was my father’s brother. My parents explained it away, claiming that my father’s skills and strong work ethic were needed at home to begin the cleanup and repairs occasioned by the flood which had devastated our entire suburban neighbourhood just a few days before.
It was the reason we were leaving: basements were flooded; carpets and drapes and so-called drywall were soaked with grime; furniture and beds and clothing were ruined. To a six-year-old it seemed that the whole world had just become one great mess, a soggy and already quite smelly one at that. On the one hand, my sister and I were glad to be leaving the terrible mess behind, but the mystery of the heretofore unknown crazy uncle on the other hand provided a brand new reason to fret… suddenly, unexpectedly, we were leaving the mud flood behind and heading into an equally murky future.
The drive was a long one— seven hours in all, but it might as well have been seven days to my young imagination. The farmland, mostly dotted with cows, just outside of the city limits, gave way to wilder and grassier rolling hills as the mountains in the distance began to loom like rock-toothed monsters spilling down from the sky. It had only been a couple of hours, when we were already surrounded on all sides by ginormous rock ogres, mostly ignoring us in our crammed bug as we crawled along between them. I imagined that mountains had much better things to do than trifle with the likes of us. Still, we were in their world now… best to stay alert.
“Where does crazy Uncle Nilly live anyway?” I asked my mom an hour or so after that.
“Jeremiah!” she shot back, pinning me with her eyes in the rearview mirror. “You mustn’t call him that!”
“That’s what you and Dad called him,” I easily countered.
Mom gets this look in her eyes when she knows that I’m right but she hates that I’m right. I saw that look in the little rectangle of the mirror. She quietly sighed and then explained. “If your father and I really thought that Uncle Nilly was crazy, we wouldn’t dream of sending you two to live with him for the summer. He’s just a little… eccentric.” That’s kinda outside of the scope of a six-year-old’s vocabulary, so she quickly added “He’s just a bit odd.”
Well, that cleared up nothing at all.
“Is he funny?” asked Cassy from the passenger seat up front.
“Yes, I suppose he is,” said mother, somehow relieved.
“And nice,” insisted Cassy as though she knew with utter certainty, as four-year-olds do.
“Yes, quite nice, I’m sure.”
Have you ever noticed that people only say “I’m sure” when they’re not really sure at all? It’s supposed to be convincing. Well, it might work on four-year-olds, but not necessarily on their big brothers. I would decide for myself how nice this crazy uncle actually was. There was no need to take Mom’s word for it. And so for now I let it go.
After what seemed like days of creeping through the camp of the rock giants, we finally turned off the main highway onto a road that wasn’t much of a road at all. It certainly wasn’t paved, not even gravelled. No one had even bothered to smooth it out. It was more like a mostly-overgrown double-track trail, suitable for herds of billy goats but not VW’s— with their lack of smooth-ride suspension. I pretended we were in a covered wagon made of wood heading out west, fixing to fight some injuns over land or gold or whatever people used to fight about in the olden days. I got tossed around pretty good in the back seat, heading up that mountain to where our crazy uncle lived.
It didn’t seem like a place where folks could live. I mean, there weren’t any houses… or stores… or people. Just trees. Lots and lots of trees. At one point there was an old rusted out car beside the road, someone’s failed attempt having been swallowed by forest and weather and time. We made it farther than they had. And we kept on going.
“This has to be it,” said Mom, more to herself than anyone else after about a half hour of climbing and bouncing… and plenty of wondering. “It’s got to be here,” she added a few minutes later quite unconvincingly.
Then the mountain road that really wasn’t a road at all began to level out, and we were at the very tippy-top of the world, but still lost in a forest of trees and brush. And we motored on. Then I spotted something through the trees out the side window— bright lights that sparkled and danced. It was sunlight reflecting off the surface of a lake. A lake! I didn’t know you could have lakes at the tops of mountains. Apparently, there was such a thing.
And suddenly we were parked. The road had just stopped pretending to be a road, and now the clearing we were in was the smallest parking lot in the world. Mom shut off the engine. We got out.
There was no crazy uncle, no house, no yard, no people, no noise. There was just a tiny path leading down an embankment to the edge of the lake. We climbed down carefully and stood at the shore.
The lake was small and oval. It was long, stretching to the left and to the right, disappearing into more endless forest and swamp at each end. It wasn’t very wide where we stood. We could easily see to the other side, and I bet myself that I could swim across if I had to.
And there it was, the crazy uncle’s house, perched in a clearing on the other side. It was a small cabin, maybe made of logs, and a rowboat sat at the shore below it half in the water, half out. That’s all there was to see. I had been expecting more. What more? I couldn’t even begin to imagine. But this seemed meagre… although Mother was suddenly quite pleased.
“Oh, thank god,” she said. And then she enthusiastically shouted across the lake “Yoo-hoo!” the universal greeting among diplomats, aliens and estranged family members.
“Oy!” came the reply a few seconds later, as the man himself stepped from the shadowed porch, waving hand and arm in greeting, and then shielding his eyes from the sun to get a good look at who had come to invade his little kingdom.
“It’s Mary and the kids!” yelled my mom, answering his gaze. And I thought to myself, what? Wasn’t he expecting us? I don’t really know what I thought— that Mom and Dad had called him up last night to make all the arrangements. But then I clued in pretty quickly that telephone service out here was more than unlikely. So here we were dropping in unannounced to live out the summer with a crazy uncle we hadn’t even known existed just a day ago…
Loading and unloading the rowboat took twice as long as the ride across the lake. Already I had learned that I’d been here before… when I was just a baby. It had been the last time Mom and Dad had spoken with crazy Uncle Nilly. So that was six years ago.
During the short trip across the lake I developed a theory as to why they called my uncle crazy. Our luggage was piled up in the front of the boat, and we three sat in the back as my uncle rowed. At very close quarters we stared each other in the face… and you couldn’t help but notice my uncle’s eyes. They were wide and wild, seeming to sparkle more than the sunlight off the lake. I had never seen eyes like that before. I couldn’t even tell what colour they were; they were just crazy, twinkling like stars! I didn’t know what to make of that.
He seemed nice enough though. “And who might this be?” he’d asked straight off, smiling down on Cassy.
“Ah, pleased to meet you, Miss Cassandra.”
“Cassiopeia!” shrieked my little sister, quickly correcting him.
“Apologies my lady. Your unrivalled beauty had momentarily rattled my wits. Please, I beg your forgiveness Queen Cassiopeia.” Uncle Nilly bowed as deeply as a rowboat would allow; Cassy giggled; and everything seemed instantly alright.
As we carried the luggage up to the porch, it immediately became clear that my uncle’s house was no ordinary log cabin. In fact, it wasn’t made of logs at all. It seemed to be made mostly of stone with some wood mixed in. There were no sharp corners or even any straight lines. Everything was curved and smooth, and the rock was like just one giant stone that had been hollowed out and polished. I learned later that it was a type of malleable goop called cob that once it was properly shaped, hardened into lightweight stone. It was really cool!
Now I was on a mission to gather as much information as I could, so as my mom began explaining the situation to my uncle, I tried my best to listen in. They sat in the tiny kitchen drinking coffee I think. I was supposed to be outside with Cassy getting acquainted with our new surroundings, but I made a point to linger.
“It must’ve been your idea to bring them here,” said my uncle.
Mom got instantly defensive. “You said that if we ever needed your help…”
“I only meant that it couldn’t have been my brother’s.”
“No,” conceded Mother. “It wasn’t easy to persuade him. It was just that we didn’t have any other viable options. We just recently moved, and we don’t have any friends close enough that we could ask them to take the children. All of our neighbours are in the very same boat we’re in— dealing with the damage and the repairs… and you’re really the only family we’ve got left.”
“Yes, we three orphans have to help each other out. It’s not a problem. Really.”
“Jeremiah,” Mom turned to me, “can you please go outside to keep an eye on your sister.”
That wasn’t the reason she wanted me to go outside. Grownups and their privacy… sheesh. Fortunately, the kitchen window was open on this early summer evening, and I could still hear everything just fine from the porch.
They talked more about the arrangements, how me and Cassy might have to stay the whole summer, and that when it was over Mom would try to persuade Dad to come get us— so Uncle Nilly could see his brother for the first time in like forever. And then the discussion got real quiet for a bit; Mom hummed and hawed about something I couldn’t quite make sense of. But then my crazy uncle cleared it up in no uncertain terms.
He was kinda laughing. “I know what you’re trying to say, Mary,” he interjected. “Please don’t fuck up the kids.”
“Yes… well… something like that. Yes.”
“I’ll try my best— but no guarantees.”
Mom had spent that first night with us at the lake. But early on day two me and Cassy were on our own. It felt, I dunno, a bit weird, I guess. It wasn’t a situation you’d ever reasonably expect. But there was nothing to do about it except make the best of it.
Uncle Nilly rowed her back across the lake while I hunted for frogs. Cassy was playing barefoot in the mud. We didn’t even really say goodbye. And that’s something you don’t even realize until days later. I vaguely remember hearing the car fire up and drive away down the mountain. And that was it; Mom was gone.
There’s lots I could tell about those first days, two young city kids adjusting to wilderness living, but honestly, that part was pretty easy and unremarkable. There were about a million new things to explore and we did. And Uncle Nilly, for his part, allowed us the freedom to do just that.
It was only once the sun went down that our situation kinda pressed down a bit on me and Cassy. As twilight fell, we got to thinking, and in the darkness we got to feeling lonely— despite our days being filled with adventure. I guess it might’ve showed on our faces ‘cause Uncle Nilly asked about it one night early on.
“What’s playing in your heads?” he asked. That was his way of getting at what we might be thinking.
I didn’t really know how to explain it, and Cassy sure didn’t. We said some things that didn’t make any sense, but Uncle Nilly somehow knew exactly what we were trying to say. And his solution turned out to be easily the best part about that whole summer. My crazy Uncle Nilly told us stories every night. I don’t know if they were told to him, if he read ‘em somewhere, or if he just made them up on the spot, but those stories weren’t like anything we’d ever heard before. And they sure kept our young minds occupied…
The Grey Men
Part 1: Alexander
Long ago when Life in the universe was still young and quite innocent, there lived a boy and his family in the deep forest. The boy’s real name in the Ancient Tongue is very difficult for a modern man like me to properly pronounce, so we’ll just call him Alexander. And though Alexander’s family was part of a much larger tribe, they often spent the summers off on their own in a particular part of the forest where the hunting and fishing was really good. Summer life in the deep forest was pretty easy, but it had its dangers too.
Alexander had itchy feet, and by the time he was already five years old, he just couldn’t stay home with his mother to learn all the normal things a boy in his tribe would need to know about preparing and preserving food and keeping the shelter in good repair. But he was still too young to accompany his father on the hunt; his father liked to hunt bear. So whenever his mother wasn’t paying close attention, Alexander would slip away from the little clearing where they lived in summer to explore the surrounding woods.
His mother became concerned because there were wolves and bears and mountain lions, and about a million other things in the woods that could bring a young boy to harm. But Alexander’s father rather liked that the boy had an adventurous spirit, and so he taught him how to fashion a stone knife from a particular kind of rock that was easy to chip into sharp-edged weapons. And thus, his father endorsed the boy’s fierce independence.
Even so, every time Alexander went out on his own as a little boy, his mother looked at him longingly from the door as though she might never see him alive again. But that mother’s look couldn’t stop him and off he went.
He was still only five years old when he went out one day and met up with a hungry coyote. The coyote stayed low among the bushes as it approached, so Alexander didn’t see it until it was very close. He probably wouldn’t have seen it at all if he hadn’t been forewarned. Just as the coyote was gathering itself to spring upon the boy, Alexander suddenly saw in his mind that there was a coyote at his back.
He acted immediately on the warning, drawing his stone knife from its sheath and whirling about to face his attacker. The coyote flew at him as a snarling frenzy of rage, leaping into the air to clamp its jaws on Alexander’s neck. But the boy’s reflexes were fast and the knife caught the coyote in its own furry neck instead. They fell in a heap with the boy on top and by the time Alexander repositioned himself for another slash at the beast he noticed that it was already dead. Its throat was cut and blood poured upon the forest floor; the coyote lay still.
Alexander’s heart pounded so loudly in his chest that he could hear it between gasps in his ears. He had very nearly died… and that made him feel suddenly impossibly alive! Alexander was the type of person to notice things and remember them. And that feeling was truly remarkable!
The other thing about the coyote incident that Alexander took special notice of was the fortuitous warning that had appeared in his mind just before the beast attacked. At first he couldn’t fathom from where it might’ve come, but over the following days he learned that he had a companion, silent and nearly invisible.
He could see Daemon out of the corner of his eye, but when Alexander tried to look directly at him, his forest companion vanished in his focused gaze. There was a way that Alexander could relax the focus of his eyes, letting the world fall into blurred, depthless disarray, that allowed him to see Daemon more directly, but not clearly or easily.
“Daemon” meant spirit in the tongue of Alexander’s people. It was the name which the boy assigned because the spirit did not talk to Alexander in words and so he couldn’t know its true individual name. Daemon communicated with the boy using pictures and feelings which would just appear in his mind and heart. After a time, Alexander learned to recognize the subtle vibration in his body that indicated Daemon was near.
The main thing that Alexander learned and remembered from his time with Daemon was that there were things in the world that others could not see, subtle things they could not feel.
He knew that Daemon was real and not just a figure from his own imagination because the spirit knew things that the boy did not— like the approach of the coyote; and it showed him the location of a secret little cave in the cliff; it even knew every source of water in the area… among quite a few other things.
A few years later, when the boy was still only seven, he was out adventuring in his coyote-skin tunic with Daemon like they did, when something happened which changed the course of Alexander’s life forever.
They were at the top of the cliff, near the main path that cut through that part of the forest. Alexander was crouched in a thicket of wild roses watching a snake utilize the thorns on the bushes to remove its old outgrown skin. He was fascinated by the long morning spectacle of death and rebirth— and so was Daemon apparently, because a small band of travellers were able to approach undetected quite close to where the boy was presently hunkered down.
The travellers might’ve passed right by before he noticed their presence if it wasn’t for the sudden commotion which ensued a tree-length away from the place where Alexander was hidden.
The band of travellers had been four in number, two on horseback and two on foot. He had never seen men riding horses before. And suddenly the riders were thrown from their horses as the beasts reared up in response to the group of men who sprang from the bushes beside the path. There were four of them as well.
All of this occurred desperately close to where Alexander had been stooped in unawareness. He would have felt embarrassed allowing visitors to get so close undetected if he’d had the time for such a thought. But everything happened so damned fast!
The four men who sprang from ambush cut the others down with knives impossibly fast. The two on foot were nearly decapitated before the other two even fell from their mounts. And they hadn’t even gotten up to fight before it was all over. Four men lay dead, their blood staining the forest ground before Alexander could even register what had happened.
Additionally, a small wooden chest had fallen from the saddle of one of the mounts and had smashed on the rocky ground, spilling its contents far and wide. Alexander would learn later that the bits of shiny metal were called coins, used by the people east of the forest. Now he looked upon one of them just out of reach from his hiding place, glinting in the dappled sunlight.
While two of the bandits secured the horses, the other two bent to gather the strewn coins, as Alexander watched. And suddenly the most foolish notion appeared in his mind. Was it Daemon’s thought? Or was it his own? He thought that he just had to have one of the coins for himself. Without thinking any further on the matter, Alexander in his coyote tunic leapt from the thicket, snatched the coin from the ground and ran full speed right over the cliff in front of him.
The men, startled, shouted behind him. “What was that!” shouted one. “A wolf,” answered another. “No, a coyote,” insisted a third. And the fourth ran to the edge of the cliff where the thing had disappeared… and had certainly plunged to its death. The cliff was high and steep, and the man could not see to the bottom to spot the remains. There were no signs of anything. But he was certain that whatever it was it was dead.
The men discussed the matter as they finished gathering the rest of the coins. In the end, they decided that a crazed or rabid coyote had stolen one of the coins and foolishly fallen to its death immediately thereafter. It was an absurd explanation, and Alexander quietly giggled to himself from inside the tiny cave that was hidden scarcely more than a body-length below the edge of the cliff behind a tall clump of sage, sturdy and well-rooted.
And it was in that moment that Alexander learned— and relearned many times in the years to come— that men enjoy deceiving themselves. They will tell themselves absurd stories in order to confirm their own version of reality. He would come to know again and again that men actually like to be deceived, need to be deceived, while furiously denying that it’s even remotely possible to deceive them at all. It was this bit of knowledge above all others which changed the course of Alexander’s life.
There were many many things about that day which affected Alexander deeply. The first, and perhaps foremost, was his shameful lack of awareness which allowed eight men and two heavy horses to approach within a single tree-length to where he had squatted entranced and oblivious. He had been stupid… and lucky. And he couldn’t rely on others like Daemon to warn him. He had to rely on only himself.
The next important thing was that after that day Alexander never encountered Daemon again so long as he breathed as a living boy or man. When he returned to the site the next day where the blood of the men had been spilled, and where now the vultures feasted, there was a violent vibration emanating from the blood-soaked ground. It was quite enough to drown out the signature vibe of his invisible friend’s presence and interfere with any further communication.
And thirdly, Alexander decided right then and there that once he was grown he would leave his tribe to travel east from whence the travellers had come. Compared to his own people and their simple and secure ways of living, the foreigners were more than a little odd, and that made them interesting to Alexander. Perhaps it wasn’t that he had itchy feet so much as he had an itchy mind… and that was impossible to ignore and really hard to scratch.
He learned that the people to the east were agriculturists. A few generations ago they had ceased hunting and fishing and instead planted crops and tended herds. They produced their own food, and built permanent settlements. And that made them almost unbelievably different in so many subsequent ways that Alexander was more than interested, fascinated… nearly obsessed with them. There was something vital begging to be understood about these men and the world they inhabited, and Alexander was determined to plumb such secrets to their ultimate depths.
To the Easterners, and their special way of not-thinking about the world of experience they inhabited, everything about the world was classifiable as either wholly black or wholly white. And further, when a situation could be shown not to be one way, then— automatically— it was assumed to be the exact opposite way. For these men, everything existed at the extremes of classification. Nothing lay in the middle; nothing was mixed. Between black and white there was no grey. The world they inhabited was strangely lacking in nuance or subtlety.
Quickly, Alexander deduced that it was the strange way these people used and directed their attention that cut to the heart of the matter. Wherever they placed their attention, it tended to become fixated there. And further, whatever they focused their attention on became the foundation of their reality. Alexander learned that it was attention— and attention alone— that made the things of the world real.
And then it didn’t take long for Alexander to fully realize that it was rather simple to capture the attention of such men, to manipulate it, and to direct it wherever he chose, to suit his own purposes.
Among the Easterners, Alexander became a magician of sorts. Men would place bets on the sure absurdities Alexander presented to them and were joyfully befuddled when their certainties didn’t pan out as expected. And that was the strangest part to Alexander— that the fools secretly enjoyed being fooled. And having been fooled, Alexander’s audience would chalk it up to some heretofore unexplained mystery about the esoteric nature of reality, even though the magician himself would insist again and again that he was merely employing tricks of misdirection. But the audience just assumed that this was a lie Alexander repeated for effect.
So, for a time, Alexander lived by making fools of men, and the men thanked him for the privilege of confronting such “grand mysteries”… while the magician himself made special note of the predilections of civilized man and how they affected the very fabric of reality. The whole thing to Alexander was little more than a fun experiment nearly run its course… until the day he met Helena.
He called her Hala. And he loved her from the very first moment he laid eyes on her. In that first instant when she met his gaze, she looked upon Alexander with the very same look of longing and compassion tinged with fear that his mother used to issue daily seeing her son off to his adventures in the woods. It was a look that somehow saw beneath the obvious surface, acknowledging the inner awareness that spurred his heart to adventure… and saw too the inherent dangers present in such a man as Alexander.
Before long, Hala became Alexander’s assistant for presenting magics to the mass of men who were content to be followers, the men who took reality completely at face value, living in their black-and-white universe. She seemed to genuinely despise such two-dimensional men, and delighted in exposing them for the fools they were. Meanwhile, Hala adored the one she called Alexander the Grey.
Life for the magician and his beautiful assistant was easy; there was never any shortage of fools begging to be duped. After a time, the pair settled into an easy routine, becoming content in the process. And it was this coming to complacency which finally began to erode the bond between them until one day it was purposely shattered forever.
Hala had fallen in love with the adventurous spirit in Alexander, and he had fallen love with that same passion reflected back to him. So when their life together became mundane and routine, the adventure died, and their love all but vanished. And with the last remnants of what had once been, Hala spent it all on one last effort to put Alexander back on his rightful path.
They were performing the sword trick, where Alexander would thrust a sword through the middle of a wooden box holding Hala captive. The sword looked menacingly real, and could even cut a large ham completely and easily right through during demonstration. But it was deceptively flexible laterally, and the box was secretly outfitted with a jam to divert the sword’s thrust safely to Hala’s side at the moment of truth…
But Hala had removed the jam, unbeknownst to Alexander. So when he thrust the sword through the box containing his beloved, as he looked into her eyes at the climax of the trick, he watched in utter shocked horror as the light which shone as Hala’s own life fled in an instant— irretrievably. He stared long into those vacated eyes as blood pooled around his feet.
He might have stared thus for the rest of eternity if it hadn’t have been for the crowd beginning to realize that something had gone wrong. The word “murder” was whispered and finally shouted. And it was enough for Alexander to gather his wits and to flee.
Alexander the magician, the trickster, was never seen again among the Easterners. He fled from the public eye absolutely. It was as though the real trick that fateful day had been to make himself vanish, to disappear forever from the black-and-white world he’d manipulated so easily from the safety and comfort of grey shadows.
Alexander resumed the grand adventure of his life… but with a new view in mind and the bad taste of bitter memories stamped on his tongue. He set aside the simple magic of the misdirected and manipulated attention of others to become a true Mage, a Wizard, a Sorcerer. He became silent and turned his focus upon his own attention, upon his own awareness, and became a master of perception, a true Master of Reality.
Among the burgeoning world of civilized men, the growing legend of the great sorcerer Alexander the Grey became something of a mere rumour, vague but persistent, and very hard to trace. Some said that he achieved immortality and knew all of the secrets of the universe, while others insisted that the man was long dead. Truth was like that among such men, ever shrouded in mystery. But the final thing that Alexander learned for himself and took special note of was that truth was simple, enduring, and readily available to all who were willing to see… and that the whole wide world of untruth was made from magic and absolutely nothing else.
Alexander’s end was not marred by decrepit old age or warring drama. Rather, it just happened one day that he had had enough of his fellow men, and he wandered in his sorcerer’s way to the very edge of the world where reality abruptly ended. They say that it is a place where the Infinite Cliff meets the Fathomless Abyss, and Alexander the Grey stood a moment at the edge of the precipice and peered into the swirling, roiling mists beyond. Willfully, he stepped over the threshold and was wholly swallowed by the clamouring grey shadows, feeling again the same vibration he’d once felt in Daemon’s presence, and knowing that he was home.
I had been a bit confused by the story’s ending, so I asked my uncle about it the next day.
“So did Alexander die?”
Uncle Nilly smiled and his eyes shone. “What do you think happened?”
“Well,” I began putting the pieces together which had been tumbling around in my head that morning, “early on, you said that Alexander never encountered Daemon again while he still lived. But in the end they’re reunited, right?”
“I’m very glad to see that you’re paying such close attention. But, for now, I think it best if we just leave it kind of foggy, in the grey.” He winked. “Tonight we’ll carry on with the next part of the story… and maybe some things will be cleared up. Or maybe not.” He winked again.
“What’s it called? The next part of the story, I mean.”
I could hardly wait for nightfall.
…it gets a bit funky… after four years of every-other-day. Do the math: that’s more than 700 floats! (It’s almost time to change the water.) The approximate smell of piled gym socks is having it out with fresh, sharp ozone. I turned the bubbler off only a minute ago. The diffuser stone is in my grasp, dangling from its tether of vinyl tubing. I set it down in its place, white and salted, to dry again, to add to the magnesium sulphate deposit on the ledge.
I’m standing naked before the open hatch, before the warm cave of this man-sized, man-made plastic and cardboard womb. I can hear the faint tinkling sounds of music, like what you might hear from someone else’s earbuds during quiet moments on the bus. The music is underwater. And my ears, for now, are still surfaced, attuned to the familiar, habitual perception of regular reality.
I step over the foot-and-a-half bottom lip of the cave entrance— this threshold to other dimensions— to stand in ten inches of water, water that’s actually twice as much salt as it is water. Hard to believe that Mount Epsom dissolved so completely… “First there is a mountain. Then there is no mountain. Then there is…” Donovan knows.
My toes are touching sunken islands of diatomaceous earth here and there on the vinyl seabed of my cave. These spits of white sand have been ‘volcanically’ belched from the accumulated action of a Jacuzzi pump and filter system over the years of trying to keep things reasonably clean… but the ‘gym socks’ have clearly begun to erode my pristine islands.
I turn around in order to sit down, so now I’m facing out from the cave entrance. You have to enter this place head first, face up… backwards. Before I can stretch out, lying on my back, I pull the hatch cover down on top of the entranceway. The darkness is absolute, by design.
Slowly, carefully, so as to not make any waves, I lay myself down upon my back… but instead of lowering my torso to the bottom, magically, my bum rises up and I float like a cork upon the ten-inch briny deep. No part of me is touching bottom. I am fully suspended. I relax.
The therapeutic immersion is kept at a precise temperature of approximately 92 degrees Fahrenheit, the exact temperature at which the body’s surface feels nothing. It is neither warm nor cold. I am floating naked, in nothingness…
…except there’s music! Loud and clear now, my ears are fully submerged in the other realm. In utter black stillness I am riding upon waves of sweet cacophony. Slowly, timelessly, my mind grooves to this reminder of shared reality as my body dissolves and disappears. I am pure consciousness listening, imagining…
(When I purchased the sensory-deprivation Eco-tank from the Samadhi Tank company in California, I also had a pair of underwater speakers custom made by an oceanographer and sound engineer in Orlando. Upon assembly, I quickly learned that the music had to be fully segued— one continuous flow— or else the pauses between songs would create glaring obstacles in my endless symphonic space. The silence was too jarring in contrast to the otherwise full immersion in the thoughtfully curated sound. I also quickly developed a preference for purely instrumental music, as human voices and lyrics could often be a distraction, as opposed to the desired abstraction.)
Amnesia is the only absolute prerequisite for proper dreaming. In order to dream, you have to completely forget yourself… and then the mind automatically resurrects the self within a new dreaming context. That’s what happens inside a sensory-deprivation tank… you dream… but without having fallen asleep. You are perfectly, exquisitely awake…
The action of mind is to dream. That is its default setting. Given nothing or little else to do, the mind will dream, irrespective of sleep. And EVERY DREAM IS PERFECTLY REAL WHEN YOU’RE IN IT.
That’s the takeaway here. After four years of floating for about an hour and forty minutes every other day, I REALIZED again and again that every dream is perfectly real when you’re in it. Or said differently, in order to dream, you have to utterly forget that you’re dreaming. It is only upon ‘awakening’ from the dream that you realize its dreaminess… otherwise, for the duration of the dream, that is your reality— indistinguishable from any other reality in its realness.
In the tank, I am dreaming, while my body is fully awake. That is to say that I am not experiencing sleep paralysis— a normal part of sleep and nighttime dreaming. I am in the tank, but I have momentarily forgotten that I am in the tank… and instantly, at the very moment of forgetting where I am, my mind drops into dreaming. I am immersed in a fully formed reality, going about the appropriate actions for the dream I’m in. It is real… insofar as there’s no inkling whatsoever that something other than the current dream sequence exists. While dreaming, there is no memory of another world; the sensory-deprivation tank is wholly, absolutely sequestered in temporary amnesia. Only the dream sequence and the self I experience within it are real. There is nothing else— for the duration of the dream sequence.
Invariably, the dream sequence ends when my dreaming self performs some overt action within the dream— like throwing a punch, for example— and my body in the tank reflexively twitches in a corresponding manner… and suddenly I’m bobbing to and fro upon the sudden waves in the tank. I smile and laugh inwardly to myself, as I think “Oh yeah, I’m here in the tank…” And then a minute or two later, I’m wholly somewhere else, dreaming again…
In the One, Eternal,
Dark Ocean of consciousness,
There is a specific motion,
a spasm-like contraction,
That produces the light
(Aye, Darkness creates the light!)
It is the ‘substance’
Light waves collide,
Combine in the Triad of Perception:
And light becomes particular…
In the moment called Now.
Time, space, matter and energy follow,
Evoking, entrapping and entangling Mind.
Mind creates past and future,
Is ever entranced by the light,
And forgets completely
the dark shoreless ocean
Self is born…
The Park Bench Encounters 1 Personal Responsibility & The World
I have a favourite bench in the park across the street from a popular internet cafe.
On a particularly busy day at the cafe a few months ago I was unable to secure a seat for myself and my Fat Coffee, and most importantly for my computer, so I dejectedly wandered over to the park bench across the street with laptop and coffee in hand. Initially I had assumed that there’d be no wifi in the park, but after a few minutes I decided that it couldn’t hurt to check. Besides, my laptop had a reputation for glomming onto the weakest signals and making do. Lo and behold! This park bench— comfortably away from the insanely busy cafe— had full and free internet service.
And now it’s my personal daily spot. This is how I start my days.
“Whatcha reading?” I hadn’t even noticed the middle-aged woman who’d joined me on the bench a few minutes after my arrival this morning, who was now peering across my shoulder to get a glimpse of the computer screen.
Great… just what I need! Didn’t she know this is MY time? That was one advantage, I suppose, of getting a table at the cafe— there, folks tended to leave you alone… out of respect. “Just the news,” I intoned as dismissively as possible without looking up.
“So what’s news?” she asked far too cheerfully, obviously not getting the hint.
I released a held breath, suspiciously resembling a sigh, and answered “Iran just bombed a refinery in Saudi Arabia.”
“Oh…” she said somewhat perplexed, as though that bit of news didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the contents of her mind. After a moment she added “And what are you going to do about that?”
Now I looked up to fully meet her gaze. Her question was absurd and we both knew it. “Me? What am I going to do about it?” She nodded to affirm that that was indeed her question. “Nothing,” I answered with complete confidence. “I’m not going to do anything about it.” And that was that. Now shut up, my mind silently quipped. And I turned back to the screen.
She said it with such blandness, without accusation or judgment— just the logical followup in a conversation I was trying very hard not to have. It hung there in the morning air between us like a mosquito, harmless but annoying, and I really wanted to swat it into oblivion.
But I conceded that I wasn’t going to get my wish for solitude, peace and privacy anyway, so I closed the laptop and shifted my position on the bench to face her more squarely. Inwardly I was preparing for confrontation, as mild and innocuous it would likely prove to be.
“I’m not going to do anything about it because it’s not my place to do anything.”
“It’s none of your business,” she added easily.
“Well, it’s not any more my business— personally— than it is yours or anyone else’s, here, in a city park in Canada. There’s really nothing I can do about it… that might be meaningful or even significant.”
“Personally,” she said, again as though she was finishing my thought for me.
“Yes, personally,” I agreed with a bit of annoyance.
“Good thing life’s not personal,” she smiled. “Oh, wait… except to every person alive!” She was teasing me without quite mocking.
I was beginning to think that her off-the-cuff innocence was a ruse and that she definitely had an agenda. I just couldn’t figure out what it might be.
“What do you want from me?” I asked impatiently.
She smiled even brighter… and that just seemed wrong to me. “I want to give you a gift,” she answered sweetly.
“What gift?” I snapped.
“Why… this conversation, silly.”
Couldn’t she clearly see that I didn’t want it? “And suppose I don’t want it,” I stated flatly.
She was ever-so-slightly taken aback. “But you asked for it.”
“What? When?” I did not!
“About three weeks ago.” She resumed her smile. “I saw you right here, on this bench, and you begged me to come talk to you.”
I had no idea what she was talking about! So I answered sarcastically “Oh, so you only took three weeks to finally fulfill my request?” There was no such request!
“Well… I was in Chicago three weeks ago,” she said.
What?! I mean, seriously, what?! I just stared at her with all the perplexity I could muster. “You realize,” I said after a long moment, “that this conversation has gone seriously sideways?”
“Yes, it has,” she readily agreed. “So let’s get it back on track.” And then she just ran roughshod all over my dumbfounded face with “Nearly all of our energy is spent maintaining our view of the world and the feelings that view evokes in us.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. Shit! What would you’ve said? After a brief pause she continued.
“So Iran just bombed a refinery in Saudi Arabia? Well, what a useless piece of shit bit of information that is!” I opened my mouth for a rebuttal, but she just ploughed right ahead. “I know, it might cause the price of gas to go up a penny or two. Or it might not. Either way, I bet it makes you feel a little bit scared. Of course it does. It just goes to show that the world isn’t a safe place. It’s crazy out there! And getting crazier by the minute! There’s always bad shit going on… a new list every day!” She leaned in to whisper “How am I doing?”
“I get what you’re saying,” I conceded before issuing my quick counterargument. “But we, as citizens of the global community, have a responsibility— a personal responsibility— to stay abreast of the major happenings around the world. We need to be informed.”
“What for?” She raised a hand to stop my knee-jerk rebuttal. “So you can do absolutely nothing about it and feel scared and weak and maybe a little bit guilty?” Then she grabbed my nearest hand, compressed it gently into a fist, extended my index finger, and asked me to “Point to the world. Where is it? If I want to go over and talk to this crazy-ass world and tell it to get its shit together, where do I go. Please point me in the right direction.”
I was feeling a bit overwhelmed… mostly by all of the arguments which leapt to mind all at once. And before I could select one to articulate, she just continued merrily along.
“The world doesn’t exist. Sure, you can talk about as though it does. But we might as well be talking about unicorns! Do you want to talk about unicorns?” I shook my head… just trying to keep up. “No. Serious folks don’t give two shits about unicorns! Because they have no personal responsibility toward the welfare of unicorns. Agreed?”
I nodded again.
“Responsibility can only be personal,” she continued, clearly on a roll now. “There’s no such thing as non-personal responsibility. Responsibility belongs to persons, to people. And the world has no responsibilities… given or taken.
“The world is just an idea, a concept you use to disempower yourself and shirk your true responsibilities. Folks like to let the world, as a concept, overwhelm them. They use it like an excuse for limiting their perception and their subsequent action. But keep it in your mind— always— that ‘the world’ doesn’t exist in any actionable sense. You can’t even point to it, so how the fuck are you supposed to deal with it? Stop trying.
“All of your responsibilities are in your personal life… and everything in your personal life has infinite depth anyway. You don’t need to be going around inventing worlds, or intergalactic space monsters, or fucking unicorns to confuse your sense of responsibility.”
“But…” That’s as far as I got before she moved the conversation along again.
“The whole trick to responsibility is one of jurisdiction. You can’t take responsibility for things that are none of your damn business— like the world. The world is not your concern; nor is it anyone else’s.
“We— us humans— are composite beings. We’re two halves of a whole. But most folks are only familiar with the one half— the all-too-human worldly half.”
Dead stop. Smile. She shifted gears abruptly. “Cogito ergo sum… you know it?”
“I think, therefore I am,” I replied automatically.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “But do you know it?” She rightly assumed I didn’t. “There are two halves to that absolute truth. There’s the ‘I think’ part and there’s the ‘I am’ part. And your personal responsibility, as you are now, only extends to the ‘I think’ part. You have no capacity to take personal responsibility for the ‘I am’ part. You don’t know your Being; you only know your doing. But that’s quite enough for now.”
I thought that she might’ve meant that the conversation was suddenly over, but— thankfully— I was wrong.
“The human doing part of your being is your mind, your body and a bundle of deliciously inexplicable feelings about your situation. Your other half— which I’m going to call Spirit— is all about your situation. Spirit selects and creates your personal world; that’s Its responsibility. And in no way is that your responsibility. You have exactly zero capacity to directly change the world of your experience. You can only change the way you respond and feel about it, what you think and believe about it. That’s your superhero power in this situation. And by changing your reactions to the world of your personal experience, Spirit will, in turn, change for you the contents of that experience in the most perfectly appropriate way unimaginable.”
I wanted to correct her, pointing out that she meant to say ‘imaginable,’ but quickly realized that there was no error. ‘Unimaginable’ was correct. She continued.
“We have a personal responsibility to our perceptions… and very little else. By defining ‘the world’ beyond the personal, as something out there, we deny infinity, the true domain of Spirit. And the world doesn’t need you anyway; it’ll accept you, for a time as you are… but existence as we know it is about change, so for how long? Get it together before you die. And you’re gonna die. You can bet your pretty little soul on that!”
I sensed that the conversation, my gift, was coming to an end, and I was at a complete loss as to what to say. She said in summation:
“Or will you commit all of your energy to nonsense?”
She was smiling again, broadly. And I suddenly noticed that I was too. I reached down to retrieve a business card to hand to her and a pen for writing down her particulars…
When I straightened up, I was utterly perplexed again, and a little pissed off too. She was gone. Vanished. As though she’d never really been there. I shrugged and humphed… and finally realized that I had a lot of thinking to do…
The Music Archeologist
1: The Wrath of Gord
The experiment had failed.
The earth realm was slated for destruction… again. Not a correction, mind you; not even a massive one. This time it would be completely dismantled. The members of the board had voted, and the Outlandish decision was cast. Earth had become a danger to itself and others. It had to go.
“How exactly does one go about disassembling a world anyway?” asked Jay.
“It’s a realm,” grumbled Gord.
“There are no worlds,” answered Gord, affecting his usual air of superiority, “only realms.”
“Okay…” conceded Jay, “how does one properly set about obliterating a realm? Especially such an aged one? Earth’s been around a very long time.”
“Dissolve the sun,” said Gord rather tersely. It made sense. Gord had been the inventor of suns. And much like Edison had done on the human scale, his little invention had changed absolutely everything. Suns, stars… lightbulbs— they were game-changers.
“Well, good luck with that,” offered Jay, turning to leave.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Gord pointedly. “You’re just as mixed up in this thing as I am,” he insisted.
Jay wanted to object, but he knew there’d be no point. It was true. He was as fully entangled with the earth realm as its de facto creator was. He had agreed to share the responsibility for his mentor’s creation the moment he had entered that realm… and had seriously fucked with its destiny. That Gord had managed to extricate him at all from his own follies, lo that long ago, was a miracle in itself. Now, here they stood, outside, so seemingly apart, contemplating the ultimate fate of earth, both knowing what had to be done.
“We’re going back in, aren’t we?” asked Jay mostly rhetorically.
“Yup,” came the immediate answer.
I first met Gord and Jay on June 21st, 1972. It was a Wednesday. It was the first week of summer holidays. I was sixteen. I was at work, at the record shop.
My boss had left the shop in my young but capable hands for the afternoon. The record on the turntable was King Crimson’s ’69 debut ‘In the Court of the Crimson King.’
I could’ve sworn I was alone in the shop. It was slow, even for a Wednesday, and I had a perfect view of the front door from the counter at which I stood. Nobody had come through those doors for at least twenty minutes.
The song was ‘Moonchild,’ towards the end, during the noodley bits. My teenage self was unable to understand why Mr. Fripp had insisted on including those aimless unstructured noise sessions on each of the first Crim albums, sometimes lasting more than ten minutes each. It seemed to me that vinyl real estate was at a premium, and any self-respecting artist would want to cram in as much awesomeness as was humanly possible on each and every record… and here was Fripp and the boys serving up a steaming pile of noodles, with not even a morsel of meat to savour. I didn’t get it.
Anyway, that was my train of thought when Gord and Jay suddenly “appeared” in the shop. I swear they never came through the front door. They were just suddenly there, peering at me over the Black Sabbath ‘Master of Reality’ display left over from last summer.
My next train of thought was that these two were really Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, freshly beamed into my reality, here to save the world or some such thing. (Oh the irony of that thought, I would later realize!)
Nope. No pointy ears. Neither of these two oddballs was Vulcan. They appeared human… mostly.
“Can I help you gentlemen find something today?” I asked nonchalantly, trying to cover up my deepest paranoid suspicions, as I emerged from behind the counter.
My very straightforward query seemed to catch both of them a little off guard. “Um… yes… well…” stammered the one who seemed to be in charge— the leader, so to speak. “What is it exactly that you sell?”
Okay, that threw me for a bit of a loop, coming from someone standing in the middle of a record shop utterly stuffed to the brim with records. “Ah, music,” I answered, biting back my profound incredulity.
“Oh, how lovely!” beamed the other one, the nice one— the one I later learned was Jay. “We’ll take some of that please,” he added. “We love music!”
“Um, anything in particular?” I asked, struggling to keep my composure.
“How about this?” asked Jay, holding up the Black Sabbath album from the rack before them.
“Master of Reality,” I read the cover. “Doom metal,” I quickly added, not knowing what else to say.
“Sounds perfect,” muttered Gord just loud enough for me to hear, although I doubt that was his intent.
“The first song is Sweet Leaf,” I began to ramble. “It’s an ode to Mary Jane.” Nothing. No reaction. “Um, marijuana… cannabis…?”
“Ah, cannabis!” For a second there I thought I saw Gord actually smile with the sudden recognition. But then his mood turned on a dime as his natural bitterness seeped through again: “Only worthwhile thing you freaks ever managed to dream up.”
Who the fuck was he calling a freak! Thirty seconds in and this was easily already the strangest conversation I’d ever had. And it never really got any easier.
I honestly didn’t know what to make of these two, but somehow I ended up taking a liking to them nevertheless. They were either two of the most naïve middle-aged men in the history of modern civilization, or they were escaped lunatics from the asylum and possibly serial killers. Either way, they were some real freaky people, and I’d always taken a shine to freaky people in general.
It turns out that what Gord and Jay were really after was a ride into the desert. They had important business in the desert. Sure… why not?
I drove a cherry red ’67 Mustang. I wasn’t all that keen on taking it into the dusty old desert, but I could always wash it when I got back. I was always washing that car. God, I loved that car!
It was still early— late afternoon… on the longest day of the year. My boss, the owner of the record shop, had relieved me at 4, and after a quick stop at the 7-11 for slurpees, we were on our way to the desert. Gord was strapped tightly into the passenger seat beside me (who wears a seatbelt in 1972?), while Jay was sliding back and forth across the freshly Armor-Alled vinyl bench seat in the back as I took most of the corners a tad too fast— as teenage boys driving Mustangs tend to do.
During a straight stretch of road I spied Jay in the rearview mirror holding the newly-purchased “Master of Reality” album up to his ear as though he actually expected to hear something. I shoved the cassette tape into the deck instead of even attempting to question or explain.
“It’s a mixed tape I made,” I shouted above the music blaring from the speakers. I was always so proud of my mixed tapes. Working in a record shop scored me access to some real obscure gems. Jay instantly seemed to genuinely like it while Gord was quite content with his usual scowl.
When Elton John got to the shushy part in “Empty Sky,” where it got all quiet for a bit, I asked the fellas “So what are we doing out in the desert anyway?” They looked at each other conspiratorially for a moment. Then Gord just shrugged and answered straight out.
“We’re going to end the world.”
“I thought it was a realm,” interjected Jay.
“To him it’s a world,” scolded Gord.
Neat. I didn’t believe them. Of course I didn’t, but I thought it’d be fun to play along. “End of the world, you say? We’d best get stoned then.”
Both of them looked horrified until I explained that getting stoned was the same as getting high on cannabis— a thing to which they were both surprisingly amenable. I pulled the pre-rolled after-work fatty from my cigarette pack and sparked it up. Ten minutes later and the tunes were sounding heavenly and Gord was actually managing a look of honest contentment… until I resumed the conversation.
“So why exactly are we ending the world today?”
I saw Jay squirm a bit in the back seat, but it was Gord who answered. “Because you fuckers just can’t seem to get a damn thing right!”
I laughed. Heartily. C’mon, it was funny. Hysterical, really. “What d’ya mean?” I asked feigning a serious tone.
Gord bent to pick up a newspaper from among the garbage strewn on the floor at his feet. (Yeah, despite the Turtle Wax and the Armor All, I was still a sixteen-year-old kid, after all.)
“This!” he exclaimed, holding up the front page, and smacking it with the back of his hand. He then read the headline to me: “Valedictorian Urges Peers to Follow Their Dreams.” It was a small-town newspaper, and that was just the sort of thing we might consider news.
“What?” I was genuinely perplexed.
“You dip-shits get everything exactly backwards!” Gord raged. “Follow your dreams! Follow your fucking dreams! Why don’t you try leading them instead?”
Somehow there seemed to be something profound in that. I can’t say that I exactly got it right at that moment, but the irascible Gord was definitely onto something.
“Don’t follow your dreams,” I reiterated, “lead your dreams instead.” There was indeed a profound logic in that… or maybe it was just that I was super high on Thai chronic. Whatever, it satisfied something in me.
But Gord was something less than satisfied. The weed obviously hadn’t completely tamed his irascible nature. “I really thought you’d have figured it out by now,” he lamented angrily.
“Figured what out?”
“Base reality,” he said very matter-of-factly… to which I had no reply, mostly because I had no clue what he might be getting at. I shot him a quick look of puzzlement and then waited for him to elaborate.
“There was always just one thing… one thing to protect and cherish… the one thing that no matter what else might happen, it would surely save you. If only you could remember this one thing, it would always rescue you, redeem you, and set the world aright again. But you— every last one of you— forgot it. And now it’s lost… and the world is doomed.”
I really thought Gord was going to tell me what the ‘one thing’ was. Nope. I had to ask, and even then he couldn’t just come out with it. It seems Gord had found a teaching moment— the only thing that apparently made him happy… or, at least, less bitter. He launched into some metaphysical bullshit, like all this end-of-the-world stuff was real and perfectly serious. I kept a straight face.
“There’s only really two things going on here.” He gestured with a grandiose flourish to indicate that “here” was the entirety of the world. “This is a binary realm.” Here he paused to look at Jay, confirming some private joke that wasn’t all that funny. Turning back to me, he continued. “Expansion and contraction.”
Apparently those were the “two things.” I had been expecting something a bit more revealing, insightful, profound. But he was getting to that.
“It’s all about mind, you know.” He paused again to let that settle in, but its significance was mostly lost on me. I still didn’t know where this was going. “And what do we call the expansion of mind?” he asked, fully expecting an answer. I um’d and ah’d a bit incurring some fresh Gordian wrath. “C’mon! We covered this already!”
I shrugged. He sighed. And Jay answered into the awkward silence.
“Dreaming,” he said from the back seat. “Mind expands through dreaming.”
“Yes,” Gord acknowledged. “Dreaming is like a yawn and a stretch for consciousness.”
Okay, I was starting to get it. “So… dreaming is the ‘one thing’ you were talking about earlier— the one thing to be cherished and protected…?”
“Yes, the CAPACITY to dream, really DREAM. Precisely.” Gord suddenly looked almost pleased. Almost…
“But what’s this bit about contraction then?”
“Dreaming can either be wholly private or decidedly social. Dreams can be shared— experientially.” Again with the pause… but now I was really starting to get it. I picked up the thread…
“So… this whole reality— this realm,” I corrected as I met Jay’s gaze in the rearview mirror with a wink, “is a shared dream.”
“Yup,” is all Gord said. I was expecting a bit more fanfare than that. After all, I was really beginning to catch on… but I was still unclear about the whole contraction thing and I said so.
“It’s a freewill universe,” answered Gord. “We can experience the dream of another only through agreement, by making contracts.”
“Ah, that’s what you meant by contraction!”
“Contracts put limits on things… keeping them from expanding into absurdity or just plain oblivion. You need a lot of agreements to make a complex reality like this one work. You need a lot of contracts.” Gord had really warmed to our conversation now, and I was diggin’ it too.
“So where are all these contracts filed?” I asked. “Which law office is keeping track of all our agreements?”
“That’s what the sun is for,” answered Gord. “And we’re here— today— to dissolve the sun.”
“Wait… what?” I didn’t understand how the sun could be the grand repository of agreements among all living things on earth. After all, that’s what Gord was saying… if I was following. Gord seemed to understand my confusion immediately.
“I liked it better,” he began to explain, “when people thought the sun was made of moondust and phlogiston. Beats the hell out of this helium fusion nonsense.” Well, that didn’t help my understanding any better. Gord continued. “All that is… is consciousness. Existence and consciousness are exactly equivalent. You could even say they’re the same thing— the only thing. Consciousness is— that’s our starting point.”
“Cogito ergo sum,” I said.
Okay. I kinda enjoyed this mystical crap. But the knit of my brow communicated clearly that I was teetering on the brink of being lost again, so Gord started in on another tack.
“Close your eyes,” he said.
“Um, I’m driving.”
“So stop. We’re here anyway,” he added.
We were really in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, and I said so as I stopped the car.
“It’s perfect,” said Gord, stepping out to immediately gaze at the blazing sun overhead.
I got out too, and flipped the seat forward to let Jay out from the back. We stretched and breathed in the desert heat for a moment and then Gord resumed his tutorial.
“Now close your eyes.” I did. “What do you see?”
“Nothing,” I answered automatically.
“Bullshit!” raged Gord. “That’s a learned response. And it’s patently false. Now tell me what you actually see with your eyes closed.”
I did as I was told. “I see… colours… lights… random patterns. It’s a jumble. It’s chaos.” Until that very moment I had never realized how much there was to see when I simply closed my eyes. My previous answer of “nothing” seemed rather absurd suddenly. How did I never notice this before!
“I looked high, saw the empty sky!” sang Jay to the desert at large. “If I could only… could only fly!”
Gord deftly ignored him. “Light is the substance of dreaming… and dreaming is what minds do. They can’t help it. Consciousness is inherently creative. It automatically fills all voids in time and space. Light occupies space, thus creating it. Time is filled by structure or organization. Time depends on patterning. These things together create realms… or reality as you know it. And I simply call them dreams.”
Holy shit! I think I was really getting it. Somehow all of this was actually making sense… at least, to my thoroughly stoned inquisitive self. Gord seemed to acknowledge my progress and thus continued.
“Dreaming is projected outward from the source of consciousness— your mind. In every moment, it is natural for you to radiate highly structured quanta of light in every direction. You are the source of light… as is every living creature.” Now we were really getting to the crux of the matter! “The sun is foremost a receptacle. First, the sun gathers the light from all dreamers within its realm. Then, the sun’s own consciousness processes all of the information individually received from uncountable sources, noting in particular where they are in agreement. And finally, it returns that same light restructured and re-patterned as a collective consciousness which is qualitatively more than the mere sum of its unfathomably varied parts.”
And here, Gord actually smiled— a genuine ear-to-ear grin. And rightfully so, I thought. This shit was righteously profound! And then the next realization hit me like a ton of bricks!
If what Gord had just managed to explain to me had any real validity at all, that meant that these two jokers really were here to dissolve the sun and bring an end to the world.
[YouTube has become an unreliable platform, pulling and blocking videos without explanation. Several of my favourite music channels which had been built up over many years have recently been completely shut down. YouTube is not clear or consistent with their rules and policies, so I haven’t invested as much time and effort into my music channel (Music Archeologist) as I had originally planned. Right now, about 80% of the videos I’ve uploaded remain available, but they could be pulled without explanation at any moment.]
What’s Wrong with God
I am imagining God, as though peering over his shoulder as he observes a specific instant in the life of one of his children. He is watching intently, wringing his hands in consternation. He is muttering aloud, giving shape to the very horns of the dilemma unfolding.
“Oh child, you have a difficult decision… for one so young. The fate of all the worlds and heavens may very well hang in the balance. She has spotted the tiger. Oh no! Please not the tiger. For the love of all that is holy, turn away now… Yes… but what’s this? That would seem equally as dire! Please set aside that terrible, rocky road… Oh why in the world did I ever agree to granting freewill? I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in ages!”
The fate of worlds clearly rested upon the slight shoulders of this young girl having to decide. But alas, in the end, she settled on the butter pecan… and the sun again came up the next day. Phew, that was close!