So we climbed and we climbed, and finally reached this plateau, at 2000 metres (okay... years!), and . . . whew, I guess I was pooped. The thing about Aries is that he loves challenge, but doesn't care much for the long haul sort of thing. Not that I'm gonna lay down and die - and I know I can't return - but maybe I'll just camp here for awhile, and take in this rarefied air. Let the world play its own games, without my not-so-willing participation.
I can hear the heckling from the sideline: "What a crock! You never participated, anyway!" True, my friends, very true. But I was always along for the observation and commentary, and now I don't even feel like doing that much! This is a lovely plateau, and I'm still a bit burned from that last crazy stretch that it took to get here. So I'm just going to stake it for awhile.
Hell, maybe I'll stay! The view is good -- the overlook view, that is; I'm not really very concerned about the view of everybody marching onward and upward. I mean . . . 2000 was the only crest I had any interest in. I thought there was going to be a New Age up here, but it's only the same old age with a mask on. Hype and Hoopla! Listen to 'em . . .
"Hey, guys, step it up! It's just over the next ridge! Buy a new, ultra model Orgasma 2001, and move it along, or you'll miss out on all those extra pleasures!" [or was that "treasures"? My hearing isn't so good now, with all these pulsating reverbs, around.]
Anyway, I've heard it all, too many times to be pulled in again. I've found as much New Age as I'm about to, realizing now that it's a young man's game. Okay, a young old man's game; but you cross the bar at 70, and recognize the door you came in through, and know there's not much point in going around again. Not if you're really satisfied with what you've already got out of it -- and that I am!
So it's settlement time for me. Laying-back time, on the edge of the big plateau, where I can marvel at the view of the territory traveled.
It's really pretty neat, being off to the side of the marching crowd. Sort of like the days when I dropped out, many years ago -- which is about as far as I can see, out there on the horizon, with m'naked eye (the good one). Those were times of pure fright and wonder! Before I even found the trail that led to all the goodies. Yet, there I was, telling people what it was all about. And I didn't even really know, yet!
Dropping out is just getting off the main track, letting the train go on without you. But you've gotta find the trail, before anything is really gained. The trail that ultimately leads to a rejuvenated innocence -- the kind I was reveling in, in Innocence Abroad. It actually took me several years to really hit that trail, or to be fully aware of what it was all about. But I had no qualms, in those Black Bart and "Finding a Way Out" days (the classes I did), about 'leading the blind,' who never knew that I was, too! Of course, I didn't know it, myself.
I think, maybe, the book was too vague, as to what Innocence - as I use the term - is all about. Innocence is facing the world without preconception as to the meaning of things that happen in it. It's not an easy state of mind to reach, since everything that touches our awareness sets off associative runs of thought and 'understanding.' I put it within quotes, because we're not really understanding anything at all, just flashing back on previous experience, and whatever that turned out to mean. But this world is fresh every moment, and Innocence is nothing more than taking it as fresh experience.
My trip to Europe, being the very first, had to be fresh every moment. With a well-served apprenticeship behind me, in the art of just letting things happen - the very essence of a trail of Innocence - it could hardly have been otherwise than the high experience it was.
If we could approach our ordinary lives in this way, every single day would be a high experience! The trick is to stand back from life, with enough disengagement to ignore the rush of know-it-all prejudgments that insist on pushing their way in, every time something new develops in our world. I'm talking about whatever you think I could be talking about - deliberately vague, as the idea can apply to so many kinds of situations. Anyplace, anytime that a preconception steps in front of the freshness of the moment, we kill the aliveness of it.
The art of 'letting it happen' is also vital to the recognition of Providence. Or else a recognition of Providence makes it easier to step into the flow of 'letting it happen' -- I'm not sure that either element takes precedence over the other, they seem to work hand in hand. And I suspect that people who have difficulty with one, will be having difficulty with the other.
I can give you an illustration from immediate experience. I've had a recent medical diagnosis of sleep apnea, which has to do with mini-awakenings, all night long, in order to keep breathing - and in consequence of which, one never really gets enough deep sleep during the night, and regularly gets drowsy during the waking day. Over the long haul, this is said to be a deadly risk, best managed by sleeping with a breathing mask over the nose -- not as a cure, but as a way of making sure that breathing doesn't just suddenly stop . . . for good!
Okay, the interesting thing about this is that I had no awareness of the problem. I mean, sure, I was getting drowsy in classes, and even sitting at my computer, but I just figured it was a normal component of old age combined with boredom. I never checked it with a doctor. It happened, however, that I was seeing Dr. B about intestinal stuff, who thought I sounded hoarse and sent me to Dr. M for an acid reflux checkup, who - as an afterthought - suggested I see Dr. K for an overnight sleep test, and -- sure enough, it indicated apnea!
Well, I could see this as a run of Providence, pure and simple: getting from B to K, with no symptoms reported, and never a complaint. In fact, I kept arguing with Dr. B about whether I really had any hoarseness! But once I began to consider what apnea is all about, a large misgiving came up for me. Here's how it goes:
One of these days, I am certainly going to die, right? And among the many possible ways of dying, I would most rather it be some simple, quiet way, with no great drama, no need of being doped-up for pain, and preferably at home instead of in some alien hospital ward packed with beeping machinery, and tubes into every orifice (including a few that hadn't been there before) - in fact, it would be most agreeable to just die in my sleep. Nature does, indeed, provide this avenue, though to fewer and fewer of us as we get better and better at medical detection and care. So here comes the 'discovery' of apnea -- which seems merely to be a pathologizing name for the very easy way that Nature has provided!
You see my dilemma. If I am on the track of an eventual gentle death - and it may well be many years off, yet, for I have a light case of the apnea - do I really want to prevent that, and increase the chance of something more dreadful? I mean, why reject Nature's considerate offer? Why buy into the dumb human hubris of trying to live forever, when the sense of things shaping up is clearly to my own benefit?
Well, Nature offers, but ... Spirit tells me otherwise! It's been a classic instance of Innocence at work, the vision of which is quite as clear to me as the case for Nature that I've just painted. The run of Providence, as noted in the sequence of doctors, was so clearly and strongly the cue of a trail, that I have to see it as an overriding validation of where it has taken me. Spirit "tells me," in effect, that I have to hang in; there are things to be taken care of, before I can take my leave . . . and as to that gentle death, I just have to trust it will be so.
I've assumed, up to now, that my remaining task is the completion of my legacy web site, while I simply maintain a congenial pace with Ripening Seasons. But I'm not entirely sure of that Winter scenario. Innocence, of course, means never being sure of anything . . . but it raises a kind of concern as one confronts a narrowing horizon, when choices made could very well turn out to be final choices, deserving of somewhat deeper consideration. And this is surely the proper time for it -- very clearly the turning point of a personal cycle.
Yes, I'm going to do my best with the web site -- that's already underway. But I've been looking at the old habits my life is strewn with, preoccupations that keep tripping me up, like library books I never read (but spend a lot of time looking for, and lugging), and classes that are taken just so I can keep checking out those library books. The whole business is up for grabs, right now. And I've finally managed to shut and bolt the door on the housing wars that have taken so much of my energy in recent years. So a certain amount of running room is opening up for me, or in prospect.
I'm even wondering - and I know you don't want to hear this - how meaningful does Ripening Seasons continue to be for me? You must be well aware that it isn't exactly sparking me, this year, as it has in the past. Maybe it's just last year's lingering effect; but, hey . . . six months since the turnover is a kind of long "linger!" I've been expecting search parties, any day now. In truth, I don't yet know what's up for Ripening Seasons, but one of its original purposes was to chronicle the run-up to 2000, as I recall, and that's done with.
Funny . . . I just looked back in the series to try and document that, and found, in the very first issue, more than five years ago, a consideration of the validity of Providence, leaning heavily into the need for "letting things happen" in order to become aware of it - as I've just been writing about once again! Could there be a better illustration of "seeing the door I came in through"?
Energy is capricious and unpredictable at this stage of life - just as is memory. If I tell you what I envision, at this moment, it could totally shift by the time you get this mailing. So I'm not going to make any predictions, let alone any commitment. All I can tell you is where I'm at, and what's going on, right now, with the caution that any conclusions you want to draw from it are strictly your own.
The biggest thing happening in my world, right now, is the web site. I'm full tilt at work on it again, corralling old material into it as fast as current events allow. The run of past Ripening Seasons is well on its way to completion, and the old Black Bart series is finally going up, in representative selections of content, with other writings gradually being brought on board. But content is not the whole news of it. This new site, set to ultimately become my permanent public archive, is organized on an entirely new and much more accessible basis. Not as clever as the old one, but I came to see that my cleverness had become too complicated for any real utility, especially for anyone new to my writing. People had been reading Innocence Abroad, and apparently getting boggled by the rest of what was out there.
I'm also able to see, better than at first, the essential advantage that a web site offers, over more traditional ways of text. The key to any archival site is in how its contents are arranged for access. So mine begins (once past the briefest of preliminaries) with a four-way choice of preferred access mode. One is by venue, enabling a fast shift to the sequential series of Ripening Seasons or Black Bart, or any of the various other publications I've written for, over the years. A second way of access is by overall time sequence. A third (hardly begun) is a subject or theme index linking readers directly to anything I ever wrote on a given topic. This has proven a real challenge, to devise a framework for the most utility and greatest ease of use. I won't elaborate it further, here - you can go to the site and watch it evolve.
The fourth way of access is an index specifically geared to the timeline of my life, covering only such material as I've written over the years that is essentially autobiographical. And to serve the particular way that I see my life, it will be parceled into 7-year stages, offering first a thumbnail and then a general overview (newly written) of each such segment, as well as providing the links to anything already written about that particular septide of my life.
I don't intend to confine this archive to material written for publication. As time and focus allows, it will include large ranges of personal journaling, so as to present the 'real life' warp and weave of events that have shaped the way I see the world. I can do this because I have software, now, that enables text entry by just reading it in. Although it's not quite that simple with journal material, which appears to call for a good deal of present-day annotation if it is to make sense to anyone coming upon my world for the first time. But it offers, by the same token, a wonderful opportunity to reflect on past times, as I do it.
I'm reading through some of these old journals right now, in evening sessions with Joy, and it's incredible how much of it I've actually forgotten! I'm talking about less than fifteen years ago, when I came to Seattle. And I thank the gods, for having kept me at passably good journals on all of it! They serve, wonderfully, to illuminate the way that I processed reality, in those days, and how I kept on this strange trail of Innocence that has seen me through so much.
It's not just a figure of speech, as some may suppose. The world, on a path of Innocence, is constantly giving us a 'message text,' in the things we encounter. As with all text, we read it on the basis of prior experience, but the difference from ordinary life - and the difference that keeps it uniquely fresh - is two-fold: 1) we seek the hidden cues that are particularly personal, in what takes place - the highly subjective parts of 'objective' experience; and 2) we proceed to act on the basis of the awareness thus gleaned. We leave behind the safe and scientistically prefered status of observer, and become an active player in a world of evolving magic, vesting our entire faith in the accuracy of our insight. The 'action' might be no more than holding steady to an otherwise (or seemingly) 'blind' course, when an objective and 'realistic' response would be to change direction. It is magnificently validating, to brace yourself through those passages, and then see events develop to confirm your intuitions.
My life, now, is off this trail, in a sense, for I am settled, comfortable and well-provided, as opposed to the chancy life I led then. But I absorbed those ways, for having lived them over a long stretch, and I often get glimpses of how they still work in my world. I can even give you a beautiful example from the past week.
When I got my new iMac, late last year, I gave the old Mac setup to friends Paula and Will, who could make good use of it. But I kept the HP printer, thinking it could still serve me. It later developed, however, that I was mistaken, and I had to replace it, too. Since Will and Paula had their own printer by now, I gave the HP to another friend, Ron, who had just, himself, received the gift of an old Mac from a friend in Texas, but without a printer to go with it. It was a neat fit, and set the stage for what took place this past week.
Each of these friends needed help from me, to get their equipment working smoothly. I was supposed to visit Ron on Tuesday, a week ago, but things got too crowded for me, and at the last minute it was put off for a full week. Meanwhile, I did get out to Will's place on Saturday, and spent a few hours adjusting the innards of their Mac's operating system - the one that had formerly been mine. While at it, I happened to see some system components that once supported the operation of the HP printer, now uselessly taking up space in their present setup. It consisted of three items, and I was about to trash them when I remembered that I'd be helping Ron get the old HP up and running, in a few days, and there was some chance they'd be of use to him. So I copied them onto a floppy disk and took it with me.
Bear in mind that I had no intention of doing this, no expectation that I would find said items there, or that Ron would need them -- which is exactly what happened! Ron's printer would not have worked without those items in his system, and I had no other way, by now, of getting them! I wouldn't even have known what was missing - but since I had the three of them with me, by 'pure chance,' as it were, I put them in, and - bingo, the printer printed!
And of course, had I kept my original Tuesday schedule to be at Ron's a week earlier, I would not have had the floppy with me.
I hasten to point out that I was doing nothing out of the ordinary -- not 'thinking Innocence,' nor particularly paying attention to what was going on for me, but just doing what comes naturally in my world. And how often in your world do such things happen? If you've evolved into this way of life, it would be a regular occurrence, though most often an invisible one, and occasionally very exciting when it does become visible.
Well, I am more than twenty years into this way of life since it became a really conscious thing for me. Innocence Abroad was a celebration of living it in the full, on its most stimulating level. For the rest, the adventure has been told in newsletters, highlighted by fragments in Ripening Seasons, and muffled among the welter of everyday ups and downs in my journals -- not a very integrated or effective legacy to leave on my web site, though that is indeed the purpose of it.
I had something better in mind for it, when I set out to write the book. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but Innocence Abroad was conceived as the first book in a trilogy (part of the reason it felt okay to bring that bok to a somewhat abrupt closure). But a unique trilogy, in that each book would flash back to successively earlier stages. Nothing was about to keep me from writing the freshest stage first, so that was the only way I could envision it. But it felt like it would work structurally, too: the first book showed how exciting and effective this way of life can be; the second would recount the dedicated trail that brought me into it - the ups and downs of getting it right; and the third would tell the years of transition that took me from the old world to the trailhead of the new. For it wasn't just accomplished by dropping out, it required all of the mucking around of those Black Bart years, before I could sense the potential of a whole other way of being that could happen clear outside the framework of our obsession with security and planning, our worry-wart assumption that if we don't take active care of our future, it won't likely take decent care of us.
And don't get me wrong, here . . . I'm well aware of the utility value of arranging things so that our head is clear of anxieties. But when that turns into locking our lives up, to avoid any possible risk, it becomes a heavier burden than insecurity. The trail of Innocence gradually expands our comfort zone in that wilderness of not-knowing-what-may-happen, so that the anxiety diminishes -- not as every little loose end gets tied down, but as our insight into a hidden reality of Providential dimensions continues to deepen.
As it came to pass, I never even made a start on the other books, when I couldn't find a publisher for the first. It sounds contrary to a writer's code of dedication, to say something like that - or even to stop seeking a publisher, with any halfway good book up for the grab - but it's a mark of how deeply I am into this Innocence thing, one of its key elements being a willingness to accept 'what's happening' as an indicator of one's proper path. Thumbs up, or thumbs down (as in this case), it has to be good enough for me.
The whole business, however, is instructive, as to the creative aspect of reality. It is pretty clear to me that we are responsible, to an extent hardly realized, for establishing the terms of our own old-age reality. You see it every day, without even noticing it, in the instance of how older folks seem able to 'get along' in their individualized way - whether alone or assisted - with little energy output. What has happened is that the basic energy pattern of their world tends to consolidate as they age. Its focus is steadily refined. For myself, I chose to live my life in defiance of the success ethic, thus setting in motion this particular kind of evolvement.
But putting my work out on the web doesn't require any publisher connection, so it kind of reopens the issue for me. I'm not sure, yet, whether I'm really going to pursue it, at this late stage, but I toy with the idea. It would be nice to be working on something fresh, along with putting my old writing onto the web site. But it would also mean tilting my head more steeply toward the past than I may like to, at this century turning point.
The answer is going to revolve around a question of what feels best to be doing, with the time that remains to me. Personal enjoyment is a large part of that equation, and to some extent the energy that I possess for the task. Energy is not easy to guage, since it becomes more fluid as I age, seemingly related to the various cyclic passages I am going through. I've got some rough guidelines, on that account, but their primary value is to cushion the hard truth of a steady decline, that simply has to be faced as my years get into the higher numbers. But the cycles play off against one another, which makes prediction kind of tricky.
And that brings to mind the other intended book that lies scattered in fragments, among my various writings. Having lived my life, in its latter portion, consciously attuned to the calendar patterns of its free-form evolvement, I accumulated a lot of observational data that would support the notion of an archetypal season cycle. I had always meant to pull together, into a comprehensive and well-ordered text, the many strands of that seasonal awareness . . . had even begun the effort, in Ripening Seasons #20, as many of you will recall, only to renege on its completion in this venue, for being inappropriate to the Season Thrust, or Soul Thrust that I was already well into - that of life's Wintertime, of course.
It was another way of seeing the circumstance, that the time in my life for getting a work published had passed on by, laying it not to the refinement of a basic energy pattern already developed, but to a loss of the inner power (the Soul Thrust) that has such capability in the Spring and Summertime of life. The two takes on it are not so far different: the writer who has pursued and evolved a 'publication reality' during his or her prime Seasons, when the Soul Thrust was available for it, finds that the connection remains, in their later years, in a refined form requiring much less energy outlay than it earlier had.
These perspectives make the whole idea of publishing original booklength material on the web, at my age, somewhat problematical - but only as to its 'success' (in commonly defined terms). There is nothing in such prospect, however, that can dim the personal satisfaction of doing so -- so long as it is not 'success' that I am seeking.
I would probably attempt to incorporate my seasonal views in the Innocence trilogy, if I pursue that option, rather than try and do it separately. I did, after all, devote a book-length departmental thesis to it, at the university - which is now up on the web site, by the way. As for all the scattered bits I've already written on it, I'm reserving one of nine subject-specific indexes, on the new web site, for that topic area alone. It is just a matter, now, of necessary perseverance, in getting the work on it done.
If I do turn to a completion of the Innocence trilogy, I imagine that Ripening Seasons will become 'part of the conspiracy.' Probably as an outlet for portions of it - but not any full production effort, I can assure you. Although, being as how it is highly doubtful that any actual book will be published (in physical form) - for all the reasons noted - anything that does come out in these pages could well be the only print form it takes. So I guess I'm not ready to close the spigot on Ripening Seasons, after all.
It's probably a good bet, though, that everyone on my mailing list will be on the internet within the next five years. I've noticed that the laggards, even the Luddites among us, are gradually coming around to the inevitability of it all. So that Ripening Seasons will probably move seamlessly into an electronic version, and all this talk about whether you will or won't see any lengthier work by me will have no bearing on whether any of it gets printed, but only on your internet capability and savvy. And, of course, the extent of your interest.
Okay, this seems a fair summation of where I'm at, as we move deeper into this first summer of these still puzzling new times - a rather coolish summer, even for Seattle, and one in which uncertainty just seems to hang in the air, as a Condition of Being, for these odd days. More likely, it's just my own Fresh Septide, of a now-familiar Winter way of being, that feels this way. It's not uncomfortable. In fact, it's an oddly free feeling . . . almost as if, in my lack of much concern for anything, time has actually slowed down!
Now, wouldn't that be something?
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