At the time I wrote my dismal winter letter, and up almost to the sprout-time of my year, I wasn't at all sure there would be another Ripening Seasons. I had emerged okay from those deep winter blues, but with a firm resolve to get clear of any lingering idea that it was worth thinking or writing about how this country should or shouldn't pursue its future . . . that it was even worth dwelling on any longer. I didn't mean this as a general proscription, but it was the way I saw it for me, and me alone.
The writing has always been a safety-valve for me; but it only fosters the continuing generation of steam, in a head that continually thinks it can turn out a useful product. Like a factory, you know. But when it became patently clear that the product was out of touch with the current reality, well . . . it seemed a bit like getting all enthused over sand castles that have no better future than dissolving under the next high tide.
And yet, who of us can say what the current reality is? It has become pretty clear, to anyone sampling the variety of information sources available today, that they are like candle-bearers looking for the same lost key, but on different street corners. In general, they highlight entirely different landscapes, showing no great interest in finding a common ground. We pick and choose among them, for the reality of our choice.
How many of you recall the standout 1960s TV series, The Prisoner? Patrick McGoohan, who made it work, finds himself in an island village where life around him seems, on the surface, perfectly normal. Yet, it becomes evident he is actually a prisoner there. He can't leave, and no one there can tell him why, or what it's all about. His entire reality exists in the framework of that 'normal' community, with only the barest occasional hint that something is amiss.
I had begun to feel like that prisoner -- with occasional clues of a larger reality, but told consistently that 'ours' is one of terrorists, nuclear insecurity, an 80% measure of super-patriotic Americans, and such like that. Not caring to play any part in that re-run of an old movie, I turned my attention toward other possibilities.
I went ahead and signed up for two winter discussion courses at the U -- one on the uses of myth, and the other on narrative theory; both looked as though they could further my commitment to settle down and devote myself to autobiography. For far too long have I danced the Activist Adagio: for local community, for Y2K, for housing, for worthwhile causes various and sundry -- and it sets up a constant state of nervous tension hardly conducive to reflective writing. In some ways, it is every bit as self-defeating as the daily grovel at a job grind.
These are very small classes &endash; five persons in each &endash; and they pull me back into a mode of looking at the pattern of my life . . . where it has taken me, and what it was all about. Getting into mythic structure, I am once again ruminating over my fascination with the outlaw Black Bart, how that image and symbol provided me a footing when I took the most desperate leap of my life . . . and how perfectly it embodies the Trickster archetype, a fundamental myth known the world over.
It refreshes my memory, too, of those truly 'outlaw' days of my life, when vitality was discovered in the mere act of turning off the beaten path -- a turn commonly regarded as an act of desperation or failure. People so fear disruption. It takes a mountain of miseries to prompt the unthinkable response of stepping outside the circle, walking off the stage. Quitter and burnout are the epithets earned for what is actually a very courageous (if desperately motivated) willingness to let go of a stagnant, unfulfilling security pattern.
We are only embedded, after all, in security patterns. Whether it be the common one of material security, or the less obvious comfort zones of family and friends, cities and neighborhoods, a way of life . . . at bottom, they are all security patterns. But what I discovered 30 years ago, and have validated many times since, is that the world becomes real and fresh and vital, once more, when any of those umbilical cords is severed -- best by intent, but even when it happens accidentally.
That's what I love about hitch-hiking, of course. But even moving to a new city or neighborhood brings a touch of it. It happens most profoundly when such a move is radical in some way: severe downsizing, a relocation with no specific agenda other than 'escape' from the too oppressively familiar, moving to a foreign (or near foreign) locale -- anything that gives you a good shaking-up. Why are we so in fear of being shaken up, when it is invigorating and the very source of new life?
But fearful we generally are, when security is threatened -- and that's just what is happening in America today. We got shaken to our boots when it quickly sunk in that there was no ready defense against aircraft turned into missiles by the simple expedient of anyone willing to die for his cause. Two oceans &endash; thousands of miles of buffer on either side of us &endash; had made us so smugly secure that we never once took seriously what others thought of us. Nor did many care, I mean really care, about what happened to those others. We opted to stay out of the League of Nations after WWI; and ever since WWII, the U.N. has been treated as an arm of American policy, often simply ignored when it has tried to serve Third World countries we really don't give a damn about, because we've never had to. Even now, despite the clear imperative, we tolerate no independent sovereignty -- "You're either with us, or you're against us!" -- Could this lead anywhere else but to war?
True, it was a gross miscalculation on the part of bin Laden, or whoever was responsible for the impeccably executed (if foully conceived) Twin Towers tactic, for one doesn't &endash; if they've got any wits at all about them &endash; sucker-punch the big guy who's been stepping on their toes, treating them like dirt, unless they've damn well got the means to follow through on it.
Maybe he thought he did. And maybe we thought he did! We certainly reacted as though we thought so, bombing the be-Jeezus out of a country and people that dared to flaunt the finger at us when we asked them to hand over the prime suspect -- which they probably couldn't do had they wanted. And then, with the John Wayne swagger that is America's gift to the world, declaring a war-to-the-end on terrorism everywhere. Never mind whose country we have to invade, or what government we have to topple.
Did you ever imagine you'd see America ready to begin a war &endash; start one on our own &endash; against Iraq, with no other provocation than that their government won't bend to the will of ours, and that we fear what we think they might do? For the first time in American history, it is openly discussed in the daily press that we intend to be the aggressor nation. I've heard (from a source as reliable as any, these days) that American troops are even now massing along the Iraq border.
If this is what being the top super-power, the 'leader of the free world,' is all about, maybe we had better re-think the whole thing. This is not the America I was born in, or that I ever gave my pledge to uphold -- and I'm not about to do so, today.
So here I am again, it seems, talking current events, when my moody letter of a couple months ago swore I wouldn't. Call it a winter fantasy, I guess, that I could entirely detach from the world around me, yet remain involved with life. Because I saw not a shred of hope for better times in this country, within the span of years left to me, I imagined I could renounce any further 'waste of time' on it. As if, because the train couldn't take me where I wanted to go, I could stop looking out the window. Or fail to avail myself of the amenities at way stations. Or expect any relief at all, by letting everyone on the train know how disgusted I am with the state of affairs. Ah, yes . . . winter fantasies.
Spring arrives again, happily &endash; another and more frequent cyclic return &endash; and with it the melt of that frozen 'early death' that I was winter-locked in. And I thank you, then, for your indulgence while I got the frigidity out of my system. I'm back, now, with all of you, still curious to see what eventuates on this always amazing, never predictable, train ride.
Well, not quite all of you. In the fractious nature of these times, as it must have been in the Civil War era, two longtime friendships have ruptured. Two at least, and perhaps others have gone borderline &endash; who can say how many? &endash; without my knowing. The Civil War similarly split us, evenly and passionately, along ideological lines. Vietnam, too, but it was mainly generational. This one isn't a matter of age, it has to do with certain subtleties at the very heart of one's being -- internal 'buttons,' pushed by last September's events but primed much earlier, that have congealed ordinarily fluid feelings into hard rigidities. You see it this way or you see it that way, and there is no longer any ground of accommodation, nothing further to discuss.
Maybe I could give it a clearer definition, but I have a text for you that will do it for me, and better. It's a long article that came in by email, something called Parallel Realities, forwarded by Jack Noel from the high country of New Mexico. Jack is an inspirational soul, a friend since my hitch-hiking trip of several years ago, when he picked me up on the highway outside of Truth or Consequences, NM, and took me right to the door of the folks in Albuquerque I was heading to see, whom he already knew! Jack is someone who lives at the confluence of synchronicities, so I pay especial attention to anything received from him, and this article struck a chord.
As near as I can tell, this was originally a channeled piece from an entity named Solara. It's too long to give you the whole of it, but here's how it opens . . . [with a few bracketed observations by me] . . .
Leaping Over The Gap . . . into Parallel Realities
On September 11, 2001 we collectively experienced what is known as "The Shattering of All Known Worlds". The World As We Knew It null zoned and ceased to exist. There was no more of our old "normal". This shattering created a huge opening. It cracked open our complacency and threw us into a state of heightened vulnerability. It massively opened our hearts. In an instant, our priorities were completely rearranged. Many of the veils suddenly dissolved and numerous illusions shattered, leaving us in a delicate place that was new and unknown.[Think about that for a moment. The idea that the world as we knew it ceased to exist is something we have all now become familiar with. But consider it in the context of another idea: that reality is a cluster of illusions. And observe how the loss of some illusions demonstrates the absolute truth of that metaphysical idea.]
We had left the old map and entered uncharted territory....
For many, this was a moment of great awakening. We had been thrust out of our old world. It had simply collapsed in upon itself and no longer existed. Although it wasn't at all comfortable to be so vulnerable and open, we knew that we had entered a place which was extremely real.
Suddenly stripped of our old illusions, this new place was more real than anything we had ever known. And we realized that we had to become more real and honest than ever before in order to inhabit this Greater Reality.
Many people could not handle the uncertainty and fragility of this new world. The openness and realness of it was painfully uncomfortable. They could not go back into the old world because it no longer existed and they were unable to go forward into the Greater Reality.
Hence the creation of an alternate parallel reality.[I could immediately resonate with this. I have known, from many years of hitch-hiking, that I create for myself an alternate reality whenever I step out on that road. Very literally, a different set of reality illusions comes into play, and becomes quite real for me!]
This new parallel reality is not real. It is a land of rampant illusion. It's a place where everything is distorted; a Warped World which represents duality's last stand. Yet, many people have chosen to put themselves there. They have been led there by their fears of the unknown and they are trying very hard to make it real, to pull ever more people into believing that it's all there is. They are feverishly trying to make this fake Warped World into the predominant reality.[I find that a fascinating description of what the Bush administration is doing to the country.]
The Warped World that has grown out of the ashes of our imploded reality is a world of coldness and hardness; a place of ever escalating violence where love and compassion are dirty words. It's a world of stubborn ignorance, rigid judgment, arrogance, mindless patriotism, religious fanaticism and heartlessness where anger, greed and political expediency rule. It's a land where the perpetrators of hidden agendas have now grown so confident that they are no longer subtle with their manipulations. A place where the majority of the populace has been lulled into a trance which requires a blind following of its policies, religions and leaders. And sadly, it's a place where those who are most exalted are the least qualified and evolved. [Amen!]
Over ten years ago, I wrote about a time during our passage through the Doorway of the 11:11 when the gap between the worlds would widen into a great chasm. What I didn't realize then is that this gap would not be between the World As We Had Known It and the Greater Reality. Instead, that old world is gone and an artificial reality has been put in its place. The gap is between the artificial Warped World and the Greater Reality and it is growing ever wider each day.[I don't know what that 11:11 is all about. But I'm familiar with the idea of a widening gap between realities, eventually dividing them, from the writings of David Spangler, a gifted psychic, well before ten years ago.]
The year 2002 symbolizes this gap. We have the two Zeros in between the Twos. The Zeros represent this growing gap. Throughout this year, we will be facing the critically important choice as to which world we will be inhabiting. Since our old status quo no longer exists, this will greatly help us make our decisions as to where we anchor our beings. We can choose to go to sleep and be unconsciously manipulated for another cycle or choose to become very real and true and live in the Greater Reality.
2002 is a tremendously important year.... We can no longer straddle both worlds, even if we wanted to. The contrast in resonance is too strong. The harmonics cannot blend. As the new year progresses, these disparate worlds will become increasingly invisible to each other.[That is exactly what Spangler said . . . a difficult construct to grasp, but isn't it really happening, when the press steadily tells us of 80% Bush ratings, but never a word on Michael Moore's protest book, Stupid White Men, which can't keep up with the demand? (In its 9th printing, only a week on the shelves ... bookstores jammed with crowds wherever he speaks ... ranked #4 on Wall St Journal list!)]
If we choose to inhabit the Greater Reality, we must be prepared to move our beings and our lives onto a much vaster scale. We need to set aside our fears and start Living Large right now. We must be aligned with our Core Beings all the time. We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and others, following our true feelings and doing what we really want to do. We must take complete responsibility for our own beings and all our actions. We need to be totally conscious about our personal responses to outer situations. Nothing more, nothing less.
Right now, there's a struggle for control of this planet. A sufficient portion of us must be aligned with the Greater Reality in order to reach a state of critical mass to bring about that long awaited shift in paradigm. We must start consciously nourishing and embodying Love, Compassion and Oneness -- qualities greatly needed upon the Earth at this time. Living Large and Loving Large are essential to our future survival.
Solara goes on to elaborate this further, including the enumeration of ways to overcome "old problems" -- the various head trips and illusions that typically constitute our relational stumbling blocks. If anyone is interested, I'll be glad to forward the entire piece, by email.
But for now, I've things of more immediate and personal concern to finish this issue with.
You'll recall that I spoke of my wife of many years (ago), in the winter letter, as having gone into a Bay Area care facility, in critical condition. Well, she passed on, toward the end of last month -- the first of my life's relationship partners to take flight from this world. I'd had enough advance warning, and our time of relationship was so far back in my past, that the impact of loss should not have been too hard on me. In fact, having seen her deteriorated and helpless condition, I had reason to be grateful for the release of it.
Nevertheless, the final exit of one so meaningful in my past &endash; one to whom I probably owe a good deal of who and what I am today &endash; could not expectably have been easy on me. The debt I have to Viv goes far beyond the mere fact that my formative adult years, from 19 onward, were spent in close companionship with her; nor is it simply settled by the circumstance that I later found it necessary to grow apart from her. And the term 'grow apart' is precisely used, here, for I was eventually driven by a need for growth that was impeded by the confinement of our marriage. I never held this against Viv . . . she could only be herself, as I had to be me. But escape can be as blind and heedless to consequence as it sometimes becomes necessary.
Several years older, Viv had mentored me to a conscious awareness of my inner self, and the part the psyche plays in outer life. She introduced me to Pantheism, to the sacred wonder of trees and ocean, mountain and stream: before meeting her, they were just manifestations of natural science. Through Viv, I saw the beauty in old Victorian architecture, heard the joy of old jazz and the sorrow of the melodic blues: before knowing her, I thought of these as just run-down buildings, and noisy old music. Viv opened me to part of myself &endash; the internal feminine &endash; that I'd never had conscious contact with before she came along. I learned from her how to see through people's masks, and into many of life's social illusions; and if she didn't actually plant the seed of rebellion against thoughtless conformity, she certainly didn't let me forget that it was in me. I could not have seen the vision that I subsequently pursued &endash; that of a simpler and more natural life &endash; had it not been for Viv's earlier influence on me, ironic as that may seem.
Yes, it's a grand paradox that my rebellion had to begin against (though not alone against) our own marriage . . . but when mentoring finds itself entangled by love, a point is often reached where each becomes impossible of continuance. And so, I guess, it was with us.
In fitful ways, and over the subsequent course of time, I came to realize that love is not bounded by the confine of a relationship -- it exists on its own, quite apart from what has happened to the original context. But this was my own perception &endash; perhaps a way of accepting our loss of relationship &endash; not wholly shared by Viv, so that the separation remained hurtful to her over the entire continuing course of her life.
That made her death &endash; her approaching death, in fact &endash; harder on me than it might otherwise have been. Win/win outcomes are what I have sought, in my life -- but as all of you, I'm sure, have learned on your own, they sometimes can't seem to work that way, try for it as we might. Which is what makes relationships such precarious ventures. Not only are they rife with win/lose situations, but just around every such corner is the possible intersection with a lose/lose trail that can cost you the whole game.
That seemed the bottom line, with Viv and me. Neither of us could win, in the marriage we had, and the only recourse &endash; my recourse, as it turned out &endash; was to get out of it. When it later became clear that love can survive the loss, I discovered, also, an unavoidable companion that comes with it: occasional regret -- waiting to pounce in the form of guilt, whenever an appropriate moment &endash; such as death surely is &endash; should come along.
It doesn't matter much, in those terms, that more years have passed since the end of our relationship than had passed in pursuit of it; memory is an extremely hard taskmaster, when it comes to parts of life that never had closure. Yet, I chose that course for myself. I still recall Chuck Garrigues &endash; himself no longer with us &endash; telling me that some kind of finalization was what I needed; and my response, to the effect that one cannot erase the love that remains, as though it never was. And through my several later relationships, I never tried to.
But I'm not so sure it was a simple matter of honor and respect for what had once been. Something in my nature, or persisting from my young years, deeply believes that the world has only happy endings. It is a make-believe side of me fostered by the cultural mythology and films of my youth; but it seems to go deeper, into the very roots of my being. I've wondered whether it is an Aries thing, ambient to the infant and 'innocent' of the zodiac. More likely, it comes along with my puer aeternus complex, which I have even chosen to accentuate in the latter part of my life.
At any rate, it has tagged the years since I opted for a different life with a make-believe aura that all would somehow work out in the end. At various points along the way, it even took on the shade of a workable, do-able fix.
There was the time of that magical development that provided me a place to live in Carmel for an entire year, back in the late 1970s. Carmel had always been Viv's favorite place, from childhood, when it was an inexpensive vacation spot (yes, it once was!) for her family. And we, ourselves, had lived and worked in the nearby Carmel Valley, one summer, in happier pre-marriage days. It was perfectly natural that I should see this sudden bestowal of a place to stay, down there, as a threshold for the ever-foreseen 'happy ending.' And maybe, in my reality, it really was! But Viv had never found my newly-gained reality congenial, and so the chance of it passed us by.
Then there was the moment of my return from Europe -- it will be ten years ago next month. I was uprooted from Seattle by then, with no sense that I belonged anymore here than in the Bay Area. If a 'happy ending' was ever to happen for us, that seemed at last a likely moment for it -- and I did pose the possibility in a series of phone conversations with Viv. I was willing to embark on that agenda by returning to Berkeley. But our talks erupted in a sharp conflict over timing, and it was quickly apparent that the old dynamic between us was as formidable as ever.
That was the last effort I made, and I was able to accept the finality of it -- finally. But on its heels came the longest, most insistent depression I have ever lived through. Only on meeting Joy, was I able to pull free of it.
When I went to see her, last October and again in December, it was quite clear to me that Viv would not last for long. The looming threat, in fact, was not her death so much as the possibility that her life would be maintained, for no satisfaction to herself. I knew she wanted to go, but had made no 'living will' to expedite it, and was in no condition to do it now. I came home with the promise that I'd see her again, come springtime, if she were still there to be visited. And we did, I feel, have a satisfying closure on that last visit.
When word came, of her death, a Spring equinox visit was already in the works. In fact, there were ironies involved that have to infer some theurgic intercession &endash; from the gods &endash; maybe to assure that I could not simply retreat into my private sorrow, as I'd ordinarily do at a time like this. To begin with, I had just purchased my flight ticket online, non-refundable, the very night before I received that morning call. But that was just the opener.
I had scheduled a class presentation, that afternoon. A paper in which I compared historical narrative to autobiography, going into the part that myth certainly plays in the latter, as an argument for its justified usage in the former. Buried in my presentation was the tale of a personal instance of myth erupting into my affairs, long before I was able to see it as such. The story told of a time when Viv and I, getting back together after an early leave-taking of mine, had found ourselves sitting next to the composer, Meredith Willson, at a Beverly Hills High School performance of his magnum opus musical comedy, The Music Man.
The details are not important, here; I am merely noting the fact that my day's assignment required a reading of that remembrance on the day that Viv died. I gave no indication of the fact, to my small audience. But you can be sure that it stung, and left me not much interested in the discussion of my thesis that followed. Alert, however, to one closing observation, offered almost as a throwaway by the class facilitator, as we were getting ready to leave.
I've gotten pretty good at picking up the easily overlooked 'message' morsel that the gods sometimes toss us; but I had to be sharp, for this one, insofar as I was lost, that day, in the chagrin and the cognitive discordance of my situation. Kim, the young grad student leading this class, would laugh in puzzlement, at being referenced as a god(ess). I'd have to explain that I don't mean her, I mean the 'voice' she spoke, the spirit speaking through her, for it was clearly something I needed to hear, and she could not have known. It may have been Clio, the muse of (personal) history, speaking through her, which would be doubly ironic, as Kim didn't know who Clio was, when I mentioned the name in my presentation.
In telling the Music Man tale, I noted that I now regard that occasion as an early encounter with "an archetype that has been largely the empowerment of my own past 30 years: the Puer Aeternus." Having failed, at the time of the incident, to recognize it, I added that "it would be six more years before I'd be ready for a direct encounter with [the archetype], on my own."
Kim's parting remark made reference to that observation. She pointed out &endash; for no apparent reason that seemed relevant to my text &endash; that I should bear in mind, I could not have begun my "mythic life" &endash; as I called it elsewhere in my paper &endash; without having accepted the death of my earlier life. What that added up to, for me, was that I'd been 'beating a dead horse,' in all those years of sustaining the dream of a happy ending. It was something I definitely needed to hear, as a timely antidote for any tendency to get lost in remorse.
So I'll be going down to the Bay Area, as per schedule, but with something different on the agenda. Picking up on Joy's suggestion, I plan to take Viv's ashes down the coast to Carmel, and find a perfect spot for them, in that place where she had always wanted to be.
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