A path older than the forest itself leading to where a heart can endure, from the Paleolithic to where once a cell has received a death signal and makes the molecular decision to commit suicide, the killing is carried out in a stepwise fashion by, in most but not all cases, members of the Bcl-2 family, release of cytochrome c and other factors from the mitochondria and, in all cases, activation of the caspase family of proteases. Caspases dismantle the cell and also activate other proteases to aid in the execution. Once the deed is done, consciousness is its own demise.
The notion of a path, or a series of connected ways, is something that’s interested me for most of my life. Off-path, cross-genre travel, unpacking the experimental, have also caught my attention. Extraordinary paths through forests of lively ideas, mythologies, spiritualities, ecologies, aesthetics. In the process of negotiating these, there is on the magical level, as yet, no concept of time except the present, which has infinite duration. Hence there is no awareness of what might have led one into one’s present state, nor is there any awareness of what the consequences of one’s present actions might be while trying to avoid stumbling over hackneyed obstacles, falling into erudition’s tendentious mud, or ideologies disguised as ripe berries, still dreaming, I began my journey testing reality one faltering step at a time. Now that I am old enough to have sat through many silent hours that draw tgheir breath from the past, I have nothing to fall back on, not even a mind that’s inexhaustible. I feel raw as an unplucked turnip.
Dreams are not on a different level than wakefulness. The unconscious is here. There are no levels of consciousness, only stages of awareness: it’s all happening at once. Nor is there a shred of distance between reality, dreams, enlightenment and ignorance.
What is the need to make sense of the asymmetries of conscious life, of who we are, and why we think we're unique? Are the Mysteries. the epiphanies, existence after death, the long line of supernatural gods, more than metaphors?
The ego will surrender to anyone who will give it structural certainty.
Tyrants always have a mission usually given to them by a god who places them at the center, the axis mundi. There is always immense destruction involved, Christ crucified on the slash of a clear-cut forest.
To have a "personal savior" would be to have a god tailored to one's needs. Is this fitting? Epiphanies can be repeated, but not reproduced.
The gravesite of my parents is a peaceful plot near a lazy canal in Florida's humidity. Two flat copper plaques float almost level to mowed grass. Hidden in the rows of trees crows call to each other. While death is inevitable, birth isn't. I think of the life my parents gave me, then of the one I made for myself.
Last night, as I watched students practice in a dojo near my home, my limbs were remembering the endless innovations of Aikido's intricate dance. I could feel when an arm's energy extended past itself, when an elbow bent to the movement's bidding, when my feet circled like a moving mandala. When it was over, the teacher asked me, "Do you have any questions?" I replied, "I don't practice anymore." "No more practice," he laughed and bowed.
Late one night, I looked out a bus's window and thought: This is like my dream. Only now I know the way home.
Once in a while I make an effort to get in touch with an old friend: "Hello, I'm still alive, are you?" Leaving a message on an answering machine, or in an e-mail box, numerous European superstitions make crows and ravens avatars of death. If a single crow flies three times over a roof or perches on it, that is a sign that many don't reply. This is the logic of a rotting rope bridge. We catch up on each other's life, and promise to check in again. We don't, of course, or at least for another long time. This is the rusty gears of a double-lift bridge.
One day in the 12th Century, a time when building bridges and maintaining roads were considered a sacred duty, a shepherd boy heard a voice that told him to build a bridge over the Rhone River, at Avignon, France. He answered the call, and began his task by lifting and placing a huge stone, which he declared to be the bridge's foundation. Only after eighteen miracles, did city and church officials fiinally grant him help.
For the first time since last spring small waterfalls climb up and over logs and unflappable rocks that, molecule by molecule, are shedding their tellurian skin. Imagine: the human mind began its quest to know itself, and beyond itself, more than 100,000 years ago. And here I am walking a trail I've never seen before, the creek's fresh water surging at full throttle toward a salinity it only senses.
One day in the 12th Century, the poet/priest, Saigyō, stopped by a willow tree to rest and to write a poem. Five hundred years later, Matsuo Bashō, on one of his many journeys through Japan, stopped by that same tree, and also wrote a poem. Almost one hundred years had passed before the painter/poet Yosa Buson followed suit. Walking the path through Forest Park, I have stopped by the same tree many times, seeing its limbs as ageless poems.
An aggregation of unadorned stones. Wildflowers spread across the hillside. A brisk breeze blows through the gorge below. Across the river, a long train hauls natural resources to be processed into useful stuff. Directly behind me, Stonehenge has risen again, not trundled down from hills, but poured into molds. Still, the sun sets in the same direction, and these menhirs splay shadows of their brethren whom I shall never see.
A small plane drones over spits of dark brown sand. Scattered behind me like wafts of terrigenous salt, human voices float downstream, past an island dense with vegetation. A few miles to the southwest, Mt. Hood mates with a cerulean sky.
Except for in the dead of winter, or summer's open heart, we are always between seasons. A day can begin with one weather system prevailing, and end with another, or shift back and forth between the two. In midst of this a new path is found, one that promises to trace the creek back to its source
Big Canyon Creek rose on my land in California, gravity-fed through pipe to the cabin, flowed 100 miles south to pour from millions of faucets in San Francisco. What power if the image became less like the optical record of an experience and more like a vision, that is, a combination of perception, feeling and memory. In other words, I was after an image that looked like how an experience felt to be inside it, and not how the source is found! It flows with the substance itself, disguised as ripples and waves.
Near midnight, in that same era, I walked a pebbly mountain road with only the moon for company, the sound of my hollow steps resembling a creature on the run with flames streaming behind it. The Spitzer image of a dark globule in the emission nebula IC 1396 is in spectacular contrast to the view seen in visible light. Spitzer's infrared detectors unveiled the brilliant hidden interior of this opaque cloud of gas and dust for the first time, exposing never-before-seen young stars uncannily falling behind. With an ear-splitting war raging in the jungles of Vietnam, I slept curled in a silent field by the forest’s verge.
Coughing through the night, sinuses dripping, lungs a rhizomic pattern of swollen blood vessels, an eardrum has thickened to the digitized explosions of still another a foreign war. Soaked to the bone, there is no such thing as passive receiving of Tradition. He who receives, the disciple, is always—must always be—the scene of a creation. To receive is to create the sun trying to break through a phalanx of tumescent clouds. When will insanity end and wisdom begin? Outside, the leaves have surrendered their colors, returning their drained souls to the trees.