“I am the hero of my own story.” Mary Macarthy
Answering the Call to the Hero’s Journey
I have finally landed on the other side – released the “pause button,” as it were, though the landing and becoming have required sufficient time and space to find each other and form the beginning steps of the dance of the narrative they are meant to create together. I am now five weeks into a vision quest I decided to take because, well, vision questing has been the overall narrative of my life thus far and I found myself needing, once again, to acquiesce to its seemingly irrational rhyme and reason. Such calls to meanderings have, and continue to, confound me, though the unwrapping of their gifts and treasures I know always lasts far into future . . . most often into lifetimes.
Sometimes, the impulse toward growth and change can be found in objects and appearances as mundane as a bottle of seltzer water. You know, the one you opened a several days ago, set down somewhere and forgot about during the busyness of life. Somewhere in one of the ever more brief gaps between grocery shopping, changing the oil in the car, paying the rent and dashing off to the job that pays for all of these daily maintenance things (it’s expensive to be alive these days), a small pause opens. In that moment, a bit weary at the end of the day, you rest your chin on the table, eye-level now with that suddenly re-discovered bottle sitting across from you. Slowly, its familiar shape and form come into focus and you begin to gaze reflectively into its container. A personal scrying bowl, as it were, presented for contemplation, straight from the local supermarket. You notice then, from this new vantage point, that the multitude of bubbles it had at first opening has dissipated over time and you start to wonder if the whole thing has gone completely flat. Sigh. Hhhhmmm. Time to stand up, grasp it firmly in hand, give it a good, vigorous shake and see if she’s still got some fizz left in her.
Though american and european cultures conventionally cast males as the heroes of our stories, as the sole possessors of some deep need to prove themselves, to strike out on adventures, to place themselves in positions of testing their mettle, of summoning the guts and courage to walk into the unknown, these are actually sexless activities. There is, indeed, nothing particularly masculine about seeking to know the Self – boys and men just tend to be a lot more needy of attention for their efforts and, thus, theirs are the noisy stories they write and edit and publish and the ones we end out reading. And, besides, the boys usually burn all the books by and about girls and women and indigenous peoples as the heroes and warriors that they, too, have always been. Except, of course, the ones where they are consigned to the parts of the girlfriend, whore, helpmate or servant.
Out here, though, beyond the constraints of the conventional thought processes of the limited, western, rational and disconnected brain, there are many warrior wanderers of all genders (do you really think there are just two?), shapes and sizes, ilks and bilks, whose purpose, through the practice and process of journeying, is to come to know the intimate undulations of our private, internal landscapes. How one makes the journey is key to the final outcome – the end result, the narrative told, the last things we think of on our deathbeds – of such travel.
Some travel for fun and the accumulation of snapshots, others to explore internal and external geographies they’ve never known before. It is, indeed, the hopes, desires and passions of the true journey man or woman, that push them out beyond the boundaries of the village and pre-packaged tours in search of that primal spring that gives us life. Her babblings and gurglings awake us from midnight dreaming, her effervescence flowing up from dark regions, searching for air and rain and light. Her surfacing bloops and fizzles and foams and the scent of her ionic breath calls us to the path – yes, the very one through the woods and over the dales to somebody else’s land we go. We do honor the dead, both past and future, when we take up the pilgrim’s staff and step out onto nature’s thoroughfares, as so many have done before.
The Wanderer as Embodiment of Cosmic Mind
The only requirement to donning and stepping out in the wayfarer’s clothes is the one we all have the power to summon: to seek that within ourselves which we do not already know. There are those who theorize that the Big Bang, the equivalent of the impulse for the Wu Chi to suddenly, without any apparent reason or preamble, divide itself into the Tai Chi, was caused by the need of the Cosmic Mind to come to know itself. Undifferentiated space and time (The One) spontaneously and incomprehensibly, differentiated itself (The Two). That insouciant, bold flinging of the divine hand out into the darkness and subsequent striking of the anvil of vital duality, birthed “the 10,000 things,” the myriad of forms we are able to sense with all of our current faculties in the world around us. Like the multitude of sparks flying off a roman candle, the hands of the divine have been raining down the lights of her creation ever since that moment. The real scope and reach and varieties of those forms is still far out of our conceptual range, woefully limited as our human brains still are. That Mind is still out there dancing with her sparklers, waving them to and fro, near and nether in many regions that still lie beyond the furthest furthest places our biggest biggest telescopes can see. The strange and inexplicable expansions and contractions of the universe we know are caused by her ecstatic and rhythmic breathing as she twirls and spins and runs through her interstellar studio.
The invention of the relationship between self and other, of yin and yang, of shakti and shiva, matter and anti-matter, was the Universe’s own crying out to know itself in relationship to a something else. A singularity cannot know anything of itself and the creation of the alien became necessary for consciousness, first Cosmic and much, much later, Planetary, to emerge out of the void. The intelligence of that Cosmic Mind infuses all things, is contained in every muon and particle, every gamma ray and wave form that issued forth from that original moment of birth of brilliant duality. Every organic and inorganic entity in existence contains the essence of that intelligence, despite science’s and religion’s best efforts and arguments to convince us all of their limited and truncated views of what it means to be sentient. In spite of theirs and ours refusal to recognize her presence, The Cosmic Mind resides in every crystalline matrix of every stone, every molecule of DNA and in every fiber of the woven blanket we throw around our shoulders at night as we warm ourselves by the fire.
The hero on the journey seeks an intimate relationship, through guts and wits, through the irrational twists and turns of the path through their own forests and meadows and mountaintops, the shape and feeling of that irrational Cosmic Mind, upon whose Body we lightly tread.
Running the Gauntlet to the Wayfarer’s Road
Just Try to Get the Hell Out of Dodge These Days
Prior to our techno-jammed world of cell phones, e-mails, skype, and social networks – the artificial ropes and burdens of instant gratifications and dramas, such journeys were easy. They required nothing more than the packing of a bag and the purchase of bus ticket or the turning of the key in that old camper van and a wave to friends and family who supported the hero’s journey. Prior to that, it was the slinging of a stick packed with the minimal necessities over one’s shoulder and stepping out our front door. Today, the obstacles to a walkabout in the unknown have multiplied like rabbits in a small hutch and the effort just to unplug takes up a large portion of just making it out onto the road, let alone in getting beyond the familiar streetlights and parking lots that blind the way at every intersection and corner.
While the concrete avenues and steel tracks of trolley cars have bound us in their grids of law-abiding flows and movements, Facebook and Twitter and the other “netwit” groups have become the psychic grappling hooks in the backs and spirits of human flesh and bone, overflowing as they are with dis-embodied, fragmented advice, vacuous commentary and trivial, self-induced crises that insist upon our immediate attention, poisoning and binding the human spirit in vast cattle pens of chatter.
The allegedly educated, mature and erudite of our acquaintances prove themselves actually quite unable to sit through even a day’s absence on the experiential GPS grid of life without firing e-mails at our receding silhouettes in the setting sun: are you okay? where are you? how’s it going? should i throw out this piece of junk mail or save it for you? where should I put that t-shirt you left behind? did you like the color I dyed my hair last time? cuz i’m thinking of doing it again, what do you think? gee, I lost the keys to your car and federal law requires you to identify yourself to the locksmith on skype so he can make a copy. i might just have to tow it into the river and dump it if you don’t respond immediately, you know. (yes, power succubus) oh, yeah, i really think you need to read this book and that guide so you know how to be safe out there. (Yeth, mummy). Oh, yes, and, of course, my PhD outranks your Master’s degree, so bow to my authority – and here’s my thesis I wrote 40 years ago, so tag me when you’ve read it thoroughly. (Yeth, doctor).
Gosh, and I haven’t even unwrapped my bread and cheese for breakfast after my first night away from home.
Dodging these metaphoric communications of fear and loathing in letting go into the unknown and unknowable (or allowing space for others to do so) are like running serpentine patterns through the rain of arrows fired from the escarpments of medieval castles. The higher the density and intensity of weaponry, the greater the terror is of those hiding behind those stone walls. Nothing for the adventurer to do but hunker down behind the boulders until the guards at the gates fall asleep.
Finding the Real Along on The Way
Our true friends, however, our comrades in sandals on life’s journey, are the one’s who remain in utter silence, pose not a single question, nor proffer a word of advice, nor use our possessions to try to hold us hostage to their whims. They demand no obeisance nor tethered thoughts to them as we pick our way through the bramble bushes of our travels. Their trust in us is so holy complete they can let us go easily, letting us decide when to take up the slack in the line and find our way home again to their hearth.
They are the ones we entrust to slit open the envelopes of our personal missives by the evening fire and gaze upon our hand written notes sent by earth-bound messengers along wagon wheel ruts through the high plains. They smile in recognition as they read our pathetically small scratch marks on the page, then tuck those precious leaves in between their wine glass and candle for safe keeping as they savor their evening meal. These are those who simply open the door and let us in, who say nothing while they make us a cup of tea as we settle into the sofa at journey’s end. They do this because they know the wanderer wanders for all of us, that we dream the world alive as our friends dream us, that no part of the hero’s journey is separate from any of our own internal tales of magic and daring and thrill of sleeping under the stars. They know the soul of the quest is in finding our true heart’s desire and, having already found their own, they celebrate its manifest destiny in the soles of our dusty shoes standing in their mud room.
The unspeakable and the silent are our mutual friends.
Back to Breaking Out of the Fence
The masters of cyberspace have done nothing more than construct an artificial intelligence force field around the populace, bent on trying to corral and control time and space and human activity, directing and spiraling human experience and conversation into collection drains of cyborgian waste.
Rather than ooh and aah over the billionaire statuses of the founders of these byte and bit companies and their brightly-lit, pixilated communities traipsing around inside gargantuan flat screen monitors, we should perceive what these folks and their followers really are – just small children with shiny tinker toys who are terribly, terribly, deeply and woefully afraid of the dark. Self-described “computer geeks and nerds,” they reveal, in their fantasy land of cabled networks, only their own soulless limitations, creating sand boxes full of distorted voices and pictures, tags and undecipherable and meaningless strings of letters designed to cram human experience inside the arid sentence structures and empty terrain of their own emotional, relational and spiritual flatlands.
Like sheep guided by the barks and nips of the smart, hyperactive, highly trainable and trained border collies, the sheep of our species allow these literal and figurative cyberdogs to startle, dazzle and herd them into running down the narrow chutes of “like,” “tweet,” “share,” and “spam” buttons, straight on into the slaughterhouse of human creativity and wisdom.
Our ecstasies and eroticisms, passions and wants for something larger than ourselves lie in the instinctual viscera of our bellies, in the hunger of the flesh and spirit. Our satisfaction for the taste and feel of the juice of a ripe peach running down our chins has been replaced with the insensate offerings of different templates to choose and use for a blog site. Our glorious personal views and experiences of sunrises and cultivated roses that prick our thumbs as we trim them have given way to a liquid screen full of pop-ups and scrolling banners and synthesized sounds and color wheels.
As a collective, we need to recognize our sensual world is being gutted like a dead fish before our metamorphosis into the myopic, dry, talking heads of the wizards of cyber-oz is complete. There is no “there” in cyberspace. Nothing real takes place in those memory chips. It does not exist. Even Toto knew that.
Dodge, Duck and Roll:
Weaving Our Way to the Exit Door
Trying to free one’s self from the intricate web of illusion these stunted adolescents and their financial backers have woven around the human spirit of imagination, adventure and freedom (that faraway land of magic and alchemy, of trust in the self and our own discernment, of the awe in the vast power of nature and the cosmos) is like trying to get out of downtown Manhattan late on a Friday afternoon. The greater the obstacles, however, the greater humanity’s need is for its escapees into the hinterlands. And the greater the determination the wanderer must summon to firmly grasp and follow the desires of the still living and breathing human heart.
At some point, the true wayfarer knows when to open the door of the taxi, collect her bags from the trunk, kick the door closed and weave her way on foot through the noisy, thronging traffic jams and on out into the hills.
The artful dodger is our archetypal leader here, bobbing and twirling through the thickening cloud and din of infocuffs. Ours is to follow The Way. No exchanging finger salutes with other cabbies, no stopping for the financial exec whose just dropped his droidberryithingy in the sewer drain and is now demanding immediate assistance for its retrieval. Sorry, no helping hand to the 4-year-old whose ice cream cone just hit the hot pavement. And, no cursing the bike messenger for driving over your foot, either.
An unmovable and unshakeable eye on those soft green hills is required. Such a gaze allows for the development of the equipoise and grace found in the responsive, quick movements of the martial artist/artful dodger/shape shifter amidst the lowing cattle that jostle and hurry along. Flexibility and adaptability in moving with the flow of the crowd, just like water, allows us the opportunity to see and know where the eddies and rapids are, and to make our way in and around and through them with the ease and certainty of our direction. Masters do not ambulate, they glide.
Head up and to the horizon. And do make haste. For it is only out there, in the distant mists and fogs of flesh and blood and bone, of roots and dark earth and lichen-covered stones, that the true spirit of our own, and our collective, human potential can be re-discovered, revived and re-consecrated, and, hopefully, allowed to thrive once again.