Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Final Chapter from 1983

It's Saturday, March 6. I've been staying with friends in Mystic, Connecticut. They've been kind enough to care for me while I am possessed by this writing. They have a word-processor, and I have developed an addiction. I hate the infernal machine, but there is so little time. It really helps a lot, and with patience, it can be trusted. But I have been addicted to the writing. For several weeks I have been doing my time in the desert of words. Not to go outside. And now I have a cold.

I was up before dawn this morning. I couldn't sleep. And I know better than to fight such feelings any more. In the past, when I have journeyed, the single most important rule has been never to return along a route already traveled. That has been a good rule, because it has taken me places I otherwise wouldn't have gone. It's gotten me into plenty of jams, too. I remember being pinned under my five-hundred pound motorcycle on a rocky dirt road that had become too steep. I was swimming in sweat by the time I had the machine righted. But I couldn't go back down.

The road ended at the top of a small hill. It opened into a farm field. The view was spectacular. I don't know what impelled me, but I took off cross-country on my highway motorcycle. It was crazy, but I just refused to return along the path I had come by. It was an exhilerating ride. I remember that the exhileration lasted until I was back on the highway. I had checked over the bike after its minor spill, and when I came to my favorite switchbacks through the woods I was more sure than ever of my connection to the machine. It was a game. The road had become ever more familiar with each new challenge of its dangerous though well paved curves. Each time I was more sure of myself. This time I was one with the bike and the road, and there was no real limit to my speed. I took curves at well over eighty which had been marked with warning signs of thirty-five miles per hour. I certainly wouldn't do it again unless I knew. Another biker saluted me when the road became straight again. He had watched.

And so this morning I discovered the beauty of well-trod paths. As the dawn broke, it was the familiar songs of the familiar birds which stirred my soul most powerfully. And the houses were not an affront to the natural scene. I was reminded of dawns in Canada, away from houses, but this was not deficient. There was only the roar of the distant highway to disturb me. Along which blind men hurl at silly speeds wanting never to return. But here, in Mystic, I watched a seagull circle toward me and away. He had something to say to me. As I watched I knew the pure joy he felt in his movement. Not joy, really, but oneness. When you are a bird, you just rise at dawn. There were lots of stirrings.

As I walked back, the cars were beginning to come alive. I felt a little sad that their life should be so shielded. The seagull's message was open-faced and honest. But the stirrings of human life had its beauty too. And I didn't hate the cars. I was only sad that it would be so difficult to penetrate the armor.

This morning as I rounded a corner in the road and saw the red beginning to show across the harbor, I remembered what one can really see if his heart is open. I was startled as if there were a face in the scene. The tears came to my eyes for the beauty of which I felt so much a part. For the first time in so many years. The utter beauty of the world. A world in which there are other souls. The birds and fishes both willing to give their lives to each other when the time comes because not to is to deny everything. I have seldom felt so moved. It was a natural scene, where man's intrusion too felt natural. Mystic is a pretty town.

But my tears of joy at joining the dawn were also tears of sorrow. I felt the evil of man who is so rapidly eradicating those other souls. My heart truly reached out to all the unsung life of the earth which is suffocating with hardly a cry. I heard the roar of the highway, and I was sad.

It is thrilling to always discover newness. But it can become an addiction. In the end it numbs one toward what is most ancient. I remembered this morning that the soul is stirred more strongly by the familiar than by the new. I remembered that there is no need to be cut-off. Newness is a quality of mind. Under the sun, there is nothing else new.

The birds don't hate when they kill. And they don't thrill when they fly. But they are connected. And it is love that connects them. I felt it. It is the same love that we can feel when we allow ourselves.

I began writing when I changed the quality of my reaction to what was happening around me. I felt summoned. That is simply the feeling that comes when the mind lets go and allows the connection to be made. The stormy morning was welcome because I changed the quality of my reaction because I decided to believe that my life meant something. I was summoned because I summoned myself. It is a circular argument. Don't kid yourself. All good arguments are. Truth has a familiar face. Arguments with a point cause blindness. And a mask over truth is required in defence.

In writing, I have tried to be honest with myself. I had to invent you, the reader, because I had no confidence that anyone would want to read what I would write. But I had to imagine a reader in order to keep me honest. Writing that is too secret only digs a hole for oneself. Words are for sharing. I have written boldly, but not with pride. It is as big a mistake to pretend you are smaller than you are as to pretend greatness. I have tried to be honest.

That is what makes all the difference. And not worrying. As I wrote I began to see the shape of my life. The bright points in my memory began to have a purpose. I had always known that, but I had no confidence to make sense of them. Now I can look at my life -- the real thing and the literary form -- and know what it means. I am finally my own best critic. There is no other critic, no authority, no psychoanalyst, no reader who knows the significance of my life better than I do.

That is true of everyone who is honest. When we erect the wall of lies, we build also a barrier between our conscious mind and the unconscious which more easily makes the connections to what is familiar for all life. There is only one way to make our minds whole, and this is the only moment in history when it is possible to be whole. Words rule the conscious mind, but poets have known how to unlock the barrier and make words meaningful. The rest have used words as weapons or tools for manipulation. Finally, they have become the bulldozers of the fertile earth of our minds which must include our hearts.

But I am as immune as the earth. The earth will die without hatred if we feel we must pierce her skin and draw her life's blood out. And I will die without hatred if the message I bring is too hard to take. But it's all so unnecessary. We've all been this way before. It is not necessary to repeat the mistakes of the past. It is not necessary to remain willfully blind when the mask has been removed.

No-one can know the meaning of your life except you. And you must be honest. I see now that my boat was not another attempt at transcendence of the skin as I had feared. I would laugh at the suggestions of womb-space because they were so obvious. But really, I did have to crawl back in and be reborn into the swirling maelstrom. I had to be shocked into tears from the numb slumber into which my life was slipping. Wy boat has been a womb because only there was I able to shut out the noise -- the conscious voices and the authority. Only there could I ignore the guilt that kept reminding me that I had to make a living. Only there could I remember the connections that make a life. And finally I could become whole and now I must emerge.

When you are whole, the story of your life writes itself. Believe me. I am the man who made you blind by asking you to believe in me. And now I must make you see. There is a way if I can only let go and feel it. This writing is the axe, and I am the woodchopper. I must find the moment. Please don't imprison me for my boldness. No man has authority over any other.

Sometimes the words are enough. Sometimes putting on a mask -- acting like you believe -- is enough to lead you believe. If you really pray earnestly. Don't tell jokes. Don't lie. Just try to be the words.

I was blessed in Chinese with a wonderful teacher. I tried to put what he taught me with what I knew into my graduation essay. It was just passable. But at least I couldn't forget what I'd been taught -- what I'd already known.

I wrote about Li Ho, the "mad/demonic" genius. He was a little out of the classical tradition. But enough in to be remembered as a poet. Some comparisons have been made to Western poets. I wrote about his poetry in terms of the rules of Classical Chinese poetry. These terms aren't found in books, nor taught anywhere else. They are the terms that only my teacher had the nerve to translate properly from the Chinese. He is a bold man.

I believed my teacher, not only out of respect, but because what he said made sense -- complete resonate sense. So I wrote about Li Ho who died of old age when twenty seven, and who broke the rules of Chinese poetry just enough to be considered mad, or demonic. With the help of my teacher, I began to realize the power of his poetry.

In Chinese there are no metaphors. In the canonical, classical language. Believe me, it's true. I didn't make it up. It's not my idea. And yes, there are no ideas either. No Platonic eternal abstracted-from-the-substance ideas. There is no appleness in Chinese. Only apples.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not speaking absolutely or from a position of authority. This is a tendency in the Chinese poetic language that I know to be true because I know that it makes sense. Anything can be translated. Words can be made to read anyway at all. But there is such a thing as mis¬reading. And to translate Western terminology for explic¬ations of Chinese poetry always results in a misreading. Something is always lost.

Sure, the words for things are said to look like things in Chinese, so you don't need ideas. That's not quite the case. The words are abstract symbols. They are simply spatial rather than linear in their arrangement. There are no capitals at the beginning nor periods at the end of a classical Chinese sentence. There is a shape. There is a rhythm. The meanings and the sounds rhythmically cycle with their ebb and flow. The emphasis is on the space and not the line.

Sure, you can find metaphors in Chinese. And if you can't find them you can put them there. It would be an act of translation. The language would still make sense, though something would be missing. The crucial thing. Same with ideas. Anything. Any world can be translated into any other world. It just takes time. And sometimes it's more interesting to notice the differences. Sometimes learning an alien language just to read a poem is worth it when the translation can lack so much. The tendencies in the Chinese classical, and particularly the poetic language are different than those in the West.

Lines point. They point beyond. Beyond the text to where the meaning lies. The ideal realm. God's realm. Where the answers are. Abstraction. Metaphor points. Using what is familiar to point to what is remote. Beyond the text. Beyond life.

Spaces are. There is no progression -- only rhythm. There is change, but it is cyclic. You don't read for the point or for the ending. You read to meet the heart of the writer. Or, if you read the oldest texts, you read to find the heart of the universe. Not just the center. The heart. In Chinese the term for heart is the same as that for mind. Hsin. They didn't used to leave the feeling out of thinking. Until they took to studying the West.

There is Heaven above and Earth below. Man is in the Center. Where Heart is, and Mind. Hsin. But heaven isn't the ideal realm. In Chinese, it's peopled with all Sorts of mortally weak immortals. They act like their counterparts on earth. But for the educated -- literate -- Chinese, though not quite all the gremlins are ever eradicated, the heavens are simply a model of constancy and order. One doesn't look beyond life for meaning. You look for clues in the more constant life of the heavens. So that the maelstrom may be ordered. Chaos made still for a while.

Words are wen in Chinese. Sounds like "one". Heaven has its wen. Earth has its wen. Wen is pattern. It is not separate from the substance on which the pattern is manifest. Words don't point to the ideal. They don't mean anything beyond themselves. They are the pattern through which order is manifest. They indicate what is at the center. What is at the heart. It is only through wen that the center is apparent, so buried is it in the shrouds of flesh, rock, or whatever. Attempts at hiding also show up on the surface, though a reader must be adept to see the wicked heart.

Heaven has its wen. The constellations, the clouds, the rain. The moon. The apparitions. Earth has the rivers, the trees, the animals. The ten thousand things and the apparitions. Man's is the realm of hsin -- heart/mind -- and has it's words. The words don't point -- metaphorically --to the meaning of heaven's order or earth's order. The words place hsin in the universe and thus make it whole. It is an act of ordering that seeks not to control, but to perceive and to create at the same time. To find what is there and to join it.

China had an elitist tradition, and words were at the center. Gestures, faces, and other meaningful patterns were ignored in favor of words. So the literate were elite. And the illiterate had no power. But they were not ignored.

The reader finds the poet's hsin in the words of his poem. He finds it forever after when he is reminded of the occasion on which the poet wrote. A mountain, a kind of bird, a singing girl. The poems are memorized, they are borrowed from -- plagiarized, hackneyed. But they are never fiction. A Classical Chinese poet doesn't lie. He doesn't invent his poem. And poems are dominant over narrative which has a direction and a goal. Narrative has been dominant in the West. And fiction. Mythology. Metaphor.

There is rhythm to a Chinese poem. Not just the sound, but also the meaning. The basic poetic unit is the couplet in which components of each line are placed in parallel opposition. The word for "mountain" opposes the word for "lake" for example. The relationships are complex and deter¬mined by tradition as much as by rational cosmology; if there can be said to be any difference between the two.

Li Ho began to move his couplets from the rigid structure of the written line out into the world. The effect on a classically trained reader is hallucinatory. You can't tell what is real. Instead of observations being contained in the old form by a poet the truth of whose vision is trusted implicitly, the observations take on the bizarre juxtapositions that are possible only on the page. You have to move to see opposed things together, though they can appear to¬gether on the page. The Chinese poet looks for poetry in nature. He looks for couplets. Li Ho was describing a landscape that could only occur in couplets that had been invented on the page. The movements in the real world that would have been required to unite the opposites seem impossible.

If you trust him, the scene is hallucinatory. If you don't, then you might call him a liar. But the poetry is beautiful. Li Ho was considered mad. He was being tempted by metaphor. A structure of meaning which points beyond any substance to meaning in the abstract. Beauty. The word.

According to our language, he would have to be considered mad by most. The magic carpet rides that would have been necessary for him to unite with his literal vision what was on the page could not have been actual. So the reader has to get confused. The poetry is too beautiful to simply call Li Ho a liar. To say that he is making it all up.

Perhaps for Li Ho himself there were some magic carpet rides through his poetry. Perhaps he saw something there in the nature he describes that was literally invisible to stricter minds. Perhaps he was hallucinating. He describes ghostly events. Written characters in the landscape. He unites visions that would require something like a motorcycle for their literal coming together. All he had was a horse.

I'm sure that in the sense that we understand, he was inventing things on the page. He had discovered a meaning different to that approved of. It must have been unbearable. His hair turned white and he died at twenty-seven.

Fictional narrative was being discovered in China during the same epoch in which Li Ho wrote. My last attempt at staying in school was thwarted by a wrestling match with a long Chinese narrative called "The Jouney to the West", or "Monkey" as it is translated. The title alone seemed significant to me. It concerns the upstart monkey who acts like a man. He is a willful little bugger. It seemed to me that this story did represent the literal beginnings of a Journey to the West for China. The discovery of the power of will.

The literal journey is the travelling of Tripitaka, the Buddhist monk, to India for the scriptures of Buddhism. The introduction of Buddhism to China brought many things. Storys. A pointing away from this life. Forsaking of worldly ties. Of family. A new pattern was emerging whereby the secular authority of the written word was implicitly challenged. As is usual with China, the new was assimilated without subverting the old completely.

But the book is not really Buddhist. It represents more than the literal journey. In this book, which has always been considered frivolous by the literate Chinese -- a children's tale -- Buddha is a God-like figure. Or rather there is a God-like figure who finally thwarts the will¬fulness of monkey who would subvert the whole order of the universe by his willfulness. It is a brilliant book. And what a brilliant way to keep it from being understood. It's childish.

Monkey has a phallic wand that he can use to transform things at will. He can make whole armys of himself with the wand to fight off adversary gods. He refuses to recognize the existence of any other will than his own. They are all a threat, and so he must have clones of himself. He uses the wand.

And there are plenty of magic-carpet rides. In a humorous sort of way, one might easily see the modern world de¬scribed in the Journey to the West. Not literally. Not even by using the magic devices as metaphors for cars and planes and telephones and what not. But mostly because monkey describes pretty well the modern mentality. If we are honest we will recognize ourselves in him.

Li Ho was smitten by the demon invention. He sought an immortality beyond this life, and so he died young. But 0 the life that has remained. The words are his immortality. If we understand them. We kill every writer we misunderstand. And every gesture we misread because of our unwillingness to see. Because we are blinded by our own lies about ourselves. They are not our lies. They have been forced upon us by authority.

The Chinese chose their magistrates according to their knowledge of and ability in poetry and the classics. The purity of the tradition has waxed and waned with the dynasties, but that has been the rule. A man's hsin was more important than his reasonable intelligence. He had to be good at reading other men. There were plenty of abuses. People lied all the time. Liers got into power. But they didn't trust law. They knew that whatever is in a man's heart cannot be read mechanically from his actions by the application of some perfect rule. They knew that only another man could judge the contents of the heart. And the judge would have to be screened carefully. Not the common law which is an institutionalization of misunderstanding. Authority behind the mask of the common man. But the elite charged with the responsibility of their position.

The punishments for misuse of power were severe. And among the most severe was banishment. To be excluded from the community. Not quite literally, but to be placed at a remove from the capitol which was the focus for all the tradition which ultimately had given the poet his vision. His vision was what was most precious. To be cut off from the source was terribly painful.

Some chose reclusion. Their vision turned them away from power. The word for them may have led back to the gesture, and they mistrusted the right to judge. But they had their books. And some wealth, since the written word commanded so much power in China. The recluse wasn't quite cut-off. He just didn't want authority, nor did he want to be subject. It is a great and long tradition.

China has never been in a position to reverse its ages old elitism. They never had science. Nature was recalcitrant and provided floods to wipe out advances. Droughts to decimate the population. They took these things to be the way of life and didn't complain too much. The magistrates felt responsible. When nature was uncooperative, it was assumed that the pattern had been disturbed. By an intrusion of will. Or by a lie. By a failure to live up to responsibility.

It has always looked silly to we who are so sure that the events of nature are only random. We pity their ignorance. Yet we all know the Chinese "invented" many tools before the West. They're different. Not better. Not deficient. And they have always been elitist until recently.

We trust the Word in the West. In the beginning. The logos. Science. Truth in the abstract. We believe that there is only one truth -- one answer, and that it is absolute. We think the perfect law can be written that will solve our problems and dilemmas. Pro life. Pro choice. Freedom or Socialism. Heaven or Utopia. They are all the same thing. The true choice is the one we have been avoiding. It has seemed at times that there has been a conspiracy to make us avoid the true choice which allows us to find truth that is not abstract.

We don't trust ourselves or each other, so we must trust the law. The machine. An accident -- fate -- or the doctor's fault. Somebody's fault. Guilt. You can't have it both ways.

All the choices we offer ourselves in the West are the same. They are all perpetual evasion. They are no choices, only a diversion from real choice. A diversion. A game. There is only the personal choice. The answer always bears two horns. Paradox is at the root. The serpent eats its tail. Progress is a myth. Stasis is impossible. Metaphor is the only way to know truth. Truth is metaphorical. Metaphor is myth. There's no way out. The Tao that can be uttered is not the eternal, unchanging Tao. There is NO ANSWER. The Name that can be named is not the true Name.

There are many more words, but it's getting late. It has to be NOW. There is no return and there is no progress. There is no decline and no fall and no ascent. They were not lies before, but they are lies now. The truth is time-bound. There is only NOW. There is no time to find but the one you remember NOW. The program that can be designed is SHIT. It's out the door. It's already too late. It's NOW.

Now is the time to take your money out of the banks which have been financing the lies. It goes in seconds to the powerful. Not the people. The machine. You are giving it your power. Do you agree with the power structure? You can't disagree with words. You can't complain and moan about the fate of the earth when you're paying for it right now. You are the system. You can't design a better one which will solve all the problems. All you need is confidence and faith. I know that words can do at least that. They can give confidence.

You're in control. YOU.

Don't keep the money for yourself. Burn it. Fast. It's an abstraction. Wealth is you. Don't sell your soul to a machine that pretends to take care of everything. The machine can't make all the connections. Only you can do that. Money isn't evil. It's the blind faith people have that makes it evil. The economy is everyone. It works when we work. But don't depend on money for your survival. The true wealth is you.

And don't listen to anybody who tells you what to do. Listen to yourself. Listen with your whole being, not just your mind. Feel your choice. Don't let people tell you you're wrong or bad or evil or dead. Only you can know that.

Nothing's going to change. We're there. We have the keys to the tractors and the super-markets and the cars and the plenty. There's no longer any need to listen to THEM. They are us. There is not any difference. We all hold the keys. You don't need to pay your own jailer. Look around and see who's hungry, sad, afraid, angry. Feed them. Calm them. Love them. Now. Not in heaven or in utopia. We're here.

And don't listen to what anybody tells you to do. Don't love because you're guilty -- because you think you ought to. Look inside and see if maybe it's easier -- more alive -- to love than not to. Maybe it's only you that's holding you back. Not your luck.

And it certainly isn't them. If you don't care for them, then why give them power? Why listen? You know what to do. Nobody else.

We've got the TV's and the computers and the knowledge and the power. If we need something someone else has got --we give them what they want -- everything and anything. We can do it together, but only together. It's us in America. The "middle class". We are the tyrannical warlords of the earth. We're the lucky, the wealthy, the responsible. We're lying when we say we've got to look our for number one. Not then, but now. We've got it made. We throw away food in this country. We burn up money -- energy -- at the same time we crave it. We've got to kick the habit, because all our addiction is doing is making us more numb. We are in limbo.

Don't be afraid. The world hates us, you and me. The earth hates us. And they are not afraid of us. Put down the knife and confess -- together. Not guilt. Just look inside and ask who is it. Who is the millenial coming. The time to remember is now. There is no choice.

But you must believe.

Buckminster Fuller is right, only he's not nearly literal enough. Gravity is Love. It is -- really. But science isn't going to solve our problems. We are. Truth can't be pointed to. It has to be felt. Perhaps we have progressed to this point. Perhaps, just maybe, Christ was -- is -- real. His would be the only true guilt. He has been responsible. So don't feel guilty when you kill him. He killed himself.

The earth only hates us because we hate ourselves. Don't try to tell me who or what I am. And I won't try to tell you. I know who and what I am, and so might you.

We have progressed nowhere. We have only rehearsed the ancient Chinese knowledge, and my mother's knowledge, that there are good times and bad times. The problems come if you tip the balance too far. If you spin the yin and yang too fast it escapes the chamber and returns to a bullet. A vector with trajectory and only destruction at the end.

We have gotten it all backwards. Science is a metaphorical language. It can be very beautiful to the initiate. But it is not the language of truth. Poetry is the literal language. Read some of the old poems and see if it isn't true. See if they didn't know something about us that we have forgotten even though we are here.

Read some of the new poems. Listen with your being. Look at a daisy.

Preachers are metaphorical bulldozers. Listen with your heart, and you will find the unadorned beauty. There is a place for everything. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is right. The choice belongs to each individual self whether their whole being is tied to a positive future or a negative one. Do you feel good? Do you feel good about yourself? Please try.

We are at the point of explosion. Fate has brought us there and fate is not meaningless. Christ was real -- not fictional. Not a myth. Real. In the flesh. Believe it. Our tradition has brought us to this point. Our concern with beginnings and endings has brought us through science to where we have little choice but to take careful control of the earth. Christ knew, but he couldn't have known. He couldn't have known that when he was asking only for faith in Him, he was offering also the numbness of the most dangerous insurance policy. The crossroads. The crucial, critical point. The cross. He took our guilt upon himself. But he has led us down a path toward blindness. The woman has been left out.

It could be considered an accident that so many have found ardent focus for ther participation in the sweep of Western culture in the Christian myth. They could all be stupid and misled. Or Christ could have been a man who was connected. Who knew what he had to do to bring the future -- this future -- into being. It doesn't have to be a bad moment. Christ didn't manipulate. He took what was in the fabric of the civilization and believed in himself. If he wasn't the son of God, then it was exactly as if he were. And now we are all responsible. Not guilty.

But he lived in a different time, and could hear the voice of God. It may have been his own voice separated from himself by the barrier between conscious and unconscious. He couldn't have known. But he heard the voice of God and he listened. Now we must listen. And don't forget the woman.

I've given little lectures about the I Ching. Usually people go to sleep. They're about how, if you don't believe in God, and you don't believe in will -- classical Chinese doesn't have an identical term, though you might mistranslate -- and you don't believe in beginnings and endings, then you might believe in connections. The roll of dice is meaningful. The accident is telling you something if you know how to listen. God does not exist, yet He is Buddha. The serpent eats his tail. The man accepts the woman, and pray to god the woman will forgive. If she picked the apple, we gave the reason. And we've run the show. God-damned Mother Fucking men of the Earth. Wake up! Feel. Cry. It's getting late.

The hexagram is chieh, "limitation".

We are reaching the limit. I know my fate. You will have to remember yours.

I know this is all unclear. I know it's hard to read. But if something stirs you, why not read it again. Start from the beginning or wherever. Don't be upset with me. I know I can't write. But I doubt I've been responsible for all of this. Do you recognize something here?

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