ROUGH DRAFT, working title, photos and text copyright 2012, Jonathan Zap
Friday, June 16, 2012
As I was gathering my will to begin a journal of my summer odyssey, I was doing what so often precedes adventure these days—catching up on Facebook status updates. An Estonian semiotician I know, who only a few years ago was part of a tribe of young mutants from the state of Washington I first met in 2001 at a Rainbow Gathering, had just posted the following James Joyce reference:
Seccion Ameril: history is the nightmare
People, including me, quickly added comments:
Pär Tel: idiots+ideology
Jonathan Zap: from which I am trying to awaken into the temporal evanescence, emotional disassociation and insubstantiality of facebook.
Seccion Ameril: doesn’t anyone know what day it is?
Jonathan Zap: Estonian Liberation Day, the day Estonia defeated Turkislamostan in 1166?
Matthew Serenissima Cristoforo Campanella: bloomsday
Pär Tel: It’s friday?
Bloomsday, from Wikipedia:
“Bloomsday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived. It is observed annually on 16 June in Dublin and elsewhere. Joyce chose the date as it was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle; they walked to the Dublin suburb of Ringsend. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses.”
Leopold’s 24 hour odyssey is famous, not for any particularly dramatic occurrence, but for the approximately 265,000 words used to relate it. The words were also intentionally made to be difficult and full of obscure references.
According to Wikipedia:
“Joyce once said that he had ‘put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant,’ which would earn the novel ‘immortality.’”
If just one day in the life of an obscure Jew in turn-of-the-century Dublin was worth 265,000 tortured words, just think of how many mutated words could be applied to cover an entire summer’s travels of an obscure turn-of-the-millenium Jew currently residing in Boulder, Colorado? But to keep the word count from getting out of hand, I don’t plan to put myself under a Joycean free-associative linguistic microscope. For one thing, I long ago discovered the travel journal paradox—the more time you spend writing a travel journal in real time, the less there is to report about, unless you want to write about the journal writing process itself, which starts to become an infinite regress into solipsistic mirror worlds. Also, unlike Leopold Bloom, I’m much more concerned about my privacy, and if I were to reveal all the twists and turns of what’s going on in the obsessive depths of my personality, I would start to feel like an old Irish Jew getting a 265,000 word autopsy in public view. And so, to keep privacy and word count within decent limits, I’m going to lean toward keeping the camera pointed outward as much as possible. Of course, as a narcissistic introvert, even with the camera pointing outward, there will inevitably be lots of me talking behind the viewfinder relating almost everything back to myself.
These disclaimers, however, sound more self-indulgent than I intend. Whether the viewfinder is facing out, or in, I will be looking for things that may be of interest and use for the reader. I don’t plan to go gonzo on you. That approach is a ruling stereotype at this point. So much narrative journalism (see the movie Shattered Glass) is amped up, often through fabrication, as it contorts itself into the gonzo style.
I witnessed an example of this first hand several years ago. A Boulder Weekly writer went to a national Rainbow gathering and, like almost every journalistic report on it, went gonzo, trying to seem witty by exaggerating and caricaturing everything. Sure, there’s lots of stuff that’s all too ripe for that sort of treatment at Rainbow Gatherings, but there are also plenty of modest, sensible people doing practical work and good deeds who don’t get covered. (Since there will be much more about Rainbow Gatherings I recommend the excellent Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Gathering) The Boulder Weekly journalist described a talk given by a guy who “seemed like a cross between Charles Manson, Carl Sagan and Marshall McLuhan.” He was describing me, and a talk I gave on the singularity archetype. He quoted a number of absurd things I said. The problem was that I never said those things, and unbeknownst to him I was a Boulder resident (who would come to read his article) and had recorded the talk (I was in an audio journal phase). I called him up and told him I had a complete recording of the talk and that he had committed journalistic fraud. He didn’t try to deny anything. His voice was shaky and he offered to publicize any events I was doing in Boulder, etc. I could have ended his career, but he sounded young and I chose to give him another chance. Later, I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t have let him off so easy. Several years later, when I happened to run into Stuart Salo, the publisher of the Boulder Weekly, and told him about the episode, the journalist was long gone from the Weekly and I never pursued the matter.
Although there have been numerous high profile scandals in recent years about journalists and nonfiction writers fabricating their stories, we should keep in mind that these are just the extreme cases that get caught. The problem is probably pervasive. Since Gonzo style attracts narcissistic types, it is also a magnet for the attention-at-any-cost fabricator type. A recent example of the Gonzo-gone-wrong is Mike Daisy who did a one-man show about a visit he paid to Foxconn in China—the massive industrial facility where many Apple products are made. When NPR’s This American Life (a series I, and many, regard as a national treasure) gave a full show to the Mike Daisy account, it resulted in one of the most popular episodes of all time. A few weeks later, it spent an entire show publicly retracting the Mike Daisy episode when it learned that he had fabricated much of his story. (see http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/460/retraction)
The gonzo style was cool in its day because it was the extreme reaction to the ruling journalistic stereotype of yesteryear—the voice of a dignified, elder British gentleman looking at the world with elegant detachment and refined sensibility. In those days, it was as if we were seeing the world narrated by the host of Masterpiece Theater holding a pipe in one hand and a brandy snifter in the other.
I’m hoping to avoid both of those ruling stereotypes, but I also realize I’ve been deeply influenced by them, so don’t be surprised if elements of gonzo or the elder British gentleman creep in.
Pre Travel Excitement
I know it’s fashionable to narrate things from an ironic and cynical point of view (and I realize I’ve done my share of it), but the truth is that I am sincerely enthusiastic about almost any form of travel. I try to get to airports early because I love airports. To me they are magically liminal places filled with a vibe of international intrigue. And any airport you can think of has been the scene of international intrigue, and psychometrically they retain the aura of hidden dramas and the beginnings and endings of many odysseys.
But no, I’m not flying to any exotic locale, no attaché case will be hand-cuffed to my wrist, no war-torn countries or remote, uncharted wilderness will be visited. Right now my travel plans involve four American festivals. More about them later. To all of them I will be bringing my zaporacle.com ministry with me in the form of a “free dream interpretation” sign and a paper copy of my oracle.
When, just yesterday, I discovered that going to the national Rainbow Gathering was practicable, and I pulled the trigger on a plane ticket, I was so excited that when I did my daily canyon bike ride I had to listen to music since I was too distracted to listen to the more usual audiobooks. I also had some trouble getting to sleep last night, and stayed up and started sorting tradables I had put aside for my next Rainbow Gathering which I thought would be in 2013 instead of 2012.
The siren call of journeying intensifies when spring is about to turn to summer, and especially if there are travel plans about to actualize. This has been true for me since childhood when I counted down the days to summer camp. I’ve long noticed that, in the days before departure, things become heightened and weirder. The baseline reality seems scattered and becomes almost exotic. The all-too-familiar has a subtly unfamiliar edge. This zone, which I am in right now, is a liminal zone, a between-and-betwixt place, like an airport, and that which was a stable, encompassing, day-to-day reality is now a conditional, rapidly transitioning scenario/locale about to be replaced by new ones.
Since I am both imaginative and narcissistic, as travel approaches I become even more aware of myself as a character sojourning through a storyline. Awareness of myself as a householder living in a particular region recedes. The story is about to dramatically shift locales, but I’ll still be there. I seem to be the most constant presence in my own story, much more constant than places. Also, when you grow up in a place as specific and in-your-face as the Bronx, then you are forever impressed by the non-Bronxness of many subsequent places you may find yourself. The non-Bronx novelty of Boulder, for example, has never worn off.
Preparing for travel excites my Puer aeternus desire to continue being the adventuring star of my odyssey. In this way, traveling can be a highly self-referential endeavor. Perhaps this is what Emerson meant when he said that, “The problem with traveling is that you take yourself with you.” On the other hand, travel can be a secular pilgrimage and even an initiation—especially if there are intense misadventures, privations and soulful bonding with other travelers. Taking yourself with you is also part of the transformative potential of traveling. To actualize that potential, you have to be willing to allow travel to change you. Otherwise, traveling can devolve into stagnation with changing scenery.
Friday, June 16, 2012, afternoon
The self I took with me at about 1:30pm this afternoon was slightly agitated at how long it took me to get out of the house. I had a good writing session, but then seemed to keep finding one more thing to do while straightening up my home and getting ready to go out. Perhaps I was also more distractable due to the legal (thank you Colorado medical marijuanna) thc infused piece of chocolate I ate earlier in the morning. Since I use this substance very sparingly, it ramps up my intuition significantly and helped to inspire everything you’ve read in this journal so far. It can, however, increase my distractability when working on practical matters. (But to anyone out there who wants to diss this practice, please review the 2,000 words of complex, thoughtful sentences written under the influence, and see if you can equal that in the course of one morning of repressed sobriety.)
Once I stepped out of the house and unlocked my bike, I noticed something very relevant to travel. My mood had been greatly influenced by the people in the house. My closest friend Jason (a pseudonym, all names hereafter will be pseudonyms unless otherwise indicated) is also my housemate, and his two sons, Timmy and Scott, 4 and 7, were visiting. They are wonderful, charismatic boys whom I always delighted to see, but, appropriate to their age, they were going through rapid mood shifts and enacted little attention-getting dramas. As I biked, I realized that I had been influenced by their moods and the childish mood function of my psyche had been activated. I didn’t act on it, thankfully, but I felt it. As soon as I left the house the mood instability lifted and I was able to observe it.
This is an aspect of travel I need to bear in mind—I’m deeply affected (most of us are) by the human context I’m in. The immediate community of people forms an atmosphere of energy, a mini zeitgeist. This mini-zeitgeist is a phenomenon I find fascinating, and festivals are ideal situations in which to observe it. Rainbow and Burning Man, especially, have a compressed parabolic lifecycle, they intensify to a peak (July 4th Rainbow/burning the man/Burning Man) and then decline with shocking speed.
Of course, I contribute to all the atmospheres and mini-zeitgeists I participate in. A recent billboard in Los Angeles had the headline: “You’re not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.” For better or worse, I’m part of the social traffic, and I know that it’s a conceit to be a “detached observer” as if one were recording things from the inside of a space suit.
I was biking to the farmer’s market to get certain healthier treats to add to a birthday package for my dad who is turning 93 in a few days. I arrived just as all the vendors were breaking down. Apparently they get fined if they continue selling past the strict closing time of 2pm. Bouder, as a municipality, is known for its control freak tendencies. I can’t see any municipal advantage served by chasing them out. Why not let them stay into afternoon or evening if they want?
Fortuitiously, amongst the few vendors who had not broken down, was exactly the one I was looking for that had the confection I intended to get for my dad. I should also mention that about one minute before I got to this vendor I had put on my free dream interpretation sign. I had to overcome much reluctance to do this because downtown Boulder is often so full of false personality, and I felt like I was becoming a Boulder stereotype with the sign on while in the midst of people who really were Boulder stereotypes. For example, as I unlocked my bike, I noticed that in the most visible spot possible was a group of attractive thirty-something Boulderites ostentatiously doing acrobatic partner yoga. And then there was an extremely WASPish, tall boney man with white hair, khaki shorts and pale, boney legs that terminated in expensive loafers with no socks. He was an Aspen/Vail sort of a guy who looked like he had recently played golf with Mitt Romney’s corporate taxation lawyer. The sockless loafers, to my mind, were a vaguely anti-semitic affront to Boulder’s tarnished mutant heritage. They seemed to announce, ”Yes, I am a WASP, and like Aspen or Vail, Boulder is one of my native lands, so I can walk its streets proudly attired in my native WASP casual attire.” And then there was the most ubiquitous of downtown Boulder stereotypes, the excercise-obssessed yuppie meticulously groomed to look exactly like they had just stepped out of the glossy pages of Men’s Health or Yoga Magazine.
When I do put on my dream interpretation sign (which is tastefully small) at the farmer’s market, it is rarely noticed, but still makes me feel self-conscious. I summoned my will to put it on out of commitment to the travel journal, and to the summer of carrying my zaporacle.com ministry out into the world, etc.
The people working the confection table were ones I hadn’t noticed before—a twenty-year-old young woman, and a sixteen year old boy and girl. The sixteen-year-old-girl seemed to be the most out-going, and was the one interacting with me as a salesperson when she halted, almost mid-sentence, and said, “Oh, wait, you do dream interpretation?” She had long dark hair, dramatically green eyes, and looked like the person you would cast as the younger heroine of a Jane Austin novel adapted for the present era (therefore I’ll call her “Rebecca”). Sixteen is the age identified by the I Ching as the time of life when acquired conditioning reaches its peak. Many sixteen-year-olds (I taught high school English for fourteen years so I feel qualified to make this observation) seem to be entirely made captive by conditioning, but Rebecca and the boy (whom we’ll call “Juan” since he had an hispanic name) did not seem like that at all, quite the opposite. They both seemed highly individuated and full of undamaged vitality and intelligence.
Rebecca continued, “I’ve been having intense lucid dreams recently—
(This is as far as I’ve gotten and have temporary run out of word-steam. The interupted episode above is very significant not only for the propitiousness of my dream interp vocation being so quickly summoned, but also for a lesson about timing. I felt down on myself for getting to the farmer’s market when it was breaking down, but actually it was the perfect moment. Not only was I still able to get what I wanted for my dad, but because it was breaking down, Rebecca and Juan had much more time to talk to me.)
Obviously I’m behind in my updating of the travel journal. A lot more is waiting to edited and added. It’s mid August and I’m still catching up with June. More soon. Here’s the next installment.
June 21, 2012 Sonic Bloom
I’m sitting under a canopy of Aspen trees. The festival is located inside a high desert canyon. There is brilliant high altitude sunlight. A single, cottony cumulus cloud drifts across the sky like a disposable Santa Beard in distressed condition. Sun blasted slopping canyon walls of rocky ground with rugged coniferous trees.
I studied the trees with my binoculars for a minute. These trees seem to have a tricky relationship to fate. With lots of space between each tree they were each getting enough solar energy to light up an entire misty forest. But the down side of their fate is as steep as the slopping canyon wall—it’s bone dry and the arid soil that covers their parched roots is crumbling away.
It’s not all natural wonder here. You can’t see any cars, but there’s a highway above the canyon walls. The sound of traffic echoing in the canyon is pleasantly abstracted like an electronica bass track. At certain times it sounds like a single, low-flying Apache attack helicopter.
In general, it was the perfect locale to make a movie about the war in Afghanistan. There would need to be an Apache attack helicopter hovering in every scene, however, to explain the traffic sound. Of course, once the main stage sound system comes on, kilowatts of techno music will completely overpower the attack helicopter sound. But eventually every attack helicopter needs to learn the hard way that it’s not necessarily the biggest dog on the porch.
By now the reader will have guessed that I am revisiting the effects of medicinal chocolate and, therefore, my descriptions may drift and mutate a bit. It was a modest amount so hopefully I will be labyrinthine, but not incoherent…
Much intervening time is missing from this journal, I realize. I know I wrote a lot about the value of liminal spaces, and the exciting time of preparing for a journey. I need to remind myself to write about events after they’ve occurred, not before. Perhaps I jinxed myself by committing that most essential of Taoist sins—attempting to prestructure the future.
The successful attempt to create a paper copy of the oracle took about twenty five hours of tedious work (and this came after forty hours of formatting work by my ever generous webmaster, Tanner Dery. There was an intense heat wave during this time. At the same time ragweed pollen filled the air and hay fever sapped my energy. I couldn’t sleep as much or as well as I needed to and there was a small mountain of things that I needed to do before my departure. Also, at the same time, an emotionally difficult interpersonal situation resurfaced and added its dissonant wave form to the heat wave and surge of ragweed pollen. So the before time was liminal, but not in the pleasing way I imagined.
During this time some important time markers were passed. On June 17, it was exactly seventeen years since I left teaching and went West in an eighteen foot RV (See Path of the Numinous) and yesterday, June 20th, was the solstice.
Despite the enervating waves of heat, pollen, hurriedness and troubled feelings, the liminal zone was a time of accelerated learning.
As I write this, I am caught in a painfully liminal acoustical zone. Excellent, time-dilating trance-techno music comes from hundreds of feet to my left, amplified by the main stage sound system, but just a dozen feet to my right is poorly amplified, hyper, blue grass jam band music. I want to wish that second source of music away into the cornfield. The blue grass man music sounds like it was performed by a group of musically precocious, obnoxious hippie children speeding on Adderall. Some unfortunate chemical effect has made them hyperactively over-confident in their musical abilities. Every part of my being wants to slow down into slightly psychedelic festival time, and this Adderalled blue grass music is asking me to step onto the hamster wheel of a seventh grader’s sugar rush.
Once the fully electrified ocean of sound is turned on, individual sound annoyances will drown in it like raindrops. The all-too-brief dose of time dilating trance techno was apparently just a quarter volume sound check.
Something I wrote just got synchronistically corrected by the universe. An angelic, five-and-three-quarters-year-old (his metrics) possible hippie child came by, and reminded me that I like hippie children and that very few of them are obnoxious. His name was Jonah and he had stopped by to point out to some other kids he was with that he had helped build an altar for the four elements that was the main the decoration of the oracle portal. As if demonstrating the role he played, he meticulously readjusted a pine cone on the altar. I asked him if I could take his picture and he assented, though I would have preferred to get permission from a parent.
Taking the photo it was a bit of a shock to have my full-sized DSLR, a venerable Nikon D 200, in my hands. I’ve become used to the tiny Canon Elph point-and-shoot I carry in my every-day backpack and the Iphone I carry on by belt. Suddenly this massive, curvilinear chassis of black rubberized magnesium and Japanese micro technology was powered up. There was an optical viewfinder to look through and the shutter made a sound that was much louder and more important sounding than the lilliputian shutters of less substantial cameras.
(Despite the numinous feeling of the big camera, I found here and later in the summer that I was taking fewer pictures than during other adventurous summers.)
A few people came by and asked about readings but didn’t stay for them. And then the first person came by to cut the ribbon on the paper oracle, someone wearing a “performer” plastic badge on a lanyard around their neck. I have one too that says “staff” on it, a title that seems pleasingly generic. The vagueness of the job description felt like it was both cloaking me and giving me the freedom to define my role anyway I wanted to.
The first person turned out to be a fire performer and juggler, and that seems propitious. His role at the festival sounded almost like a tarot card and it seemed synchronistically appropriate that the first public reading of the summer would be for someone whose role seemed like a personified oracle card. It was as if in response to my oracular intentions, central casting sent an oracle card back at me, mirroring my intentions.
The actual person who was playing the role of fire performer and juggler was not a trickster, as far as I could tell, and seemed to be well-grounded and with a very healthy and positive attitude toward life. His three-card reading seemed to go very well.
But I think I’m ready for a break from sitting here. I need to walk around.
Back from my walk. People are streaming into the festival. It is sold out, but it will be intimately small for a music festival at under 2,000 people, a size I prefer because it allows you to see faces recur so that you can feel you are living in a village rather than a metropolis of strangers.
A yoga god and three yoga goddesses were doing asanas in a a space across from the main stage. The handsome, young yoga god was sitting meditating with perfect posture. It seemed like a slightly ostentatious display of egoless detachment. But the glamour of youth helps to gloss over certain inconsistencies. They were like a living, viral advertisement for yoga. The Puer Aeternus part of my personality tried to calculate how much yoga I would have to do to look like any one of them. The calculation involved zeros, imaginary prime numbers and complex algorithms that led to an infinite regress of mathematical paradoxes. In short, it was unsolvable here in the Babylon Matrix where linear time, and the oppressive one body/one psyche rule makes so much of life unsolvable.
Anyway, observational tangents keep taking me from something I want to discuss, the lessons I learned during the liminal zone, the zone of heatwave, ragweed, troubled feelings and hurried tasks.
A theme recurred that related to mindfulness, efficiency, self-awareness, time and feeling. The first point on a constellation of occurrences and realizations that created this theme was a statement I heard on cable television. The history channel was running a show that took a statistical look at how Americans spend their time now and in the past.They began by discussing time with a man who was part of a profession where time is paramount. He was the head of a NASCAR pit crew. They had to carry out all these operations in less than 12 seconds and since races are often won by microseconds, every splintered moment had to really count. The pit crew leader told the interviewers that the first rule of the crew was that “You have to go slow to go fast.” Their focus was on complete mindful presence and doing everything with impeccability and precision. Speed came from mastery and then massive repetition.
This is too dense a theme for me to fully develop here (read some related thoughts on time: Time and Tolkien’s Elves, Clocktime Metastisizes toward 2012) but much in our world encourages us to sloppily rush through time. Jason shocked me by mentioning that he meditates an average of two hours a day. I live with him and had no idea. That’s because Jason’s life strategy is the opposite of the ostentatious. He prefers to be cloaked and not interfered with. He usually succeeds in bringing his long term values and short term planning into his very present engagement with the moment. This allows his feelings and intuitive functions to be very engaged with the moment while he does his work with graceful, unflashy efficiency.
I like to listen to audiobooks while I do many practical tasks and I take on a lot so I’m often in multi-tasking mode. Like everybody (according to research), I suck at multi-tasking. But for highly routinized activities—biking, shopping, cleaning, cooking—it works reasonably well, but I have to watch myself to minimize absent-minded lapses. Jason feels that meditation allows him to go faster—he goes slow to go fast. The meditation shows him what’s going on inside and that way the inner process doesn’t have to spill over into focused activity mode.
Much of my life seems like an unfinished lesson in going slow to go fast. I’ve always tended to be a slow person with most activities. My preschool teacher pointed that out and it’s still true. Activities have to share processing power with lots of inner processing. The only thing I can do fast is writing, and that’s the activity I do with the most fully engaged mindfulness. I go slow with it, allow it to draw me all the way in, and when I am granted entrance into that place than the words come pouring out and the slowness becomes fast.
But when I am goal oriented I tend to try hurry through time to get to my goals. Goals are part of the ego attempting to prestructure the future. I try to go fast on the path of achieving my goals and I hurry though it and that hurry causes lapses, transgressions and accidents that slow down progress. If I’m out of touch with the feminine I seek to hurry through it (a guy counts down the hours till he can get with his girlfriend, an office worker counts down the days till a week’s tropical vacation). But the more I hurry through time to get to the feminine the more it recedes from my grasp. Many attempts to go fast toward goals cause this ever-receding effect. For example, the more I feel incomplete and look for another person to make me whole, the more I fragment, diminish, and lose touch with inner wholeness.
June 23, 2012
Yesterday was a wonderful day that seemed, in a good way, like one of the longest days of the year which,of course, it was, being only two days from the solstice. I’ve always felt that the days close to the summer solstice need to be spent outdoors. I remember one solstice, when I was perhaps 8 or 9 years old, and all I did was play with the other kids on the block, and even though there was no remarkable occurrence the day seemed epic and full of magical abundance.
The day began with a few people calling on me for dream interpretation. One young guy, whom I’m sure I never even made eye contact with said I was in his dream the previous night and that it was a very long dream. He said he would stop by at some point to discuss it with me (a couple of days later he did). This occurrence helped me to relax into the festival as I realized that I was being recognized.
Besides the length of the day, another nature produced special effect here at Sonic Bloom seemed to add to that dreamlike solstice long day effect.Yesterday was the peak of some sort of dandelion-like fluff drifting in the air. It made everything look like a scene from the movie The Color Purple where Spielberg went a bit overboard with the fluff in the air for an improbable number of outdoor scenes. Mother nature, in this case at least, was more subtle, and the amount of fluff changed with time, there was a parabolic fluff dispersion curve, and at the peak of the parabola, the effect almost fulfilled my long standing preference that snow be warm and dry. This fluff was warm and dry and while it lacked the sparkle of the higher grades of fairy dust, it seemed like a magical saturnalian signal that the portal to summer adventure was opening.
For many, these words will be bittersweet because their life circumstances may not allow them to have a summer of this sort.
I wrote about this in a Zap Oracle entitled “Haunted Mundanity:”
A couple of summers ago I saw a billboard ad for Starbucks in several locations in Seattle. The ad depicted the silhouette of teenagers swinging on ropes from high tree branches into a shimmering lake. The headline of the ad was just two words, “Remember summer?” And then there was the inevitable photo of what appeared to be an ice cream Sunday with whipped cream and syrup rising above a Starbucks to-go cup.
This ad is a classic message from the Babylon Matrix, and the key to deciphering it is to remember that ads work through punishment and reward; they manufacture suffering and suggest a pleasure you can purchase to relieve it. The ads occurred during the summer, so why did the headline say,”Remember summer?” The intended market for the ad the workaholic yuppie set who aren’t having a summer, and see the ad as they commute to their florescent-lit cubicle. I saw the absurdity of the question because I was really having a summer. Although I was 47 that summer, I was traveling out of a backpack, spent most of the summer sleeping under the stars, and experienced shimmering lakes that were not on billboards. I wasn’t able to do this because I was wealthy, but because I was willing to deal with the hardships of adventure and not willing to accept a nine-to-five life.
The question and image on the ad were there to prick commuting workers with pain, to remind them of what they had lost, to remind them that summer and youthful adventure, if they ever had them, were now in the past tense, at best a nostalgic silhouette of idealized memory. What’s the answer to this suffering and sense of loss? A five-dollar ice-cream-sundae cup of coffee to spike their blood sugar on the way to work.
(End of card excerpt)
I’ve made choices and had blessings that have allowed me to have summers. My 14 years as a teacher allowed for summers, and since I’ve left teaching I’ve had some great summers though I had to accept a more financially marginal life. What I’ve discovered, for me at least (I’m not raising a family, etc.) is that it was better to be in a bit of a money ghetto (but where I could still feed and cloth myself) then to have money, but live in a time where I could buy all the double caramel Starbucks Lattes I wanted, but could only remember summer.
The wind just picked up and with it more fluff blew in. If I could tape into MN’s source code I would increase the fluff, reset snow to be warm and dry and bring massive amounts of fireflies to Colorado. Fireflies at night is a MN special effect I really miss from my summers in the Catskills and other more firefly friendly locales back east.
One of the most fulfilling experiences I have doing this is when people bring me recurrent dreams that have haunted them. Recurrent dreams often relate to central elements of someone’s incarnation and a recurrent dream a young guy related to me yesterday is resurfacing in my mind right now. In his recurrent dreams he would be swimming in a lake that was ringed with high mountains. It was always nighttime and foggy. Drifting through the fog, floating just above him at about the height of the canopy of Aspens where we were sitting, was a city. A city that he described as grid-like and Blade Runner-like. Inexorably, he’d find himself pulled upward into the city. He’d find a hatch on its underside and would enter the city through it. He would then restlessly wander the streets and buildings on the surface of the nocturnal city.
To me, the dream seems like the soul’s view of the Babylon Matrix, the grid we were inexorably drawn into for an incarnation. From the perspective of the lake, the floating grid was just one of the many possible flatland dreams that could be conjured out of the fog. When we wander the surface of such a grid it seems to encompass us, and we may forget that its underside is dotted with hatches which can be used as exits as well as entrances.
Showing up next for dream interpretation was a nineteen-year-old guy with haunted eyes who wore a black hoodie with a hood shrouding his head. In his dream he was climbing a mountain of ice like a giant glacier. When he got to the top, he found it was flat “as if the top of the mountain had been taken off” as he put it. To his horror he saw that blood was bubbling up from the top and running down the sides. He was terrified, but then the voice of a spirit guide told him that he was creating it. I called it a blood volcano. I noticed that he had huge numbers of self-mutilation scars—he had also made himself into a blood volcano…
So much has happened—so many intense and fulfilling encounters with people. Some people showed up with heavy issues including recent deaths. A young guy whose twin sister was struck by a car while pumping gas and died instantly in a gasoline fire ball, a man in his thirties who learned at the festival of the deaths of two close friends within the last five days —one from an OD, and one a particularly gruesome suicide.
June 27, 2012
(on the way to the Rainbow Gathering) Bristol, Tennessee
I just stepped out of a K Mart. The people I encountered within had a weird, hypoglycemic slowness. An anesthetizing and invisible barbiturate haze seemed to hang in the air
Just beneath the numbness there was a sense of embittered victimization. Many people were obese and pasty and some needed motorized carts to get around the store.
I didn’t see a single nonwhite person in a couple of hours driving around Bristol. Nevertheless, there was a feeling of southern caucasians as a dying breed. Lots of people were old and even people in their twenties seemed tired. I saw only one child and one teenager even though we passed a large high school. The high school was dominated by a football stadium that we at first thought was a prison yard with guard towers.People seemed humble, depressed and disassociated. The zeitgeist was very distinct, especially since it was so different than those of Boulder or Sonic Bloom which had so recently enclosed me in their so much more vibrant and colorful zeitgeists. In Bristol everyone seemed in slow motion disassociation mode. You could sense that behind drawn venetian blinds were obese, diabetic women in bathrobes and slippers watching soaps, ice cubes clinking softly in glasses of ice tea made from powdered mix. I had an uneasy feeling that if I were to allow myself to fall asleep beneath a shady tree I might wake up to discover I had spent thirty years eating processed food and watching television.I know this sounds very sarcastic and condescending, but mostly I felt a sad compassion. People seemed caught in a slow motion, unhappy dream and many looked vulnerable and lost.
Everywhere I saw devastating signs of bad nutrition. The salad bar in their largest supermarket had items like white elbow macaroni mixed with cooked ground beef and mayonnaise, cold scrambled eggs with melted American cheese and green jello.
Greg asked me to ask Siri (both my traveling companions had dumb phones) if there was a health food store in Bristol. Surprisingly, there was one, though we had to travel all the way across town to get there. It was their grand opening. Shelves were mostly bare—vitamins, supplements, a few over priced boxes of herbal tea. No ready-to-eat prepared food, none of the coconut water that Rob wanted and that could be had in any of fifty stores in Boulder. But the store had colorful homemade decorations and the almost elderly woman at the counter was really nice. The store had more life energy, more imaginative vibrance than other parts of Bristol. While most of the town seemed as flat as cement, the store had a faint iridescence of magic.
There was some slightly cosmic New Age music playing in the background, the sort of music you’d expect to hear in the background in at the headquarters of a saucer cult. The most fit-looking woman or person of any gender I’d seen in the entire town was doing body work on another woman in a back room. The store was like a tiny New Age oasis set in a vast expanse of depressed Evangelicalism. Even though prices were about twice what they were in Boulder, I felt I had to buy something.
June 28, 2012
At the gathering. Many lapses in the narrative, I realize, but life has its many clever ways of pushing aside journal writing. You’ve got to live the story before you can narrate it. Also, this is meant to be a discontinuous, rather than a continuous, narrative. Usually it will be the discontinuous moments, encounters and thoughts which will be considered.
One of the continuous themes that emerges is the intense variation of zeitgeists. The zeitgeist of being in a white Chevrolet economy-sized rental with my two friends from Boulder. The slowverse of Bristol. The glowing island of time and place from the recent past, Sonic Bloom.
To some, that last sentence will sound like an overwrought description of a four day music festival. We live in an era where earnestness and the cool, correct, blasé of post modernism is the only possible attitude toward things. In popular culture, this attitude is exemplified by the abuse of the word “whatever” as an all occasion exclamation of supposed indifference. To have another attitude toward things than sarcastic indifference would be unsophisticated, naive, would make you a rube wandering blindly through the coffee shops and classrooms of postmodernist coolness. The post modernist attitude of cool indifference and threadbare irony, in addition to many other of its essential flaws, is really, really boring. And it is boring for the same reason that other things are boring—all novelty and meaning has been sucked out of dry, routinized husks of whatever sort. I refused to be bullied by dry, routinized husks, and therefore, I will be earnest where appropriate.
I have earnest feelings about Sonic Bloom because I can feel new heart strings connected to my destiny. In some cases the entire relationship in the waking life might consist of as little as one intense 45 minute talk. To put this in perspective, compared to the 99.99999999% of the seven billon people on this planet who are perfect strangers, the person you have had an intense, authentic, soulful, life-changing exchange for forty-five minutes is practically a blood relative. Forty-five minutes of intense talk is enough to have a gigantic sample of someone. I can now feel that there are new souls whose destiny has been connected to mine. For better or worse, one effect of relating to people from an authentic place and being willing to listen to their deepest stuff (a significant minority of persons attract confessions) can cause heart strings to be set up with a single encounter. It doesn’t happen with every case or most cases (thankfully, because that would be too much, at least for me). It happens most often in cases of mutual affinity. But there can also be cases where the other is a stranger but they have accessed me through my writings, oracle, etc. and they’ve set up a connection outside of my awareness.
Sonic Bloom set up karmic bonds with several mutants I met there. It felt like a nexus of karmic threads.
June 30, Saturday 2012
Someone stopped me on the trail today and said, “This is my third National gathering, and I love gatherings, and I love this gathering, but in my dream I came to the gathering and everything was really mediocre.”
After the usual disclaimers, I told him, “Well lots of stuff here is mediocre. Lots of people here are pretty mechanical and stereotyped same as in Babylon. Many people I see walking down the trail—if I had a choice between backpacking with them and with a high-functioning yuppie who had his shit together, I would choose the yuppie.”
Also, what I’ve noticed about Rainbows is there’s a certain classic structure to my days here. There will sometimes be a stretch of a few hours where things seem boring and mediocre and then there will be some ecstatic, fulfilling communion or magical occurrence of some sort. I get both zones of mediocrity and magic every day here.”
Most of the journal writing I did at the gathering was about four people I made friends with. It feels too personal, too much like a violation of their privacy to include here, however, so unfortunately my narration of the gathering is pretty deficient. Maybe I’ll put some of that stuff back in many years from now.