Saturday, June 18, 2005

On the Road to Elsewhere.

Well, I’ve been off in one of those personal fugue states that come around every now and again like an ill wind. I’ve never understood these things that just drop in and take over until one is able to regain themselves again. For some of us it is the surrounding world that takes our attention and embroils us in details irrelevant to our main purpose, sidetracking us- so to speak- and turning us into a pinball until we are made aware of the situation. For some of us it is the sex force, always leering with the come hither in the shadowy areas of the mind projected outward into form. For some it is the sudden presence of inexplicable fear, uncertainty, anger or what-have-you from the potpourri of the unconscious. There are other things, I need not name them all, nor could I.

I do battle daily with aspects of myself, usually I have the upper hand, or so it seems. On some occasions I find myself entering still waters without a current and the swamp atmosphere sends its dark humors up to create negative fantasies in the mind; much like will-o-wisps and the lanterns of the dead that move through such landscapes.

In recent years I have had the freedom and the balance to maintain longer periods of solid focus and self-control. But I always feel like Frodo after being stabbed at Weathertop. There’s that memory of dark and poisonous injury that calls out on occasion with stronger force. It has its anniversaries.

Each of us has come through events and environments that have shaped us. We have been shaped for the better and sometimes for the worse as a result of things we have encountered, the way we handled them and our memory of the affair; these last two are not always the same. The mind has a way of shaping its remembrance according to personal needs. Sometimes, no matter how we try we cannot be honest with ourselves because we no longer have an accurate recollection of the details.

Consonant with all of this is the reality that God has us constantly in the shelter of his Love and protection; some responsibility exists on our part to take advantage of this. We can run out from that shelter into the dark lands. Often fear and other negative emotions are responsible for this putting of ourselves in harms way. I’ve used the analogy of the mouse behind the refrigerator who is safe from the cat but possibly not safe from its own panic to flee.

For some of us it doesn’t take much to begin to dislike ourselves. We are predisposed in that regard. Some of us think too well of ourselves and can justify any excess or unpleasant behavior as examples of our imperial right to do as we please. Over the long course of the road of faith and good intention there is many a setback. Often these setbacks are learning opportunities; something we require for our greater understanding and protection at a later date. Coloring all of it is the degree of our faith in the unseen hand behind the process. For myself I find few things as critically important as the capacity to know that God loves and forgives us no matter what we do; although there are some qualifiers to this but that has more to do with the particular soul and less to do with God’s capacities. One can rely on God’s generosity if one is so disposed. One can read St. Augustine if one wishes. The biographies and autobiographies of historical figures often produce understandings that one had no idea of prior to the encounter.

I often find that I do not like this world and don’t like being here. Often I wish I could be gone and never return. I’ve had some fun here but in general I see this world as a place of unremitting heartbreak and disappointment. I know that there are much brighter realms and I long for them a great deal of the time. I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression here; I suspect that I have greater tranquility in general than most people. Still, I long for brighter and more loving worlds.

I understand the purpose of this world. As I have said, it is a Chinese Box of Hide and Seek, or a labyrinth for the discovery of the one lost within it. It is a very complex puzzle set up to be dissolved by the descent of an understanding pursued. We are here to find ourselves. That is the real purpose of this world and every life. God created the world out of his body. He created us as dreamers in the mist toward the discovery of his presence within and he has with-held the greater portion of his substance and his power forever unmanifest. There is never a time when it is otherwise. One of our critical ongoing conundrums is that of the funhouse mirror between the male and the female of life reflected. Forth from this comes the everlasting progeny of our continued repetitions of return and departure.

One of the reasons some abstain from sexual congress on this plane is that the sex is so much better at the other levels. Also, sex at this level creates at this level and binds one into the attachments for the creation. You see much made of the argument for family and love of country, for arbitrary rules of behavior designed for crowd control; set aside without a second thought by those peoples and institutions in a position to call the shots. It’s a world of hypocrisy at every side. I’ll deal with the terrestrial aspect of this over at Smoking Mirrors later.

I can see the lure and I can feel the pull of the world’s attractions. I have also felt the lash of disappointment in everything it offers. There is nothing in this world that is worth having. This is not to say that one should live in constant denial or that one should rail at the other inhabitants for their engagements. This is just stating a fact known to all who have discovered it. There are things worth having that make life worth living and also make it possible to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of this realm; one can “kiss the joy as it flies.” These things are the qualities of God. God has provided us with his qualities, should we chose to develop them or receive them by grace. These qualities are priceless. They are all any sane person should pursue.

But I’m just trying to be honest here and say, even though I have extended periods of serenity and joy; even though I am sometimes brimming with good feeling, I must admit that I don’t like it here overall. There are parts that I like; secluded nature, wild nature, the invisible realms that touch down upon the land and which are revealed through austerities, meditation, grace and psychedelics; just stating the facts according to my experience. I always want to be Elsewhere.

I wrote a poem long ago about this feeling and I’m going to close this writing with it. I can feel Elsewhere sometimes. It has a sound of distant bells and drums and voices. It sometimes seems like an absurd character from fairy tale; a character with several heads and many arms coming in wonderful colors over the rise and making all of that riotous and outrageous noise. It comes with a sound like the banging of pots together, along with tinkling bells and gongs. There are horns and shouts and cries of laughter; it appears that there might be more than one figure but all of it is so close together that it always looks like one thing. It bleeds over the ground as it comes. The countryside is changed as it passes through it. There are the sorts of bright colors ones sees after a cleansing rain. There is a beautiful freshness to the air. Dark things flee to the periphery. This fantastic figure which seems almost like a dancing fool, harmless in appearance, and without weapons or armor, drives every dark thing away. None can stand where it passes. None can approach where it is. It has all authority. I catch a distant vision of it now and then. Sometimes I can feel it coming in my mind but then I lose track of it again. It is the King and Queen of Elsewhere I think and they bring Elsewhere with them wherever they go.


ELSEWHERE...

i have known love
and tasted love
along with delight and sorrow
there on the dark altar of the night

and in the end it did not matter to me

no more than the promise of fortune or revenge

i remained a pauper,

poorer from this multitude of desires

and i am no more wise nor more skilled
by that to which i never gave more than half my heart

because my attention was Elsewhere
always Elsewhere.....


In some Jamaica of the mind,
peering like a dream miniature over a gulls wing
drinking in the sun drenched waters
of another endless ocean

the summer cliffs of Big Sur

wandering in deserts

hitching the nowhere highway
like Quixote in Spain

dreaming of Elsewhere
tracking the Elsewhere

a place i can barely visualize

barely trace the outline

like some blurred face on an old coin


yet it never leaves me for a moment
it penetrates my every thought
until nothing is more important
than to be Elsewhere

to be
where it is


like Marcellus
who won the robe
and was burned to the soul when he put it on


they say the love of God is like a consuming fire

and he could not rest

until it had consumed him


there has been laughter and tears
and visions of
descents into the dark splendor
more than a few times
to educate the serpent in the spine
who is neither good nor bad
but both
alternatively


nothing
i have observed
is consistently anything
nothing but the truth
which cannot be observed


everything in time
turns to its opposite
day to night
hot to cold
the hope of youth into the resignation of age
and the hell of a compromised life

the loyalty of anything
leads ultimately to betrayal


where does one stand...?
on what?
And for what?
we let such little things destroy us
we do not see the Elsewhere

i have never held anything completely


there is a place...
i know it without question
it is the highest note above the keening of the wind
it is beauty and despair
it is the suffering spirit in the house of the rich
it is Lazarus at the palace gates
it is
and i am
and one of us is displaced

nothing is harder than to get there


i write these words because i am in love with it
somehow i am marked by it
too much has happened in this life
too much that can not be explained


of course
it could be only the arrogant mind
that imagines for itself
a high destiny


but my dreams are not of golden plunder
ten thousand horsemen
or a high throned kingdom
though real fame does intrigue me more than the rest
to be anonymous is best

i have seen his name attached to many things



i dream of freedom and
bright sunlit rooms
beautiful faces that speak to me in music
who are they?
i have been here before
but not in this world
this world is only a shadow of it
quite simply shit
brushed with rainbows
that glow in the ghost light of a neon nightmare


can love be accomplished here?
the wind whistles through dead trees
and that is all the answer that this world gives me

and I,

like every other fool
have asked it more than once
out of boredom
to be enchanted and bewildered


lost at birth
abandoned in the great hall of mirrors
slowly borne down the continuum
in these mirrors-
i have seen my thoughts
the good and the bad

they are the moment
and what the moment says
is like the wind that whistles through dead trees


too many mirrors breed a carnival of despair

after a time
love becomes the supreme effort
it works in every small way
diligent to seal the cracks
through which devotion leaks
into complacency and death
such a love does not sleep
its power is from that Elsewhere place


there is a highway
and it is not separate from life
they are the same


each filled with exits and entrances
lined with attractions
and circumstances
that lead into every possibility of the imagination

none of them lead Elsewhere...

beyond-
the wind that whistles through dead trees

and it is Elsewhere
at last
that brings us everyone to our knees


every stop on the highway
is another death
disguised as justified delay

it is so lonely on the highway
for on every side the only sound one hears
is the wind
as it whistles through dead trees


in the distance are the lights of town
there are warm seductive rooms
crowded with all the postures of approaching death
but in time
taking on the very appearance of life


time blurs the critical eye
and we see what pleases our reasons to stay
and we must stay
out of the fear of the meaning that comes
to one who listens overlong
and understands...

...that voice
like some great and solitary raven
perched atop a gutted skull
that is the face of the wind
as it whistles through dead trees


there is no forgetting after that
no drink nor drug can erase it
i have tried
believe me i have tried


in the end
there is some truth
to the mutterings
of those robed and cowled merchants of word magic
after a fashion there is some truth
to these phrases
"be here now"
"we are all one"
"let it flow"
"do what thou wilt"
along with all the others


do not believe them
they work for the bank


the truth is Elsewhere
has always been
Elsewhere
and their words are the origin of the wind
that whistles through dead trees


so many imposters
they have taken us all
perhaps they believed what they said
perhaps they did not
they spoke of somewhere
but not of Elsewhere


now...
i do not know
what I am about...
Elsewhere waits Elsewhere
and i wait here for Elsewhere
and i believe that Elsewhere will come to me


why else has it filled my every dream?
why else has it caused me-
consistently to fail,
from having given so little of myself
to every effort in this world?

from having found no ambition to be strong enough to fill me
from having loved nothing enough to forget how much
i wanted to be Elsewhere


now...
there remain those small duties of life to attend to
those efforts i have overlooked
in my desire to be Elsewhere
not seeing that Elsewhere
forever retreats before desire

that Elsewhere
is just that place where desire ends


so
there are matters to attend to
and time to attend to them
and that is good
and very much like being Elsewhere


and in all of this

the sweetest music

the warning

and the witness

and the heart of patience itself

is the whistling of the wind

through dead trees

in memory of Elsewhere

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whenever you stay away for a few days you always come back with something really powerful. This is one of those times.

Bruce.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Les,

Thank you for a beautiful essay and poem. Here is a poem in return.

The gilded cage
like life, is a hologram
reflected, deflected
from the cosmic bisque,
like hot liquid sugar
wound around a spoon
seized from a golden
pot, strands uncoiling,
cooling, drawing
golden bars from floor
to ring pull top.

In the gilded cage,
a golden otter swims
between gilded lilies
that float on a gilt
rippled lake; from
gilded branches wrens
swing on gilded gourds.

At night, a golden
spider weaves
golden sheets
to throw over
the gilded cage.


Celeste

Carla said...

Wonderful writing Les. The poem is incredible. All of it is.

Love,
Carla

Anonymous said...

I don't usually have much to say here though I come here often. I love the way the writing makes me feel and though it may be strange to say it this site just gives me a sense of peace and hope just being here. I know that sounds silly but it is how I feel. Lately there has been some strange things appearing in this comments area. I can't tell if they're serious and just naturally awful or if it is some kind of a joke. Maybe the readership is expanding and new minds are coming through. I just hope people will maintain a certain kind of respect. I hope that the general tone will be similar to the respect so many of us feel who have been coming here since it's inception. New names appear and some older names I don't see any more. I am grateful that the quality of the essays is always of the highest and even evolving as time passes.

I especially liked this one. I couldn't see just what you were talking about specifically and I know you intended it that way but it was very human and I know the feeling. I have that feeling too.

Karen

Anonymous said...

every time i hear the wind blow or the waves hit the shore I think of human longing. you've used those images to describe it so often that I am automatically reminded now. hunger never dies.

Erin

this was a beautiful piece, although sad for me at times it is another reminder.

Anonymous said...

every time i hear the wind blow or the waves hit the shore I think of human longing. you've used those images to describe it so often that I am automatically reminded now. hunger never dies.

Erin

this was a beautiful piece, although sad for me at times it is another reminder.

Anonymous said...

"not seeing that Elsewhere
forever retreats before desire

that Elsewhere
is just that place where desire ends"

That poem is so beautiful. Sometimes you just set off ringtones in my mind. I felt tears welling in my eyes for the sadness of it all and mostly because it is true.

CC

Anonymous said...

Les, you sound borderline depressed. And I know you have that sometimes and your wife's out of town. You didn't take X again did you? I love that poem but it has always made me feel, like what about NOW? (smiling) .

You know, I suppose you do anyway, that good fortune is all around you. Of everyone I know, you have God's good wishes the most. It has always been the case that those who tell the truth must suffer. It isn't any easier on the rest of us either. I never met anyone in my life who had as much to give as you do. Don't let those fuckers win. This is a shabby world but it has hidden treasures. You would be the first to tell me that. I'll see you soon.

Bill

vyoma said...

that brought tears to my eyes. i almost felt like you'd read my mind.

Anonymous said...

Super. The poem is for the ages.

z a