That began silently changing in Fort Morgan. First with Richard then Dennis and our now-infamous ride across the Rockies. I was looking for neither a ride, experience, nor a "lesson". I wasn't looking for anything! My mind was blank. I just went with it:
...I decided to ride it out, and see where it took me. Part of the journey... part of the story... blah... blah...I think I'm going to look back on that as a significant moment. We'll see.And, did I ever "see"! The experience followed, the "lessons" became apparent later with distanced perspective and, most importantly, sprouted directly from the organic soil of these encounters rather than any preconceptions. I applied no preconceived notion to fit them within a schema. In fact, the P.O.V. was amended to "Work in Progress." Some of this from Day #3 will sound familiar. It's been the consistent foundation beneath nearly every idea:
-5/24/08: "The Road Has Always Led West"
... the [awareness of] serendipity kicked in. I figured out why he picked me up, and then had a pretty good idea why I was now heading west... Again, the conversation- as with the night before with Richard- centered on finding answers within yourself rather than Pink Floyd's "someone or something to show you the way"; or Leonard Cohen's "Waiting for the Miracle": "... The idea's getting clearer.On some level, I was immediately shown I had been looking in the wrong direction both on the map and in my mind; I started under the wrong impression as to what this journey was about or that I could even know what that was. Any credit I deserve from that point forward centers on an initial ability to depersonalize the mistake and let the trip define itself, which it did almost immediately with Richard and especially Dennis even if I didn't completely see it for more than a year.
-5/24/08: "The Road Has Always Led West"
That first few days was my first cold reminder of a hard-learned lesson; one savagely beaten into my own skull before I left. All the mental masturbation I can muster is useless without the Test of Action. Action that must consist of an unattached and unbiased scrutiny of your own actions and ideas. This is one place outside help is useful. But honest scrutiny, regardless of whom it's from, can only come through a pristine agenda-free lens. A lens of clarity, application, experience, perspective, and truth. It's applying the scientific method to yourself and must be done without a personal, sentimental, egocentric attachment to your original thesis or, worse, your "work of art" or "product. Otherwise, why bother? A fantasy novel would be more fitting.
Rather than being the painter of some intellectual and rebellious personal truth, I was suddenly struggling to hang on as a passenger onboard a rudderless raft bobbing toward "truth" while subjugated to the role of observant passenger.
All this in the first week! I wish I had written more. Talk about a mind fuck!
Chris & I later updated it to the "Sidecar". This is where I consistently meet the most incredible people. Dennis. Cesar. Pat. Ciel. Ken. Pastor Snake. Randleman. Leslie. Joel. Don. Andre. Every time I've met them I've been in the passenger-state and have long since, with a few exceptions such as Michigan, struggled to remain there. At times I've succeed and at its best I am completely unaware of the process! I believe this state of just being has many names. One that comes to mind is that which Brian provided: flow. And it's impossible to achieve with the ego at the helm.
Beyond Richard & Dennis, there are other examples of unexpected twists and wrinkles guiding me in directions I otherwise would have avoided. The most remarkable event (confined to '08) was this little town in North Carolina: Randleman. Home of Richard Petty. It was the scene of one of my more remarkable trysts with synchronicity. It was also the final event of that initial summer setting the stage nicely for 2009.
I never intended to go to Asheboro. I was taken there, if you recall, by a Guatemalan who spoke little English; I thought he was taking me toward Raleigh! Asheboro (then Randleman) turned out to be one of those Sit Down & Shut Up moments and, through sheer unexpected chance and freewill, I found myself communing with motley crue Christians.
I was decidedly not seeking any sort of spiritual insemination! I was not longing to have Jesus inside me! I have an aversion to religion and, usually, consciously avoid such gatherings. This one was different and through the process of patience, intuition, and freewill, I was handed seeds that would sprout into remarkably powerful insights and ideas, and broaden my working perspective immeasurably.
Help me out here! I'm struggling to see where I subconsciously engineered this. I'm not that fucking clever!
Early 2009 was much the same, but the theme changed. With Chris and I traveling together, ideas were much easier to exchange and enhance, but we were also mirroring each other and struggling to soothe our own powerful egos and identities. That was the specific "lesson" of the east coast while, as mentioned in the previous post, June in Michigan (it seemed) was the apex of a decades long battle with an identity crisis.
Most importantly, June was the most extreme "test" of my personal armor and I was confronting terrifying demons with a sword I had personally forged. That took courage I was surprised I possessed. However, I later saw that there was something more important in play than the risk of hurt feeling and a bruised ego: knowing. Knowing the truth about my "mythical" family so I could draw accurate conclusions; ones based on fact and battle-tested experience. Excalibur and my armor held-- with the help of recognizing something more important than myself.
This says much about what I believe and my growing intolerance for the excuse making relativists: Reality Escape Artists. I am partially responsible for the time it took to meet my siblings and much of that was due to fear and outright cowardice. Rather than "act," I deferred responsibility by offering every variety of excuse to rationalize away The Hens peculiar behavior over those 15-years. Specifically, the reasons why they kept quiet about meeting me. I knew all along, but continued deferring with, all varieties of maybes! In Michigan, I heard many more "maybes" from many other sources. Through a little controlled confrontation, I offered all opportunity for these possibilites, if true, to show themselves. They were dead wrong. As was I. For a decade-and-a-half.
Fear and an abdication of responsibility through victimization while lazily clinging to utopian hope were my greatest failings. When deferring responsibility through externalized "hope" fails and becomes a crutch one has to attack the responsibility for examining and dealing with raw reality. Or, take the initiative to shut the fuck up and accept what comes with submission. This may appear to be a reference to June, but in retrospect it's been something that I've applied in more situations than I was aware.
I violently disagree that truth is subject to the whims of your ego. Since I've returned home, repeatedly reflecting on these nagging ideas has pushed me over a threshold. I am moving quickly into a room shared with that rude abrasive bitch named Personal Responsibility and away from the escapist fairie tale that "The Fates" are so preoccupied and impressed that they just live to teach precious me a lesson-a-minute from their classic handbook The Magical Meaning Hidden Inside the Mystically Mundane. No, I suspect we're required to occasionally evolve and learn without spoon-fed intervention from The Universe.
Fate and Karma are no man's bitch. I've said it many times. Neither will be "forced into action" by disguised self-serving egocentric acts, no matter how eloquently they're spun or cleverly presented. We possess freewill and the ability to make decisions based on our instincts for a reason. Yet, if we choose to relinquish common sense or submit to compulsions thinly veiled by an overbearing ego's voodoo linguistics, succumb to a self-centered and overzealous mysticism, or ignore common sense all together? Well, this isn't a first-class safari. To the extreme, the consequences can be as mocking, harsh, and unforgiving as any of the other savage sentences dished out by Nature. Ask Chris McCandless about it. Oh, that's right. You can't.
I've also come to terms with my growing disinterest and shrinking sympathy for the hypnotized masses and my seemingly rude and expanding unwillingness to suffer and/or encourage repeated rationalization by the self-deluded mob; those who are more concerned with protecting a comfortable internal narrative than knowing even a taste of Truth. They are the descendants of Don Quixote and the new objects of my unaffectionate attention.
These are the ones trying to impress you with past exploits or grandiose plans for the future. (I've admittedly been guilty of the latter in particular.) It's as though empty anecdotes of supposed past glory or proclamations of exciting adventurous days to come reflect on who they are today! They've yet to figure out that "you" are not the road you've traveled nor is the future guaranteed. "You" are the patch of road you occupy now. If they're not sharing a particular experience by request, to entertain, or as an effective comparison to what's in the present, I inevitably hear, "This one time at band camp..."
Does this mean you automatically write these folks off? That's up to you, but people evolve until they're dead. And, the actual work needs to be done alone in solitude. Beyond maybe sharing ideas it's useless to try to educate or "save" someone and it's ego of the sneakiest kind to fool yourself into thinking you can or worse: should.
To believe your special brand of wisdom and eloquence are capable of changing a specific man's heart for them may be the height of arrogance and it's certainly a disguised lust for control. None of us have the right to deprive a man of his personal path. On the other hand, offering tools or maps, for him to decide whether or not to use, may be the height of charity and puts the responsibility squarely where it belongs: on the individual himself.
Finally, there is an important distinction I want to make and be clear about: I have no interest in criticizing or condescending to the man living a life of luxury while holding no airs of righteous superiority. I can respect the most vile capitalist if he has thought about, and is genuinely happy with, where he is and not presuming to be a credit to humanity or Arm of God.
At the end, the successful life is the happy, content, and fulfilled one. If wealth and material possessions really provide all that? Well, color me skeptical! Then consider yourself a rarity and have at it! It's the hypocrites spending all day on the corner displaying a faux erudition and holy righteousness that I refuse to stomach. The trust fund brats preaching poverty before slinking home to the gated community. The sex-addicted priest preaching the villainy of adultery. The naive puppet taking the touristy guided volunteer field trip to "a poor place" then deciding they've experienced and understand famine and oppression. Fuck. You. Dry and hard. All of you.
How we fill our own private minds is fascinating! As long as it's comfortable (or at least familiar) it's welcome. Factual? Who fucking cares! Delusion is easy to digest! However, recognizing this, like recognizing then engaging the ego in combat, is first excruciating, then empowering! It can help provide some mastery over your habits, emotions, and ego, as well as helping to bring into the open these little narratives; stories; we create in our minds. In short, it's the ability to stop bullshitting ourselves.
As November began, I began realizing and taking notice of where I still need work on this. There are a few examples, but one that was pathetic and obvious: cigarettes.