I've seen things you people would not believe. Attack ships on fire
off the shoulder of Orion. I watched sea-beams glitter in the dark near
the Tannhaüser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like
tears in rain. Time to die...
Roy Batty in Bladerunner
Dust My Broom
There's a storm coming in over the Rockies, a sheet of gray forerunner clouds already stretching to the eastern plains where the sun is still shining. The wind just came up and the temperature dumped 20 degrees. Brooding thunder from the West. Feels good. Suits my mood today.
Do you ever feel that something's shaking but you don't know what? Could be you're gonna die or fall in love. Could be nothing. Then again, it could be something's trying to signal to you. Get your attention. Something you forgot.
Trying to remember then. Standing here feeling the wind come on, the elements talking to themselves. Always feeling like an eavesdropper. Always feeling this must be meant for someone else. Maybe not.
A couple months ago I went to see that IMAX movie about some expedition to the top of Everest. I don't recall too much. Somebody died. The rest of them made it. Why, I wondered. What kind of person would you have to be to do something like that? Crazy I guess, but in a way the world gives points for. We made it. Look at us. And the crowd goes wild.
But there's something wilder. Something bearing down on you, but uplifting at the same time. Something uncanny yet so familiar. Across the street someone's mowing a lawn. The sky is getting darker. It is going to storm now, but good. The Fed-X guy just dropped off two packages from Amazon. Wanna know what was in them? OK:See? It really is me. It really is EGR, bringing you that same old endless pointless pitch. This isn't art, folks. You can click the buttons, buy the books. They won't help you any really, but hey, Hemingway never gave you that kind of option, did he? And besides, he blew his head off with a shotgun one afternoon in 1961. That Captain of Your Fate routine is often less than it's cracked up to be.
- The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage
- Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition
- Net Worth: Shaping Markets When Customers Make the Rules
Meanwhile back on Mt. Everest -- the thunder is getting louder, more insistent here -- there are prayer flags flying everywhere. My heart leaped to see them beating against thin sky, impossible sunshine. As close to heaven as it gets.
Somewhere down below is Katmandu, almost everything I know about which I learned from Bob Seger, who also asked the somewhat less than immortal question: "Who Wants to Go to Fire Lake?" -- shades of the I Ching leaking through early-80s American radio -- and the answer was pretty much nobody, but the night was young back then and so were we.
Prayer flags against the wind. Think about it. This is a Buddhist thing. They put em up all over the place and they say things like "May All Beings Be Happy" and "Om Mani Padme Hum," which roughly translated means: <cosmic sound> the jewel in the lotus <cosmic sound>.
Depending on your point of view, the cosmic sounds either mean everything or nothing. Independent of your point of view, they mean both. The rest refers to the fact that the lotus, a symbol now fucked up forever by an American software company since acquired by IBM -- are we talking Global Economy here or what? -- is this awesomely beautiful flower that blooms in the mud, but is not, you know, like, sullied by it.
But even that's a throwback, because by the time the Buddhist teachings had reached Tibet, the whole notion of pure v. sullied had taken a couple of serious turns. The mud is as good as the flower. Both are empty. Both luminous. That's the jewel if you look deep enough inside.
For one thing, the Tibetans were far too earthy and practical to buy into the intellectual logic chopping of those Indian scholars to the south. Or accept it completely at any rate. They already had these bad-ass demons and shit, and neither side really felt like parting company. Let's just say they came to an accommodation. To me, what happened up there in like the 10th Century or so -- close enough for government work -- resulted in the only religion I've ever run across that has any balls.
Speaking of Whom, the funny part is the Tibetans don't have one. Weird, eh? What are all those prayer flags supplicating then? Because make no mistake, that's what they're there for. Calling out to the start of things before before, back to some uncreated primordial space that predates any bang, big or small, by a trillion times a trillion years but that's also happening even now while the coffee's making and the rain has already rained while I wasn't looking and I'm wondering what I must have been thinking when I ordered Net Worth. The Jewel in the Lotus maybe. It is all one. All empty luminous stupid beautiful. All sacred beyond compare. All one big thundering cosmic belly laugh.
Such fine distinctions aside, though, where does that leave us? Right back at Reality Central, sad to say, with work to do and schedules to meet and nobody speaking to me from the clouds. No message waiting in the wings. And it's the same for you I bet. All product placement notwithstanding, you do not have mail.
Is this perhaps the right place to say that the greatest invention of the 20th Century is not the microchip, not extra-orbital flight, not bio-engineering? Sure, why not? The the greatest invention of the 20th Century is rock and roll. Specifically rock and roll performed at extremely high decibel levels in humongous sports stadia that thereby finally inherit some legitimate human use. Or late at night in a car alone going as fast as possible on hot summer residential streets with the windows rolled down all the way and the speakers shredding under the gain. Oh... start me up!
And nothing personal, you know, but fuck you Microsoft and fuck you Nike and Wendy's and VW and all the rest who've ripped the music that didn't mean anything but that we were alive and knew it, and strapped it into the blind dark service of your fucking cars and fucking shoes and fucking hamburgers.
Balls means balls.
Is it a gender thing? Yeah, probably. I mean, how would I know? Like those old blues dudes always liked to say though: the men don't know, but the little girls, they understand. And Jim Morrison, if you got him high enough, would say the same thing between sessions of calling up numinous Aztec reptiles to come eat your daughters.
While I'm waxing ecumenical and all, let me back up and admit it's probably not true the Tibetans have any corner on the market for spiritual cohones, if market there be. Those Muzein guys belting out the Koran from their morning minarets, Jews davening with tefillin or whatever that's all about, Pentecostal Christians speaking in tongues and screwing around with rattlesnakes in tent-show revivals down in Arkansas... there's something dark and spooky in the human soul, and it's hard to blow off with some casual handwave of above-it-all rationalism. Scratch the surface and it's right there every time. One way or another, we're all baying at the moon. But maybe that's not as dumb as it sounds. Maybe there's some atavistic longing that runs so deep we just can't touch it any other way.
Can't you hear me howlin? Callin on my darlin...
So imagine some clever segue here into whatever it was I started out to say. There must have been some point to all this. Or maybe I just got lost. Yeah, that's it in fact.
I was driving past my old house today. I woke at noon. I was feeling that odd tug I tried to tell about before. I lived there nearly twenty years ago, four blocks from where I'm writing this now. And there was a guy out front getting the mail. I stopped.
"Do you live here?" I asked. He looked a bit confused for a second, like why are you asking me that? Who wants to know? But "...yeah" he said.
"I used to live here a long time ago. I put on the addition there, and built the kitchen. Does it still have those green counters?" It was an amazing green. I can still see it. The color of karma. "I used to have my cabinet shop out back."
"You want to take a look around?" he said, real friendly now. "You could come in and see how it's changed..."
I wasn't going to. Maybe some other day. But I parked the car. I knew the place had long ago been turned into a kendo or whatever they call it for teaching Japanese archery -- the kind everyone knows about from bad business metaphors. Plus, "You Are Not The Target" Laura Huxley said, and maybe she was right or maybe she felt like one from all that mescaline her old man kept doing and maybe she just couldn't see in through the doors of his perception. It can happen.
His name was Chris also. Really, would I make that up? But odd, too, isn't it? We walked back through the grounds, larger than I remembered, but it could be that old Jap trick where everything just looks bigger than it really is. There were trees, pretty good sized ones, that hadn't been there when I used to stumble outside at night to take a piss. Ah, that always felt so good. And the stars went so well with whatever I was drinking. I was always drinking. Or coming down. There was a moment there, suspended. And suspended still.
He unlocked the kendo and we went in. That looked smaller now, though a lot neater than when it'd been loaded to the rafters with particle board and tools and sawdust everywhere: my craft. Now it was lined with targets down one side, and a shrine at the far end.
I recognized the picture of the guy at the top of it all. My teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche. You could look him up. You could buy his book along with Mass Customization or The Experience Economy. It is all one, motherfucker.Cutting Through Spiritual MaterialismI walked up closer and looked at him. He was smiling that smile. This was the funniest and scariest man I ever met. I loved him. I still do. He drank himself to death. I've been sober for fifteen years now. So we were a little different.
One time he said, "The teacher carries you across the great water." It was one of those I Ching numbers again. Sure, everybody knew that. "But the Vajrayana teacher carries you across and then burns your boat." He chuckled to himself. For a long time, as if it were a private joke. I bowed to the shrine. I started laughing. The other Chris looked sideways at me like I was nuts.
"I was supposed to make these cabinets for him," I tried to explain. "We worked out this complicated design together." On the doors, in black lacquer, I would inset the seal of the Trungpa Tulku, of which he was the 11th incarnation. "But I never did it. The materials were all in here once, in this building." Before he died he told me, "You're still going to have to make those things you know..." Now he'd taken over my shop. It was why I started laughing. Sort of.
We walked outside and I saw half a dozen prayer flags tacked into the branches of a tree. This was just before the storm came up.
I know all this must sound alien as hell, hard to relate to. I can dig it. You don't have to. I just keep asking myself why it all still seems connected. And, if it is, what's the connection? Whatever has happened in your life, I bet you have days like that too.
He was talking again, Sensei this, Sensei that. We came to the gate and it struck me suddenly because of the Kanji on the post, and in English too: Shibata. "Shibata Sensei?" I asked, amazed now. I figured it was just some faked up hoser. Boulder is full of them. Shibata Sensei, on the other hand, is a National Treasure of Japan. Officially. Not a metaphor.
"I saw him once," I said. It was maybe 1979, on midsummer's day, high in the mountains a couple hours north. There were flags and tents and horses everywhere, hundreds of people. He drew back his enormous bow and everything stopped then. Completely. The day stood still. The sky so blue, the clouds so white. After an eternity, the arrow flew out, thunked into the target. Maybe it was a bull's-eye. I can't remember.
"He had cancer," Chris was saying. "Years ago. He beat it, but he was never the same."
"Jesus," I said, "How old is he now? He must be ancient."
"Seventy-five, but he looks ninety-five."
And he was living in my old house. In the house where I played Blondie so loud it rattled the windows, and a band called Thin Red Line slamming out "Can't Get Over You" (let me know if you've got a cut of that one). The place where I threw Gravity's Rainbow across the room into the bookcase, drunk again, and figuring it was all Tom Pynchon's fault. Where I first kissed that blond Texas Dakini who opened my heart, dashed my hopes and flipped my ass across the ocean like a flat rock. I ended up in Japan of all places, almost able to touch that mythical crane I saw one afternoon at Rikugien, the Edo-era walled garden a block from my Tokyo apartment building. And now I am standing here again, boat burned for sure, and wondering what to make of it. A life if possible. Maybe not too late.
There's so much you don't know about me. Cannot ever, no matter how hard I try to make it otherwise. I have been places, done things impossible to recount. I remember nights of love, each different from all the rest. I have sat beside the dead in the room with the open windows. I have seen those ships on fire off Orion's shoulder.
Yeah well. I wrote something into the cluetrain manifesto that must have raised some eyebrows among our more knowing cousins. And it went like this:
...People of Earth
The sky is open to the stars. Clouds roll over us night and day. Oceans rise and fall. Whatever you may have heard, this is our world, our place to be. Whatever you've been told, our flags fly free. Our heart goes on forever. People of Earth, remember.
So I should end this now, but that's way too dramatic and drama is the wrong note to end on. I think I need to put in something ordinary here, pedestrian. A joke maybe. A duck walks into a bar...
Because, whatever it is, it's just the normal regular passage of time. Nothing mystical. Nothing shocking. We are born. We grow old. We die. In between, we sometimes get a glimpse of something. If I knew what it was, I'd tell you in a second. I don't know. Take this piece of writing as my prayer flag flapping out in the wind of a day that came on sideways. Who knows where it's headed? Tomorrow I have a con-call at noon, a website to build, and forty-one phone calls to return. Possibly lunch.
What I do know is that if you're lonely and you're hurting, then you're human. What am I telling you this for? Hell if I know. To cheer you up maybe. Let me know if it worked.
running on empty...
running into the sun
but I'm running behind...
Entropy Gradient Reversals
All Noise - All the Time
DisclaimerNothing to disclaim at this time.
AdvertisementThis is the greatest electronic newsletter ever created. If you think so too, it's free. If you don't think so, the annual subscription rate is $1000. Either way, to subscribe send email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying simply "subscribe" on a single line in the BODY of the message. Or, go to http://www.rageboy.com/sub-up.html where it will tell you to do the same thing.
No Animals Will Be Harmed in the Making of This Subscription.
Entropy Gradient Reversals CopyLeft Christopher Locke email@example.com http://www.rageboy.com
"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon