Tuesday, September 30, 2014

To Overcome An

To overcome an obstacle or an enemy
To dominate the impossible in your life

- P. Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints

* * *

It is one of those statements that is both tedious and imbued with a depth of mystery so as to blow your head apart: where you stumble, there lies your treasure. Said another way: the obstacle is the way. It is tedious because it smacks of new age bullshit magical thinking. It has the odor of smug superiority on it, like it brushed up against a dead skunk. It is mysterious because if you can get past how ill-used this idea is, if you can overcome the odious nature of others who can name their obstacle, their god, their fall and move out beyond their reckoning of your circumstances and enter this idea as a pilgrim, man, what you'll find is something all the gurus and naysayers and doubters and believers and every fucking tomdickandharry dream of: a place past fear.

* * *

Fear is the reason for religion. Fear is the reason for economics. Fear is the reason for marriage and divorce and children and work and weekends off and new cars and foreclosures and politics, fucking politics, and the drive to keep up with and then bury the Joneses. We are fear born creatures. The world will kill you and our fight or flight response has allowed the species to survive to the point where we are so clever we are about to collapse our environment and thus bring to an end our cleverness. If you are a climate change denier, you are filled with fear. It is the opposite of my fear (that we'll never change), but it is fear nonetheless.

We are so puny, so incredibly puny in the vastness of space. Our first attempts at understanding our place, the order of nature, placed fear in the center of things: the cave bear altars are unknowable mysteries of trying to know the vicissitudes of life as they lived it: violent, hard, yet awash in the mystery of the unknown. As we aged we took on greater knowledge and our knowledge made us afraid. The motion of the stars only isolated us. Gods arose and fell to explain how we really are central to the heavens. In time new gods of money and acquisition took hold and all do the same thing: they paper over our fear that we are useless mites on a pebble in the infinitude of the cosmos.

Now think about you. Think about your circumstance, the thing that has fucked you. Is it not a fear you cannot face, or having faced it have no answer to it? Isn't the thing you have tried to avoid the very thing that has stayed with you throughout?

This is either tedious or revelatory.

* * *

When you live in fear there is a wall between you and life. What you experience is an approximation of life, a filtered thing, a dimmed thing because to remove that wall would be to experience your life directly. And that would mean dealing with the fear that has driven you. It would mean having to find something other than fear to propel your days. Make no mistake, we love our fear. It justifies us, makes excuses and there are scores and scores of stories we have invented to massage the fear into compliance (religion, politics, economics, etc.). But to overcome the obstacle, the enemy that has you on the run you have to let go of those stories, of all expectations, and sit with the impossible, sit with the fear, sit with the enemy until all such categories dissolve.

It isn't a ten step process. It can't be read in a book, or here, or told to you at all. It happens when you're ready to be done with being a fear born creature and instead choose to live out your days beyond others' categories. This is how the impossible is dominated.

* * *

A while ago I wrote about beyuls, sacred hidden places where the physical and the spiritual overlap. The story goes that they can only be found by adepts, pilgrims of great merit who have suffered long. When they find such a place, well...

What I am trying to tell you is this: the world itself is a beyul. The revelation is not outside of you, but solely in your eyes. The obstacle to be overcome isn't exterior to you, but is in how you see the world your life, all life. If gains are to be extracted like so such crude oil, then your life will live out as the oil is lived out: a slow process of depletion. If life is engaged, open-ended and without the certain comfort of others' religions, then your life will be lived out in a such a way that will blow apart all doctrines and instead become an unsayble, but fully knowable mystery.

You are the beyul, baby and your fears are your pilgrimage.

* * *




  1. It ain't tedious Mark, with me you need to hammer it home.
    Thick as Tewksbury mustard, I read all of the Carlos Castaneda books & thought they were a 'Boys Own' adventure series!

  2. Man, Carlos Casteneda, what a wild fuck in the head he was. I read his stuff in college. Thought it was the workings of a madman. But there were guys just reading Tolkien in college, too, so... there's a trip for everyone.

    Here's the thing, I have gotten myself to this place where I see our fears as the crucible we have to pass through, see our fears being expressed in the absolutism of religion and economics and politics. It seems like this is where we lose ourselves. I could be wrong. I ain't no yaqui. I'm just a moe trying to work it out.

    Know where I can score some Tewksbury?

  3. When I was a young man
    Standing on this road
    My empty belly
    An aching hole
    An old man said to me
    "Kid don't you know
    That it's the same thing
    Wherever you go"