We arrive to the disappointment of a three-story wall-to-wall stained-carpet nightmare of an apartment, diagonal cut-ups stacked atop a windowless basement. What a fucking shithole. Such is the consensus on this first day as we take stock of our surroundings. The sooner we get out of here, the better.
Aggro roadways, Trump paraphernalia, landscapes crusted with ill-gotten wealth: up from these like a seagull I rise and take flight. Goodbye America, and good riddance. The mere fact of you bankrupts the world of justice. No theodicy could ever correct your persistence there on the other side of the Atlantic, burning the earth, melting the poles, laying waste to all prior ways of being. Yet here I am, a product of this spoiled history: an American abroad.
How about groaning laundry rooms and animated films that scare little kids? How about blue mermaids with turquoise chains? By following a few simple rules, we can feel at home amid the alchemical symbolism of Arthur Machen’s “The White People.” A librarian from my childhood confides over my shoulder about the limits of her compassion. She refuses to care, she says, for those who come back sunburned after a day at the beach, likening these latter to hungry ones who refuse to eat. I smile and pretend not to differ, even as I ruminate about what it would mean to approach the Tarot as a book, or the fragments of one.
My phantom appetite reopens old wounds as I drive along the south shore of Long Island, a place of radical injustice, like a theme park dedicated to the triumph of Italian Fascism. The planet groans beneath the weight of Blue Lives Matter monster trucks as La Famiglia orders an assembly of scungilli for an air show. How am I to practice zazen amid these sites of trauma?
I plug in Walter Wegmuller’s Tarot and float down a canal.
Sarah and her colleague J. are preparing to teach a course about witches this summer. The course includes a screening of Suspiria, and who did J. run into at the Leonora Carrington exhibition this afternoon? None other than one of the stars of the recent Suspiria remake, Tilda Swinton. Let us muse upon this most witchy of synchronicities as geese fly overhead.
My shoshin or “beginner’s mind” struggles to declare intentions for summer apart from foundational stuff, love and well-being for all. I prefer minimal attachment to programming and planning. Yet I have to decide here: narratives are gardens of forking paths, aren’t they? Which books do we wish to read and which headspaces do we wish to inhabit while abroad? How much of each moment do we let go of so as to live in another? I feel like I’m tiptoeing along sensing a border, a boundary, a threshold. Enclosure is the process mystified and occulted by the Eden narrative, yet some of us by acts of reading find our way to the edges of the construct. What then? Do we give in to fear of punishment, as in the Prisoner’s Dilemma? Or do we press onward into the unknown? A beautiful Brakhage-like stretch of video appears from my past — difficult to watch, but presumably necessary. Something akin to a rite of passage. “With this Memorial in His Honour, / Cordially Committed,” read the words on the screen.
Outside our office windows — outside, inside, everywhere: a world of vibrant matter, leaves and branches rippling with waves of energy. And in the air, in transit, birds whistling, gestures of benevolence. A tiny person opens a gate and invites us to continue on our way. A short hike along a mountain trail and suddenly we’re feeling it: eased, relaxed, quiet, meditative. Awareness is different from its objects — different from both its thoughts and its senses. Those are transmissions, messages received and refashioned. Awareness can focus into a pair of hands as they wash dishes. It can focus on a sunlit fairy garden footpath. Passages which seem either obscure or obvious are often illuminated when observed with care. It is this observing with care that matters in determining the quality of each moment. Like a Rapunzel, the world lets down its hair, allowing us to ascend. When the world acts this way and speaks its mind, says what it wants, let us heed it.