I sit in a striped deck chair in London’s St. James Park and dissolve into the multilingual surround, replacing sight with sound. This trip has been a humbling experience, a peeling away of old forms in anticipation of something new. Where are the echoing voices that used to speak so readily? Is it wrong of me to feel like I’ve been abandoned and forsaken? I presume this, too, shall pass.
These first few days in London have fed me an abundance of inputs — colors, textures, lectures, exhibitions. Here I am in Spa Fields, a small park behind Exmouth Market, struggling to assimilate what I’ve encountered. I attended a wonderful event last night at The Horse Hospital called “Towards a Progressive Magic.” The talks by Amy Hale and Phil Legard spoke directly to my current interest in esotericism and the occult, but a path hasn’t yet revealed itself. What exactly is the issue? What am I searching for? Statues? Pianos? Pigeons? The John Soane House was a blast yesterday afternoon, with its crypt and its post-apocalyptic bird’s-eye view of the Bank of England, as was this morning’s tour of the Globe Theatre and the show I caught this afternoon at the Tate Modern devoted to Surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning.
Sarah and I pause to rest our feet at a burrito bar midafternoon after touring the National Gallery, where we stood transfixed beside Holbein’s “The Ambassadors” and Salvator Rosa’s “Witches at Their Incantations.” Names come tumbling into consciousness, forming pathways for future research: John Michell, Gerald Gardner, Jeff Nuttall, Count Stenbock, Ithell Colquhoun.
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.
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?
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.