Monday, March 21, 2011

Eshu threw a stone yesterday; it killed a bird today


By Brian George

Section 5 from the Reality Sandwich forum for “Memories of Mr. Trippi; The Trauma of an Urban Shaman”

Hi Dave (Hanson),

“You wrote, “So as you step in and out of the implicate order I can only suggest looking at your intention, honing your control, looking for opportunities to heal others, and seriously questioning everything you experience on the journey. I would like your writing more if it was more simple and direct, but that is me. I don't know that just because something comes to us from ‘the spirits’ it is any more meaningful than the sound of the toilet flushing. I'm surrounded by people who 'see things.' I don't understand the underlying meanings of most of it, so I plant more vegetables.

“My dog died. I miss him. I can feel his body under my hand. My wife is working too hard and worries too much. I have a broken ankle and hate crutches. I can't do what I love to do and when I'm back on my feet I'll waste precious time. A Native American spirit showed me a painting I am supposed to do, over twenty years ago, and I haven't done it.

“…Can your visions help heal another? That's all there is.”

To me, writing is a yogic discipline of consciousness, as well as a form of ecstatic flight. Appearances to the contrary, I do attempt to take the reader with me as I go.

In a number of traditions—Hinduism and Lukumi come to mind—an “obstacle” is not different from a “gateway," and energy, by being frustrated, is not necessarily decreased. Quite the opposite may occur. As—my uncooperative victim—you will see! Beloved. Trap set by the Daemon. You who once cut my throat.

Fate has overdetermined every symbol and event. By what strange alchemy does the Self become the Other? What language is spoken by the story that creates us, and that we in turn create?

Perhaps the image that confronts us is a lie; the meaning that first presents itself might very well be at odds with the deeper implications. We do not know what the action is that we being asked to perform; and it seems impossible that we should act on what we do not understand. Just so. Exactly. When faced with an ultimatum, we must “stop the world”—in Castaneda’s phrase—if only for a moment, as we figure out what to do. A small grain of anxiety disrupts the clockwork of our consciousness. This is the function of “difficulty” in a dense and symbolic style; an essay can be as labyrinthine as a dream.

The way In is the way Out. The way Around is the way Through. The way Forward is the way Back.

Eshu, the Yoruba trickster, creates obstacles, which we must then petition the “Orishas," or “gods," to remove"”—thereby necessitating an exchange of gifts, which our relative ignorance and lack of power keeps in motion. Ganesh, the Vedic elephant god, is also called “Vignesvara”, the "Lord of Obstacles.” The rat, his vehicle, is often viewed as a manifestation of desire—in which aspect it both creates and gnaws away at obstacles. Ganesh makes no attempt to kill or remove it, since, without it, he would have no way to get around.

People often say, “You would make more friends and influence more people if you did not use so much figurative language. I appreciate what you are doing, but it bores me. Is there some reason that you can’t just say what you mean?” One could just as easily argue: That a labyrinth would be a better path if you took out all the twists and turns. But then again, it would no longer be a labyrinth. If the goal is to get from point A to point B, then we should no doubt travel as quickly as we can; of course, point A will look no different than point B, and, if it does, then we will be too busy to notice.

We must carefully remove the two hands of the clock. The most fateful means of transport may be also the least direct.

We live in a culture in which prose is dominant. We think in sound bites, and expect all communication to be immediately transparent. If we are simple-minded, we tend to believe that all earlier cultures were even simpler than our own, forgetting how intimately language, sound, myth, and symbol must collaborate as they are woven into a living form.

Most poets take the rebelliousness of language as a given; it exists as a semi-independent being, which makes demands. Each symbol is like a “koan”—the person who first hears of it is not the same as the one who will understand it. Rilke wrote, of the archaic torso of Apollo, “For there is no part that does not see you. You must change your life.” Like a woman trapped inside the body of a man, who must learn, by stealth technology, to survive, poets learn to clothe their deeper intuitions in linear narrative or abstract prose.

In “Memories of Mr. Trippi; The Trauma of an Urban Shaman," as in much of my other work, I have attempted to have it both ways: The style navigates between the Scylla of the oracular and the Charybdis of the real, between the altered state that is poetry and the window that is prose—each speech mode helping to counterbalance the limitations of the other.

Yet I believe that poetry can more closely approximate the shock of a primal encounter with the Numinous.


(Illustration: Brian George, The Passageways of the Egg, photogram, 2004)

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