Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where I End And You Begin

We think we know what we are, where our boundaries lie. We look at our skin and think, “That's where I stop and the rest of the world begins.”

But it's not that simple. We breathe in molecules; oxygen, nitrogen, carbon. We eat all sorts of atoms. We don't know where all they've been. And those atoms of unknown origin are what our bodies use to repair cells, distill neurotransmitters, concoct enzymes, and cook up hormones.

Each of our cells has membranes that allow only things as small as a molecule in or out. You eat something, like a banana, and it gets broken down in your gut into molecules that pass through the wall of your small intestine into your body. Those molecules get passed around from cell to cell as needed. If one cell needs potassium, it sucks some in. If a cell has too much potassium, it pushes some molecules back out through its membrane. Eventually, some of the potassium molecules that were once part of a banana, and more recently part of you, get sent packing completely to possibly fertilize a banana tree if you live where banana trees grow.

Your whole body is made up of molecules borrowed temporarily from the rest of the world. What you add to those molecules is your own style of consciousness. You can tack on a bit of energetic feeling to those potassium molecules. What will you give to the banana tree? That feeling of disgust as you look at your flabby tummy and smell the sweat you’ve built up coming home on the bus after a day working a job you hate? Or something else?

Breathe in and feel whatever you feel. Breathe out and thank all those molecules heading off to other bodies, wish them well, for all the cells they touched.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This Wonderland Called Life


When we last left our bodies, they were falling. That’s what matter does. It settles. Matter is just energy slowed down to stillness. It gets stirred up by the eddies of time and space either chancing to move toward the source it can never forget, or dropping helplessly back down to the bottom. It cannot move. It can only remember.

To move we need something else. Whether it’s the breaking of carbon bonds, the flush of love, the roar of anger, or the fusion of hydrogen, to move we need more than matter. How are you different from a table? You can move yourself. There is a spark within you that allows you to move faster than chance.

And it is so tempting to want to separate that wonderful spark. In depression, the body is such a burden and source of pain. We could just loose that spark from this leaden body and be free at last.

But-you knew there’d be a catch-that spark doesn’t know the way home. Set it free of the body and it will splutter around the astral planes like a burst balloon until it slows, falls, and becomes a body bereft itself, finally remembering in that stillness just where it came from.

For this whole life thing to work, that spark has to be in a body, the body remembering the way and the spark getting the body off its ass. We can call this volatilizing the fixed and fixing the volatile. That which is determined and still, locatable in space and time, is fixed. That which is known only by its velocity is the volatile. When we bring them together we get life. Alchemy is all about the different ways to do this.

One of my favorite ways is Earth Wind & Fire.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Always Wear A Hat

A single name can't begin to capture a being as complex as a god. We're dealing with shorthand here. Any string of sounds or letters we humans put together is merely a finger pointing at the Moon.

But sometimes the finger, itself, is worth looking at.

Hermes has some wonderful epithets. He's the Thief, the Watcher, the Whisperer. (An epithet is a descriptive phrase that can substitute for a name. In the US these days, only wrestlers and career criminals have epithets, and each usually has only one for branding purposes. But back in the old days, gods could have several epithets and if you were too foolish to figure out that the Whisperer was also the Thief, well, whoosh! there went your lunch money.) My personal favorite is Polutropos.

Polutropos \pol-'ew-tro-pos\ Many-turned, much traveled, versatile, wily, manifold.

Polutropos often means “well-traveled,” and if you've ever had the joy of going on a long trip, you'll know this meaning well. Every unexpected set-back leads to either the most amazing memory you'll keep or total disaster. To deal with the kinds of twists that happen while traveling, one must become versatile, able to do a little of this or that as necessary depending on what fate has done to the trains. This kind of versatility can make one wily. You begin to see the next twist before you’ve reached the border patrol and are already working out exactly what to omit from your reason for entering the country.

The part of polutropos that holds all this together is that final entry: manifold. With many folds.

In Ancient Greek, some interesting things could be manifold: vicissitudes, actions, fate, desires, sacred rites and, um, kaka. (Kaka is Greek for “bad things”-and you thought it was just a childish word for crap.)

Our desires are what bring us vicissitudes. We can work with our desires through sacred rites (ritual becomes sacred when you want it to) to realize the connection between our actions and our fates and thus begin to lessen the kaka inherent in desire.

It’s nice to see this collection of intangible things as a family, all clearly sharing some essence while each is distinct and sometimes wildly different from the others at least on the surface. It’s also important to see that the shared resemblance, the secret mark that proves each one has a right to attend family reunions, is the nature of having many folds, seemingly random turns, switchbacks, loopdeloops. How quickly one’s desires turn into a source of sorrow. How often do we seek to rid ourselves of some trouble only to have our bane reveal itself in the next act to be our heart’s desire? This is the polutropos shape of the universe. It is the way the Laws work when they aren’t merely hanging around being theoretical, the form they take the moment we step onto the path and begin our travels.

Hermes Polutropos is that part of divine wisdom that is well-travelled. He’s the part of g*d (whatever that is) who knows that whether it’s rainy or sunny, he’s gonna need a hat.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dog Fight 2

[Click to see all installments of the Legend of Fowl Feng .]

The two dogs fell upon each other all slaver jawed and writhing mass, each aiming for the throat and twisting out of reach at the same time. These were dogs whose ancestors had been bad ass alley monsters for generations. They got down to business.

“You’re some well-brushed monkey’s leash bait, you are!” yowled Fowl Feng.

“Your mother suckles cats!” snarled Rarely There.

What had been red-hot rage turned brilliant white as both dogs found purchase. But Rarely There’s was just that much closer to the vein. He turned his head to stare into Fowl Feng’s yellow eyes as he let his rage clamp down. The alley turned silent as the life left Fowl Feng. The beaming eyes dimmed and faded, and he fell to the alley floor.

Rarely There stood over Fowl Feng in triumph. He felt the blood of his ancestors rising up through his paws. It was good to be victorious.

He looked up to realize the day had passed. He hadn’t thought that any dog could fight a whole day! This had been a glorious battle. He would find his pack and tell them of the death of Fowl Feng of the Yellow Eye. He would tell how he had fought an entire day to rid the city of… He looked down at Feng’s lifeless body. Rather small, really. And it looked like he hadn’t eaten in a while. Well, that just made him "Feng the Ravenous," didn't it? And Rarely There was pretty sure he had heard that Fowl Feng killed puppies. Yes, he knew it was true. So he had killed, no, he had destroyed the Puppy Killer, the ravenous Puppy Killer. Yes. They had fought the entire day, and Rarely There had prevailed!

He turned to leave the alley and found the Moon, full and round, rising up over the distant mountains. She was singing.

“So many dogs,” she sang. “So many alleys, dark and fowl. My children, my children.”

Rarely There listened to the song, at once so sad and sweet. It pushed all other thoughts from him and he sat down and howled. The Moon sang with him.

“So many ways, so many songs.” And the song changed. It became a lilting, traipsing song, a song that made the roads stretch toward the mountains.

Rarely There jumped up and ran from the alley.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Your Body Loves You

In modern society we have so much baffling between the parts of ourselves that think and the parts of ourselves that are head-over-heels in love with g*d (whatever that is). Our minds race mazes. We can think of something, think about what we've just thought, about how we feel about what we've just thought compared to what we would have thought when we were twelve, and then spend some time thinking about how we've just spent 10 minutes thinking about our thinking rather than doing something with our lives. We are all quite insane.

Our bodies, the physical parts with all the excesses and things exuding out, all the odors and tics, everything that drives you up the wall, everything that embarrasses you at parties or public speaking engagements or first dates, that's what is most in love with the divine (that means you.)

To really love, you must allow your body to teach you how.