On making gestures and reading words to a dying dog

Gestures

Gestures

I am always on guard in a group of people, but the gesture of an individual can move me to tears. Like in church in the old days, I shouldn’t mind words that much and pay more attention to gestures. Small gestures made unconsciously, without calculation: a father holding a little child’s hand or a grandma blowing kisses into a pram.

But sometimes words can make a difference, too.

I remember the night before one of my dogs was to be euthanized. It was the one dog that I had had since it was a puppy. I could literally read its mind. It was only eight years old and dying of cancer. That night I picked up the Tibetan Book of the Dead from my bookshelf and let it fall open arbitrarily.

I started reading to the dog:

Dazzling Bright Light

Be not fond of the dull, smoke-coloured light from Hell.

That is the path which opens out to receive you because of the power of accumulated evil karma from violent anger.

If you are attracted by it, you will fall into the Hell-Worlds; and, falling therein, you will dig yourself deep into the morass of unbearable misery, from where there is no certain time of getting out.

That is an obstruction on the Path of Liberation, look not at it; and avoid anger.

Be not attracted by it; be not weak.

Believe in the dazzling bright white rays of the Light.

I understood that these words weren’t meant for my dog. My dog was a playful, happy fox terrier who hadn’t known anger. It was a time during which I myself fed the malign wolf way, way more than the loving wolf.

***

Yes, it’s true: we live in a Universe that is ruled by the Law of Cause and Effect. But sometimes this Universe holds its breath to give way to the Grace of God. We wouldn’t stand a chance if it were otherwise.

***

In this bleak winter of existential loneliness (not a trace of the Big Painter, even the candles in the alcove of my mind have dimmed) there’s nothing I can do than sit by my window and wait for God to come by in the words and the melody of a song, a spring bird that lands on my windowsill or, yes, the small gesture of a grandpa scratching his head in amazement. Is that all there is to life in this world? It seems so. But it isn’t forbidden to keep dreaming of a Pure Land where God manifestly walks with us every single step of the way.

Impatience

Whenever I get impatient with the imperfections of my species and myself, I  try to remember what my old dad said: “Neither you nor the others have created yourselves. That is an advantage as well as an disadvantage. The clear advantage is that if humans were only slightly able to create themselves, they would have made of themselves unbearable, self-indulgent gods which wouldn’t allow imperfections neither from themselves nor from others. That’s the First Sin.

But we were driven out of the Garden and allowed to become human. We may make errors or may not make errors. We grow by our imperfections, the shadows cast in front of us. The disadvantage is that this growing takes a million reincarnations, over and over and over again, and a hundred thousand wars and famines. But we can’t have it all, you know. We can’t have freedom and perfection at the same time. Thank God there’s forgiveness.”

On making gestures
Grace as a wormhole

Madonna in the Dark Alcove Of My Mind

On Sundays my parents used to take me to Holy Mass, even though I was still very young. In a way the weekly gestures of the priest swaying his aspergillum, his arms spread wide over the sacred host, his fingers subtly making the sign of the cross, marked the passing of time to me. Until then I had floated around in a vacuum where time didn’t exist. Sunday’s mass was like a levee in that vacuum to which I returned every week. But there was also another presence at that center: lady Madonna

Madonna watching me

I was fascinated by the gestures, though, not by the words. As soon as the priest started to preach my glance strayed to the Madonna which stood in a side aisle. Candles were burning in front of the statue.

The Madonna held a child that seemed to be floundering in her arms as if it tried to escape from her grip. In his left hand the child held a bird.

As the priest’s words floated unabsorbed high above me in the nave of the church, I wished I was that bird.

As time goes by…

I have not been back to that church ever since I was ten years and I don’t intend to go back soon. I’m too scared to destroy the perfect image of the candles, the loving countenance of Mother Mary and the floundering child with its bird. Mother Mary is closer to my heart than abstract concepts as the Big Painter in the Sky, God or the Universe.

I reckon Mother Mary understands us, having gone through the same tribulations as we do.

Often I ask Her to give me some of her warmth and mildness in my voice as I speak to others. Some of Her peace, gentleness, simplicity, the radiant look of Her eyes when I meet other human beings.

However, I don’t build my castle on a force from outside. I believe in the Rock in the Dry and Weary Landscape of my Interior, where there is no water.

Sometimes the Rock disappears under the sand.

Don’t despair then.

Only those who are unaware of the Rock inside, never doubt its existence.

Madonna in the Dark Alcove of my Mind
The Madonna burning bright in the Dark Alcove of my Mind

Empires, falling down like old and weary trees

Empires

empires
Empires falling down like old and weary trees

The old wolf feels his strength weakening. His days as leader of the pack are numbered. To hide his weakness he mixes in conflicts that occur lower in the hierarchy of the pack. He takes and changes sides and hopes to forge allegiances that will support him on the day of challenge. Maybe it works for a while, but his days are numbered.

Empires

The empires of this world are growing old and weary. Their debts are so huge that they will never be able to pay them back. Their moral standards are corrupt and their only vision for the future is to go on as they have done so far. They interfere in conflicts far away. The empires hope the proxy wars will result in such massive damage that they will become creditors instead of debtors. It may work for a while, but one day their wars will come home.

In this world there are nations that consider themselves as Chosen People. It doesn’t mean that they think they are superior to other peoples nor that they are better-off. As for the latter: on the contrary, chosen people usually live marginal lives throughout most of their history. They belong to the pack of peoples and at the same time they do not belong to it. They observe the other nations warily, always on guard that they may bear the brunt of their frustration if the others might choose to do so.

Divine origin or indispensable instinct?

Whether or not their insight into the psyche of mankind has divine origins (chosen people themselves are convinced it has, scientists think it is an indispensable instinct without which they wouldn’t have survived evolution), a fact is that they have a deep understanding of the mechanics that work within a group of humans.

This knowledge is conveyed to the next generation by oral tradition or holy books. Chosen people believe they have a mission: to preserve the Law as it is given to them by the Supreme Being and warn other nations if they stray too far from this Law and life gets out of balance.

Dangave

The inscription in the rock in Hopi Nation is drawn in modern times by a person who belonged to the pack and at the same didn’t belong. It is therefore not as much a prophecy as it is a Life Plan. The inscription shows that man has two ways of life to choose from. The first road depicts people with their heads loose from their bodies. They live grand, opulent lives but they have lost their minds and souls. The empires take this road, because it seems inviting and comfortable.

But this way of life ends in a zigzag not unlike that of a seismometer registering a massive, apocalyptic earthquake. The other way of life is symbolized by a corncob. This is the road taken by those who live in harmony with nature and follow the Law of the Big Painter in the Sky. So far, not many walk this road. It never ends and makes a full circle around the stone back to where it once began. It’s up to mankind to choose from either of those ways of living. There is no in between.

The inscription resembles the story about the narrow and broad road in the Bible: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” It’s also reminiscent of the way Japanese poet Matsu Basho describes annihilating his own self in the Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Breathtaking, Unnameable Presence

Is there not any hope left? Yes, there are new baby shoots that seem to stray away from the eternal struggle for dominance and submission.

And most religious traditions speak of a breathtaking, unnameable presence that, in a critical time, is going to help mankind with its next leap of consciousness.

By whatever name he is called in the various religious traditions, be it Messiah, Maasaw, Mahdi, Maitreya, don’t stop praying: Come, please, come soon.

Jesus or Our love is all of God’s money

Jesus etc.

In reality I didn´t attend to any ceremony. I stayed in Hopi Nation for a week and slept in a church in Kykotsmovi Village. When I was introduced to the chief of Old Oraibi I asked him about an inscription in a rock I had read about. The conversation had been friendly up until that point. But now the chief got very angry and practically chased me out of his house.

“You white men, you poke your nose into everything that is holy to us. And when you’re ready, leave a ruin behind. You go to that other village (he meant Hotevilla). There they will tell you everything you want to know.”

Lost and Found?

In the drizzling October rain of 1985 I walked along road 264 in the direction of Hotevilla. But halfway I turned back. Maybe the chief was right after all. Maybe I just came here to get some short-lived spiritual kick and then leave ruin behind. But a few days later, I felt that I couldn’t have come all the way without actually trying to find out more about the inscription that had fascinated me so much back home. I decided to give it another try and leave it to the whims of chance if I was to be initiated into the secrets of Hopi Prophecy.

The first persons I saw in Hotevilla were two youngsters on a scaffolding busy renovating a house. After I’d greeted them, I heard them sneeringly saying behind my back: “Huh, Bahanna.” Bahanna is the not so flattering name for white people in Hopi language.

The second person I met was an old man who was climbing with a basket full of vegetables from the fields at the foot of the mesa up to the village on top of it. He was panting under his burden. I took on his load. When we’d reached the village, the old man insisted to carry his basket himself. He said Thank You and when I said a few words in English to him, he kept repeating Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

At last I hitched a ride along road 264, back to Kykotsmovi Village. A Native American drove me to a fast food restaurant at the side of the road. We ate a hamburger and talked about cars and the lack of money. It was very cosy but we didn’t discuss spiritual matters.

Outsider Art

At the end of my stay a Hopi converted to Christianity showed me the rock. He couldn’t tell anything about the inscription that I didn’t already know. Except that the inscription wasn’t of a prehistoric origin, but that it is was made by a modern-time Hopi, who was an outsider in the community. A real voice from the wilderness…

Jesus etc

As we listened to Jesus, etc. we drove down the hill called Sion on the other side. Here are the fields where we had seen the hoopoes a few years ago. Well, frankly my wife is the birdwatcher. I can hardly tell a starling from a blackbird, but even for me the hoopoe was easily recognizable with its almost alien appearance. This time there were no hoopoes, though.

My wife loves to read Marianne Williamson. Sometimes she quotes from her books. I don´t read Ms. Williamson´s books. I don’t read books at all. One of the peculiarities of my obsessive-compulsive disorder was that sometimes I had to read and reread sentences over and over again. Twentyfold, fortyfold, sixtyfold…

When I was a teenager I had to repeat prayers that way, until I felt that they were utterly perfect. Nowadays I hardly pray. As for reading, the remembrance of that experience is so disgraceful, that I avoid reading as much as I can. But I must admit that without my wife’s quotes from Ms. Williamson’s books every now and then I might not have started writing this account.

Jesus etc is written by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett from Wilco. It’s for my wife. This is her: a burning sun.

Jesus
Jesus: Everyone is a Burning Sun

Be At Peace With Yourself For One Fine Afternoon

Peace

be-at-peace-with-yourself

…when through the branches of a barren tree the full moon paints freak patterns on the ground, the men from the village dance their ecstatic moves. They wildly jump around and stamp their feet wrapped in the skin of deer on the soft springy soil. Their bodies, sweat accentuating strong muscles, stirred up by the rhythmic beating of wood on wood, their minds brought into a trance by a secret potion of henbane, belladonna and dried fly agaric…

The men dance in circles around the shaman, the initiate who is at the center of the open space dancing his own crazy dance. He is totally immersed in his own pre-worldly universe and is dancing even wilder and more ecstatic than the other men. His head is hidden behind the mask of a deer’s head, the horns sweeping through the air as he dances around the fire. Still faster and wilder until he is just running in circles around the fire, slipping and sliding and falling down, his mask rolling aimlessly over the trodden grass. His body is shaking while he turns his face to the flames.

The women and the children sitting at the edge of the open space are the first witnesses to the miracle. Their cries wake the other dancing men from their trance. They stop dancing and look at the initiate and they see it, too. The fire in the eyes of the shaman and the fire of the flames seem as one. No, his eyes are not alight but for a short moment in time it looks as if the flames and the eyes of the shaman are of the same origin.

Fire, that is not as any of the other phenomena in this world as it doesn’t stand on its own but can only exist as long as it flames consume other things and in doing so create the beginning of something new, that fire is the representation of divinity on earth. And the eyes of the initiate, who may have been passed on secret knowledge from his forefathers, but for the rest is, just as the other men in the village, a farmer of the desert, those eyes represent humanity, taken from the soil.

And so, on this first night of spring the great miracle occurs in which divinity and humanity become one again for a short while.

In that short, holy moment the people of the village bow their heads and ask humbly from the divine spirit if the farming may bear fruit again this year: twentyfold, fortyfold, sixtyfold…

…when through the branches of a barren tree the full moon paints freak patterns on the ground and the stars make their rounds of the Eternal Mill through the endless universe, deep into the desert the coyote, feared and revered, sends his invocatory howl travelling through the night. For the time being the coyote still drowns out the sound of drums of an unknown people that has come from far away to, as rumor has it, subject all other races in the world and put an end to the old way of living that was taught by the Great Spirit.

Without making a sound a desert owl hovers over the open space. With fearful premonition the people around the fire raise their heads and pray that this year everything may still be well. For this one year at least…

This is the world into which I am born, time and time and time again…

Peace, One Fine Afternoon

I have this vivid memory of how my life was at the beginning. The kid in the cinema who became one with laughter. And look what has become of it  50 years later: a bag full of opinions. Conflicting, constantly changing opinions, too. A bag full of mixed emotions and passions:  generosity and greed, compassion and rudeness, love and hate, pleasure and pain. Driven from the garden of oneness and openness, predator and prey at the same time.

The more I am at peace with what has become of the kid in the cinema, the more I am able to slip into the garden of Eden. Be it just for a brief moment.

As we drove up the hill called Sion I thought of another hill long ago. The hill where the shepherd had been waiting to lay his healing hands upon my ancient wound while singing: Be at peace with yourself.

Koyaanisqatsi, The Time When Life Gets Out Of Balance

Koyaanisqatsi

The Big Painter in the Sky said to the bunch of yokels that was a leftover from his creation: “You are my chosen people. I will lead you to a country of milk and honey…  No, wait a minute.”

The Big Painter wetted His fingers with His tongue and thumbed through the pages of His Holy Book. “Yeah, here we are. I already have a story with a country of milk and honey. So many stories, I can hardly tell one from the other. Anyway, now it’s time for something completely different. So listen, instead I will lead you to a country where hardly enough rain will fall to raise your crops. You will not build big cities or sleek golden palaces like the other nations. You will be poor and looked upon as backward and slightly stinking.”

“Well, that’s a nice business,’’ someone yelled. “Can’t you pick others as your chosen people?”

The chosen people-to-be murmured, but the Big Painter in the Sky hushed: “Nope, the leftovers of creation will be my chosen peoples. And on the other hand: for every disadvantage there is an advantage. The fact that you are poor and live in the boondocks is your bliss, too. Other nations will not be likely to wage war on you as there is nothing to rob you from. You will live in peace for centuries, while other nations fight each other over their gold and silver. In the end they will be conquered by a strange people that comes from over the sea. In the meantime you will keep my law and live in peace for a long time. Your name will be Peace”

“And what is your law about, if I may be so bold to ask you?” a man with a hunchback shouted.

The Big Painter in the Sky threw two flat stones from a mountain and said: “Here you are. A lot of rules but it all comes down to this: treat the whole of creation: the air, water, rocks, trees, plants, animals and fellow men as you want to be treated yourself. For everything that lives is holy.”

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out Of Balance

Curiously the chosen people-to-be studied the stones. But the Big Painter resumed: “I have buried something precious in the ground you live on. In the end the people from over the sea will come and devastate my holy land to retrieve that treasure. That is the moment that you must reveal my prophecies to this strange people. For if they go on destroying all of my creation in their pursuit of wealth and profit, the end of this world will be near. The Great Watersnake Palulukon will rattle its tail in anger and floods will drown the coast lands.

This is the time when life is out of balance: Koyaanisqatsi. The weather will change, crops will fail because of draught or of decay because of extreme rainfall. And there will come an awareness among the nations, for those who are supposed to be the leaders will humiliate themselves as they are no longer led by wisdom and vision but by sheer greed.”

Lost White Brother from over the Sea

An so it was to be. When the white man came from over the sea he found coal and uranium in the soil where the chosen people lived. The white man divided the chosen people to the core with a prospect of wealth and comfort. But the traditionalists amongst them warned the world for disasters to come. But as they are just marginalized, slightly stinking folks, no one cares about them. And as one man’s dream is the other man’s nightmare, the chosen people in their worn-out shoes became street sweepers in the white man’s city of dreams, sweeping up the fall-out of their greed. As they had always done, they warily observed what went on in the other tribe.

No one heeds their call. Their warnings for Koyaanisqatsi, the end of times, are considered the sort of folklore that turns up every time when chosen peoples see their way of life threatened. There are quite a lot of them. Every continent seems to have at least one. These peoples share a common memory of how life was in the beginning and a grand vision of how it will be in the end.

koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out Of Balance

The Healing Day when poplars are whispering along a stream

The Healing Day

We drove through a valley which is not marked as being particular scenic on any map. The road meanders along a stream of which I’ve long forgotten its name. Poplars were standing alongside the stream. Through the open window of my car I heard the whispering of the poplars’ leaves. It mixed up wonderfully with the music and made me travel back to my youth.

Back then I had played alongside another stream. Poplars had been whispering there, too. Until the day that a thunderstorm had raged and everything was changed in the blink of an eye.

The words and the melody mesmerized me. Instantly I believed that healing is possible. If we’d only find back the way to where the children play and restore our openness and innocence.

That afternoon the valley turned into the the most beautiful valley of France, if not the world. Just like the valley of weeping and thirst I have been travelling through.

Doesn’t sound particularly inviting, but I wouldn’t change it for anyone else’s valley.

Nor would I trade the hill where grace and glory reside at the end of that road…

As we drove on through the valley we saw a hill on the horizon called Sion (truly, truly true, of course).

The Healing Day
…to where the children play…