Category Archives: Quest

More on Thinking

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

Let’s start with an interesting quote provided by Charles at The Vale of Soul-Making,
https://thevaleofsoulmaking.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/novalis-3/

Sometimes with the most intense pain a paralysis of sensibility occurs. The soul disintegrates–hence the deadly frost–the free power of the mind–the shattering, ceaseless wit of this kind of despair. There is no inclination for anything any more–the person is alone, like a baleful power–as he has no connection with the rest of the world he consumes himself gradually–and in accordance with his own principle he is–misanthropic and misotheos. — Novalis, from “Miscellaneous Observations,” Novalis: Philosophical Writings, translated and edited by Margaret Mahony Stoljar . (State University of New York Press; First Printing edition, February 27, 1997)

While this is going way beyond my own perception, there is an interesting parallel.  There are people on this world who have become highly empathetic.  To develop that sense “in the raw” on a world so full of violence with so much of it gratuitous and totally unnecessary, is to come face to face with a suffering, a pain, that never dissolves.  The uninitiate plunged into this maelstrom of awareness will have her feelings torn apart.  Everything will remind her of the many horrors taking place literally everywhere, and she will suffer the effects of those horrors in her mind, day and night.  These effects will spread into the body.

The above quote speaks of someone who, like many who have been severely tortured, in order to survive has developed a “paralysis of sensibility” to the ever-present pain that must of necessity lead to complete despair.  Those who cannot do that quite often commit suicide: it’s the only way out, unless one turns to drugs, alcohol or some form of institutionally established violence.  It is easy to see how both, misanthropy (hate of mankind) and misotheos (hate of God or gods) can flow from this condition because it’s a blame place. 

I’ll backtrack a bit: how does one become an empath?  It’s dangerously simple: one first becomes a thinker, then a deeper thinker, then an absolute thinking force.  Thinking, after all is the only real way to interact with life if we would be intelligent, sentient and self aware beings.  Thinking is the core of the human experience.  Those who do not, or cannot, think for themselves; those who fear their own wild thoughts, are not human.  At best they hover a few degrees “above” the mental state of animals; at worst they are psychopaths.  They can only feel their own needs and desires.  Everything and everyone else is there to satisfy those needs and greeds.  Not incidentally much of what passes for “love” on this world remains in that category-had to throw that reminder in… 

Thinking about the “human” condition changes all of that for the thinker.  It opens up endless possibilities hitherto closed to the mind.  It frees the imagination so violently extracted from most minds in early childhood.  This is all well and good, but if thinking makes one aware of the things of earth, that must include the blood-filled vat of violence constantly fed and religiously maintained on earth, and that must lead to despair, or to the frozen mind state and eventual self-consummation described in the above quote. 

I can truthfully say that I am an empath.  I arrived “here” through a persistent drive to know the why’s and wherefore’s of people’s need to express their lives through various forms of violence – some done to themselves, most done unto others.  Prior to a fortuitous intervention by those I call “the Teachers” I had reached a point of mental trouble deep enough to force me to make a pact with myself that I would terminate my life.  My mind was held in a vise of pain from negative awareness, and eventually that pain reached into the body, attacking its weakest parts.  Being at least as strong minded as my mother (who not incidentally committed suicide at age 46) for the same reasons I was then experiencing, namely that life was unbearable pain, I decided to do the same.  It was logical.  I had seen her try drugs to ease her pain, to no avail.  I hated drugs, and still do, so I would not go there.  Came the fateful day.  Came the unexpected intervention, rescue, and equally unexpected healing. 

In a flash of understanding I realized the vise had been unscrewed, yet my awareness remained the same, even augmented.  What had changed?  I was given a chance to become a compassionate being.  It was a whole new way to look upon the world.  I felt my hate, my anger, gradually fade out, to be replaced with something totally new to me: Joy and Sorrow (deliberately capitalized here).  Imagine how much thinking I had to do in those days to keep up with all of that; with the changes I was experiencing, and troubling everybody else around me with. 

I need to make two points here.  The first is that such a change made me anathema to my familiar society.  Within a couple of years I was forced into a divorce, holding on to nothing except a job, which kept me from being on the streets.  Old friends evaporated.  Frightening, exhilarating, crazy, out of control life.  Yet I didn’t mind so much, being busy experiencing a “new” healthy body and finding my newly awakened mind experimenting wandering through a much greater, ever-expanding cosmos. 

The second, much more important point is about Joy and Sorrow.  The usual understanding is that joy is just an aspect of pleasure.  Sorrow is an aspect of suffering, or pain.  This is more than a wrong interpretation: it’s a grievous error, as I hope to point out.

How does one discern that Joy and Sorrow are different from the usual layout of pleasure and suffering?  Again, the same argument that says compassion is completely different from love:  motive changes to selflessness.  Where there be selfish moves or motives, there you will not find either Joy or Sorrow, though you will find their imitators a plenty.   This is where some really deep seated lies of the Matrix can be exposed.  Joy and Sorrow  result from a personal choice to become a compassionate being, in other words, a selfless being.  These three then become one, none of them being connected to the selfish “id” or “ego.”  Compassion destroys the egotistic personality.  From that point on, the compassionate person no longer feels the need to experience selfish pleasure, or to avoid personal suffering, but do note this: only in cases when such experience or avoidance would in the least way cause loss to another – for it is wise to choose pleasure over suffering, always and suffering is not a normal or natural part of living a life here, so it should be avoided.  What is of crucial importance is that quest for pleasure and avoidance of suffering must in no way contribute to another’s loss, discomfort or pain.  The reasoning for this, though quite obvious, is usually not understood by those who do not practice compassion.  What  sort of person always puts the needs of others before her own?  The fully responsible individual.    

The compassionate being is an empath.  She does not operate from selfish motives but seeks to ever expand her behaviour into altruistic expressions.  These expressions then become her very nature.  Her goal in this is to meld herself into her choices becoming one with them, an avatar of compassion. 

Allow me to “wax poetic” for a paragraph here: 

The compassionate, the empath,
Joy-full or Sorrow-full
never resisting the currents
as the waves of the sea
respond to winds and currents:
a human bridge between light and darkness
that a new species of the human family
may take its first timid steps,
learning to walk between worlds,
neither fearing the darkness,
nor clinging to the light.

The more we seek to join with extremes, the more we must suffer the ever-present need of some form of violence within our emotions.  Violence isn’t engendered in darkness anymore than in light – violence expresses from the need to experience extreme behaviour, whether directly or vicariously.  Two things promote violence: fear and hubris.  Two weaknesses the compassionate empath no longer encounters in her own mind, or heart.

Our type of life demands duality – we need to finally accept that because without duality there is no balance.  Just as opposite poles of a magnet cannot be “reconciled” or joined together, so it is foolishness to speak of light overcoming darkness or vice-versa. 

Why not abandon the endless, pointless quest for the high or the low; for heaven or for hell?  We can become shadow beings, living freely and fully between opposite forces that are there but to maintain an in-between space for us – in perpetual balance.  Two solutions to two major Earthian problems would immediately happen: end of war and maybe more importantly, end of misogyny.  Would it not be worth a try, or even any amount of personal sacrifice, to reach this place? 

I’ve said these things before, many times, and I know I will continue to say them until I no longer can.  My point in all of this is to clarify some bits and pieces of the many misconceptions people hold about so many things.  Might be worth giving it some thought.  At this point in our failing civilization, what have we got to lose? 

I tell stories, I’m not an advice giver – that never works.  Having said that, secure in the knowledge that no one will follow it and later blame me when the proverbial doo-doo hits the equally proverbial fan, let me give you some advice (don’t you just love contradictions?).  Let me give you  a key to understanding the process involved in being a change agent. 

When you go on to ponder a solution to a problem, or talk about it, or write about it, or even do something about it, keep this in mind, it will save you much disappointment: look back upon history and your own personal experience and ask, “has this been tried before?  If it worked, is it still working?  Is it gaining strength, overcoming the negativity it was set up to do?”  If your answer to these basic question is a clear “no” then you need to come up with an entirely new solution.  Warning: if you insist on fiddling around with any aspects of the old “tried and failed” solutions, no new way will show itself.

My sincere apologies for that “finger pointing” ending.  I don’t know how else to communicate this point emphatically.  In any case, only those so inclined will take it personally.  Small consolation, but better than nothing…

“Energy medicine is powerful, all right.  I had a magnetic healing session a few weeks ago and I was stuck to my refrigerator door for two days.” — Swami Beyondananda. 

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Thoughts and ideas – Passing through the Eye of the Needle

                                  [thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

[Quote from: A Quantum Murder – Peter F. Hamilton]:  CTC’s:  Closed Time-like Curve or loop through space-time.

“These microscopic holes through space-time are too small for physical objects to pass through, so he suggested that they facilitate the exchange of pure data. Your mind [ ] is quite literally connected with billions, trillions, of other minds; a vast repository of visual images, smells, tastes, and memories. This so-called psychic trait in certain humans is no more than a superior interpretation ability, you can make sense of our cosmological heritage, filter out the scream of the white noise jumble, pick over the bones.” [unquote]

I’m thinking of the saying: passing through the eye of the needle.  Microscopic holes through space-time too small for physical objects to pass through: could this mean only someone “conscious” can travel through the eye of the needle?  Someone in pure consciousness having no physical presence, i.e., no attachments to anything – to any THING?  Question: is “consciousness” a thing?  Is spirit a thing?  Can something non-physical, non-measurable, non-sensually apprehendable be a thing?  If nothing (no thing) is impossible (coming back to that) can a thought that gives a name to a non-thing be possible?  If I can name it, it must exist, however improbable that may appear.  Can one say something that isn’t without making it real; without giving it some definition in this “real time, real space” reality in which the defining thought is uttered? Can ‘existence’ be and not be real, as we are forced to understand the term, real?

More questions:  Are there (is there such a thing as) psychic powers?  If there are, could they be explained rationally, scientifically?  And, of course, if they cannot be explained in a physical sense, does that invalidate the concept entirely?  Or, is man’s lopsided science once again wrong in addressing something it has no business doing?  Is science now replacing religion in making pronouncements about aspects of life it is not designed to study and theorize upon?  Like the pathos of today’s religions coming face to face with thousands of years of ignorant and deliberate lies, is science gradually thrashing its way out of its natural waters to suffocate on an alien shore like a beached whale?

Existence; reality; actuality; personality: can these “exist” outside the atomic/sub-atomic structure?  Outside the physical universe?  Think in reverse: could there be physical existence without a non-physical underlying structure replete with an intelligence so massive it is immeasurable, incomprehensible, unknowable?

I know I’ve been around and around this old tree standing alone in the middle of the prairie, but could I have been chasing myself with another self from another reality?  Same tree, same prairie, different time, different “parallel” universe or universes, for that matter?  Ok, perhaps not the same tree or same prairie, just images of same, doppelgangers, identical realities, and “I” traveling between them, thinking I’m anchored in the same space-time but in fact flying about at an exponentially expanding faster than light rate?

I already know mind-wise that the fact of the matter is we are travelers on an endless maze of possibilities stretching, not in a straight line but arrowing away from, and towards, the “self” in every possible direction, out and in.  Riders of the cosmos.  From ever to forever, and our own private mind the guidance system of this vast and ever-expanding ship taking us through cosmic reality as best it can.  As there is no rest for the wicked, there is even less for the aware mind.  It needs no sleep.  Using data for fuel, it maintains itself upon experience after experience, growing, changing, adapting, learning and ever pushing back the darkness that is its unknowing.

Someone will ask, so, have you encountered God in these travels?  God, you will answer truthfully, was left behind in another space-time continuum.  God is man’s quandary, his paradox.  God is the painting which evolving mind-man has been working on since inception, becoming both, man’s greatest thought and his greatest nightmare.  God is not something the self-aware independent questing mind spends energy querying.  Enough of that long ago when she needed artificial wings to stay aloft; when “she” – the now free mind – existed on only one straight line of space-time and sought rest from its labours, as in, “Come to me all ye who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”  When on her tombstone they caused it to be written: “Requiescat in pace” – Rest in Peace.

Now is not the time to sit and ponder possibilities, as in, “to be or not to be.”  It’s now the critical state that allows one free mind to create light to leave as a beacon within the tunnel of space-time.  There will be other travelers who will appreciate that some small parts of their quest have already been traveled and they will thank the long-gone strangers who went before and left markers.  I know I am thankful for the parts I found already lit up.

[Quote again]:  “I used to see decreasing probabilities. Tau lines, we call them; right out in the far future there were millions of them, wild and outrageous; then you start to come closer to the present, and they begin to merge, probabilities become more likely, taming down. The closer you come to the present, the more likely they get, and the fewer. Then you reach the now, and there’s only one tau line left, it’s not probability any more, it has become certainty. That’s why I’m not surprised you only saw one past, because there is only one now.”

“Alternative futures, but no alternative past[?]”

“The future isn’t a place, don’t make that mistake,” [ ] “It’s a concept. I’ve steered people away from hazards often enough to know. The future is a speculative nebula, the past is solid and irrefutable. Taken from the psychic viewpoint, anyway,” [unquote]

Is that so?  Or is that just a convenient statement to end an uncomfortable moment in thought?  The aware mind knows that the so-called “past” is just as much riding on all the wave-fronts, tau lines or infinite directions as is the future.  Just because someone can only see one past, or even if ten billion individuals locked in group-mind step agree on only one solid past, that doesn’t change the fact that one individual not locked in; one free mind can see the past differently.

I imagine picking up a novel and opening it up at random.  To make sense of the reading, the mind instantly creates a “past” to anchor the present presented in the book.  That past may resemble the one implied by the story, or it may not.  But if I continue reading forward, “my” substituted past is now the past for all the characters in the book.  I read them through my particular vision of what their past was.  The interesting thing is, they don’t care because they can’t remember: they’re just characters in a book.

That is the state any as yet unaware, non-questing mind is in.  It has no power to question or change whatever past its Past Makers, particularly history, mythology and anthropology, give it.  They cling to the pendulum and from one end of the arc to the other, they only see the so-called present.  Is there a god in charge of winding the clock and keeping the pendulum of time moving?  One omnipresent God?

The unaware mind cannot travel therefore it must accept that there is a “present” that is formed by an unchanging past and is constantly moving into a preset future it cannot know.  It resembles sailors upon the deck of a tall ship caught in the doldrums – “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”  It can extrapolate; it can guess; it can wish – but it can’t know. The present is a prison; a prop; a permanence island; the lotus flower; forgetfulness. Present-dwelling people, like the lotus-eaters, live in a drugged state, going through the motions of being alive, yet always waiting for someone, something, to happen so they can experience something different; something new.  A new house, long weekend, new baby, retirement, hockey game.  Many lotus eaters believe in some blissful after-life (thus subconsciously admitting they are going into a non-life state!) while others simply spin away their days until, like a child’s top, the spinning slows, then stops: the top falls over.

The aware mind abides not; is always in motion.  It cannot relate to any state that implies rest: that would mean death, and the final death is the mind-death. The aware mind exists in a state of detachment and awe of life.  Ever questing, expanding, analyzing, questioning, judging, discerning… never satisfied.

What more could I say, Today?

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  as expressed by Sha’Tara]

When I dare myself to write about the concept of compassion, what am I thinking?  What am I feeling?  What are my motives?

I thought I should enter into that monologue, it’s crucially important, I think.

Check: trying to impress?
I looked at that possibility, for pride is one of those vices adept at boldly walking through unlocked back doors or slinking through a partially open window, picking the most comfortable chair in the sitting room and saying, “Ah, this is home.”  I have had my days, long ago, when this was the case.  I have known popularity and experienced a degree of “fandom” which people smarter than I exploited.  Pride sustained me… and damn near killed me.  So today I can unequivocally say, “No, it is not pride that is driving my thoughts and desires now.”  I can’t work with pride.  It hurts me whenever it hovers near.

Check: the need to be believed?
There is no denying that “to be believed” is a powerful motivator.  I could easily change how I approach the subject of compassion in ways that bring individuals into my own created wake of thoughts, and locally, into my commitments and deeds.  I could start a group, a movement, register a “charitable” organization, raise money, etc.  Not difficult when you know how and you’ve been trained in it.  So I take a long and deep look at my motives and again I can say, I’ve been there; so many have been there, gained a following, and for what?  Did those followers benefit at all?  Did their lives change when they became followers?  Not at all.  A follower is just that.  A follower remains unempowered and worse, becomes more dis-empowered, filled with self-doubts.

Check: the hope that I can be the cause of palpable change?
That sounds quite altruistic, doesn’t it?  I could claim, “not for me, but for the good of (fill in the blanks)” and what comes next if I discover that yes, I did cause some change?  The unavoidable Siren call for more.  Success, however small, calls for more success.  It’s the System, how it works.  The Matrix doesn’t care if you do good or evil, it’s all the same when it becomes personal, and important.  Note that word: important.  Once we reach some level of importance, it becomes self-importance: there’s that hubris.  I may not acknowledge that I care, but everything in me, and around me, will demand that I produce more of this success.  Inevitable.  So, do I want to see palpable change from my own words or deeds?  No, not ever.  It is not for me to see it, or hear of it.

Check: the “need” to feel special, holy, superior?
Good question.  Why do I leave working for myself, eschew gainful work to go help a stranger in need who can’t afford to repay me?  What’s really behind that?  I have been a very religious person and I remember what was lurking behind my “good deeds” then.  There always was an agenda.  I wasn’t primarily helping, I was fishing for conversions.  There is only one word to describe that: hypocrisy.  The sin of the “Pharisees” in the gospels, but we were very good at hiding that from our own motivation.  So, do I want to feel those things?  I do feel them, sure, but I can state truthfully that I reject those feelings.  I am not special, “holy” or superior.  I am a servant with no other title.  I know this and I accept that this self-chosen path is the only way I will ever come to a blending of personality with compassion.

What has this changed life demonstrated to me over the last decades?  That every day can be “Christmas” in the giving sense.  I learned what giving is all about, and what it does to me.  So… I give, and give, and give and am I depleted, either of resources or personal energy?  Not at all.  I am like a tree planted at the edge of a great desert, growing tall and strong because every night an “angel” comes and pours water over my roots.  That “angel” is compassion and in time he and I will become as one and it is I who will carry the watering can that never empties.

There is no denying that I “want” something; that I have an agenda.  But what I have chosen to desire can in no way cause harm to anyone or anything else – while I am fully engaged in my quest.  Compassion is as superior to all other “virtues” as “heaven” would be from “hell.”  Many would, and will, deny this.  They will bring up “love” as another means of changing oneself, or the world.  Perhaps they will bring up other “virtues” to challenge my claim that only compassion can work without harming.  Only compassion.

How is compassion different from love which is considered the greatest of all virtues?  Only those who have made their purpose to literally become compassion can know the simple answer to that.  For others it must remain words, semantics, and their endless interpretations.  For all others, no explanation can ever satisfy, or be acceptable.

Check:  compassion is self-empowered.  It is a “stand alone” program that once fully integrated into the individual, becomes its sole operating system.  Compassion does not come surrounded by a bevy of other virtues.   Compassion is not reciprocal – those who talk about these things seem to completely miss, or ignore, this crucial point.  It means that compassion requires no support from anything or anyone.  It needs no confirmation.  It has absolutely no expectation of any positive or even negative, results.  A compassionate individual doesn’t care about results; doesn’t need affirmation or confirmation.   She just “does it” because that is her nature.   Will she be praised, ignored, reviled?  None of that matters.  Goddess-earth1

Let me quote from one of the Teachers, again:  “When none of it matters, it will all be yours.” (YLea of the WindWalkers)  They never explained this, and that was long before I decided I would be an avatar of compassion.  I simply did not know there was a connection but now I do.  None of “it” matters to me, and now I know what “it will all be yours” means.  It means taking responsibility for all of it.  It means to allow myself to be turned inside out and become an empath.  It means becoming a compassionate human and no turning back, whatever comes.

What more could I say, today?  Through a willingness to “serve” without asking questions I have become a gift unto myself.  A sobering thought, that.

                                [thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

Given the way global and local events are developing, a serious observation can give but one conclusion: that long-talked about collapse of civilization is going to take place.  It probably will not be tomorrow, or next month, or next year.  It may not happen in ten years, or fifty.  The forces orchestrating the collapse of man’s “great” accomplishments are on the job, so to speak, but not all are totally committed to their task.  With all the moving and shaking, who knows but we may yet enjoy some reprieve, some years of relative calm and peace.  Unlikely but possible. 

That said and out of the way, I’m currently reading a dystopian novel called “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi.  It’s centered in the US – namely the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.  The droughts have been severe and finally it’s been realized that water is at a premium.  Acts of sabotage and quasi-civil war take place between farmers, states, and cities fighting for water, and those fighting to keep their water rights: fighting for survival.  It’s a horrible time for all involved, with massive movements of displaced persons or refugees leaving farms, towns and cities that have lost out to the highest or most aggressive bidders and find themselves literally without water. 

It’s not too difficult at this point to see how this could happen, and in a short time.  Even flooding is not a good gauge to use to measure drought: there’s short term and long term, and man should learn to reason and act long term, but so far that ability has quite eluded the creature.

I want to end this with a quote from the novel: [Maria Villarosa, a young girl alone and lost in the chaos] “Why?” she asked, finally.  “Why are you so nice?  It doesn’t make sense.  I’m not your woman.  I’m not your people.”

[Toomie, an old black man] “We’re all each other’s people.  Just like we’re all our brothers’ keepers.  We forget it sometimes.  When everything’s going to pieces, people can forget.  But in the end?  We’re all in it together.  You are my people, Maria.  No question in my mind.”

No question in my mind either, not now.  But it took many years to work that simple addition to arrive at the correct answer.  And even now, having made compassion and service my purpose, my passion, the selfish thoughts and times arise.  Not as powerfully as they once did, but it is still a narrow path from which it is easy to stray and stray too far you won’t find it again.  That is my one fear: that I would follow some will o’ the wisp, some lure, some promise of a short cut and find myself hopelessly lost.  So I gnaw at this compassion bone, and drag it around with me.  If I bury it at the end of the day, I make sure to dig it up again in the morning and drag it along to worry it some more. 

Some might say, why should we care?  You live, you die, case closed.  That works for those who convince themselves that is how it is.  There are some of us, and you may pity us indeed, who happen to k-n-o-w that death is not an end but a passage, and a sort of test.  On the other side there are no “things,” no pretty bodies with seductive smiles to win over the judges, no Olympic gold medals, no Nobel or Pulitzer prizes, no stacks of money, no deeds to any plantation.  Yes, there are deeds, and that’s the problem.  Our deeds, my deeds.  My thoughts.  My words.  These are my judges, after death has done its thing and stripped me of all those physical “things” that don’t mean a thing at the end of the path. 

So yes, it’s going to happen.  In this life, in the next, whatever.  What matters to me is preparedness.  Knowing how to face to chaos when it comes.  Note that I’m not saying the sky is falling, I’m merely saying that we should all take advantage of this warning time to teach ourselves how to respond… properly, as compassionate and caring individuals.  Not as survivors – these die last – but as sharing and giving people, for if I have and my neighbour does not, I’m but half-alive until I share.  Openly, freely. 

Just thought I’d pass that along.  It’s what’s been filling my days (and dreams) lately, while the wild fires continue to burn.  A picture of a smoke-filled sunrise taken a week ago.  The smoke continues… though somewhat abating in the Lower Mainland (B.C., Canada) 

Listening in Time

(short story,  by Sha’Tara)

“I know you are keen, and willing.  Good traits in a researcher.  But you are missing the key ingredients.  You must sit quietly, by yourself, for hours, maybe days, and listen in time.  Listen to the voices of the dead, and the pre-incarnate.  They are in the voices of “others” and in the sounds of the earth: the wind, the cracking soil, the moving grains of sand, the patter of the rain on scrabbly hard-pan soil.  They come on the heat waves.  Sometimes they get playful and paint mirages which tell stories from within your own heart and soul which your tired and bleary eyes will translate into images of desires.  

If you do not learn to listen, all you will accomplish in these places as you sift through dirt and rubble is collect garbage.  It will be recognizable as works of the people but it will reveal no stories, no myths, no history.  These you will have to create from your own imagination and trust me on this, it will not be the same stories as what was, even if the entire world should buy your interpretations.  Honest archaeologists are a rare breed but there is nothing written, either in this desert or in mountains, that says you can not be one of that small group.  When you teach yourself the secret of time listening the people who made and used the objects you unearth, they will tell you their stories.  Some will seem strange and some will be, to your modern understanding, quite unbelievable, but just listen.  It is not your call to re-interpret the lives of others according to your current knowledge: that is sacrilege.  Let the ghosts speak; let them tell their story, and accept it at face value.  It may be that they lie to you, but let it be: do not add insult to injury by adding to the lies.  After all, as you will discover in time, all of your history is lies.  There is no truth to be found on this world, or in this universe.  We know, we’ve been looking for millions of your years and there is no such chimera.”

I was young then, and I’d been experimenting with the local flora under the auspices of a would-be witch doctor who called himself George but whose real name was an unpronounceable Mexican word that sounded like apple-cotle or aptly cotli.  This particular drug induced “time dreams” he had told me, and… “You should only smoke a small amount at sunset.  Sit against a rock, or a tree if you can find one, and set your mind free to roam.  Do not try anything, just let it all go.  It is the time of the spirits and sometimes one of them will notice you and approach you with a story, or some advice.  Just listen and do not try to make any judgment about what you hear, or think you hear.  Put your own thoughts aside and just absorb.” 

I smoked slowly, not eagerly, trying to practice “wisdom” in my folly.  How long I sat against the rock that dug into my back, feeling the sand getting cold beneath me, I don’t know.  Darkness came and the sky exploded with myriads of pin-points of lights: star, planets, meteors, even satellites and flashing lights of planes.  Time passed and I no longer felt the cold, nor the loneliness or that deep fear of the dark unknown.  I “slept” with eyes open, hearing and learning to listen.  I heard small animals squeaking to one-another, some unrecognizable insects repeating endless calls; owls, even one loud shriek of what could only be some wild cat, cougar perhaps.  It didn’t matter.

It seemed as if I’d become a part of the landscape, an extension of the rock I leaned against.  I felt a deep well-being; a thoroughly unfamiliar certainty.  I was “here” and “here” was where I belonged.  This was “home” like nothing had ever been.  “Here I sit, and here I remain,” I thought, against all common sense.  I felt the cold, hunger and thirst but it did not matter to this “me” that was being absorbed by the land, the air, the sky, the universe, the cosmos.  In that time I was no longer a body-centered, or physical being.  I was a member of the cosmic races, with a part of me resting upon a planet called earth – a very small, very strange planet. 

That’s when the voice came to my mind; when I heard the words I quoted above. 

I have been digging up history in this part of the world for almost fifty years now.  I’ve become old and bent.  My skin is like that of a lizard, dry and scaly, with brown spots.  I’ve loved being naked in the sun and it has left its marks on my body but I don’t care.  He was my lover and I cherish his touch still.  I haven’t become famous.  No best seller came from my notes; no following.  People came here to dig with me, and left to seek fame and fortune.  Some managed it, returning to tell me about it.  Some even provided funds so I could remain here, on my wind-swept plateaus digging up ghost stories; me, the crazy Canadian who should have been more at home on the snowy wilds of northern Canada, than here. 

To the local people, I am “loca perdida” or the crazy one, though many come just to be with me, or to listen to my stories.  They come to get me sometimes, either with a jeep, or even a donkey, and take me to a village feast so they can hear some of my stories about their ancient peoples.  They seem to have no difficulty believing me, and I have wondered about that.  Do they also listen in time? They “pay” me in food, or in new blankets for my tents or shelters.  Good people, all of them.  I’ve always felt safe here; not sure I could have managed that in cities where people crowd unhappily together, hardly ever getting to know each other though rubbing shoulders every day.  How sad is that life, I think.

Here I remain.  Here I belong for my body’s time being.  Here I taught myself to listen in time and it is here that I will die so another archaeologist, another time listener, can find bits and pieces of my presence in this place and unearth my own story – a story that will have meaning only to her and the few who carry our vision of living in time.  

How I wish I could express, in words, how blessed my life has been and how much I look forward to new digs out there in the stars, knowing that when I sit down and look up I will see more stars.

The Times After (conclusion)

   [Short story, by Sha’Tara]

For some time, Lon watched Reuben as he disappeared, then a cry from the orphanage made him turn and run to the ramshackle building.  Two of the adults were already there, calming the children and bending over one three year old lying on the ground, the little body thrashing, if feebly.  Sweet little Amri.

“What’s wrong with her, does anyone know?”

“Maybe something she ate.  The children are chewing on anything they can eat.  They’re all in terrible pain, Lon.

“I know, Maggie.  I agree, we need to move, no more delays.  We’ll get started right now, pack what we can, hide what we can’t carry and go.”

“Where?”

“Ruben said he’d go north if he was free to do so.  He walked west when he left, but you know Ruben – he’d do that automatically just to confuse anyone wanted to follow or track him.  I know he’d turn as soon as he was out of sight, but which way?  I wish now we’d gone with him.  We’ll have a quick meeting in about an hour and decide our direction, then we’ll just go.  We cannot stay here, there’s nothing left to eat, and the water is no longer safe to drink.”

Soon the miserable camp was stripped and obliterated of recent human habitation as much as was possible.  The children were lined up and given a rope to hang on to.  The meeting was short: they would go east; no reason why except a secret vote turned up a majority of two for an eastern direction. 

Lon was bitterly disappointed, he’d hoped they would try to follow Ruben, though he well knew that was impossible.  He left his message for Ruben and they began their danger-fraught quest for food and water.  Already Lon had violated one of Ruben’s warnings, to only travel at night.  Adults took turns carrying little Amri and the weaker children.  The rest of the children began to lose some of their listlessness as they noticed changes along the route.

Evening saw the group drop down into a small gully, to hide and for protection.  Kamal, one of the strongest adults, went off in search of water which against so many odds, he did find.  Everybody searched for edible plants and roots and some of the hunger was assuaged for a time.  Night came and the small fire was doused so it wouldn’t create a glow.  The people slept on the ground, in their old rags.  Dried grasses had been stacked to lay little Amri and two other sickly children upon and each had an adult companion to keep them cuddled and reassured.  The stars came out, harsh and bright, flickering like cold, unseeing eyes.  Unable to help himself, Lon who was one of the sentry detail, walked a short distance away from the fitful and fretting sleepers and looked into the sky, turning slowly as he did so. 

“Where are you Ana?” he thought to himself.  “You promised and you must know we are in dire straights now.  We need your help; I need you here.  Don’t let Ruben be right about this.  I’m desperately counting on you.  You know I’m a terrible leader and here I am, leader by default.  This is too much responsibility…”

Morning came early, gray and cold before the sun could rise.  The hungry troop stood up, drank some water, and took to the land again, walking in the general direction of the sunrise.  Everybody, even the children, walked slower, looking for plants and roots to eat.  Hopelessness more than sadness pervaded the group.  Who could blame them? 

Finally the sun was high enough to beam down some energy into their wasted bodies.  Laughter even erupted from some children as they noticed a butterfly.

“Follow it,” said one of the women, “it may lead us to some edible flowers, or even berries.”  There was a bit of a chase, but the children were cautioned not to interfere with the insect’s path.  Suddenly it rose up and they thought they’d lost it but it came down again to disappear behind a dip in the flat ground.  They came to the edge and looked down upon a miracle, a regular feast.  An entire embankment was covered in blackberries, more or less ripe. 

Lon cautioned his charges: “I know you are very hungry but these plants will hurt you terribly if you wander in them carelessly.  We have nothing to bind rips and tears in skin.  Please use extreme caution.  Do not be in any hurry, we will camp here.  There are many green things here, there must be water also.”

Kamal went out on water detail again, he seemed to have a knack for finding it, and he did find potable water – warm but quenching nevertheless.  The blackberries did not give up their bounty without bloodshed but they proved adequate to ease the group’s hunger.  That was a good ending to what had started as a very dismal day.

That night Lon had a dream.

It wasn’t Ana who came to him in the dream, but his older sister whom he had watched being gang-raped and die in one of the hunters’ camps.  She stood on the open ground, away from the camp.  He walked over to her. 

“Hello Lon, it’s nice to see you again.  I’ve missed you terribly.  I’m sorry I abandoned you in the camp but my body wouldn’t hold on any longer.  I knew you had survived and escaped.  How are you?” 

“I’m so glad to see you Nan, you have no idea.  I’m OK, but we’re in a very precarious situation here, the people I mean.  We need help.  The children are weakening; some are sick.”

“I know that, but things must take their course, Lon.  In a way it’s your own fault that things are this bad.”

“How can you say that, Nan?  How dare you!  I’ve done everything I could to help here…”

“From your point of view, yes, but did you listen to those who may have known more?  Did you listen to Ruben, or were you so worried about his wild streak, his atavism, that you refused to trust his better survivalist judgment?  Didn’t he counsel to take the group away several months ago when the drought started?  Didn’t you think he’d know where to take you all if you followed him?  Did you think that he was trying to gain control of the group and were jealous of him?  Weren’t you afraid he would break your rules when he deemed necessary to save lives?   I know you Lon.  You mean well, but you have never really mined those deeper aspects of your nature: the fearful, the coward and the user – those aspects of one’s personality that become the controller; which reside in your subconscious.  It’s those things that killed Ana, and have brought you to these straights.”

“What do you know of Ruben, or Ana?  How can you possibly know what’s in my subconscious?  How can you know anything if you accuse me of killing Ana?  I loved her!”

“Of course you did.  You never realized you loved her too much under the circumstances, and you strangled her.  She didn’t know because in her own way she loved you too, but you choked her those many times when you insisted she come away from her duties to be with you.  She was conflicted; didn’t know where to stand between your demands, and the needs of the people.  Oh yes, you killed her.  She was an empath, Lon.  If you had allowed her full freedom to live her nature she’d still be here, with all of you, and she’d be laughing with you tonight.”

“It’s a dream, just a dream,” said Lon in the dream, “isn’t it?”

“If you want, but it is much more than a dream.  I’m here to help, Lon, but you must do as I tell you – exactly as I tell you – when you wake up into your real world.  You will abandon any idea of leading this little group.  Someone much more suitable is going to appear during the coming day.  Your hopes for the group will be fulfilled, but not the way you hoped they would be.  When help arrives, this is what you must do: walk away north, into the wilderness, by yourself.  Do not turn back, do not come back.  Your own redemption or your death, await in the young re-grown northern forests.  You will meet some people there and they will teach you about real love which is compassion.  I will see you again, Lon.  Goodbye.”

He watched her fade in the pale moonlight and woke up drenched in sweat.  Immediately he began to shake violently.  He got up, stretched and went on a short run to warm up, all the while thinking about his dream.

“That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare!”  he thought.  Then he saw the possibility that it had been a vision.  “Morning will tell, tomorrow will tell.  I’ll wait until help arrives, I’ll see.”

Strange times call for strange events.  By the middle of the next day, as most of the people were busy gathering berries, eating, hauling water or keeping the children in line, the very first event of Lon’s dream came to pass: Ruben returned from his quest.  He approved of the stopping place with a few nods.  Always somewhat taciturn, he was even quieter than usual.  Lon queried him.

“What brings you back so soon, and how did you find us?”  Ruben frowned, then started talking:

“A blind man could have tracked your group Lon.  Haven’t I taught you anything at all about being circumspect?  What’s all around you, any idea?  What lurks out there?  What’s watching?  What’s scenting the air?  What’s listening?  Anyway, I saw your sign, and read your message at the old camp.  Also, I smelled your smoke – it travels a long way in this light breeze.  But that’s no longer your concern.  I’m taking over guiding this little group, for however long it takes before we get the help we were promised.”

“Say that again?  The help we were promised?  What do you mean by that?”

“I had a vision.  Saw a woman who claimed she was your sister.  She said that Ana had sent her.  She explained about your, well, character defects.  I already knew that, it’s partly why I had to leave, see?  Anyway the vision woman asked me to return to the group and be the guide until Ana and her people are ready and able to rescue and relocate those of the group who want it.  She said they’d all been waiting for you but you wouldn’t see it, so they decided to violate a bit of “prime directive” by contacting me.

You know me Lon.  You know I would not make this up – I don’t believe in any of this.  Somehow though, that woman, your sister, was very convincing. 

“Now you have to go.  Sorry, but it’s got to be short goodbyes.  Take whatever you want, or think you might need and head north.  She said Ana will meet with you when you’ve been gone long enough.  North, Lon, north.  It’s all waiting for your there.   Once my stint here is done, I’ll be tracking up myself – I won’t be going with Ana’s people, even if they’re only relocating the people to another part of this earth.  This, this land, this continent, is my world.  I belong here.

“I still don’t believe this, but irrational as it all is, I understand.  It’s not about belief, it’s the flow, just as in the wild.  All anyone needs to do is walk in the great flow of things.  The only time we must struggle is in opposition to those who do not walk in the flow of life.  That’s what gives rise to endless conflict.  I sensed your need to impose change and values.  You can’t wish, desire or impose non-violence anymore than you can stop a meat grinder by sticking your fingers in it, Lon. 

“I know this is harsh for you at the moment; you’re hurt and angry, but  you’ll learn.  The loneliness and the wild will teach you; the north, with its cold and its pristine snows will cleanse you and change you.  If you’re worried about food or shelter, observe the animals and the birds and learn: they’re the best teachers in the wild.  I’ll see you again, in the spring.”    

     

The Times After

[Short story, by Sha’Tara]

The voices came from the branch and stone shelter partially sunk in a sloping dry creek bank.  Two men talked quietly.

“They’re coming, Ruben, I know it.  Just be patient, remember.”

“Not sure I can continue to remember, Lon, and I’m definitely out of patience.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way, or this long.  I was down at the orphanage yesterday with a handful of what were little more than weeds I’d picked over my usual wandering in search of edibles.  The children are starving Lon.  Don’t you care?  If this drought doesn’t break and water start flowing very soon we won’t even have water to drink. 

I’ve wandered over the flats as you know, looking for another more suitable place to make our winter quarters.  I haven’t found anything yet.  I’ve decided to leave and go away in search of a new place.  I may be gone for weeks, maybe a couple of months.  I’ll need to take the rifle, Lon.  I’ve also made myself a good strong longbow and a dozen straight arrows I can use to bring down game, or for self defense.  I’ll return, never fear.”

“Now there’s the problem right here Ruben.  When we came together after the last collapse and our escape from the slave hunters, we gathered as a group to help each other survive and to take care of the twenty eight children we rescued from the hunters, remember that.  We still have twenty three of these children living, none old enough to do much, certainly few strong enough to join the adults in the gathering of food and building shelters or collecting wood for fuel.  That, I do admit.  The nine adults of this community are, however, fairly healthy and are learning the arts of survival very quickly.  So far we have had no deserters or detractors.  Only one death.

“We are, as much as can be claimed, of one mind on our reason for surviving.  You remember when we decided not to commit mass suicide, but to build a new society, for the time being, of just us.  We don’t know what’s left out there.  We’ve been here over three years and I realize that with this drought we’ve exhausted the land’s capacity to grow food for us.  I know we need to find a more sheltered place and we need to locate near a permanent stream, or else find a river, or a large enough lake that it can purify itself with the change of seasons.  We’ve talked about all of this.  So in the going, I support you though I think you should take one other with you.”

“I won’t Lon.  I can’t be responsible for myself and one other and no one here can survive in the wilderness as I can, and I certainly won’t have the time to teach her, or him, skills and intuitions that one has to be born with.  As you’ve all said, I’m a throwback to a time before the collapse and before there was a civilized society of man.  As you know, I’m here to help and support.  If I had a free choice I’d be long gone.  I like living alone and moving on constantly.  My feet and my mind itch to be away from this stagnant, dying place.  I need to go.  I promise I’ll return.  I won’t get lost or die out there: that’s my home we’re looking at beyond that indeterminate horizon.”

“I know that about you Ruben.  Without you at the beginning we’d been all dead, or captured.  But there is something else.  Something that your atavism blocks from your consciousness: the matter of how we go about surviving.  I know you stayed out of the group when we discussed our goals as survivors.  But you did join us in taking an oath against predatory violence.  Violence in self defense we could only hope to avoid, but knew we may have to resort to it in an extremity.  That’s why we kept the gun and let you train some of the people with the bows and the knives.  But now you say you will go, take the gun to use to, and I quote, “bring down game. 

“You took the oath not to kill except in extreme situations.  Never for food.  We gave up the shedding of blood entirely.  Do you remember why?  We spent days discussing the subject of a new human civilization, a new society, a new culture.  We admitted to ourselves that our downfall had been our violence towards the planet, non-human sentient life on it and towards one-another as a species, often for nothing more than profit, too often in sadistic pleasure.  We concluded that re-building society was totally pointless if we did not change the very thing that destroyed us.  You were there, sitting behind the others listening.

“Convinced or not, you took the oath of non-violence.  When you use that horrible expression, “bring down game” the key word is game.  It was a game in the old ways.  Even war was a game.  Oppressing, subjugating, dispossessing, enslaving, raping and murdering, even to committing war crimes and genocide, that was all a game.  That game killed us, remember that.

“We took an oath, all of us adults, to change this.  We decided that we would indeed build a truly new society.  You remember Ana, small, wiry, tireless Ana who literally gave her life to save many of the abused and malnourished children, as well as binding wounds and broken bones among adult survivors.  She would never tell how she learned her skills, or gained her healing powers.  She wouldn’t talk about herself, instead leading us in meditations and encouraging us to take the oath of non-violence, to seek not only help and support, but make ourselves as one with the earth and the skies.  Remember how she would go into the open place where the sun and wind had parched our meager efforts at growing crops, and stand there for what seemed hours, staring into space?  Do you remember how she’d capture our interest talking about “her people” whom she would bring back to help us?  Oh, Ana… why is it taking you so long?  You’ve been gone almost a year now…”

“She didn’t “leave” Lon, she died.  She died!  Her body is buried out there with the dead children.  She didn’t go anywhere!  She isn’t coming back.  There never were any other people, whether angels or aliens or what-have-you.  She deliberately fooled you thinking it was for the best, that you would never give up as long as you held on to the hope that she would rescue you.  You need to believe it.  I don’t, and I never did.  What we don’t do ourselves doesn’t get done; will never get done.  It strikes me as somewhat contradictory that you would build a new world without violence yet surreptitiously you allow religion to creep back into it.  Don’t you realize that “Ana” is becoming an idol in your mind?  Don’t you remember that civilization’s very first poison was faith in unseen entities from which all the evils known to man evolved?”

“I know what you are saying, Ruben, but it’s different this time.  Ana isn’t an angel or divinity.  I know she died, how well do I know.  She was my wife, Ruben, and my lover.  Her death was the most painful event of my entire life, and believe me when I tell you that I have seen things when I was a child I could never write down in words – things too horrible… and felt the pain of it all, some of it upon my own body.  Yet they are as nothing to the void and emptiness Ana’s death created in my heart.  To survive her loss I swore to her privately that I would switch my love for her to my love for this world and in particular the people of this little tribe.  She also swore to me that she would return with help for us.  I will never give up on that.  Some people die, Ruben, and some just pass away.  Ana was one of the latter.  You give your whole life to others, and you are given your own life in return.  It’s how it is.”

“It’s how it is for you and I assure you that I fully accept that.  It isn’t how it is for me, and now I need to go find us a decent place to re-locate to.  How shall that go between us, Lon?”

“I am not your leader, Ruben.  I’ve reminded you of certain obligations and now it’s up to you how you proceed within those boundaries, or whether you break out of them and choose to become once again a wild one.  You leave with my blessing, however you leave.  The weapons are your decision and your personal burden.  Come with me, let me show you something important.”

The two men came out of the shelter and Lon walked to a clump of stunted black willows.  Partially hidden within the clump, nailed to one of the main trunks, was a short cross piece of wood that would, with a bit of pressure, spin vertically.

“This was how Ana and I communicated when we had to leave the area.  We would spin the cross piece to indicate direction – the top being north.  Below, here are three holes indicating morning, noon and evening.  You put a small stone in the one closest to when you expect to return.  Crude but useful.  If we are to be gone before you return I’ll attempt to leave you a decipherable message here.  If time permits; if it isn’t a rush exit, I’ll write something in the dirt floor of the old barn that serves as “the orphanage” and cover it with planks.  Look for the planks.”

The two men looked into each others’ faces, then hugged without hesitation.  Backing away from each other, Ruben added,

“If you must leave here before I return and your hoped-for help hasn’t arrived, remember this: travel at night, hide in the daytime; stay in the lowest places and post a minimum of three sentries at all times.  Rotate regularly, leave nothing to chance.  If I come back and you all are gone and I cannot catch up to you for whatever reason, don’t worry.  I’ll head north, far north.  It won’t matter then for me, I’ll have gone wild again.  Luck, Lon.” 

“The gun?”

“Won’t need it, you may.  I’ve got my bow and it’s a really good one.  Who knows but I may learn to eat plants and roots?”

He saluted smartly, then his silhouette shimmered away over the baked earth, his tough bare feet leaving no marks for anyone to find. 

{there will be a part II… honest!  I mean, there has to be now I typed myself into a corner with this one…}