Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games continue to blow me away at the sheer amazingness that can happen. Honestly, I can't MAKE UP the kind of garbage that happens in these worlds. For instance:
Last night, we were in a Tomb of Horrors-esque dungeon designed by an awesome roommate. There were 3 of us and it was taking our ALL just to survive-- and not even that. She had created a cheap way for us to revive ourselves within the dungeon because she WANTS us to die horrible deaths over and over again. The effect worked wonders on our character's psyches. Our paladin after dying twice basically thought that her god betrayed her and through her actions lost her paladin powers, our rogue stopped giving half a shit about traps and just kind of ran in hoping the best as he couldn't detect half the traps anyway, and I ... well I'm pretty freaking neutral good, so I hung out with my pet squirrel and hoped for the best knowing that helping was all I can do.
As it was D&D, the normal derptasticness began happening quickly. At one point in a fight with a Gibbering Mouther, our elf was confused and was sheathing/unsheathing his weapon over and over sensually, our paladin was blind and swinging wildly at a bedpost she thought was the enemy, and the two fearless halflings were throwing rocks (and rolling criticals) from afar at the foe who for no apparent reason was on top of a bunk bed.
The uniqueness began to happen when we found a magical deck of tarot cards. At this point, we were at rock bottom. We had been traveling nowhere but downward for over 4 days. Each of us had either died or been at the brink of death multiple times and suffered random personality changes (our Paladin had to wear a tutu and bells by this point but was insulted if you mentioned them) and VAST material loss because of it.
This sense of hopelessness we lived in was just enough for 2 of our 3 members to draw cards from the deck their once alloted time. Nick drew 4. The first gave him a whopping ten THOUSAND experience, putting him a good 2 levels above me and Ashley. The second summoned Death himself to have a duel with him. If he lost, he was gone forever-- no resurrection spell of ANY power or even a greater wish could bring him back. He carefully leveled himself, but he died within moments. The third and fourth sprang forth magically from the deck. The third summoned a lvl 4 fighter in the service of the drawer. The fourth randomly shifting the alignment of the drawer. Against all probability, this deck that took Nick's life instantly gave it back. A Lawful Good Fighter of the 4th level suddenly appears, confused yet exceedingly willing to help and constantly searching the Earth for one whose soul is banished forever in the hands of death himself.
Our paladin, having lost hope in her god in favor of the foul magics of this place draws next. She drew 3. She drew 50,000 experience right off the bat and was high as a kite. This would put her at the legendary status of lvl 11. Her second card imprisoned her body hundreds of miles below the surface of the Earth in suspended animation. And even after the most ridiculous shuffling I have ever seen, Death shows up again to coup de gras her. ... I didn't fucking touch the deck after that, but I had an idea. I tried to play a game with the dragon of the dungeon. He was the only thing standing in my way as I could turn into a bird and fly out of here easily if he wasn't a faster flyer than me. If there was one thing my character was good at, it was diplomacy and I managed to talk my way into a bargain with a dragon. Our fighter would have a draw-off with the dragon. If our fighter drew through SEVEN cards without dying, the dragon would have to do the same. Seven cards later, we have a legendary fighter who is considered a king on the surface, with a magical weapon that we rolled so high on I don't think entire sovereign nations could afford to buy, with the supernatural ability to know exactly what to do in the next-and-only-the-next dire situation, another lvl 4 fighter squire (this time played by Ashley as she was now perma-dead), and the only bad thing that happened was a permanent unlucky -1 to all saving throws.
No one could believe this shit. The dragon opened its mouth to incinerate us on the spot. Nick asks, "does this count as a dire situation? Ok then, I'm going to use my supernatural ability to run down these stairs before my body can react to what is going on." I reflexed my way down the stairs barely.
So here we are in a lvl 8 dungeon with a lvl 8, a lvl 11, and a lvl 4-- a strangely balanced group of exactly the size we had before hopelessness drove us to make a pact with fate. What took life, invariably gave it back. What was lost was replaced. In all the possible ways this could have unveiled, it worked out. This is the magic of tabletop gaming. There are no rules-- only guidelines. There are no plots-- only dungeons, crafted with care and yet limited only by the imagination of the DM and the machinations of fate. One can do anything and travel to the ends of every imaginable world. The strangest part is that I am not creative enough to write a story where these things happen, yet it doesn't matter because they HAPPEN regardless of what the DM plans. A supernatural life and a spirit beyond all of us weaves tales into these worlds we create and our imagination summons them into reality. I continue to play because I continue to desire to see what will happen next.
... Much is the same with life. I feel that I have every reason to stop listening to these stories, yet there are things that keep me listening. Stories that swell my heart, experiences that weigh on my soul, moments where I feel necessary, and laughter that paralyzes all else. These things cause me to continue to play this game. This life has emptied me out and that emptiness seems so unbearable at times. Yet what is empty can be filled. God. If you are inside my heart, hear my prayer. Grant me the serenity to see just one more adventure. Always-- just one more.
In my meditation, I met with a man who was fascinated with me. His studies of the spirit had brought him to this playground beyond space where I had the pleasure to meet him. His spiritual path started with the sacrum and worked upwards. Steady and happy with who he was, he awoke and opened his heart and his throat to speak, and in communication, finally became able to see and let the world flow through him. My path has been most the opposite. Like most enlightened I have met, he poked and prodded, questioned and empathized. But he did so not to question why, for at such a state, why is irrelevant-- in a way, irreverent. He sought to become one with my pain to experience it, in a way to escape the confines of his own pain, but in truth to stay reverent to the truth that all experience and all pain is his. He sought for his own wisdom, tucked away in the furthest corners of the universe, in the hearts and minds of others. In the moment in which our paths crossed, he asked me, "how do you do that?" (Maybe one day I will tell you what he was talking about) I told him: "there are a million voices speaking in this world, but only one heart. I do what I do by asking myself to listen to that one heart tells me to do first, and hear the rest only after."
My response was completely opposite of his path to here, so he entreated a response, "but there is infinite wisdom hidden in those million voices if you listen."
"Yes, but the infinite wisdom of the universe is carried in those finite million singular hearts just as impossibly as your own one heart can, nevertheless it can be found in a single grain of sand as well. Our paths differ, but they cross and our goal is the same. Your torus flows outward, mine inward. Yet you know this sacred geometry better that I, we follow the same direction."
He completed my statement, our words penetrating the abyss together. Two opposite voices as one: "In time we will hear all voices as one. One heart. Annihilating the boundaries of you and me." He smiled and reality returned to me.
We all start this road in different spots. We all have different pains, different joys. Together, we are the whole universe having experiences. That reality may be impossibly beyond my ability to grasp, but the concept of that truth is enough for me to listen; to prod and to poke, to question and to empathize, to escape the confines of my own pain in order to realize that I am a part of something so much bigger than myself... And it is all contained in here.
So I am 25 now. A quarter of a century. The silver anniversary of being in a loving relationship with life. Me and that asshole have our ups and downs, but I like him enough to stay with him I guess. So I stick with my vows. Til death do us part and all that shit, right?
I like helping people. As I get older, I find it easier and easier. For the more experience I have to draw from, the easier it is to empathize and summon just the right quote or helpful bit of insight needed to make someone's day. For this reason, I idolize age. It yields experience, wisdom, and the ability to help more. In a way, I idolize pain for this same reason, but that is not my purpose in speaking today.
I am speaking today to talk about how our society does the opposite or revering age. We dye our hair and use creams to make ourselves appear younger. We speak of accomplishments and comment on how amazing it is when they are done at a younger age. We taboo relationships with those older than us, instead seeking sanctuary in a homogenized peer group that all have the same problems and lack of experience to know how to solve them.
I wish to see a world where my stylist will help give me a touch of grey so that I look like I am in my 40s instead of approaching my 30s. For age, to me, is a marker of wisdom. We do not become useless when we are old as our society shoves down our throats. We may lose the physical prowess of our youth, but we gain something so much more powerful, the ability to light the way for the lost and the confused.
To all those older and wiser than me who have helped light my path to age and to wisdom, thank you. I needed you more than I can say. As I grow older, I only wish that I will be able to do for others what you have done for me. The great cycle continues-- thanks to you.
It has been said that every bird, rock, plant, and even person speaks the language of the universe and each sign can be interpreted to tell a listener what they need to know to do what they can't not do. Many spiritual individuals try to seek the meanings hidden away in the metaphors beneath the physical form of reality. However, this always seemed false to me. I have started to listen and what I have found is that there is no manual or encyclopedia of omen, there is no primer or Rosetta Stone for the language of the universe. All you can do is listen and feel.
When I see two owls perched like sentinels exactly at the two corners if a building they have no reason to chill at, I do not seek to understand why this happened or what it means I am to do. Instead, I simply listen. These two birds instill in me an urge to write and an itch that must be scratched-- an itch that is unique to me at this exact moment, different in any other shell or at any other time. Right or wrong, true or false, do or die, this urge to speak comes not from the omens themselves and more from what I feel when experiencing the world around me.
I have been feeling for the past few months that I wanted to start my yearly fast. As the day of my birth approached, I began to feel signs. Reading Rumi and just coincidentally hearing him speak of fasting filled my heart with joy on the subject, having a day of D&D with roommates involving copious amounts of sugar and the following day's energy level filled me with reminders of the heightened energy levels of my past cleanses, constant reminders of my own weight as well charge me to take sword in hand, the day of my birth begins feeling more poetic than ever as a day to start-- all of these signs lining up just could not be ignored any longer. Today I begin day 1 as day 0 and -1 have come and passed with relative success.
This is what I am talking about when I say signs, omens, and feelings. It is not ravens and moons meaning auspicious foretellings, it is the universe pouring into me purpose-- leading me towards the path I know I must walk. As Paulo Coelho said in The Alchemist, if you stop listening, the language of the world may also stop speaking through you. Listen, and you may know love for all of your life. And here is what Rumi told me this morning on the train to work:
"One kind of food gives you flatulence and diarrhea, a heaviness in the stomach. The other keeps you light as you ride on the ocean. Fast and see what arrives. A materially full person is not alert for dishes that descend. Don't always eat what's offered. Be Lordy! Refuse the first plate. Wait and the host will send out better. Lift your head like the tallest mountain that the dawn turns red, then gold."
"I know all the homeless people in this part of the city. They are the only ones who say 'hi' back."
My roommate and I were heading to Radio Shack when I said this. She met me after work so we could go spoil ourselves. We walked the streets and she noted how many people I was having conversations with. And thus, today's quote.
But again, I said this and I stopped. I was stopped with wonder and paused to ask myself why. Why is it that it is so much easier to talk to these homeless people I feed than it is to talk to half of the rich people I feed? A simple answer screamed out to me. They talk to you because they want something. Bullshit. So do the snooty shoppers in my store whose body language and demeanor deny all friendly interaction when they approach my register. They also talk to me simply because they want something. Yet there are plenty of customers who engage with my soul at the register as many of these homeless people do. It has little to do with what they want, for we are all rich and poor with social interaction as we are with money and wealth. Physical wealth is just easier to measure than social wealth.
I couldn't shake this question all night. So I took a page from Rumi's book and drank myself into oblivion.
Children go out to play. They think up elaborate rules and use rocks as currency, sticks as elaborate holy blades. They travel to the ends of every universe and back to slay foul demons or rescue fair maidens, have wondrous families and petty squabbles. At the end of their adventures, they are rich with joy and the spoils of imaginary wars. Yet when the dinner bell rings, they drop their vast wealth and return home, dirty and with only the clothes on their back (or sometimes not).
Life is much like this. At the end of the day, we are called home. All we have gathered is forfeit, yet our hearts are overflowing with experience and growth. Those are our only true possessions.
One thing that bothers me is that this is being forgotten. Nowadays when children play, the stakes have changed. Sports must be won, yet there is always a loser. Every experience has a cost, yet there are not enough imaginary stones to buy to buy a full bucket list. The result is children and adults alike who are losing the ability to get lost in the moment. I know I did. When playing sports, I would constantly say I was sorry when I made a mistake, knowing that I was imparting a tax on others and taking away their purpose in playing, victory. Even when we won, I felt bad that another underdog team was defeated by the mighty and overpowered Fireballs. What I needed to do was simply enjoy myself and realize that mistakes are only there to teach us. In order to do so, I needed to unlearn that if I messed up, it was bad.
Yet that is the inane truth we are all taught. This world seems so set on that value-- on value itself. When we err, whether it be in communication or in work or on the field or in our judgements, we must remember that we are all learners and mistakes are part of life. Otherwise, we begin seeing the emergence of people who lock themselves up in impenetrable towers-- not acting at all out of fear of making mistakes. I saw this all too much as a teacher: "I'm no good at math, I don't even want to try." I see this daily: "I am no good with words, that's why I remain quiet." I cry when I hear this one: "I am just going to get hurt, I don't want to fall in love." Falling in love is the greatest joy of this world! Be it with what we do or who we are with, love is the great dinner bell that calls us all home. Surrender to that love! Start your own practice! Travel! Create your big project! It doesn't matter how optimally we live and gain or lose and suffer, it is how much we love that matters most as we return home, covered in dirt and laughing as we recount our adventures.
Last night, I had a dream of another culture, another world maybe.
In this world, it was autumn. A celebration unfolded. On the first day of fall, we all chose a tree to idolize and embody. We didn't need to have separate trees, but we all chose a tree that we felt a particular connection with. As the tree gave its leaves and its flowers and its seeds to the Earth, so did we. Everything excess that we had created in our bountiful spring and fiery summer we shed in time with the leaves on our tree. We gave to or volunteered out time to charities, we helped finance new Earthen hobbit-like homes or schools, we had bountiful feasts with friends, and we simply recycled our possessions to others.
Many of the wealthiest individuals chose the great oak in the valley near the graveyard. Such a choice was an honor and held in great esteem due to the vast gifts it gave to the ground to compost. A grand giving mimicked by those with the capacity to choose this tree to mimic. I chose a tree in a neighbor's yard. It was not big, yet its leaves turned the most miraculous reds and yellows as it shed to reveal its curvy, elegant form that looked like a dancer with arms outstretched. To honor it, I started a school in a warehouse gifted to me by a wealthy woman. This school was designed to teach "the old ways." I can't remember the specifics of this culture, but I recall teaching things like sun meditation and herbalism and yoga. By the time fall had ended, I had a successor worthy enough and I gave the school to her as my "last leaf."
At the start of winter, she began charging for lessons and I began working and creating again, already planning-- full of wonder at what I would do next year.
What would our world look like if we did that today? I'll tell you, there ain't a tree large enough on the planet to embody the belongings of our wealthiest. Even the fabled tree of mana might not even be comparable. That aside, if we all adopted this mindset, I guarantee we would see a new world in less than a decade. I am reminded of the words of my favorite telepathic gorilla again, "Take what you need. Leave the rest." If you have no idea who this gorilla is, pick up the book Ishmael immediately.
"Drunkenly asleep, tenderly awake, clouded with grief, laughing like lightning, angry at war, quiet with gratitude, we are nothing; a single brush stroke down. Why does spirit come into these muddy bodies? The answer is contained inside.
The breathing of your speech is like the soul entering the body. You feel the value of making meaningful sounds. But poetry holds meaning lightly, like a rock in a sling. We let it fly. The rest is out of anyone's control. A buried seed grain secretly becomes an ear of corn. Bread dissolves in the stomach. Candlewax turns to light. A great joy breaks free of the self and joins the moving river of presence. Read about prophetic states and let your soul grow restless in confinement."
Zeus, this is for you. Not the Greek god, but a friend. You know who you are. I love you, dude.
Words are always a rock in a sling. How I wish we could instead deliver our communication to each other directly from soul to soul. Not thrown a vast distance unsure if it is to be caught or if it will inadvertently kill. Rumi knew this. His calling as a writer was always shadowed by the knowledge that words are imperfect. Instead of trying to make perfection out of the imperfect, he named this shadow Shams and let her speak to fill the moment with the void where true communication lives.
He knew we are but a single brush stroke down in a vast painting laid upon a canvas with the great beyond everywhere outside of our canvas. "The great reed flute player," as he calls the creator, is just a starving artist in love with his craft as Rumi himself is. Yet here he is with great music pouring from his heart-- a single brush stroke down in an impossibly complex piece of work hanging on the wall of an impossibly complex universe.
Seeds turn to corn as miraculously as candle wax turns not light. Rumi also believed that once we become free of this mortal coil, we will join the world beyond the painting. We will no longer be a single stroke on a canvas or a single pot carrying water, we will see the painting as a whole or find our pot carrying water has spilled to become one with the whole ocean.
"We sit in this world with our money bags of energy wondering what will give the most return. We get engrossed with knowledge, accomplishments, business ventures, purposes, and then we move on. Where we are is melting snow. You have bits of bird-doubt that will not let you roam free on the sky, but this is how sweet and free of fear I find myself now. You need not look anymore now. You have laid down inside me. You are already helplessly mine. I could lift you out of time, but not yet. Stay in exile a little while longer. Let the eventual joy of coming home increase."
"I don't know what you did to me, but you changed me."
Her words stopped me. In that moment, I felt echoes of memories of my whole life repeating as clearly as if her words had struck a giant bell to bring them back to life. The echoes of these moments flowed over me like a stormy sea and in their mix, I felt overtones leading back to infinite. I opened my eyes.
I wanted to say something important to her. I wanted to say, ... ... Bah. It doesn't matter now. Be it about pins and needles or eyes being opened or doubts calming. It doesn't matter now. The moment is gone.
I was at work and I missed it. The moment is gone and all I can do is write it here. I don't know if she will ever find this or even know it is about her, but in writing it I will always know that I did what the lion in my heart commanded.
While we are on the topic though, as I have grown older this phenomenon has begun happening to me with increasing frequency. This phenomenon is where words, actions, or moments literally phonate and echo and resonate. I can feel my whole life and beyond rippling like a giant pool of water-- every new experience, a droplet of water mixing with my own. If I listen closely enough, I can sense the whole body of water I call my experience and see that everything is connected and simultaneous and real as the single drop touching me in this singular moment. If I close my eyes, that echolocation of memory can teach me of the earth and air that envelop me on all sides, the water up from where experience comes from, and beyond to the great fire that warms us all.
To give this sensation a concrete example, I shall use the experience that caused me to write here. When she said I had changed her and she didn't know how, her words hit me like a gong and I began to see my entire life as a whole. The frequency of the resonance of her words highlighted single memories at each peak of vibratory pressure. Memories extending back further than knew I could remember. Overtones of this frequency highlighted memories I knew were not mine. Yet all of them were related. One was a single line from Lady in the Water. Another a discussion with a lover about The Matrix. Another from a babysitter I had. Then came my friend's memories. Then more of my own I could not recognize. A frequency of 440 hz. A tone that takes me from Spain to Hawaii, from California to a colony of settlers on the moon, from memories of rape to floods of emotion that bring strangers to their knees and drive robots to commit suicide.
All of those moments happened in an instant as another droplet of experience percussed against what I believe is my own body of experience and I returned to reality to realize that no time had passed at all. This monumentous echo that extended my life far beyond the limitations of "me" was just that-- an echo. An echo that reminds me that the true nature of time is as finite and simultaneous as the world we place our feet down upon.
To compare this simultaneity to something physical, I choose a song by Norwegian Recycling called Miracles. There are no original sounds in the whole song. It is all mash-ups of old songs. Jackson, Spears, Savage Garden, Bruno Mars, R&B, Hip Hop, Country, the list goes on, all blending together to reveal a message and a unique song greater than the sum of its parts. This is what I mean by echoing and creating overtones. Each moment highlighted by this droplet of experience connects to tell me something far greater than simply what is and what was. This bell rang to say to me, "all this has happened before and all of this will happen again."
Namaste, my dear readers. I will see you on the other side.
Last night, I was chilling with my preggers sister. As we drifted off to sleep, she said, "it is SO weird that there is a little life in my belly right now."
I replied with banter, "it would be weird to be in your belly. You didn't eat it or anything, did you?" I stopped the banter and continued: "No. In all seriousness, I think the word you are looking for is 'special.' It is special that you have a little life inside your belly."
Later, we had migrated to talking about her seeing one of her old friends all grown up and not a fuckup like he was in his youth. Again, she used the word "weird" to describe it and I corrected her, "I think the word you are looking for is 'special.' It is special when all those boys grow up into men and the cycle continues."
She caught my return to the word and my reiteration of the theme. "What is with you and that word right now?"
That is my way of appreciating things. Instead of simply noting these phenomenons of growth and rebirth cycling into history, I want to hold onto them-- to love them.
A few minutes passed quietly and mom came out of the shower and hopped into bed. She curled up near her babies, content as only a mother can be and she said, "thanks, you two. Tonight has been a really special night."
"Yeah," I replied. "Special is exactly the word I would use to describe it."
And then my sister punched me.
I don't know what drew me to the word "special" initially. Why did I say that? In retrospect I can only say that it was for that moment when my mom said it. Was I planning it? No. Was it perfect for her to say? Yes. The thoughts I was trying to communicate to my sister were that much more effective thanks to my mother accidentally backing them up. I guess what I want to say is that this is another "special" mystery of life. It is magic. It is coincidence. It is providence. It is living in the moment and letting that moment guide your actions-- and in turn being justified by that moment. Knowing that once and for all, no matter what else, you have a purpose.