I’ve given myself a deadline of two weeks to finish a pivotal chunk of my memoirs; so I won’t be posting here again until September. Here is the first five pages of my science fiction novel, hopefully with themes stated by page five …
SOFIA PERENNIS : I AM YOUR CAPTAIN
“This is the real Dark Night of The Soul, this the The Grind.”
Yet again someone in an online forum described their spiritual crisis with the new age malapropism of St John’s Dark Night. It usually made him laugh when he heard it coming from bliss junkie window shoppers and jaded retreat attendees; but it gave him pause when he heard it coming from the average Jane or Joe that had just been going about their normal life when all of a sudden the rug of ordinary reality got pulled out from under their feet.
It wasn’t that he had no sympathy for the airy-fairy, hippy-dippy seekers of “it’s all good”- but they were being led down the path of comfort and abundance by their egos; and while a little meditation, yoga or tai chi are all well and good – there are some previously closely guarded secrets for sale in the marketplace, and the spiritual cheery-pickers that find themselves with a basket full of exotic methods and practices often discover that what they really have is an alchemical admixture that blows up in their face. Not to mention the charlatans, scam artists, cult leaders, and half-baked guru wannabes that they cross paths with on their quest for enlightenment.
But the spontaneous eruption of internal forces within the unsuspecting individual going about their daily life was something else. Whether a Combat Veteran trying to adjust to civilian life, a Businessman gone bust, or a Mother losing a baby in childbirth; or just some Ner Do Well fucking shit up – these people had no idea what was happening to them. They hadn’t asked to be taken on the ride; and yet, little did they know, they had bought the ticket.
He could only imagine the confusion they were going through, and he felt for them.
But he couldn’t help laughing at the predicament the pink and purple crystal crowd sometimes found themselves in. Oh, how they gushed on and on in hushed tones about “energy” and “vibrations”. Spiritual this and Spiritual that. One of his old martial arts buddies used to say:
“If any of those people ever had a real spiritual experience they would run to the nearest psychiatrist and beg for a dose of lithium big enough to stop it from ever happening again.”
And yet, – he felt for those idiots as well.
There were so many traps and wrong turns along the way. The Tibetans say that it is like “walking a razor’s edge” for good reason. The epiphenomenal bells and whistles the seeker experiences are a natural part of the process, but those glints and glimmers should be regarded as sign posts on the road back to The Source; they are not a shingle to be hung up outside a little shop, or a wreath to be worn around one’s head.
In the words of his Second Principal Teacher’s Teacher, – “It would be better for one to become addicted to opium than be addicted to psychic phenomena.”
Drug addiction can be a lesson learned in one lifetime, but it takes many turns of the wheel to get past an obsession with strange powers.
Sign posts along the way. Bread crumbs leading back home. Encouragement from The Divine for the neophytes and novices. But there comes a time to take the training wheels off and ride with the confidence and balance of one’s own ability.
The Dark Night of The Soul is the absence of the extraordinary. In Sufism it is “spiritual sobriety” or “aridity” … In Zen, it is time to “chop wood and carry water”.
Time to pay the rent.
Now, for him, there were no more auras, no visions, no aural hallucinations, no levitating, no bi-locating, seeing the future or the past, no mind reading, manifesting material objects, being invisible, or transforming physical size, no telekinesis; not even a little synchronicity here and there to remind one that there is more to life than this mundane world. No special abilities whatsoever. Nothing.
He still caught sight of Tiny Flashes or “Divine Sparks” from time to time – but since those cobalt blue, pink and purple little comets that appeared out of the corner of his vision were identical to nothing more than light being refracted off dust floating on the aqueous humor of the eyes, there was no reason to assume they were anything more than that. Perfectly natural. Especially in the absence of all the other stuff.
Meditation and Dream Yoga were really the only practices that he kept up with.
He got all the exercise he needed by walking back and forth from work. Occasionally, like last night, young thugs would measure him up as he walked alone at night, but there was power in his stride, and there were easier targets to prey on; so they let him be. After encounters like that he might take a natural stance in in his room, and when his body and mind were totally relaxed – quick as a snake – one elbow strike into the empty air! But that was the extent of his martial arts practice these days.
“At least I still have my reflexes.”
Wake up, shower up, go to work, come home and make dinner. Sleep a little. Eat a little. Read a little. Write a little. Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! Eat a lot. Eat a little. This was the grind.
This was the real dark night of the soul.
He set his things down in his little grey cubical, and mentally prepared for the next eight hours of rejection. His job was to randomly call cell phone users, and lead them through a survey for The Center For Disease Control and Prevention. He had done a lot of things in his life, and he accrued many skills; but between his age and the economy, this was the best job he could find. His shoulder length dirty blond hair didn’t help make him look all that employable. His full beard had recently grown past Amish, and was now approaching “level maharishi” – it would be a damn shame to shave it, just so he could make ten dollars an hour.
His supervisor approached him gingerly, breathing through his mouth, with sadness in his eyes.
“Ah, Nick – could I talk with you in my office for a minute.”
He put his clipboard back in his messenger bag, and followed his supervisor into the bare little office. He stood there as the younger man sat down at his computer, and pulled up the statistics for Nick Trueheart … His eyes naturally settled on the only decoration in the room; that old motivational poster of a kitten hanging at the end of a rope: Hang In There!
“This must be the worst part of your job, Frank – I’m sorry you have to do this.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry too Nick. You have a great attitude, you have a 100% attendance record, and you get along with everyone; but you haven’t completed a single survey in three months, and Atlanta wants us to take you off the project … I wish there was something I could do.”
“It’s alright Frank, – I knew this was coming. I’ll be alright.”
He turned in his swipe badge, and picked up his last check at the front desk and that was that. Maybe he would go back to dealing poker, he thought, – but then he would have to cut his hair, and he didn’t have the patience to deal with society’s slow slide back into the swamp, that was, the mid level poker room in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Maybe a job in a warehouse. It would be nice working with boxes. Boxes don’t have bad manners, and boxes don’t complain about their luck, or get their feelings hurt when they are not the center of attention. Yeah, that was it, – find a warehouse job within walking distance from Siegel Suites. He’d make better money, and get back in shape to boot!
It was already over 100 degrees, but there were big billowy clouds in the sky, and with a little imagination the breeze almost seemed cool. He had the whole day ahead of him, and he looked forward to going home to his motel room, making an omelette, and taking a nap.
When he cut through the parking lot behind the 7-Eleven at Paradise and East Twain he noticed the three kids that had scoped him out the night before. They were all smiles, dressed head to toe in brand new athletic gear, festooned with gold chains and fancy watches – they were checking their smart phones and laughing.
He made eye contact with the tallest one, smiled and nodded …
“Wuz up Captain”?
He walked on, musing – “Captain? -that’s a new one”. Oh well, there was no way a middle aged white man was going to keep up with the ever changing urban vernacular; there was no reason to even try. “Just keep it old school”.
After his three egg bacon and cheese omelette, he took a shower, watched a little cable news, – and disgusted with that, eased himself onto the rock hard mattress of the queen sized bed, and meditated himself into a deep, hypnotic sleep.
Just before he drifted down into unconsciousness he felt a rumbling ripple of muscular tension release up and along his spine. Then the old, familiar sensation, – something like an earthquake emanated from his lower dan dian; and with that jarring tectonic shift, a very distinct, yet subtle buzzing vibration spread from the epicenter through his entire body.
“Good thing I don’t have to be anywhere”
Fast asleep, dreaming ordinary purging dreams at first; he found himself trapped in an ill fitting head set and a tangle of phone cords. Lost in a cockroach and bed bug infested maze of grey office cubicles, with a chorus of insects screeching in his headphones, “Not Interested! Stop Calling! Take Me Off Your Fucking List! I Don’t Have Any Children! I No English! Wrong Number!” …
Then he found himself walking through a casino, and he realized that he was dreaming. He tested the lucidity of the dream by levitating, and once he had satisfactorily demonstrated to himself that he had control of the dream world, he floated over to the poker room. He thought about sitting down to play; but then it occurred to him, “I need to find a job.”
Instantly, he was launched out of the lucid dream and into astral projection. He shot like a rocket up through the casino ceiling. Looking back as The Earth receded in the distance, he wished he had studied astronomy, as well as astrology.
Past Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune …
“What have you done to me Pluto”?
With that, he raced around the dark, icy little satellite three times, and then from some force outside of himself, he was slung out of Pluto’s orbit directly towards the center of the solar system. Before he could even wonder what would happen if he crashed into the sun, – he crashed into the sun.
The collision with our home star felt like being shot through with a billion tiny beads of ice, followed by an orgasmic sensation that he labeled: “Annihilation”. The shock of it snapped him back into his body, back in his bed. He woke up desperately gasping for air – heart pounding like he’d just sprinted a quarter mile.
As his breathing returned to normal, he wondered if he held his breath during those Out of Body excursions. It would be interesting to video record himself sleeping he thought, still tingling and gently vibrating from his nap-time adventure.
He spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around on the couch reading. When the sun went down he took a shower, and put on some fresh clothes. He couldn’t really afford it, but he decided to go down to The Dive Bar, – listen to some punk rock, drink, and think about his next move. Given the circumstances, he felt good emotionally. He felt light and comfortable in his body, his legs felt strong and there were no aches or pains in his feet.
“At least I have my health”
On the sidewalk in front of The Fun Hog Ranch there was a tall Asian woman in a white track suit with a baby in one those cheapo folding strollers waiting for the bus. He was struck by how much she resembled classic depictions of Guan Yin The Goddess of Mercy, and then he felt something was off.
Something was wrong. He could not put his finger on it, but when he turned to look over his shoulder, there was a tour bus speeding down the street. He still couldn’t pinpoint the source of his alarm, and he kept walking – wary. The woman turned around to take something out of a shopping bag on the bench behind her, and as she did, – the baby stroller rolled off the curb, and into the street …
He didn’t think, – he just moved after the baby, and with an athleticism you wouldn’t suspect a man his age could posses, he managed to grab the stroller, and fling the baby like a jai alai ball back into the arms of it’s horrified mother!
Just enough time to save the little bugger, but not enough to save himself.
All he could do was stand there with the stroller in his hands, and watch as the tour bus bore down on him. He wanted to recite The Kalachakra Mantra at least one time, … but there was no time; so he just intoned the root syllable, and waited for whatever happened next.
Then, just before he was about to be splattered like a bug on a windshield, he noticed there was no driver behind the wheel. And then he saw the three young black guys from behind the 7-Eleven standing in the isle behind the empty driver’s seat.
“What the -“?
Instead of being creamed by the run-a-way bus, the front of the vehicle instantly dematerialized like a swarm of bees or a flock of starlings, and the next thing he knew he was sitting in the driver’s seat.
And the bus was back to normal.
There was no sound but the quiet idling of the diesel engine. They just sat there parked in front of Maddy’s and The Fun Hog Ranch like nothing had happened. The hiss of hydraulic mechanisms broke the silence, and the door swung open with an airy woosh. Nick could only sit there in awe as the the now smiling woman, holding her baby stepped up into the bus, and asked (in the form of a statement), “you know how to drive this thing”.
“We would like it very much if you would take us for pancakes in Arizona”
“Okay, – how does Rosie’s Den sound”?
“That is exactly where we would like to go, Captain”
He nodded, put the bus in gear, and eased down the road, checking his sight in the rear view mirrors. Everything was perfectly adjusted for him. The steering wheel, and everything else seemed like a normal, solid bus – he had no idea what was going on, but he knew he wasn’t dead; so he figured he would just relax and roll with whatever happened next.
“You know, – I could be freaking out and asking a million questions, but I won’t. You guys want to get some pancakes, well then, okay. I try to keep the carbohydrates to a minimum, but – that sounds pretty good to me”
The three behind him all busted out laughing, fist bumping, and stomping their feet. Guan Yin’s Mona Lisa smile broadened to an open mouthed toothy grin and the baby cooed. Nick felt oddly at ease, even though he considered it a distinct possibility that he was going through a complete mental breakdown and was totally divorced from reality. But when he caught sight of the laughing, smiling faces in the overhead mirror, he couldn’t help joining in …
Then, in a thick, raspy Mexican accent the baby said, “I tolt jew hee was Thee One!”
How is dematerialized not a word?
I now have three hundred words to state my themes, but I’m running on battery power, – later.