○ March 5, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Hell, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Pointless, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Will the circle be unbroken
Bye and bye Lord, bye and bye
The lyric, like it’s quixotic faith, defies logic: an endless loop with no exit. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. That’s probably as close to eternal life as I’ll ever get, given an endless supply of “revitalizing” shampoo. The words of the song are nonsensical. Faith in a Christian Heaven or a Buddhist Western Isle imply we have only one pass around the track before the checkered flag or the crash-and-burn. Only one turn.
Like fractal patterns, nature is partial to circles, the ripple being the simplest example. Still, the most perfect pi-in-the-sky ripple eventually meets the fractal shore, and begins its return, the last of its impulse entangled in countless other infinitesimal returns, ending in nature’s other favorite game: chaos. Chaos is the nature’s greatest trick. The ancients thought the first people, gods if you will, emerged from it bearing the spark of consciousness, the ability to defy the common misunderstanding of the laws of thermodynamics, to impose order out of chaos.
How then do we make order out of the chaos of a life? Life, my dear creationist, is not a closed system, and is capable of self-organization. We dodge the curve balls of a game fixed to nine innings but which, without the deus ex machina of the umpire could go on forever. It is thought a perfect game is when no one reaches base. Perhaps the perfect game is the one in which the trajectory from the mound to the plate and by human intervention to the stands could, in theory, go on forever. Nine innings, three strikes, a perfect game: we manage to make some order out of an uncrunchable number of agate variables. We manage to find the circles in chaos. I have closed my share, 57 orbits of the sun is one. My departure and return to New Orleans, returning to the university after an interruption of 30 years to find as I wrote my last paper a book left to the library by a favorite professor of my ragged start long ago, inscribed to his mother. Terminus, meet Circle. There is a poor payout chance the sun will come up this morning. Other things are not quite as certain: the number of seasons in a life, the clashing possibilities that we will simply decay and return as another circle, a perfect daisy; or the chance that there is an escape velocity to be achieved, either by Calvinist laws as rigid as Newton’s, or by a life of holy mortification. Even that path is not certain. Is it achieved by perfect faith in the road to the distant and distinctly invisible, or in the constant moment of the Tao? Place your bets, spin the wheel, take your chances.
Circles can be our undoing, each the link in a chain we forge to bind ourselves. Spend, work, pay day, spend, around and around and around until we have forged a chain of links we can no longer stand under the weight of. The modern concept of retirement, an escape from the circle, is just an attempt to build a little bit of heaven here on earth, but with each passing day of the current era that dream seems as distant as the throne of clouds. Economy is a closed system, and as the most clever among us–the ones who own the coal and iron and command chains forged by the mile–rely on us to do the digging. As they pile up their own burden of chains, our chances are diminished. The chains we forge are not our own, but we must wear them.
The children of Calvin offer their answer: let go, and let god. Your chains will fall about your feet but so, in perfect devotion void of curiosity, will some measure of your humanity. It doesn’t matter if I Google whether it was Marx or Engels who urged the workers of the world to slough off their chains. What matters is that all attempts along those lines have only forged new chains. The lesson here: even as I swallow the Klonopin of Big Pharma to calm the rage against the machines for the making of chains I serve, is that the only way out is to abandon all dogma: Adam Smith or Karl Marx, Christ or Buddha. (If you meet the latter on the road, you know what to do).
I will take Ikkyu as my model, the most undogmatic spiritual writer you will find. Whether standing in the shadow of a twisted pine contemplating the irregular perfection of a boulder in the distance, bent over the quotidian paperwork of a monastery or reclining, wine in hand, in his favorite brothel, he seems to me the best model for a life without chains. He accepted no rules except the necessary rituals of life: work, pleasure, contemplation. I should have chained myself to the front of the plow half an hour ago, but sit here (thief of time, a title that may be capitalism’s greatest invention), in contemplation. Later, I will meet some friends to drink fine ales. I may perhaps later go out to frolic for a bit with the Dionysians of Bohemia who chose a pub crawl fundraiser as a way to at least rattle their chains a bit, in the name of saving a bit of perfectly contemplative green space from the ravages of the deductible rounds of golf. It is not the wobbly sand pits but the perfect circle, that little cup waiting for the ball, that is the trap, just another link in the chain. Perhaps Ikkyu shows us the only escape, to jump off of the circling carousel, to forgo a chance at the brass ring the lawyers took away long ago, and sneak off for a bit mindful of but outside the rules. This may be as close to heaven as we ever get.
“That’s It For The Other One [Cryptical Envelopment/Quadlibet For Tender Feet/The Faster We Go The Rounder We Get”
Are we here yet?