WOW: the Walden On Wheels project
I don’t always know where I’m going; it’s not always clear to me that a pathway exists to arrive me at destination unknown. Occasionally, these days, I have fleeting moments in which my perspective shifts to the outside, and I peer through the tiny window of third party objectivity- or as close as any man might come. At these times I am struck at how truly bizarre is this path I have chosen to live, to experiment with, to return to play.
It occurs to me sometimes how little difference there is between myself and one of the less fortunate wayward souls found living out of shopping carts and waste bins. There but for the grace of god go I, I mutter to myself, as I give a nod or a buck to a street bound sister or brother. Two days ago a young woman approached me as I dismounted from Nandi (my van) in the Kroger’s parking lot. She was extraordinarily articulate and inordinately enthusiastic, and we spoke of many esoteric things including DMT trips, something about which she seemed particularly impassioned, reciting the chemical structure and how it interacts with a specific part of the brain. I ended up giving her five bucks because I could not do otherwise and her situation seemed compellingly catastrophic enough- if not totally invented- though I spent the next few hours feeling guilty that I had not given her ten dollars, despite only having made thirty at my new lunch waiter shift.
An idea began to form yesterday as I undertook a late afternoon shower before going to the Unitarian Church for my volunteer shift in their Sanctuary program (in which one stands guard against the arrival of ICE or other knuckle-dragging representatives of Team MAGA). I sensed the beginnings of darkness take hold and found myself marveling at the slippery nature of depression and the playground game of dodgeball in which we dabble. The idea that I was only a hair’s breadth from being assigned street person status was an offering from the dark side, a mechanically breathy Darth Vader whispering sweet nothings in my ear with a tinge of rust-flavored halitosis. “Rusty….”, he beckoned. “Come to the dark side…”.
There’s a kind of nostalgia in the dark, a brooding deep sea of overwhelm that binds you with the tattered nets of fishermen and the ruins of swallowed ships; they hum to you both the hypnotic passivity of the white noise silence and the seductive dirge of despair. For those of us who have sought sanctuary there at some point in our lives, it remains an alluring taste on our emotional palate. To be filled with an emptiness so complete is its own kind of exhilaration; it is, in a word, delicious. One feels lighter and more inconsequential than sawdust in the breeze and there is a not-quite-satisfied satiation in concluding one’s own meaninglessness. We are still breathing, yes, and therefore there is never one hundred percent complicity in self annihilation. There can only ever be ninety-nine percent acquiescence to shadow agendas and devious gods, for there is always, always one singular small voice in the wilderness of the soul crying out in protest, carrying the torch into the cavern of collapse, brandishing the threadbare flag of self with every last ounce of reserve and planting it at the summit of Attrition Hill before being filled with a final barrage of mortar fire. No one who’s never been there could attest to this, but there lies a profound heroism at the rock bottom of the human condition, though it is a largely unconscious and collective experience and altogether uncelebrated. It tethers together the tapestry of all the woes that ever have been or will be and gifts you a kindness and clairvoyance for the plagued. Mortals dare not to enter. This place is the hallowed burial ground of the bereaved and dispossessed, and those that live to tell the tale have cheated death and tasted the reincarnative power of the Jedi mind.
For the rest of you people, enjoy your half-life Pollyanna Polynesia. Perhaps you’d like to take up painting the dark-skinned natives and sweetening your insulin Tahiti with a few packets of Splenda? There is a quote from the brilliant pen of Melville I feel compelled at this juncture to share with you:
“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”
― Herman Melville, Moby Dick