Before we sought realization, mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.
While we sought realization, mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers.
Once we attain realization, mountains will be mountains and rivers will be rivers again
On a full moon night last winter, I found myself once again walking an old familiar track through the quiet night woods, no light but stars and the rising moon, treading a leaf-littered path well known to my feet, pack on my back, frost nipping my gloved fingers as I hiked through the quiet dark towards my wood-warmed destination, a home steamy with the smell of cooking. In addition to my pack, I carried with me a happy feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment—I had once again succeeded in the task that was the object of my journey. Just what that was does not matter for the purpose of this tale, and is, in fact, a tale in itself, a tale for another time.
The familiarity of this scenario, I believe, springs not solely from the thirteen years I have been first visiting and now living with, this land, this land which I immediately recognized as home and sanctuary when I first laid eyes on it, back in what is now another century. Nor is it simply a memory of walking in the dark during the simple, happy, years of my youth in the early seventies, when so many of us found the magic door in the wall that let us out of 20th century America, into the Fourth World and the First Nations, until televisions and the ghosts of our parents appeared among us and sucked us back to Babylon.
This archetype, this dirt-track trek through a friendly dark forest to home, this satisfaction from a job well done out in the wilderness–this, I believe, is familiar to me from many, many lifetimes past, for this is how I–and we, all of us–have always lived. What is strange and new and unsettling is the smells, sounds, and sensations of petroleum culture, the bright glare of electric lighting, the disconnection from our food, our fabric, our furniture, and our friends, the fact that I communicate with you, my comrades, not around a shared hearth and a shared meal and a shared sacrament, but, often as not, through strange, highly complex, and probably very temporary electrical media. Even printing is a relative newcomer among us, and only a blink of our eyes separates us from the time when paper, ink, and pen alike were the creations of craftsmen, not the products of industry. I know in my heart that we will meet once again around our hearths rather than through these magical computing and communicating devices, and probably will not have to wait for our next lifetime for that change to take place. It’s coming back, for most of us, this time around, in these bodies. And yes, it’s going to be a rough transition for most of us, including me.
But when the world as we have known it all our lives falls away, when all the speed and convenience and the myriad manifestations of our so-casually accepted incredible material wealth have receded into amazing stories spun to entertain and educate children who will never know such marvels, we will miss those marvels, yes–but we will feel such great relief as we slip once again into the familiar, comfortable clothing of life lived close to the earth and each other. No longer will we make our daily rounds through cities and marketplaces full of strangers. We will again dwell in small, close-knit communities, greeting mostly familiar, named faces in the course of our days, as we almost always have, until our recent fit of madness and separation.
But we are not going back, really, for, even if we lose our ability to practice the high-tech science that has brought us the wisdom of knowing our place in this vast starry universe, we will not lose that wisdom, nor the perspective such wisdom brings. We are not returning to the ignorant, but comfortable womb from whence we have sprung. We are too big for that. We are no longer children, and we cannot again be children. We have had a troubled adolescence, but now it is initiation time, and on the other side of the trials of our onrushing initiation lies…adulthood. It’s time for us to become grownups.
I can feel it coming. We are going to wake up from this deluded adolescent dream of infinite power, wealth, and expansion. There is no turning back. Even though we will wake up to a very messy house that we will have to spend a long time cleaning, we will be a whole lot happier for it once we have rubbed the sleep from our eyes, rejoined our scattered tribes, and returned to our real ways and our real work. It’s coming. I can feel it.
Author’s note: as the title implies, this piece is musical as well as ideational, and my readers are invited to lend it their voices, as well as their eyes and minds.
music: Incredible String Band, “Log Cabin Home in the Sky”