Category Archives: narrative nonfiction

Post 12

Moses at Mt. Sinai by Jacques de Letin

Moses at Mt. Sinai by Jacques de Letin

Clambers on the Mountaintop

As I taped the first poem to the large boulder near the highest point of Mount Sinai, the bell up top rang like it wasn’t a call to church or temple, but rather the instrumental voice of whom or what the bell tolls for saying, “Yeah, post your poems. The moment calls for it, don’t you hear?”

A bell toll is a sound that summons, jars you out of whatever’s in front of you, at least at its very onset, and from a distance that jar is pleasant but  up close it’s not. I was very close, but the clanging noise to my ears was the mountain speaking, and you figure if a mountain and the moment really do call for something, it’d be loud.

Getting up there was quite a walk, a long and winding wide trail that leads slowly up to the top, and on every boulder was written John Cletus, India in graffiti sprawl. Years later I recalled that walk upon reading the sci-fi novel So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish, where it’s major characters walk up some similar path to read God’s final message to his creation, which is, “We apologise for the inconvenience.” Not having read that novel, the walk didn’t take on a comical aspect, and neither was there anything that stood out about it except for the rash hand of John Cletus insecure in the face of history and wanting his name memorialized, until it could be scrubbed off, but it put some glow on the walk for me because I was heading to India right after posting the poems in my last destination, which were the three pyramids in Cairo. This just served to confirm India, was for me a sign of some sort. I had only a one-way ticket to India and little cash, just enough to get to the place I wanted to go, Pondicherry and Auroville, and after that was the unknown. Going broke into the unknown you need more than just a feeling to go on so to not be totally scared.

Church of the Holy Trinity

Church of the Holy Trinity

I’d been up there for three days and nights and hadn’t heard that bell ring once, and it was odd to hear it now because it wasn’t a Sunday or anything. The bell was in a small Christian chapel at the summit of the mountain, and a little boy was ringing it for fun, what he continued to do the few minutes it took me to post, not aware of my doings. That spot is where it’s believed Moses saw the backside of God and received the 10 Commandments, but there’s a large flat grassy area just a few minutes’ walk down from the summit, Elijah’s Basin, where it’s more probable he spent his time than on those raggedy naked slopes strewn with boulders and (now) human feces of the pilgrims and visitors, as there were no functioning facilities or shelters, or that’s how it was when I was there in the fall of 1995, the shitter unusable. I was posting the poem in the little clear area I’d been sleeping in, as far from any shit as I could get, on the way to the chapel up near the summit on a large boulder that had a flat wall-like surface, the chapel higher and out of sight.

That the bell tolled as I began to post my poems, what I’d come up there to do, what I’d done some months before in the old city of Jerusalem, what I’d do the next week inside and around the Great Pyramid in Cairo, gave the dream I’d just awoken from, in my mind and pounding heart, a significance that showed contact with God. If you ask which or whose God then you’re missing the point and haven’t done the math right. No matter what name or form you come up with God will always be a larger sum, but to look at him even askew, about all that we can do, you need some form for him to fill. We’re not big enough to see God.

I was lucid dreaming and had come to the entrance of a classroom, and I was on the staircase leading down into the classroom itself which was like some ancient secret chamber I couldn’t see much of. Meeting me there was a lovely young woman, the teacher. She told me I was welcome, but I told her I was only on the mountain to post my poems. “We love poetry,” she replied and invited me to read my poems. Then I could tell she had another question for me but was embarrassed to ask it, as if it would be rude to do so. Somehow I knew she wanted to ask my faith, and I also knew that she was Jewish. I’m not so I merely said, “Transformation,” and she smiled brightly, agreeing, and her smile got brighter and brighter until it turned into the rising sun, and I opened my eyes and was looking directly at the sun rising over the mountain and knew that I had permission to post the poems, what I’d been waiting up there those three days to get. I posted the first one to the large boulder I’d slept by, continuing posting everywhere that seemed to call me to do so, or every big flat vertical surface really.

That classroom, in my mind, was a representation of the spiritual teaching the mountain had to give, and despite the circus of people up there, some mad as a hatter claiming to be a prophet or some such. The spiritual teaching wasn’t out in the open air, wasn’t even in a book, but in the inner depths of the mountain, not some physical place in a hollow earth but in your inner life while you’re up there. There spiritual lessons could be learned and soul-force gathered, whether Moses was actually on that particular mountain or not; so many people had come up there with spiritual aspiration over the centuries it had been impregnated with the bright thought of God. For some maybe it was too bright.

I believe Moses had been  there, because the teacher was much more than just the mountain’s spirit, called generally a nature spirit, the representation in some form of the spirit of a powerful place. Often the spirit of a place is represented by a beautiful young woman, something I had yet to learn because I’d only just begun my vagabond journeys and wasn’t yet aware that if your inner consciousness is open and you sleep and dream in a powerful place, you’ll often meet the place’s spirit, and 9 times out of 10 it will be a sweet young lady.

She was also much more than a beautiful woman. The wisdom and light radiating from her, the mirth and love in those eyes, the sweetness; she was, the Shekhinah, the divine presence of Jewish tradition, who dwells in places where the people feel most deeply their connection to God. Her hesitancy in asking my faith, which stemmed from her sweetness and sincerity, showed me it’s actually rude to ask someone what their religion is, a lesson that mountain taught me, and since then I’ve tried to refrain from such a question and instead let it answer itself as I get to know a person, and I usually don’t have to wait long since most everybody, even atheists (especially these days) are quite vocal about their faith or lack thereof.

I didn’t really understand at the time that she was inviting me to stay up there longer, join the centuries old classroom disguised as a rugged old mountaintop, and be taught more and deeper things. Stupid me, I was on a mission to post my poems and couldn’t see the forest for the trees, in a hurry as usual. I didn’t realize I was where I was trying to go, someplace that had some of that god coin, or where there is a strong sense of divine presence if the inner waters do flow out into the daylights of your mind.

You’d have to understand I’m not talking about just a feeling of that, but where you’re likely to have at least some symbolic face to face communication with such presence, like I did in that lucid dream, though it could be a formless contact, which, though formless, comes to you more real than form, or, really, all the forms around you glow with something much greater: the divine presence.

That was not the first presence I met once I got on top, but still it’s not every day you meet someone who thinks they’re one of the two most important people in the last days world in relation to that presence, at least according to Christianity. The first person I met was a man in his late 30s maybe, normally dressed, to be on a desert mountaintop that is, who knew himself as one of the two prophets that would come in the last days of earth and defeat the Antichrist, according to the Book of Revelations.

He was up on Mt. Sinai waiting on his buddy, the other prophet, whom he hadn’t met (or even knew who he was), but God had told him to come and wait, and the man would come, and they could fulfill their destiny. This was just something he knew, like he knew everything that would happen to end the world. When I asked him for details, other than mumble generalities about the contemporary geopolitical situation, of 1995, he couldn’t give any, just that he “knew everything,” and as he said that he stood up and waved his arms in as if to encompass the earth.

Now this prophet guy, he was serious, completely convinced. I don’t remember his name, as the only noteworthy thing about him was his belief about himself, his demeanor not matching it. From the looks of his clothes I’d say he’d been up there a week or so, and he told me as much, but it wasn’t the first time he’d come, and it wouldn’t be his last I gathered. When I left three days later he wasn’t there, and of course he’d called it quits and walked down, but I didn’t see him in the crowd when I got down, which in those days was small enough to see everyone around unless they were in the john or somewhere like that. For all I know he could’ve jumped off the precipice he was waiting on, having been betrayed by God, but I’d imagine I’d of heard about that somehow. That would be big news for a place with hardly ever any news at all.

I did try and ‘talk him down’, but there I was on my mission with my poems, and the irony did sting. I looked the quintessential hippie, long untrimmed beard, hair down past the shoulders, but in ponytail then, and I got told all the time I looked like the historical Jesus, like a lot of young men do when they grow their hair and beard, especially white men, which should tell you that maybe he didn’t look like white history shows him. I was not a Christian, or anything in particular, though I had been raised one, then on my own personal hodgepodge path, and being a Jesus look alike didn’t go to my head, but I did learn, especially in Italy hitch-hiking, that there were many survival advantages to being one without even doing or saying anything to show the resemblance. Here in Egypt though it wasn’t anything special. Hitching on the Dead Sea to Mount Siani was nothing but hot.

For a moment I mentally squirmed as I looked on the man because of the irony, but it would be many years before I got a handle on what that wiggle was. You see sometimes I do I think I’m somebody special (equally sometimes the opposite), and I think we all do, not to the degree this man did, but special in the sense of something as stupid as it is smart: we’re important enough to tell our story and have it heard. With 7 billion of us, whose stories should we listen to? With basically all of us competing to tell our stories in one form or another, I felt I had to take mine to a high place in humanity. There was no net really back then, and so there I was on Mt. Moses with my poems, but here I am on the net with you, telling my story on a mountaintop so to speak. Is it just pretentious of me or do I really have something to say?

The only point I could try and make with him was the point I always tried to make with such people: asking them in the language of their religion if they were ‘there’, had achieved something like the nature of a Buddha or Christ. “Do you have the mind of Christ yet?” I asked him, what I ask Christians, since many if not most don’t believe in a transformation of the being where you’re in the kind of consciousness people like the aforementioned people were most probably in, other than the believed total change that happens upon conversion, which mostly has to do with issues of morality, being forgiven, cleansed and so forth and not a change of consciousness.Calling it the mind of Christ I was  putting it the way he understood. Do you?

I’m talking about enlightenment or whatever it is that we can become other than what we are now, what I wasn’t (not now either) but was on the path to become. He said no, but he wasn’t worried about himself; he cared about the masses and bringing them to Jesus and saving the world. There was really nothing else I could say, stinging with my own supposed specialness, and so I moved on.

The mountain path dropped down some, and I walked through a small host of people, some dressed in white robes and so forth, but in my hippie get up I probably didn’t look too out of place. I kept on going, did a recon of the area and settled down on the spot I’ve somewhat described above. In my area there weren’t any prophet people, just the more tourist type tourist, as it was near the main trail that leads to the chapel.

I had enough water, pita bread, and cheese, the kind in little tinfoil packages, to last about 3 days, if I didn’t walk around and expend a lot of energy. With nothing else to do until nightfall, I settled  down to writing in my journal, what was to be a book about the poem postings, writing in it at each place I posted at and places along the way. It was to be something like Nikos Kazantzakis’ Report to Greco, in spirit though not in style. His book had had a profound influence on me as a writer, one reason I’d come to the mountain, to follow partly in his steps and report. Since he would stay at Saint Catherine’s Monastery there, I told the monks what I was doing and asked if I could write there for awhile, and they were gracious enough to give me a room to write in for a couple of hours before I hiked up the mountain.

The Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine

The Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine

My book was never finished, like all the books I’ve started. (Maybe I’m not a book. Here I’m more a story.) It’s title is The Overthrow of I Am, about overthrowing the ego, not God, but the gist is there too of overthrowing the idea of God I’d been raised with, that big ego in the sky. I later added, at the Equality of Soul to the title when I discovered the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.

The gist of Kazantzakis’ report hit in the quick of the relationship between the spirit and the flesh, as much of his stuff does, like his book made into a film, The Last Temptation of Christ, but this was nonfiction, real life stories, and it just hit me so much harder than his fiction. I could be mistaken on the location, since he went to Mt Athos too, but he came to that monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai to talk to a monk that had sworn to silence and had not spoken to anyone for years, a famous old monk known for wisdom. He wanted to ask what the relationship between spirit and flesh was to be, the one that God approved of as much as you, and he’d talked to other famous monks, many mad, who were undergoing extreme austerities to mortify the flesh, subdue it, deny it. Starting at 4 when he fainted upon seeing the breasts of a neighbor woman, so overcome he was with not exactly desire, but the toddler feelings of that impulse, there began a war inside him between God and what looked like not to be God, the flesh. Here with this silent monk he hoped rested the answer to the seeming paradox. It was in the early 1930s, and it was his last pilgrimage to Orthodox monasteries to find that answer I do believe. Of all his many talents, inner exploration wasn’t one of them, but his outer search was fruitful nonetheless, and he could tell the story.

That monk reluctantly agreed to see him, and he told him that, after all his years mortifying the flesh, he’d come to the conclusion that you had to  include the flesh in the equation of the spirit, that the more you fought it the stronger it got, and this just turned Kazantakis’ head around. That’s not what he expected to hear.

You see I had the same problem, only worse, and I was actually there for the same reason more or less, trying to answer that sticky question. I wasn’t just up there to post poems. I wanted to write it out, but I was much more specific than he. With me it was the genitals I wanted to know how to handle, because I couldn’t handle mine, handled other people’s too much. The poem posting was about redemption, what I capture in a previous story, the one that introduces this one, called “Behind the Mask Jerusalem, the Journey of the Thousand Tongues.” But the journal is about, among larger things, that proper relationship, and it’s just grist to the mill, gives no lasting answers, but like his, in spirit not in quality, it is a report to my people, which in this day and age of an arising world culture is everybody on earth.

The Overthrow of I Am
At
The Equality of Soul

Dudaim Cave, En Gedi, Israel

I am beginning the report of this narrative from Dudaim Cave, where it is said that young David, the future king of Israel, came and hid from the present king and who sought his life. In the course of the search for David the king and his party three thousand men strong came here to En Gedi. Saul came into this cave to take a nap, as David and a few followers hid in its recesses. While the king slept David crept and cut off a piece of Saul’s garment then ran outside himself. Such an act saved his life as well as got his point across, though it could have just as easily got him killed. The point is he took a risk and exposed more than just his life; he uncovered what he was about. He wasn’t there to kill the king, only clarify his royal ways. I don’t know how much my mission here mirrors David’s. I only know that in En Gedi I begin this exposition of personal and divine exposure.

At the Monastery of St. Catherine, Egypt

So I’m not here to stand upon the mountain and shake my fist at God and demand the fulfillment of my desires, but I am here to stand on top of the mountain and open my heart to its indwelling divinity so that I may no more seek to feed my desires and eat upon the hearts of others. It is my I am that I overthrow, and the conflict has reached the point and pitch that I find myself in these elevated circumstances participating in a process that seems symbolic for all of humanity.

On the mountaintop

I’m on the top of the mountain writing from the spot that I slept, away from the buildings and people on a small ledge facing west. Last night, lying here under the bottomless sky looking up at an infinity of stars so crowded together they were humming, I felt I was fixing to fall, not down the mountain, but up out into space. The feeling was so intense I had to grab hold of the rocks around me to keep me on the ground. I finally put the covers over my head and went to sleep, but I had a dream about gravity letting go of me and woke up feeling my body pulled towards the stars. I got up straight away and went and touched a building and stood near other people long enough to feel grounded again. It’s not that I don’t want to fly. I just don’t want to fall.

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I don’t want to belittle sexual orgasm. As a spiritual experience it has great value, but it is on the way to more fuller and complete spiritual experience, and it seems to be very easy to stay focused on the genitals and ignore the urgings of the energy to rise to the open heart and head.

This brings me to a point I think I’d rather avoid, but I know I must carry on. I am here on Mt. Moses for this very thing. Two questions I’d like to attempt to answer, one I’ve asked earlier, and the other one I’ve hinted at in these pages. Why are we so attached to the genitals, and how do we acquire the I organization of identity?

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Now I must depart from the usual metaphorical and fuzzy explanations of the development of ego given to this point and locate this center around which the I is formed concretely upon the body. The child’s private sense of personhood develops hand in hand with the privatization of its genitals. As its genitals become more private so too does the child become a more private self-conscious person. The genitals are the one place on its body that it must hide and keep private, the one place that can only be touched in cleaning or going to the bathroom. The more rigid the enforcement of the genital taboos the more rigid the structure of the I.

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Humanity moved completely into the waking world and began to deny and reject anything non-material or non-intellectual. This can only be a temporary situation because the invisible world aims to become visible regardless of human denial. It is the nature of the evolution of consciousness to become more aware not less so. This I has been only a temporary stopping point and safe haven to prepare us for our next step in the evolution of our identity.

[Thursday August 17, 1995] The time has come for me to post the poems on this mountain. It is late morning and no one is about. I’ve covered much ground here, and though I’ve oversimplified and understated the process I’ve written about, the core is here. I leave it to someone else, perhaps my future self, to expound upon these ideas and present them in a more orthodox and acceptable manner.

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I wrote the account over 20 years ago, and I’ve only included a small part of it, but the central ideas are there, albeit unresolved. It would be years before they would be. I actually had the answers all along, and it’s in the above journal too in kernel form, but I didn’t see it back then. Since early childhood every few years I’ve had inner experiences deeper and other than dream, ones that showed me more profound and sustaining pleasure can be felt by us in the body and out of it than that given by sexual orgasm.

We’re capable in fact of another  kind of orgasm, a higher kind that involves the entire body, where instead of the ecstatic flowing sensation coming from the genitals, you, your whole seat of consciousness, flows up out of the top of your head some distance, an orgasmic fountain up, and you see and hear from up there, which is not outside of you but inside, an inner upper, or overhead experience it’s called in the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo.

There are even other stations of consciousness up there, not just “a blank port in the unseen,” a metaphor Sri Aurobindo uses in the epic poem Savitri to describe just going up and not ‘anywhere’, not to  the higher and more all-encompassing identities. Reaching even the first, Supermind, however, which is in its unmanifested state a little more than rooftop level over the head, in my experience at any rate, is the rarest experience in the consciousness of humanity and most hidden in terms of our direction of travel as a race. The blank overhead experience not reaching any of those heights is more common, though it’s not yet on the net that I’ve seen, but the word blank here means not arriving anywhere and not a blank experience by any means; it’s among the richest of our species. You go up a couple of meters, your sense of seeing and hearing too, stay there in that immensity a short time, and come back down into your normal seat of consciousness. And those capacities for pleasure and bliss are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are among the most important because they take us where we’re going, to higher stations of consciousness capable of seeing more than one perspective at a time, more than a single pole of experience.

Mystics the world over have reported experiencing physical ecstasy, yogis samadhi, and there are as many degrees and kinds of it as there are stars I’d imagine, all the way to being completely free of your body while you’re still in it, something Vipassana meditation results in this if taken to its climax, though they’ll say you’re being lead to enlightenment. When that happens you experience a ‘puff’ on the inside, like it’s happening to you, all of you in there, and there’s no body sensation and no feeling of being in the world at all, though you can still manipulate the body, and the pleasure in this, like that I’m describing above, makes sexual orgasm pale in comparison, and you get the impression that the latter is merely gross physical pleasure that any animal can feel at the drop of a hat (at least alone), and though you may still be stuck in it, you want that other more total and sustaining kind if you’ve had a taste of it, but, if it doesn’t happen spontaneously, the effort put forth to experience it is beyond the capacity of most, and there is very little open knowledge of how to do it or do it again if it just happened without any effort on your part. All this and I haven’t even mentioned shutting the thinking mind and feeling heart off and sitting in the silence, the emptiness of enlightenment.

Yet these things are almost unheard of in humanity, the fame of enlightenment notwithstanding. Do you know about them? Instead sex gets the attention because it’s the closest thing to ecstasy we know, especially when combined with romantic love, some ray however sticky of divine love, which is love in itself. Religion, especially the monotheistic ones, remember these things dimly, and though fringe members may experience them, they too are somewhat taboo because generally speaking the big religions shun physical pleasure and, ironically, hearing and seeing what they worship or aspire to, delaying it usually for an afterlife in a heaven. Religious efforts to experience the higher pleasure or love God alone often involve denying the flesh and sometimes mortifying it, but it many if not most instances I’ve seen the ones doing the austerities only have a vague idea if any of the transcendent pleasure possible, and what’s important isn’t that but the austerities in themselves, done as a sort of punishment to appease God for being dirty because they are in the flesh, to gain his acceptance, like the mad monks who Kazantzakis spoke to who lived alone in caves on the back cliffs of Mt. Athos, denying themselves even basic necessities. Every once in awhile one would think he could fly and jump to his death upon the ocean rocks far below. You’ve  got to imagine, though, God being such a paradox to our reason, there would be real instances of human flight scattered about in human history achieved by ascetics, Milarepa’s probably the most well known.

The ecstatic experiences I’m talking about are often confused with the ability to perform miracles such as fly or levitate, heal the sick and so forth (not to say things like that are impossible) confused also with a great joyful uplift of emotion or sudden feeling of expansion. The ecstasy transcends our limits of sensation and feeling and in rare instances, transcends our identity. It’s the only thing that can replace sex because sex is an animal form of it, and as animals we’re largely ignorant of what is higher in us than animal, not on the food chain, but in terms of development of consciousness and self-awareness, but as that other that we are other than animal, something we haven’t yet defined, what even skeptics scratch their heads over, we are not ignorant of it and even unbeknownst to ourselves seek both it and its source, which is God, though in such experiences God can be hidden or the heart of it, and so you may think he’s not there, but it’s not a matter of thought but of seeing what we can see of him in the one pole of experience consciousness. Experience multiple poles of experience at the same time, and you’re seeing more as God, who sees it all, all at once and can sort it all out. You’ve got to figure he’s infinitely bigger and smarter than you, and so you wouldn’t be able to see God with your reason or the senses as a being standing in front of you however big you want to imagine him.

God’s the filler of the void, any void, but mainly he’s what’s filling nothingness, the janitor of the One my muse calls him. We each are one big hungry void trying constantly to be filled with something we like. Sit a moment in the quiet of your surroundings and unhook your attention from all contact, though not closing your eyes, turning off all media especially, doing nothing at all, especially not smoking, eating or drinking anything. Feel it?

God is all well and good, but you might be wondering if I think I really almost flew that first night on the mountaintop, and here’s the heart of the problem of accounts of such things that supersede nature be they true or false: exaggeration and misunderstanding what was experienced. The feeling of falling was a change of perception that came about as the result of waking from a dream where I was falling into the sky and had come off the ground. Once fully awake I still had both the sensation of falling and the perception of it until I bolted to a building, but before that my body did not move from where I awoke. In my report I make it sound like it did, or at least leave levitation or weightlessness as an open possibility.

Here on the mountain I wasn’t high on smoke as I’d been in Dahab (a Sinai resort on the Red Sea famous then for smoke, or bananas it was called) a few days before. Other than that code word it was openly smoked and sold all over the resort, which was gated in by police, and in most restaurants and hostels a nicely dressed polite Bedouin would come and give you a sample. With my traveling companions and I it was an able looking old man that came to our hostel to see us. It was night, and we sat on the shore of the sea as we smoked. I did a meditation, since I hadn’t smoked in awhile and knew I’d have a good sitting. I didn’t expect weird. The relaxed environment and ancient setting upon that sea, along with the potent pot, triggered a strange experience.

After a bit of breathing exercises and concentration I found myself seeing the world from upside down, as if I were upside down, not completely but almost, and I was in the meditative posture in the upright position, naturally, and I knew it only as a change of perception and sensation. So I must’ve been open to repeating of something weird like that with the senses here on the mountain, hence the dream and falling feeling. On this poetic adventure, strange things were happening with me a lot, especially between me and my immediate surroundings, like it was a heightened time, something on a higher slope of life, for a few meters anyway, not having flown notwithstanding.

Bringing the story back down to earth and uncovering once again what taboo makes us cover, let’s pull the world’s pants down again and show the genitals. What all the fuss is about with the genitals is we get some sensation of the subtle body through manipulating them. The subtle body is like a body beneath the body, whose centers are along the spine but not in the physical body, the genitals being one of those 7 centers. Along with the sensation there’s some activation of that chakra to a limited extent, and no other chakra can be activated so so naturally by physical means, since someone with the knowledge in their hands can activate other centers. Activating any chakra, however slightly, has a big impact upon your life. Maybe that easy access has something to do with why the genitals are called the communication chakra in the Indian subtle body system. I’ve found that and more; it’s the place on the body to turn up or down the volume of a person basically, turn up desire, turn up the volume in the conflict between right and wrong, turn up the inner consciousness, turn up creativity, turn up things both bad and good.

When you add to that they’re the seat of the ego on the body (in terms of your body consciousness not your mind or heart), and they serve other functions, the lower orgasm not among the least, you have a very sensitive area on the body that needs special handling. How other people look and touch ours during the first years of life when the ego is transcribed is a bit like putting in a computer program. So how we relate to them is of great importance, hence the many taboos surrounding them. My article “Make Peace With the World”, and the long poem “The Pupil and  His Divine, a Harmony in Five Measures,” both on my personal blog, Collaboration With the Unknown, might interest you to see what that future self is writing on these matters.

Here I have to go on high again, but not out of the body. The most optimum places on the body to turn up or down that volume knob the genitals represent are the heart and top of the head, opening there as opposed to opening down there, or if you have, using the opening from within or above to get you right again because what you’re opening to with the heart is the soul, its good government and with the top of the head the light from above, the divine ray, and as it goes down it readies all the centers (chakras) for the readied opening down there that gives you the life-force to have the type of experiences I’m describing. If you open it directly by focusing on the life-force valve just below the genitals, the perineum, the bottom charka and seat of what’s called in Indian yoga, the kundalini, that valve, then you’re in trouble, believe me. It can increase your sexual impulses manifold, increase anger and all the other passionate emotions too. You will find you have less self-control over these things if your focus is there for the higher bliss and overhead experience, or even for enlightenment, so much less control you won’t get much of those refined things.

But that process for the soul to take our government and the light to get down there takes years, as much of a constant spiritual practice as you can do, and I’m only sometimes  able to do it all the time, that is, maintaining a sadhana concentration every waking moment, which gets you waking up in dream so much you’re concentrating on being as awake as you can in each moment, or concentrating on what’s larger than the moment I might put it, putting spirit into the equation, what we often neglect to do so concerned we are with the flesh.

Though there are rewards doing it the slow way such as occasional ecstasies, increased awareness, enhanced creativity, more ability to lucid dream, and so forth, you have to be patient if you’re trying to solve the riddle of the spirit and the flesh and you see you do have to include the flesh in the equation too. I have learned from my teachers I’ve mentioned and the yoga I’m doing, that including it doesn’t mean you have to have sex, that you simply must or a real need is there, at least in the mature adult, but the trick is, what it all hinges on, you’re not abstaining from sex out of a sense of morality, of not offending God either, but because you know if you want the larger orgasm, the ecstasy, you have to give up the smaller one. Here you’re not denying your sexual impulses but sublimating them to where they go as we grow into larger people. And that makes all the difference; makes it humanly possible.

I don’t think even that old silent monk who told Kazantzakis you have to include the flesh was able to see that including the flesh in the spirit means a different type of sexual feeling and impulse than the animal form of it we know now, but more importantly, it means a whole new body and earth, ones more flexible in the winds of infinity. That’s the meaning of transformation.

If that’s all there is to us, being an animal, then, in addition to having to forever endure death, disease and destruction, we are compelled by nature to indulge our desires and can only curb them with self-rule and law, which usually means clubbing them, a fundamental fight between good and evil that tears some of us apart and doesn’t leave a one of us unscathed. If you’re over 14 chances are you’re dealing with sexual desire daily, in your dreams, in your waking life, and you have to do something with it even if that’s denying it totally, what society wants you to do, what you’ve been taught you should do until you’re married. It’s probably right here that society breaks down the most because we don’t have complete mastery over our sexual impulses when we’re young, especially a young teen, mastery in the sense that you have complete control over your sexual impulses, fantasies, and conduct whether you indulge those things or not, mastery even in dream. Not even many older adults have that. Do you?

It creates a situation similar to what I encountered in Special Forces school where the rules were such that you had to figure out  how to break them or you probably wouldn’t pass, which was captured by the unofficial motto of our Q course, “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’, and if you get caught you ain’t SF.” While that’s fine for unconventional warfare, it’s not for everyday society. Not being able by nature to fulfill our society’s most basic conventions leads to so much strife and confusion in individual lives and in society itself. You can say it leads to war.

But we are more than animal in our nature and can put sex in a higher coin, one more satisfying and real, as I’ve explained, and if it were part of becoming a full-fledged adult to achieve this greater sexual currency, then naturally our youth will want it too and wouldn’t spend too long in the animal form of it. That would be considered immature, though young adults would have enough children between themselves to keep humanity going. You can see where I’m going, but I’m going farther, or more integrally, than just having better or higher sexual feelings and sensations. I’m going to a new body and a new earth like I said. The yoga I do in the form of a sadhana, aims not only to transform the individual but the world too, does not deny sex and orgasmic feeling (ecstasy) but gives you the means to gain mastery over those things and sublimate them to where they need to go in a being transforming mind, life, and body into what’s other and more aware than the animal, into our inborn hidden divinity.

I was nowhere near that mastery mountaintop in terms of a permanent dwelling place while on that outer mountain posting those poems that, at the time I wrote them, I thought were directly inspired and were the epitome of poetry. That they were remotely inspired I might grant them, such was the rush of feeling I felt as I wrote them, almost effortlessly it seemed such a strong flow there was, but it was a formless flow, and it was my mind and not my inspiration that put the words to that flow, and so you’re not hearing the voices of the unseen. It would be hard to say if they’re even poetry in the sense of the word, since the poetic form and content, the simple rhymes and the march of ideas, don’t match, but it’s easier to say it’s not good poetry because it isn’t, but it is catchy.

To me they were great poems that one day would be read. I think, if we write a lot of poetry over the course of our lives, we all think that sometimes, but we’re not all great poets. If our greatness lies in our abilities and talents then we are not great, or only have an animal greatness, temporarily known for some trick we can do. You’ve got to figure no one’s name is immortal given that unbeginningless and endless time outdo any form, even reason and rhyme. Our greatness rests in our soul, which isn’t in time, which means we are all somebody special like we sometimes think we are. We just have to put it in the right place, one of the hardest places we can put effort, and so most of us don’t really bother.

The sense that I had some good poems to post in high places, though due more to the exuberance and pride of a young man than the muse of poetry, gave me the confidence to do something at once both silly and striking, depending on how you look at it: taping my poems to  the most sacred places I knew about and could get to from Jerusalem to Cairo, why I was here on Mt. Sinai posting my poems. The mountain was there. The presence of God too.

This photo of Mount Sinai is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The Overthrow of I Am

I am that I am
on the throne
of the organizational center
of the experience of identity,
and I am a jealous God.

I am who I am
behind a veil.
That most open part of me
I won’t even let you see.
Lest you touch upon my surrender.

I am which I am,
which is he not she,
which is the very reason
I am an I and not a we.

I am how I am,
So don’t expect me
to let my children go.
Lest they cast an eye upon my throne,
and I find I am overthrown.

I am thinking I am
the only one
that there can be.
You’re only supposed
to think about me.

I am feeling I am
getting mad.
How else do you think
I don’t feel sad?

I am wanting I am,
and I want you
to give me everything
that you don’t want to,
so you won’t want anything from me.

I am why I am
because I am afraid
pleasure will wash
my I am away.
so I punish you.

I am where I am
not really that smart.
I am the I am
scared of the dark.

I am saying I am,
but it’s not really true.
Here is your worst fear:
That I am you.

As the bell tolled I posted the poems on every large flat horizontal surface around there that people were likely to see, on the chapel too of course, except the very last poem, which was hidden and probably stayed up a while as a result. The others it appears got torn off almost immediately by a man up there questioning me about exactly where I’d put the poems, and like a silly young fool I told him, not noticing until later his tone and manner. The bell had stopped, and we were standing at the bulletin board just down from the chapel, and I’d just posted a poem. He was a bit offended by especially one of the poems, “The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler” (included in the Jerusalem story), or maybe only by the title. He’d been going behind me and reading what I was putting up, but I hadn’t noticed him until then, nor noticed, like I said, he was ripping off the poems, though I didn’t see him actually doing that.

He was of European origin from his look and speech, but he might’ve been Israeli. I thought he was interested in what I was doing and so was asking questions about it. I was also a little taken by the fact that, according to him, there was 500 Spaniards coming up there that very day. A crowd would see my poems, and I marveled at the occurrence, but I didn’t know that a censor was there in the guise of an interested person who was taking it upon himself to make sure the mountain was politically correct. We think it’s mostly the government doing the censoring. It’s just as much us.

Thinking I was done, I left him to go down but found a great place to put a poem not far from where I met Mr. Prophet days before, and so I put the last poem, “The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler”, on a small rock wall on a slanted overhang, a little box-like hidden place on the very edge just below the top. It was probably the only poem anybody saw except Mr. Censor , though it wasn’t easily seen. If you were too afraid of heights you wouldn’t see it, since it’s slanted towards a fall.

Right after I tapped it I looked down and there was a big splif only slightly smoked and weathered. I hadn’t smoked since I’d done so with a British couple outside the hostel the night before I went up, not taking any because I was doing a purification of sorts abstaining from basic pleasures. Purification is a necessary part of the path, but it’s for advancement not moral reasons. Our succession as a race comes from pure lives (my muse). You just don’t go overboard, or over the cliff, with it.

The most difficult part of the equation is you can’t make a rule to say when it’s okay to break the rules. We’re animals evolving into humans, what we haven’t yet fully become, and so you just have to learn to fly by the seat of your soul not your pants, pants here to represent all impure actions. Your soul knows the answer to the equation, which is an individual answer unique to each situation, and it understands indulgence and your need not to deny it but harmonize it and only throw out  what can’t be. To me that joint lying there was a gift from the mountain that told me my work was done, and I could get high. I snatched that refer up and smoked it.

The view was dizzying, but I was so high I knew I could fly, not then though (not now either). It’s hard to say suspension in gravity’s even possible, but I know it is from early childhood, as one of my first remembered experiences of the fuller ecstasy was bouncing weightless with what seemed to me as a small child to be bubbles of pleasure bubbling all through me. You can’t picture this. It’s a transcendent pleasure, pure ecstasy. The last time lasted less than a minute, and I remembered it had happened a couple of times before, brief as well, and I was so surprised to have forgotten it, but I saw we could be weightless, and so have others. I have the certainty we can do much more.

The last encounter I had while up there, a wonderful one, was with a young woman, a painter. She wasn’t at the top painting, but down in Elijah’s Basin, right at the entrance to it where the trail comes down from the summit, a wide one at that point, a little road really. It was only on the other side of the valley that it gets steep and narrow, the way I went down the mountain, but over the course of 30 years a monk at the monastery carved out steps all the way to the top, an austerity he did for God, a sacrifice. Did it make him fly or fall?

Elijah's Basin

Elijah’s Basin

Sitting at an easel right at that spot, and being as bright and pretty as she was, she graced the scene. So I looked at her more deeply as I got closer, but in a platonic way. I guess that made my eyes look more intense to her because as she saw them she dropped her paintbrush. She probably hadn’t seen me walk up, but her surprise had more to do with how I looked than my walking up on her. With that long hair and beard, and the colorful clothes, especially the wide beaded headband sparkling in the morning sun, and having been on a rugged mountaintop for three days focused on divine contact, in my writing hand and inner looking, well, a little of the image of Moses might’ve shown, a bright trick of the morning light. She picked up her brush and asked, half seriously, “Did you see God?”

I asked to see her painting, a politeness you give a painter painting. She was painting the valley, but I don’t remember much about it so engrossed I was in the mountain morning high except that it was quite nice to look at, which I did while answering her question with an initial yes I had seen him, though not in the way she meant. I told her about the poem posting up top and the sense of God’s presence up there too. I also told her I was quite high on grass I’d found posting the last poem, and I so I wanted to go into the valley before the light left, and so I took her leave and soon came upon an ancient Cyprus tree, said to be over 500 years old, and I tapped “The Overthrow of I Am” on it. Then I meditated for an hour or so the inner state coming on so strongly, that feeling of being pulled inside, for me it’s usually the head, parts of it vibrating, especially the forehead, another higher point of concentration helpful to focus on. If you move your body or shift your awareness to the outside, poof you’re out of it or coming quickly up out of it. Even if you don’t do regular meditation, that pull to go inside happens to many people late in the morning as they’re going about their day. Maybe even you. Ever notice how things  in what we call normal life just aren’t set up to go with our inner rhythms?

As stupid as it may sound these 20 years later. after all the people that have done that. have tried to change the world so expressively on the net, and those that did it before on whatever medium, I aimed to change society with poetry I felt was inspired. I thought I was giving it a boost by putting them in powerful places sacred to many people.

If I hadn’t written the story they’re be no boost, or only in the sense that, as my teacher says, one person’s achievement alone in a cave enriches the whole of humanity, even though mine wasn’t an achievement but a yet failed redemption. In my mind at the time those poems were idea bombs I was putting in place, as I express in the Jerusalem story, and I’d been on a Special Forces nuclear weapons team and put a tactical nuke in a place (though it wasn’t set to go off), and so the analogy didn’t come from my imagination. The poems are still set to go off even though they were stripped off shortly after being tapped up. These stories about posting them are the trigger.

It’s no longer the world or society I’m trying to change but you and I, or the world has become so personal discovering the invisible I see the world now more in terms of you and I. The ideas exploding are upon a page in your mind, if they detonate. In many minds that read these stories they won’t. If it gets you to see the unseen even a little, and helps me to see it more, our inner and other that we’ve ignored, or tried to, our underlying unity in the bad as well as the good in us, the inner states, the higher grounds of identity and consciousness, the near constant inner communication between not only all people but all things, the soul, the divine host, the powers hostile to that host, our secret divinity, and more, always more, then the ideas have exploded in humanity. In a matter of time you’re hear it.

But this is a slow explosion, one of many, from many of us and more to come, to blow up the screen that blinds us to the unseen, not too fast, so we don’t explode ourselves, figuratively speaking. The real and coming revolution, as I see it, is the rediscovery of humanity, recovering that which we’ve lost, the hidden links, concentrating on the links to light, links to love, links to evolution, or else we’ll be back where we were when, however it happened, we retreated into an almost exclusive focus on matter and the outer world to keep us safe from the invisible because it almost destroyed us. That’ll be the same reason we let it back in, safely: the ego identity transcribed from that focus on matter is destroying us now that we are reaching critical mass in terms of the number of us and the impact we have upon the environment, the planet.

The guests of unseen Egypt. That’s a line from my muse this morning, the poetic inner voice, a daily contact I have with the unseen. The next story goes deeper down into the land of Egypt, where was to be the next poem posting, but it’s not a story from the mountaintop, and the presences in the story are all too human, and so my muse this morning as I sit and write this isn’t about it. It’s about what we’ve forgotten, what we will be so surprised to remember and even more surprised that we could have ever forgotten: the invisible.

When we look on ancient sites and civilizations we see old crumbling monuments and such that we think were built by intelligent but superstitious and ignorant people. A lot of the monuments, however, are to the unseen, and the walls of their rooms are filled with its frescos, and so the official look, what’s in the textbooks and universities of humanity’s history, sees it all as their imagination, the god reflex, magic to make the crops grow, the insecurity of self-awareness, or whatever. In the not too distant future that almost exclusive outer look will change, and the inner will have its needed place – inevitably. It’s more from the inside you see the unseen, even when it’s on the outside. Our whole world hinges on doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before, inviting back into our awareness the invisible and unseen.

The end of this story begins the next one — back to the report, the overthrow, top and bottom.

Bottommost chamber of the Great Pyramid (a week later)

After [the posting on the tree and meditation], I went down and got my things in the hostel next to the monastery and began to walk to the village. As soon as I got out of the gate and entered the road, I met an Israeli teenager who was very much a part of the peace fast in Jerusalem. He is very involved in photography and took many pictures of Lars and I and our camp. Needless to say he was very surprised to see me again. It was a good thing. I needed a chronicler. He was a connecting link to the two phases of this poetic odyssey.

**********************************

You are the story this world links to.
Think about it,
Helpful details about other people’s lives.
“We just good to know.”

Too much evidence.
That’s wild,
something as visible as the unseen.
Grounding,
I’ve covered you in that.

“What the past?”
The past is mostly empty,
what the past just has to be.
Let’s take enlightenment.
Savitri
some of those things alive.

Watch abysses –
or Edgar Allen Poe.
“Fight us Law?”
Yep.
A good agreement,
find a good agreement
and flower simple springtime.

A writer blows up
a tactical nuke,
which stops at worms, wormholes,
and there’s stupid tourist woman.

I took her to the movies,
And she took your mountain to my knees –
“They’re animals.”
What good lady?
I stood up.

Must’ve been in an ideal form too form
if you ask me.
Stand whalin’ you keep
runs on this place:
the unbound.

And I’m continuing to fashion the heart
and put it in its desired place:
soul bound.
From here on out team effort,
“From here?”
That’s what’s pushy about me to you.

(my muse yesterday and today)

 

Post 11

(This story has been marginalized to my blog, after being rejected by literary magazines, in the U.S. and in Israel, and by Paul it seems, the character in the story who loses the original story mailed to my community during the events narrated. While it’s not stream of consciousness narration, if you’re afraid of Virginia Woolf , you might find this difficult to understand. Let me begin at the most intense moment of the story, for me anyway, and then work back and forward from there. You follow?)

I moved in front of Lars and made myself the target of the man holding the knife, not out of any sense of protecting Lars but because I wanted to be the one recognized as the ‘head’ of the hunger strike, not Lars, sure somehow the men had not come to kill us but only to make us leave, but it was still a gamble. I realized that as I stood a few inches away from the man looking him in the eye wishing it was still Lars in that position of leadership; the man was dead serious.

“Don’t look me in the eyes.  You’re nothing but a dog.  Look down dog.” This was said with such contempt I complied, and as I did I saw the knife, which he was shielding with his jacket so it couldn’t be seen from a distance.  When the men had come into the park they stood in a group in front of us, a couple holding one arm behind their backs like they had some weapon, the group jacking to spring.  I had made myself the sole object of their bad attention through force of ego, like I said, though originally they had come and confronted us as a group, demanding to know which one of us was Lars.

There were four or five men in total, one left as a lookout near the park entrance closest to us, making sure we could see his walkie-talkie. I could see they were nervous. They were also all young, in their early to mid twenties.  We were told later by Israeli friends that they were part of the Palestinian mafia of the old city, not from the PLO, Hamas, or anything like that, but we never actually found out what group they were from.  All we knew about them was that they were friends of Mohammad, a manager of a hostel in the old city that catered to Western tourists.  He himself was nowhere to be seen, though he’d been there in the afternoon with his friends, the same ones there now (new ones added), to tell us he wanted to play soccer there and needed the whole park to do so, and so we had to leave.  We had refused, and he said he’d be back.  Now, in the night, it wasn’t him back but his friends, who, we’d later learn, he’d lied to about the nature of his relationship with Patricia to get them to do what he asked, lying about us too.

“We’re coming back at 1 a.m., and if you’re still here we’re going to kill you, all of you, and you,” he said putting his face close to mine, “you, we’re gonna fuck you first before we kill you.   You hear that?  We’re gonna drag you in these bushes after we kill everybody else and fuck you.  You know what that means?”  He said it like he was letting something secret revel a moment in the moonlight, what little of it there was, and I nodded yes, abhorring the understanding I had.  With my long flowing hair and flowery hippie clothes I probably looked more feminine than masculine, but this wasn’t really about sexual attraction even though some element of that was present.  This was about male domination, wanting submission, control, what the whole thing was about actually.  Mohammad was mad at us because the night before a friend of ours, Patricia, had come to us badly beaten by him and wanting our help, and we gave it.  He had beaten her up because he tried to take her off alone from the group they were partying together with, and she resisted, and he punched her face and body until she got away.

She had come to us immediately after, and the next morning he came to the park to talk to her, us trying to keep that from happening because she said she accepted his apologies but did not want to talk to him then or at any other time.  He pushed past us and went to talk to her anyway and told her that if she wouldn’t give him another chance she had to leave Jerusalem because he wouldn’t be able to control himself, and she told him that all she wanted was him to leave her alone, and that she wouldn’t press charges or do anything to him, just please leave her alone.  That made him mad and he shouted at her and left the park.  So for attempting to protect Patricia from him he had sent his gang to make us leave the park in which we had been conducting a hunger strike in for the past 7 or 8 days, and this literally rained on our parade.

It was Jerusalem 1995, a tinderbox where the least little thing ‘not on its side of the line’ could instigate a small riot or a scurried scuffle.  We had not appreciated that fact in our youthful plans to do a hunger strike for peace there in a little park outside of Jaffa Gate.  It was Lars’ idea, and by the time I came on the scene he was doing a ‘last supper’ with his small group of friends and supporters, mostly young women, two of whom were his sisters.  During the dinner I pulled him aside, and we went outside, and I asked if he really planned to strike until death.  He assured me he most certainly did, though his mother had just paid a surprise visit from Demark to insure her 22 year old son wasn’t going to kill himself, and he’d assured her he wasn’t going to, or something to that effect.  She had left him with his sisters to keep an eye on him, and so it’s not probable he’d have starved himself to death.  But when he’d told me he was going to do so he had a certain look in his eyes that was such an exaggerated mixture of sadness and pride – ‘woe is me I’m great enough to lay down my life for others’ – I believed him.

It was a little restaurant just outside the old city, Israeli I think, but it could’ve been Palestinian (your mind over time can merge the most surprising things).  We were on the steps in front of the place, and it was late afternoon or early evening.  I had only arrived in the city a couple of days or so before, direct from Houston on KLM, via a fortifying three day stopover in Amsterdam because I couldn’t board the flight to Israel without purchasing a return ticket.  Like every other obstacle in the whole thing, it wasn’t really an obstacle but a great help in disguise.  My step-brother had a flat there and gave me the royal treatment to help prepare me for my poetry posting.

Lars and I had been having conversations since we’d met in the hostel we both stayed at, where Mohammad was the manager by the way, intense conversations, the kind you have when your world’s at stake.  I’d told him my story, how I was becoming prominent in a small town feeding and sheltering the homeless and organizing a community dream library with the help of the local public radio station and fell from grace and had to leave town in the dead of night, and how I returned to my hometown of Houston and did some ardent soul-searching and wrote a cycle of poems, and now I was going to post them on holy sites in the old city, poems like “The Last Man on Earth”, about human unity, “The Overthrow of I Am”, about dethroning the human ego, and “The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler”, about him in hell realizing his pain is the pain he gave and redeeming himself.

“You’ll get yourself killed!,” he’d told me in an earlier conversation, and now on those steps he was telling me I was the one doing something stupid, not him by killing himself in a hunger strike for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, “if it came to that.”  It was then I saw the something else, a little glimpse of something in me that I was getting acquainted with but wasn’t proud of, something in all of us: the chosen one.  It was there on his face: he will be the one that brings peace to the Middle East.  It had not taken over, was still just some glimmer of hope not fanned into a fire, and so he was a passionate young man exuberating confidence and not some nut proclaiming himself somebody.  It is the hardest thing to reconcile: being at the center of your senses sensing the world but not being the center of the world, being a nobody constantly confronted with all the somebodies that made history, and Lars was not going to give up without a fight.  Do any of us?

He’d conceived of the hunger strike in Jerusalem on a train from Delhi to (then) Bombay, or the other way around, and soon after he’d made his way here to carry it out.  Before India he’d traveled through Iraq and Iran, converting to Islam, which had awoken in him a sense that he had something to do, a mission, and being treated so special by all the people who hosted him, which probably had more to do with him being the only Western convert among them than his specialness, that sense had grown so strong here he was in Jerusalem on his mission.

I sat there a moment and fantasized about how I thought he fantasized events would unfold: people saddened, ultimately torn apart, by this young man’s sacrifice, his deteriorating health reported daily by the world press, more and more people holding rallies to save his life all over the world, the leaders of the two peoples coming together to outline peace to prevent such a brave man’s death, and I could do that with some accuracy because it wasn’t too unlike the world splash I made in my fantasies posting the poems, in my own fight with being nobody, though in my case it wasn’t being a nobody I fought against as much as it was being an unredeemable bad man.  It would come to Lars and I on a hunger strike and waiting for people to come join us.

The Last Man on Earth

Your face is not your face.
Your hands are not your hands.
Your genitals are not your genitals.
Your thoughts are not your thoughts.

They belong to us.

How you look we look.
What you do we do.
What you hide we hide.
What you think we think.

We are you.

That isn’t you in the mirror,
Nor you being raped,
Nor you dying,
Nor you killing.

It is us.

Who you are we are.
When you’re hurt we’re hurt.
When you die we die.
When you kill we kill.
We are human beings,

Every last one of us.

I called him on his ‘I’m this specialness’, and he smiled sheepishly like he’d been caught in the cookie jar, but he still wasn’t deterred, and so I accepted his invitation to join him if he’d help me post the poems afterwards, which would mean we wouldn’t strike unto death, and he reluctantly agreed.  On my insistence, we decided to call it a hunger strike for inner and outer peace, since I told him I needed to change myself before I could change the world, my recent fall so fresh in my mind and heart, and so I would be fasting for inner peace, and he would fast for outer.  It was a couple of weeks before Easter and Passover, which would occur at the same time this year, and so we set the end date for around then, Lars not agreeing on a concrete end date having to do with I knew not wanting to dispel completely the siren whiff of martyrdom.  I was 33 and eleven years his senior, and it’s just human nature to make more sense at that age, though from most anybody’s perspective we both were being the biggest fools.

flyer we passed out, made by a Palestinian man I think

flyer we passed out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started our strike that night in a little park below Jaffa Gate and next to Yemen Moshe, the neighborhood with the windmill on the side of a hill.  He had found the park and liked it because it was frequented by both Israelis and Palestinians (Arabs Israelis call them), but sitting there alone in the dark we wondered if it was too out of the way for us.  Before too long, a couple of hours or so, a young South Korean man came riding up on his bicycle, odd because this was night and not day and grass not asphalt, but he said he’d seen us sitting there.  He said his name was Johnny, and he’d just cycled around the world for peace.  We had no doubt this was a meaningful coincidence.  It became for us a downright synchronicity when, in the course of our conversation, he turned around and lifted up his shirt.  On his back was ‘world peace’ tattooed from shoulder to shoulder.  Yes, we saw, the park was the right place.  Johnny, though, we weren’t to see again until we ran into him as we posted poems Easter morning in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In the morning Katrina and his other sister, came to sit with us, who’s name escapes me, since she left soon after strike began, and I didn’t get to know her. Patricia came too, including a young and colorful ‘alternative’ Palestinian man, who brought his drum and who would paint our hunger strike sign and sleep with us the first couple of nights.  Since we had sleeping bags and other camping gear, and we were playing music and singing, sometime in the early afternoon the tourist police showed up, but they were quite friendly and sat down with us, one, Amir, even taking a guitar of ours and playing and singing a rock song.  It was obvious he really liked Patricia, the Helen of Troy of our story, launching all these ships in it.  She was from Scotland and a friend of Katrina and worked as a waitress in the old city.  I don’t know exactly what it was about her, but she had what men liked, gave off some kind of mystery it seemed a lot of men wanted to solve, had to solve.  He was focused on her the whole time, and when he left he told us we could camp there until some fundraising event scheduled there in a couple of weeks, and we knew it was because of Patricia.  We were to learn later from locals we were the first group that had been allowed to camp there, and others had tried.

At the urging of his sisters we agreed to drink banana milk or some fortified puree every other day or so, and so it wasn’t a real fast, though we did agree to stay away from all substances like grass, tobacco, and alcohol, stimulants like coffee and tea, and to abstain from sex.  I was quite nervous about fasting and kept talking about that banana milk, and it became a joke among us those first couple of days, Don and his banana milk.  I was also quite jealous of Lars being the center of attention, as though it were only him on the hunger strike, and all the silly admiration that involved, and I did and said things you do and say so to make it known you are also importantly involved.  Soon more people joined our little camp, and the change in demographics tipped the scales of power in favor of a duo doing it, and with Lars’s shaved head and roundish features, though he wasn’t fat, that reminded you of Buddha, and my long hair, beard, and skinny frame that made me look a lot like the historical Jesus, and with us laying all over one another all the time, having let our ego boundaries down like new-found lovers, we were a dynamic duo, which, after a test, would bring a small musical crowd to that park to play and sing in a spirit of a united joy, a little echo from, in my ears, the kingdom of the music within. Unfortunately that’s something you can only hear about if you weren’t there, and whether you believe it or not, you might wonder at the life-deciding test we had to past for something like that to occur, a love in, a gathering, in the sense of those things.

Our test was no small one, getting back to where I was facing a man with a knife in the dark in the park that begins the story. It meant a personal encounter with death, and it didn’t matter if the threat was real or not; standing there in the darkness in Jerusalem having just been told by Palestinians they were going to come and kill us if we didn’t leave, it had the six o’clock news all over it.  To top it off, it suddenly started to rain, for the first time since we’d set up camp there, and standing there in the pouring rain holding our lives in our hands it was all a bit much, and our only thought was how quickly we could get out of there.

After a short pow wow we decided to ask the help of the Israeli man that had befriended us, a robust older man named Josef that came to the park daily to do Ti Chi and walk his dogs, bringing a pot of tea each evening his wife made for us.  He’d introduced us to his long haired son, Milo, my age, who in the coming months, in my vagabonding around Israel after the strike, I’d come to other times in need of aid and support.  I ran up into Yemen Moshe to their townhouse, a steep hike, while Lars organized the gathering together of everybody and our things.  I spoke to Josef several minutes, and then returned to the camp.  Within 10 minutes Milo came driving down in a van and told us he had arranged for us all to spend the night in the empty apartment of a friend.  He told us his father had called the police and was told there was nothing they could do unless we filed a complaint, and he asked if we wanted to, and we said no, and he said he figured as much.

There were 5 of us by that time (Katrina and Patricia more outside support): Ramon, a sensitive and gentle spiritually-minded young man in his early 20’s from Amsterdam, Saskia, also from Amsterdam in her early 20’s, strong, matriarchal, but not concerned with group politics, with a headful of dreads bicycling Israel, Zeke, a funny little man, a Russian immigrant in his mid 50’s, a Torah scholar, dabbler in Kabala, vagabond, Lars and I.  Neither Saskia nor Zeke had been there when we were threatened, but she had returned to camp immediately after, and he came walking up as we were throwing things into the van.  He stared at us in disbelief and then asserted himself, and though the interchange was longer and bit more complicated than I record it here, it boiled down to:

“Are you crazy?” Zeke asked.

“They’re nuts.  Come on let’s go,” Milo said motioning us into the van.

“Look what you’re doing man, just walking away from everything.  One little thing and you run, you run!”

“But Zeke,” I told him, “they said they were going to come and kill us, and they’re going to fuck me first, then kill me!”

He made some body movement that ended in a stance that said he’d come to a decision.  Going off a ways from the van he said loudly, “Who’ll stay here?  I’ll stay here if just one other person joins me.”

“I don’t believe it.”  Milo was shaking his head.

I think it was Lars who went over and stood beside him first, but I’m not sure.  It might’ve been me, but, at any rate, in a matter of a couple of thoughtful minutes all of us did.  Milo started ranting, “You come to my country and do all this crazy shit.  Why don’t you do it in your own country?”  He continued complaining as he got into the van and drove away.  I felt like I was watching life and hope leave the area.  For some minutes we 5 stood there in silence in the dripping rain, and then I got animated and mentioned again, for the umpteenth time, how experienced I was in extreme situations, ex-Green Beret, dream traveler, homeless person, a failed candidate to become a community prophet, though I never listed that one, (soon I’d have to add ‘Jerusalem peace activist’), and I had a plan.

It wasn’t until I was going up into the first hostel in the old city I’d decided to go to, the Tobasco, where Katrina and Patricia stayed (though on this night they were in Israeli Jerusalem), that I realized how insane it would sound asking backpackers to come and do an all night vigil with us.  My plan was simple; go to as many backpacker hostels as I could and get as many people to come stand with us as possible, and seeing all the people with us, they surely wouldn’t kill us.  Lars was credulous, but I’d grabbed Ramon anyway, and we’d hustled up out of the park and into the old city

“In your head, in your head, zombie, zombie, zombie ei, ei,” was echoing through the backpacker cafes and the streets they were on, the hot song playing on the hostel radios, is in my mind the taste of my encounter with the ancient city when I look back on it, not playing though when I went in, but it did capture my moment. I went up the steps and inside to the desk and panted out my story to Jay, who worked the desk at night and let us take free showers there, a young American man from Denver, who was to play an increasingly intimate role with Patricia’s ships in the story.  He was in Jerusalem tied up with either pursing spiritual enlightenment or joining the U.S. Army and being a badass – the cowboy hat always on his head a symbol the army had the upper hand –, between peace and war, which seemed to be the flavor of the old city, but true to its big moon overhead, it turned out he was tied more there for love.

Jay surprised me by saying he couldn’t use his position to do that, but said he could go tell a few people he knew in the hostel and ask them to come to the front room.  I figured I’d walk up, and he’d sound the alarm, but in anything that asks for more people there’s always the gatekeeper.  Within a couple of minutes several people were there, on the sofa, the chairs, or standing, all expectant of something but I could see were disappointed with what they got as they looked on Ramon and I.  Dripping wet, out of breath, coming in from the night, I looked at them looking at us as I told my strange tale, and I couldn’t put anything appealing into it until a couple of boys around 18 or so began asking specific questions about not only why the strike but what religion we belonged to, and then I perked up and gave it more appeal, at least to one of the boys, Alison from Canada who was there to find out about God.  The other, from South Africa, was interested because of the situation itself, and would, on the way to the park, tell us about how used to such situations he was being from South Africa.  We only managed to get those two to come with us, and then only for a couple of hours they’d agreed, but two or three others, including Jay, had said they’d come sometime later after he got off work, but they never came.  With the interview ordeal we had to go through to get those two, and the realization of how absurd it sounded asking people to do what we were asking them to do, we decided not to go to other hostels.

I would imagine Alison still tells the story of being a boy in Jerusalem on the search for God and being lead at night through the old city, out Jaffa Gate, and down into a little park to a mad encounter with some unorganized misguided peace group.  The rain had stopped and left the air washed clean with a slight chill on it.  The splashing echoes of our feet as we made our way made for a much better sound than my voice spitting out in-between breaths my thoughts to this kid on God, but the closeness of the presence of ancient times, coming to a crescendo as you approach and go out the great gates with the spotlights hitting the giant stone walls, like brooding lights in darkness illuminating some stray expansive mystery of the existence of God, made for such talk.  It was just my words did not match the concreteness of the sight.

The conversation with Alison took place while I was having one also with the South African boy as we all ran down to the park, and, when we arrived, during an argument I had with Lars, which made it, on my end, a conversation attempting the impossible by talking about spirit and matter at the same time and they both are the dominant link. So, not being all that good at conversation gymnastics (I’m a writer not a speaker), it boiled down to turning from the other boy and giving Alison my Dr. Seuss tripped out cosmological interpretation of spiritual experiences I’d had, which, if I’d have simply described in the first place, would have perhaps given him an eye on God fit for such a setting, but as it was he only got the silly interpretation. These are not my exact words, but it’s the gist of the ‘elucidation’:

“The world is on the Who-cycle you see, humans are Who-I, driving I-cycles, and animals Who-me, riding me-cycles, plants Who-be sitting on be-cycles, and inanimate objects, Who-no, on no-cycles, denying they’re on a cycle, but they are.  Everything makes up the single existence of the Itself, and there are innumerable other cycles all the way to the Itself, but the next cycle on our scale is Who-we, flying the we-cycle, aware of themselves as expressions of the Itself and of their unity with the whole Who-cycle, who we are secretly becoming and who also the personal Gods are,” aware that last part wasn’t the exact man to God relation, but I figured I’d have time to sort out the difference.  That last part was always the problem, giving a Godhood to man, when I gave this spiel to anyone, the spiel I gave to people that asked me what my religion or spirituality was.  I asked him if he understood, and he flatly said no.

When we arrived at the park, which momentarily interrupted the flow of the conversation with Alison, and after a moment permanently ended the one with the other boy, the others in our group, Saskia and Zeke were there at our spot talking to Lars, We were camped in an area of the park not illuminated by the park’s lights, and it occurred to me as I saw them we would be much better off staying under one of the lights, but before I could say what was on my mind Lars came walking up towards us saying, “Two people, that’s all you could get?”  I made haste to introduce both boys as I began to defend myself, but then he attacked my plan, saying he knew people wouldn’t be crazy enough to come here at night in the rain under a death threat and stand with us.  It must’ve been at that point the South African boy realized the situation was nothing like the conflicts he was used to in South Africa, and he slipped off, but I honestly don’t remember because the argument Lars and I was having, which quickly centered on the best place to be killed, in the darkness or in the light, once I made my suggestion we move, was the worst one we’d had so far.

Lars won, and we would not be moved.  He’d suddenly become a pillar of faith.  For my part it was high time for some alone time, but I was suddenly hit with a barrage of questions from Alison about God, which I honestly tried to answer, not yet down to earth or mature enough just to tell him what I’d experienced about God and the soul, not what I believed about them, of the opinion, as most are, that expounding on such big subjects I had to give a whole worldview.  God, however, was not on my mind, my mortality was, and so I quickly tied up the talk and excused myself and went to a little gardened area nearby and sat down on a park bench.  I had suddenly become scared to death, as the implications of the fact that my life was truly in danger had finally hit me.

The fear was infinitely compounded by the fact that the situation was just too close to the scenario of a lucid dream some years before where I got stabbed in the heart by an angry man with brown skin standing with three others at night in a park, and instead of waking up in my bed like I was trying to, I died and actually went to the doorway of the other side, or had what’s called a near death experience.  I’d wondered at the time, because of the strength of the dream, whether or not it was showing me how I would die, and sitting there at night in a park having been threatened with a knife by very angry men with brown skin it seemed the dream was in fact precognitive, and I had that fight you have with yourself when you have the power to save your life but don’t want to take the escape because of some ideal you believe in.

You just feel so damn stupid, or at least I did.  I wasn’t really on a hunger strike for inner peace as much I was on a personal journey of redemption but couldn’t say that outright.  I can’t really say if redemption is worth dying for, even from this distance of 20 years, however much it’s worth its weight in gold in everyday life, but it’s not an ideal bigger than yourself, and maybe it’s best to only give your life to what is larger, if you can see past ego disguises and see that what you think you do for God or humanity, 9 times out of ten, is really something more to make yourself bigger even if that’s because you’re declared so unfairly small.  I didn’t see any of that being so young, but it all bore on the moment regardless, and it all made me feel so stupid and equally so afraid.

Sitting there I could see pulsating down the length of my body and onto the ground wide yellow horizontal irregular lines, one every half second or so, and concentrating on them, which is like looking at otherworldly lights coloring oddly a scene, auric lights they’re called, the whole area I was looking at turned into a an exceedingly beautiful violet checkerboard etched deep with the lines of the unknown, the place seen as pure energy, what it was it seemed the place rested upon, or was truly built of, something starkly sacred, and there is just something about beauty that helps chase away fear, especially spiritual beauty, and then I was alright, not immediately but after some minutes, the sudden shift to seeing energy as opposed to a world of forms coming at first as such a shock it was scary, that otherworldly fear taking some time to leave because it mixed so well with the fear of the coming of death.  I wasn’t ready for whatever danger the night might bring, either rape or death, but I was there.

I returned to the others and wasn’t surprised to find Alison had left too.  No one was talking, just each into our own thoughts standing there in the returning rain, that dark pounding chill.  When we started talking it was about the others who’d said they’d come, how they probably wouldn’t, and how it was best that those who wanted to stay in a hostel that night to do so, because it might rain all night long and only maybe three could fit in the one man tent, and Saskia and Ramon opted for the hostel and left the park.  I don’t know how long it was after their departure, but Zeke suggested we all just go into the little tent erected because of the rain and “go to sleep; if we’re still alive in the morning then we’ll know things are better.”  That’s just what we did.  In the morning things were better; neither rape nor death had come, nor any danger, only our unremembered dreams.

Normally we made some attempt to remember dreams so to discuss them after morning yoga exercises and meditation in our long walks together down deeper into the valley of Hinnon, or Gehenna (hell), the valley the little park opened down into.  Though over the years I can’t remember if it was before the amphitheater directly below the park or after, presently you come to little shallow caves along the opposite ridge where, records have it, ascetics lived when the land was under tribute to Egypt, and each one was castrated one day on the misread orders from Egypt that said to gather taxes from them too.  They thought it read to castrate them. On further you come to a place where, I learned from Lars, there was a temple to Baal where children were sacrificed, fathers putting their toddler sons into the arms of his image and it being set on fire, the screams of the child drowned out by the sudden eruption for that purpose of the devotees in mad deafening frenzy.  Lars said he thought a lot about the father of such a child, how it must’ve gotten to him at some point no matter how he tried to ignore it, talking about the family too and their suppressed guilt, and I picked up the image, the mute feelings, the terrible pain, and gave it a feel.  Yes, I figured, at some point they felt it.  We all do.

On one such morning a couple of days before the coming of Mohammad’s men he told me of a dream he’d had in the night where he and I were walking through an ancient forest of tall dark trees that many tourists walked through but were careful not to encounter the dark of the forest.  They left and the forest got increasingly darker, the branches of the trees turning into racks of antlers hanging down, at which point we noticed young bulls in the distance watching us about to charge, and so we climbed a tree, both very afraid.

He said after relating the dream that showed him he still had some fear, though he also admitted he was reluctant to tell me the dream because it would prove I was right.  We’d been having a debate about his declaration that he wasn’t afraid of anything, and I’d told him that he was in denial, and that everyone was afraid of something.  I recommended he pay attention to his dreams, and he’d find out he still had fear, which he’d done and found.  But it not only showed he was still afraid of things, it showed us, if we could but see it, the coming of Mohammad’s men and the threat they would present, as it would be as if we had been chased up a tree, figuratively, and by young bulls, what animal it can be said those men acted like.  Precognitive dreams are like that, rarely if ever an exact telling of coming events as I’d feared that lucid death dream was.  Rather, they are cloaked in the symbol of dream and rely on the skill or even luck of the dreamer to interpret them before the events foretold have happened.  Most of the time you see they are precognitive only in retrospect, but if you’re a person that has them often or seldom, or close to someone that does, that in itself is such a sight to see.

It was actually a lucid dream that lead me to decide to come to Jerusalem, which at the time was the farthest place from my mind to go and post my poems, the ones that’d come out of that soul-searching at home in Houston after my public fall.  I’d begun posting poems on bulletin boards and the like in the small town I was locally famous in for such things as that.  I had first picked the streets of Amsterdam to post my poems on because it was a city known for being open to art and for being open-minded, and of course because my step-brother Steve lived there and would help in any way he could.  It happened as I planned my trip that I had a lucid dream where a man dressed in a suit and tie, looking like he’d just walked into the dream from somewhere else, came and said, “Go to Jerusalem.  I’ll pay your way to Jerusalem.”  Then I went with him and we boarded a glass submarine and left for the ancient city.  In the morning I got a phone call telling me I had a job and even a ride to and from work, which was odd because I’d been looking for work for weeks but couldn’t find any because I didn’t have transportation and didn’t want to cut my hair or shave my beard, and I looked all hippied out, and this was Houston, Texas.  The job was helping re-organize a carpet warehouse that had been damaged in a recent flood, and so in three or four months I had the money for the trip.

Morning daylight of the soul, that’s what that morning felt like waking up and still being alive, after our test, not having had our sleep interrupted by the young horses’ whipping nightmare.  The rain continued, but that didn’t take the joy out of the morning.  Still rather early, Milo came driving up and actually drove the van into the high part of the park and left it there for us to sleep in until the rain stopped.  He acted like he didn’t want to do it, going on about how long it would take to get the lingering smell of hippie out of his family van, but both he and his father, his mother too I would learn months later when she’d doctor the festering wounds I’d gotten living as a hapless pilgrim without a shekel to my name, had open hearts and couldn’t hide them, try as they might to sound Israeli and tough as nails.  The other member of the family, a daughter, was an officer in the army.  Boy was she a little put out to come home on furlough and find her family had adopted an American hippie, and he wasn’t even Jewish.

It rained for two days, and we stayed mostly in the van, and no one bothered us, not even the tourist police.  If you notice the way things go down in this world, serious things, there’s often a lull after the big events, and if you’re one to ascribe meaning to things, it’s like everybody’s given a chance to think things over.  We learned from Jay that Mohammad had done some of that wrong kind of thinking.  He had come to give us news of Patricia (we’d be surprised to learn after everything was over he was her secret lover) and tell us of any danger we might be in.  Mohammad had blocked the entrances to Patricia’s hostel with two men, a hostel in the Islamic quarter near Lion’s Gate, one she’d changed to so to get out of his sight, unaware that wouldn’t help, and she wouldn’t be able to leave the hostel and would in effect being held hostage.  He’d told her if she’d have sex with him he’d leave us alone, and she’d agreed to do so, according to Jay.  It was my understanding that hadn’t happened yet.

To prevent that from happening I left the park with Jay and went to Patricia’s hostel.  The two goons at the door didn’t prevent our entrance.  Patricia was staying in a room by herself, on the bottom bunk, and I sat on a chair near her and heard what had happened during that thoughtful lull: her lying in that bunk for that past two days scared out of her wits, Mohammad paying brief visits to manipulate her into having sex with him.  (In making Mohammad sound so terrible, which isn’t hard because his actions speak for themselves, I have to point out that he didn’t rape her, and that shows some humanity however small).  I asked her if she wanted me to call Amir the policeman, and she told me in a very weak little girl’s voice yes.  Then she started hyper-ventilating, and I didn’t have a small bag or anything, but I managed to get her to breathe normally by holding her chest tightly and firmly telling her to slow her breathing down, counting her breaths.

There’s a police station inside the old city near Jaffa Gate, and a payphone nearby, and having his number, which I got from Patricia (why she hadn’t called herself I don’t know), I called Amir.  He told me to wait there, and he’d be there in 15 or 20 minutes.  I asked him to come alone and he agreed, but it wasn’t very long before the gates to the station opened, and a squad of Israeli infantry came running out, with Amir and other policemen leading.  I was asked to lead them to the hostel.

This story’s maintained by irony of the image: a special forces soldier 11 years before, now here I was several days on a hunger strike for peace (it not being a real fast or for the highest ideal notwithstanding) leading a squad of soldiers armed to the teeth, myself all decked out in colorful hippie clothes, on my head a wide Native American headband with the kind of beads that glitter in the light, with a wolf on the forehead.  In any other circumstances I myself might’ve been arrested on the grounds I was too much of an irony for the scene, and I had succumbed to the Jerusalem syndrome, a city-specific temporary mental illness whereby someone walks around Jerusalem dressed in robes and giving their blessings to everyone thinking they are a Christ or something.

We left on the run, Amir and I at the head, he explaining as we ran that there’d been several complaints by tourist women about Mohammad, but so far they hadn’t been able to nail him, and now they finally had a chance.  I remember looking at the places we passed as we argued over the ineffective and revenge-oriented formula crime and punishment, as I saw it at least, and right when I was making my point we were going past the Church of the Redeemer, but Amir has a point too: men like Mohammad were not going to stop assaulting women until you make them stop, but I forget how well or ill he dressed that idea.  As for me, it was all hitting a little too close to home, more of that irony of image, because what I sought redemption for was, allegedly, not too terribly unlike what Mohammad had done, mine wearing though a non-violent skin.

The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler

The look of cruelty moves
from off my face
as Hitler repeats itself.
Born again of the Human Race
of which I was before,
I show you now my secret self,
the one you know as Thor.

I am quite really a made-up man,
with a hammer, and a hatchet,
and the whole damn clan,
or was, was I, way back when?
Here it is I reveal
the secret which
will make me real.

I suffer.

The pain I feel I confess
is the same within your breast.
Now sitting in the dead center
of the very cyclone
of pain itself,
I’m not mad anymore,
at anyone,
not even me.

The quiet lightening looks of blame
move from off my face
as darkness redeems itself
and lights up the whole damn sky.

I don’t know if force is always necessary to get someone to stop forcing themselves on others.  It was needed here, since Mohammad had been assaulting women with impunity and now was holding Patricia against her will, and only the authorities could rescue her.  Even I could see that.  But you have to wonder how many crossroads he and his community had come to together before things had reached this pitch, moments where they both could’ve taken a better road in relation to one another if those moments would’ve been seen and seized.  You could tell he didn’t like this about himself, wanted to be seen as an educated and sophisticated young man, not as an animal, but his marked bitterness towards the world spoiled everything.  Lars attributed that bitterness to the occupation, but I saw more at work than just the oppression of his people.

It wasn’t really Mohammad I was concerned with, though, wasn’t who I was arguing for.  I had come to Jerusalem to undergo another way to right wrong other than the state punishing you on behalf of the wronged, a way of repentance and redemption, a way of the soul, a way you surrender to unconditionally, but I still didn’t know what someone you wrong needs from you – I just vaguely understood that it wasn’t being punished in their name.  (I now know they need you to recognize and feel what you did to them to the healing depth of soul, a depth recognizable in dreams you have about each other and a depth recognizable in the depth of world that comes out of the story of your repentance.)  I also didn’t realize that I couldn’t bring my community with me to the crossroads I was at in Jerusalem, and without your community redemption isn’t possible, and without it I did not take the right road upon leaving the city.

When we got to the hostel the goons took one look at us and split, and Patricia and Jay came running out – how they knew we were coming I don’t know –, and we were off, he on one side of her and I on the other.  We were disrupting pilgrims on the Via Dolorosa, some turning their cameras from the pain and trials of Christ onto us, and I wanted all the glory and to be the only one helping her and couldn’t understand why Jay felt himself so important to the situation to be at her side too, not yet aware of their secret love, but she almost began to hyper-ventilate, and so I put one hand on her back and one on her chest as I’d done before and began saying, in a loud commanding voice, “Breathe! Breathe!” at the proper intervals, and so I was satisfied I would get a lot of the attention.  It wasn’t that I didn’t feel her plight. I did.  It was that I felt myself and my position more, but such ego positioning I wasn’t aware of and didn’t become aware of until years later.  When you do see it though, you wonder at our boundless capacity for self-deception, and you wonder if you’ve ever been sincere.

Lars was waiting standing outside the station, and the procession stopped near the gate, the infantry going on in and the policemen questioning Lars and I about the incident in the park with Mohammad’s men.  I was asked if the man had a knife, and I lied and said no because if I’d seen the knife that would be grounds to have them arrested.  Amir looked at me with contempt.  Then he and his partner took Patricia and Jay into the station (it finally beginning to dawn on me Jay was more than her friend), Lars and I staying where we were, not wanted in and not wanting to go in, Lars yelling at Patricia not to press charges and Amir looking back at us like he wanted to nail us more than Mohammad.

She didn’t press charges, but she did leave the city, though not immediately, in another week or so, because she didn’t want him to win she told me, but she was no longer the confident carefree young women I’d met just 8 or 9 days before.  In a couple of days Mohammad and a friend, the one with the knife, came and actually apologized and asked if there was anything we needed, and we told them some stuff we needed, but it never came of course.  It had happened that Palestinian elders wanted to know why the Israeli army had invaded their quarter, and they were told of Mohammad’s behavior, and so they read him the riot act, though it did not appear a genuine crossroads he and his community were standing on.  In our next camp on the Mount of Olives we’d hear another girl tell us Mohammad had slapped her around trying to force his way on her, and so all we’d done was give him more leave to harm women, but we knew the way you know a dog is about to bite you that giving him to Amir wasn’t the right answer either, though it would stop him temporarily and give him a taste of his own medicine, since with a young Palestinian man in the hands of the Israeli police there will be blood.

When it came time to do my thing, post the poems, we did it after the fast on three consecutive nights, or rather each time around three in the morning, coming down from our camp on the Mount of Olives and entering the old city through Lion’s Gate.  On Easter morning we posted them (using clear Scotch tape so as not to damage anything) on the 14 stations of the cross, doing it in a little procession that consisted of Lars and I, Patricia, not the one that figures in this story, one from America, a dedicated Palestinian rights activist, Rye, a painter from an art school in Paris, originally from New Zealand, and a dog named Jin, whose home we had invaded when we moved into a little area below the Palestinian village at the top of the mountain, who each night came farther with us on the posting, the whipping dog of the village and in need of redemption as much as I (she would be taken by Ramon to live in Lifta, an abandoned Arab village occupied by hippies that loved dogs). On Passover we posted them on the doorposts of Israelis in the Jewish Quarter, when it was only Lars, I, and the dog.  We didn’t have any special night to post them in the Islamic Quarter, but Lars and I posted them in various places the night after Passover, the most significant of which was on the outside of the Golden Gate, a closed gate that Islamic legend has it, Lars had mentioned several times, the Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, would enter Jerusalem, and it would open when he touched it.  Standing there on our tippy toes on tombstones, since an Islamic graveyard is there, I saw Lars was hesitant to post the poem.  “Lars,” I said, “Are you afraid to tape the poem because you’re afraid when you touch the wall the gate will open?”  As we both smiled that sheepish smile you smile when you get caught with your hand the cookie jar, me though stealing giant ego fritters not Muslim messiah mouthfuls, he taped the poem to the gate.

Neither one of us had attracted the attention we thought we’d get, though we did meet a lot of new friends (some not so friendly).  Both the hunger strike and the poem posting went virtually unnoticed by everyone.  My step-brother Steve had told me that once the wire services picked up what I was doing, it would be all over the news, but that never happened.  Every day during the strike I wrote in a letter journal to my community about the events as they occurred, why I was there, and how sorry I was over all that had happened.  I mailed it right before we posted the poems, to my close friend Paul who owned a bookstore, asking him to read it on the radio.  He’d tell me some months later that he did get the letter, and it made him cry, but he didn’t read it to anyone right away, had saved it for the right moment.  Before that moment came he lost it, being a little bit like an absent minded professor, so no one besides him in that small town I so loved knew what lengths I went to try and make up for what it was I was accused of doing.

I reasoned at the time, told Lars and would tell all I told the story to in the years after, that it didn’t matter if anyone read the poems because those were tactical ideas I’d posted in a religious hub of humanity fit to be a ground zero for such ideas, and one day inevitably they’d explode, using that analogy because in special forces I’d parachuted with my team and a tactical (hand-placed) nuke into a country to put on a target (a practice mission), what I felt I’d done with those poems.  That my community did not learn of my repentance did matter, almost defeated me upon returning to it and discovering it hadn’t, and it didn’t even want to hear about it – the loss of faith in my humanity and theirs took many years to recover.  Now in the autumn of my life, with my faith restored, I don’t know if that act of posting those ideas in that place will produce some sort of magic that will one day become meaningful to the world at large, but I do know that stories such as this one and many others will climb our thought’s skies, and faced with such human stories we’ll turn and face our humanity and in so doing embrace the higher ideals that make us different from mere beasts.  When we do that it’s inevitable we’ll not punish wrong but heal it.  The question then would be who do you redeem and who would need more convincing.  I’ve shown you two wrongdoers.  Mohammad needed the intervention of force represented by Amir and his men because it was painfully obvious he would not cooperate with his society otherwise, but did I, one willing to cooperate?  If the answer to such a question hinges on anything other than healing and redemption, for all parties, the wrongdoer as well as the wronged, we’ll continue to come up with the wrong answer and the compounding of wrong upon wrong.  And who knows, if we changed the fixed formula of crime and punishment to a more situation specific wrongdoing and healing, maybe even the Mohammad’s of the world would come in from the cold.

Look at me will you?  Honest to God stories redeem us.