Tag Archives: art activism

Post 13

A Journey of a Thousand Tongues

part 3
(reading the first two parts, Posts 11 and 12, fills in blanks)

The Guests of Unseen Egypt

Walking my dogs where I’ve been walking them for about the past 4 years, I came across a DVD in the middle of the road on my way home. It’s rural India, although it does border middle class India, and only one other time have I encountered a DVD in those dozen or so acres, a piece of one at any rate. What struck me about this DVD was it was the English film The Gods of Egypt. While it isn’t out of the odds of probability to have found it where I found it while I was waiting for word to begin this story about Egypt, what are the odds of doing so? Now I can’t get my hands on the horns of your reductionist materialism with this little example, if that’s how you bag the world, the universe, and everything, but neither do I apologize for the magic which my eyes see in the placement of that DVD.

The last entry from a travel journal written as a report to the world called “The Overthrow of I Am at the Equality of Soul” that chronicles an art action of posting poems of mine in Old Jerusalem, on the top of Mt. Sinai, and at the Great Pyramid:

The Great Pyramid, Egypt
August 1995

I am sitting in the bottom chamber of the Great Pyramid in Giza where I have paid a policeman three pounds to come down here alone and write and meditate. I am beginning to feel the power of the this place and am seeing much auric light. I will leave two poems down here, “The Overthrow of I Am” and “The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler”.

On Thursday the 17th of August I posted the poems on Mt. Sinai. As soon as I began taping the 1st poem to the granite, a small boy began to ring the bell of the chapel. He rang it for several minutes, and for a moment or two I thought he was doing it because he saw me begin to post the poems. It turned out he was just being a boy, but, though he was acting randomly, the two events were connected. It was as though the mountain was paying attention to my action. I did not feel at all that the mountain was opposed to my movements. Quite the contrary, I felt as though I was being carried and sheltered in the lap of the mountain, and, especially after the friendly dream, I felt very much as though I was following the process of the mountain. As soon as I put up the last poem on the top, I looked down and found a nice fat joint just half smoked. I didn’t bring any grass because I felt if I was to smoke while I was up there, it would come to me, and it did, but after I finished my work there. Then, high and happy, I went down to Elijah’s Valley just below the summit and meditated for a long time. Then I explored some and placed “The Overthrow of I Am” on a two or three hundred-year-old tree, with tape so as not to harm it.

After, 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, 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.

I cannot even begin to describe how incredible this journey is becoming. It is as though I am flowing in the very movement of the world, as at every turn there is someone to meet my needs and help me along the way. If I were to describe to you every incident there is no way you would believe me. This has gone far beyond synchronicity and has reached the level of participation. My soul, my larger real divine self, is directly participating in the movements of my surface life, and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced.

Here at the pyramids I plan to finish this writing, but I’d much prefer it to finish itself, because it will be difficult to wrap things up.

I’ve moved to the King’s Chamber and spent a little time lying in the sarcophagus. I don’t think this was a burial chamber but a place used by the living to perhaps touch death and other places. I would very much like to spend the night here. They tell me it’s now closed for the day.

As I left the Great Pyramid I put “The Last Man on Earth” inside the sarcophagus. It seemed very fitting there. I’ve walked around all three pyramids and have stopped at some rocks between the two smaller ones where a large whirlwind captured my attention with its intensity.

This journey is far from over, but this stage of it is coming to a close. It seemed impossible when I first conceived of the idea a year ago. I had just suffered one of the worst defeats of my life, and the idea of taking my poems and my defeat to the ends of the earth at first seemed absurd. To take my weakness, pick it up, and show it to the world appeared a fool’s task. I was Don Quixote, and these places would be my windmills. But there is a strength in weakness, especially when, from constant handling, it becomes weak enough to break open. Then it spills and shows itself for what it really is, a way of becoming strong. We are taught, in our society, to hide our weakness and to be ashamed of it, and that it’s not supposed to be. I think though, it’s the very reason we’re here, and that the nature of the world can be found in the nature of our weakness, and if one of us, with a big enough weakness, one that touched every member of the human family, were to stand up unashamed and uncover their mechanism of weakness, their process of darkness, that everyone within hearing, whether they acted upon it or not, would see not only that one’s weakness but theirs as well. If large numbers of people began to see their own weakness, so much so that they were unconcerned with another’s, within a very short time the world would transform and darkness would leave the earth and not return.

While writing the last paragraph an elderly man, the most distinguished looking of the ‘tourist guides’ roaming around offering their services, sort of like flies buzzing around uncovered food, found me where I was hidden among the ruined walls and leaned down and tried to tongue kiss me, although he’d first given me his hand to kiss, which I had, thinking it was some Egyptian etiquette. I was so overcome with the fact that I was writing about moral weakness—and here was a striking example— that I wasn’t the least bit offended, but I did stop him immediately, warding him off and excitedly telling him he was acting out what I was writing about. Perhaps because my refusal carried no anger or hatred, judgment or self-righteousness, or even any victimness,—although I was still able to nail his behavior on the head by calling it moral weakness, he being an elder Moslem man, and gay behavior is forbidden in mainstream Islam— he stopped throwing his surprise pass, obviously cut to the core, and he straightened himself up and apologized profusely, telling me I was “just so beautiful.” The dignified manner in which he apologized, the look of regret on his face, the pain in his eyes, still stand there in my memory mitigating what would be called sexual harassment today but wasn’t anything that grave. He seemed to be suffering from his pass much more than I, mad at himself, embarrassed in front of me, afraid before his God.

Posted on the old wall at the Jerusalem peace camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was dressed like a fruitcake, but for some reason on this creative odyssey many people, especially Moslem men, found me oddly attractive. Maybe my outlandish king-like attire somehow matched the ancient atmosphere of these places I was  posting poems at and writing my report. At any rate, why ever they did so, people rolled out the red carpet much more than they showed me the door. I had long flowing hair that came well past my shoulders and wore a wide beaded headband that had beads that sparkled when light hit them. It was Native American and featured a wolf on the forehead. My beard was long, full, and untrimmed. I wore a purple hippie hemp shirt and baggy patchwork hemp pants of different shades of purple. On my feet were of course sandals. The only thing missing was a staff. I was 33.

At 56, I groan now thinking about how I looked, but I have to admit I’ve always been half crazy. It’s actually a bit mad to be telling you now this story in light of the new morality that’s more and more occupying us the more the world goes online. I can only hope it’s not death by social media. Today, if a person is posted on Judgment.com they’re probably finished, that site wherein their moral weakness is in sight of that critical mass of people who, if they react with a fit of hatred and anger, have the power to ruin your life (not in principle all that unlike the power those little girls in Salem had all those years ago when a person accused of being a witch was put before them). Because hatred and anger are the only socially approved reactions to moral weakness, how everyone is expected to react, conditioned to I’d venture to say, reactions that are the backbone of the new morality, more black and white than ever, no one visible on that pandemic site stands a chance.

Posted on the wall at the camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Meanwhile, back in Egypt, I was a popular hit with many if not most I came into contact with, or a shock. I ended my meditation in the sarcophagus of the King’s Chamber, which I’d walked up into after meditating and writing in my report in the subterranean chamber, when two ladies came in, having been alone in the chamber until their entrance. Hearing them enter I sat up, as I’d been lying down in it unseen, whereupon one of them screamed like she’d seen a ghost, and she told me afterwards, in quite halting English, that she thought she had seen one because of the way I was dressed, like some ancient pharaoh. They were Eastern European, and there was a language barrier between us, but they understood my reason for being there when I explained it to them, more by action than by words, and they took my picture as I taped the poem inside the sarcophagus. As I was doing so 2 or 3 guards came in to tell me I wasn’t supposed to get into it, and that it was time to leave because the pyramid was closing. I reasoned that they must have a camera and had seen me laying down inside it and wondered if they saw me take a piss in the bottom chamber, but I couldn’t see any camera looking around for one. In any event, they were not rude and seemed more amused at me than anything else.

I really didn’t mean to pee inside the Great Pyramid. I meant no disrespect. I just really had to go after being so afraid on the crawling trip down into the bottom chamber. I was overjoyed that I’d been able to bribe the guard to go down there, but that joy quickly turned into fear when I saw the narrow 345 foot passageway that sloped downwards uncomfortably into the distance. It was lighted all the way down though. I had a panic and started to return to the main passageway, already making up the excuse I’d tell the guard, but I swallowed the fear and began the descent, first stooping because there wasn’t room to stand up, then crawling on all fours. Swallowing all that fear was like drinking a couple of liters of water, and I had to pee real bad, although I tried my best to hold it until I left. I explored a bit and sat down to a meditation, but there was no way I could hold it, and so I peed where the floor is uneven and strewn with crumbling debris, ignoring the idea to pee into the well that had been dug to explore possible hidden subterranean chambers, thinking that would be just too much of an insult. I apologized to the pyramid and did my business, greatly relieved, and wrote the last entry in my report, taped the two poems on the tallest things I could find there, and went back up and into the King’s Chamber, as I’ve explained, to meditate there.

Going to see the pyramids was long grooved in my life. On my 12th birthday cake was a very inexact rendition of the three pyramids at Giza, and it had taken awhile to talk my mom into having one made like that. She did not do everything I asked for that cake though, did not put “happy birthday archeologist” as I’d requested, telling me that was just too ridiculous. For the next Christmas I had gotten, among other things, what I’d asked for, two books of Peter Tompkins’, Secrets of the Great Pyramid and Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids, two very large volumes that sat wrapped under the Christmas tree their secret identities exposed because I’d poured over them in the bookstore so many times. As it was I only read the first one all the way through, but in my journeys after Egypt I did make it to a few Mexican pyramids too.

I also read The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter and Arthur C. Mace, which I’d checked out of the school library, and the librarian refused to believe I read it in full, but I’d read the whole thing, every detail it listed of every artifact they took out of it. I had wanted to be an Egyptologist for awhile, but with the passion of an early adolescent, and that passion was focused on the Great Pyramid primarily, which had captured my imagination like the way a sports star or other celebrity did other boys my age. I still wonder over it because I’m convinced when science finally cracks its secret it will have to redefine the world, more in magical terms than material.

Today, you are billed a crackpot or New Ager if you think the Great Pyramid was used for anything other than a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu or that it’s older than 4,500 years. Flinders Petrie, an English Egyptologist who is credited with putting Egyptology on the right foot, a purely material one, is quoted as saying in regards to the function of the pyramid, “It is useless to state the real truth of the matter, as it has no effect on those who are subject to this type of hallucination.” The book Secrets of the Great Pyramid examines all the theories up to that time in regards to its function and details the history of investigating the pyramid, from the point of view that, whatever it was used for, it wasn’t used simply as a royal tomb. The book is considered a New Age classic and its author, nowadays especially, an uncritical, unscientific crackpot, though an entertaining one[1].

As a kid what seized my imagination in the book were the descriptions of Alexander the Great and Napoleon spending the night inside the pyramid and getting the daylights scared out of them, both coming out in the morning visibly shaken, but neither said what they experienced. It was reported that on his deathbed Napoleon was asked what happened in there, and he went to tell the person but then said to forget it because they would never believe him.

Good God what was it I asked myself many times when my boyish thoughts turned to the mysteries of the world, hitting in their rounds that pyramid. In the leave no stone unturned and earth uncovering nature of the net, except of course those stones and that earth in our blind spots, it’s come out that Napoleon’s chief lieutenant in Egypt is quoted as saying unequivocally that the emperor didn’t even enter the pyramid much less spend the night in it, and that Alexander the Great couldn’t have either because there was no way inside it until a way was blasted into it in A.D. 820[2]. It’s interesting to note that Napoleon didn’t just take his military into Egypt but also a small army of specialists to examine her antiquities and ancient monuments, so it stands to reason he would’ve had a keen interest in the Great Pyramid and would want to see and experience it, but maybe he didn’t, and maybe Alexander the Great didn’t either, but that wouldn’t mean there’s no mystery to discover inside, no secret the pyramid hides.

Posted on the wall at the camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s probable that, if the actual names are incorrect, people of some note did sleep in there and got scared shitless, since legend often has some basis in fact. A couple of years before visiting the Great Pyramid I did read a factual account of someone more modern spending the night inside, Dr. Paul Brunton, a traveler, mystic, spiritual seeker and teacher, and the account of his experience, chronicled in his book A Search in Secret Egypt, provides some clues as to what the pyramid was used for if you are subject to the type of hallucination that makes you refuse to believe it was just some ego-monument to a pharaoh, a tomb of ridiculous dimensions painstakingly aligned with the heavens and positioned on the earth just so.

Dr. Brunton believed Atlantis was behind the building of the Great Pyramid. For many that would be akin to saying aliens built it, what’s popular to say  nowadays, but either way, to credit anyone else but Egyptian architects and slaves, who lived at the time of the pharaoh Khufu around 2500 B.C., with the designing and building of the Great Pyramid, is considered unscientific and just downright dumb. Analogies are by nature usually inexact things, but the following one isn’t. If you lived in Medieval Europe and believed that anyone besides God was the father of Jesus you would be best to keep your belief to yourself or face the consequences. Now, I don’t know who built the pyramid, but I don’t believe regular people did, and nor do I believe it was made to be a tomb for Khufu, and, as a consequence, this story will be put on the nut side of the net, and scientific-minded mainstream-type people won’t take me seriously, and they are the gatekeepers of contemporary literature, and so stories like this one don’t get in. When it’s all said and done they might be considered the ones who wouldn’t face reality as it is and not how they wanted it to be.

There is still so much we don’t know about ourselves, still so much that we can know relegated to things to believe or not to believe in, but although we have the ability to know things we think are only matters of belief, to gain that kind of knowledge requires a hands on investigation into your consciousness that’s not even part of the program of becoming who you are and learning about your world, and no world authority, religious, scientific, or political, will encourage you to make such an inner exploration or generally even tell you it’s possible to make one. To get to that place of knowledge of what once was only belief, where you know for example there’s life after death, or that God is real, or the soul too for that matter, requires a conscious attention on your inner life far beyond what’s considered normal.

You have to have enough conscious contact with those nonmaterial things that you know them as intimately as you do the outer world and its experience, which means a great deal of contact and experience, and that takes a lot of time away from the things of the outer world, and consequently you aren’t going to appear so normal in the first place. Still, society allows this search, quest, school, whatever striving forward you want to call it, in the individual here and there, if there’s some hands on fruits from the oddity. I suspect, especially in the ancient past, in places such as Egypt for example, there was a whole class of people doing inner investigation state-sanctioned and financed, however much they were also made to investigate within set doctrinal and ideological boundaries. I’d venture to say that no one does the beginner’s mind, open ended exploration even today.

Posted on Mt. Sinai and in old Jerusalem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Brunton was a person making inner investigation, trying to be original and open ended about it, though he did start somewhere, a noteworthy and trustworthy individual among people who have made that kind of exploration, but his theory of the function of the pyramid, based on his account of spending one night in the King’s Chamber, which at the time of my visit I took as a prime example of what the pyramid was used for, has not stood the test of time in my own inner investigation. Just as I feel it wasn’t built to be a tomb, I also feel it wasn’t only or originally meant to be a place for initiation into the ancient mysteries, what Dr. Brunton concluded by his single experience. While it does fire the imagination, it’s inadequate to be used as any definitive example of what the pyramid was used for.

Things hide on my way to plain sight. Somehow the co-allusive is real allusive. That’s my muse, inner voice, speaking as though Dr. Brunton is speaking. After an out of body experience inside the King’s Chamber, his inner voice, spoken as though a high priest of ancient Egypt is speaking, which he can see in vision standing in front of him, tells him that he’s “now learned the great lesson,” which is that man has and is a soul, and the soul does not die. At the time of writing his book he saw that lesson as the main object of the ancient mysteries and it seems the greatest lesson life has to offer, but, if my muse is correct, and, as his later writings indicate, he would come to know other lessons equally great.

Be that as it may, I highly doubt the pyramid was orientated towards the discovery of spiritual truths, although in its chambers one might encounter them if one were so aligned because, as I see it, it was designed to exploit the powers of consciousness. It’s interesting to note that, although Dr. Brunton’s great lesson is about the soul, at no point in his experience does he cease from being the ego Dr. Brunton and become his soul, only becomes a pure mental being as he explains it. Although many might argue to the contrary, he doesn’t have a spiritual experience but a metaphysical one because he doesn’t experience ego loss or leave ego consciousness and enter momentarily a higher or deeper one, what in my opinion distinguishes the former experience from the latter. He doesn’t experience a change in identity, only experiences a much broader range of being Dr. Brunton.

In popular imagination ancient Egypt is associated with magic and not spiritual enlightenment, and I don’t think it has it wrong. It errs, I feel, in the kind of magic it imagines, that kind that seeks to overcome the laws of matter such as making objects appear and disappear, transmuting one physical thing into another, and other (pretend) feats associated with the common magician. It seems to me that ancient culture, or more specifically, its class of people tuned into the inner life, was into learning to manipulate consciousness. As I’ve suggested and will now explain further, it’s my opinion that the pyramid was used to enhance the powers of consciousness, powers natural to us but ones largely unknown and unused by the great majority of modern human beings, powers most would call magic they so far exceed our use of our consciousness today, powers that enable one to see and communicate at a distance beyond physical means and project the consciousness to distant locations, not only locations on the earth[3].

Victims of the quest of magic.
What that victim?
All these monsters
for cannonball.

The usage again
to put a man in space,
can you count it?

Tomorrow,
when it’s the right entity –
a soul rise.

                                       (my morning muse)

Who in reason is in their right mind? As we sit here, me writing and you reading, inter-dimensional extraterrestrial monsters smarter than us are pressing for an inner life hegemony on the earth, the real ‘child molesters’, while other aliens, also from another dimension, this one of mind, beings so far advanced in terms of consciousness we call them gods and divine beings, are both preventing that inner conquest and aiding us to advance, within their limits of course, and all this is going on right under our noses and directly affects the inner life of each and every one of us, and, consequently, the make and motion of our outer lives individually and collectively. And that’s not all, far from it, but that’s enough to bring into the picture so to get the picture we as science are missing something critically important about the world. We apply that ignorance to everything, the function of the Great Pyramid for example.

Posted in the old Jerusalem postings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending some hours in the pyramid grounds at night after closing, I decided not to seek permission to spend the night inside the big one. I basically chickened out, although it’s doubtful I could’ve gotten permission to do it anyway. The whole experience at the plaza, the day part and the night part, was all a bit much and on the negative side, especially after the second sexual pass I had to thwart combined with the feeling that murder was on the man’s mind and the long unlit walk out I made through an endlessly stretching graveyard in order to avoid the guards and get away fast from Mr. Grab, what happened in the night part, which I’ve yet to relate. It all backed up the overall feeling that had been creeping up on me during my short time inside the pyramid: this is not the safest of places.

Besides the lascivious men, other-worldly things crept about and could get you if you got inside stupid enough, and what I mean by stupid is at a depth you can’t handle, hands on spirit real, and you don’t have enough of a grasp on spirit to protect yourself. I had enough of a grasp to know I could really get into some serious trouble. I knew non-material beings and places are real, and I sensed that inside that pyramid was a sort of ‘manmade’ portal to other places, where one might encounter creatures from another world, although I didn’t formulate it then as specifically as I do now as a doorway, but I did know back then I could really get fucked by something really fucked up if I opened up certain doors, and so no thank you summed up my decision not to spend the night inside the Great Pyramid.

I was also still somewhat embarrassed with myself for peeing in it, knowing that meant something not so respectful, necessary though it was, but I was thankful I didn’t have to take a dump inside, which would mean something much more disrespectful, like shitting on it. You would wonder though, at what it represents in the story of redemption itself, the impetus to this creative odyssey, if you’ve read the preceding parts. I can perhaps put that as taking a piss on our sense of mystery in the world, our belief in magic, our feeling that God is real and the soul true. That is pretty bad, but at least I didn’t shit on it.

Regardless, there at the pyramids, not yet aware of all the implications and meanings of peeing, I feared by taking a piss I might’ve offended whatever it was that met you inside it, not looking on it as something compassionate and understanding if you know what I mean, and I didn’t want to start with that handicap. I opted for doing a meditation inside one of the smaller ones at night, one where I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed and I could meditate as long as I liked, although for me they did not generate the same aura of mystery the great one did. I was going to use the meditation as a gauge to see if I wanted to try spending the night inside the big one.

A night meditation in the smaller pyramids wasn’t permitted, at least in its normal operation and as a normal guest, as the whole place had a parameter and was guarded, but it was possible if you made prior arrangements with one of the grassroots tourist guides, and I had done that with a young Moslem man slightly older than I if I remember correctly.

I had thought he’d wait until after the laser show to sneak me into the smaller pyramid because it meant climbing the side to get to the entrance, since we couldn’t just walk up to the entrance in plain sight from the front. The guide insisted we do it soon after closing, and that meant during the laser show. That meant skirting the searchlights to get to the pyramid and climbing the side in sort of a leap frog wait here and minute manner because colored searchlights swept by us every minute or so like they were searching more for escaping prisoners than providing entertainment, how I experienced it anyway, with both the thrill of escape and fear of capture. The booming recorded (English was it?) voice accompanying the searchlights, so civil, slightly excited even, did help to dispel that feeling of being an escapee, but it was a bit out of this world too under the thrill and dread of the circumstances and didn’t really help to make me feel better about being there in the first place. The guide seemed to know the routine of the lights and hence where to be when, and we got in without being detected.

I don’t remember how far we went in before he stopped and we sat down, him wanting a massage of all things at such a time and place. To him I probably looked more like a flaming fag than an ancient pharaoh, or even a fruitcake, with my long flowing locks of hair and baggy purple clothes, and he had other things in mind than just me doing a meditation. Struck by how odd it was he wanted one, but having lived the past couple of years in a hippie community where massages and hugs were as common as handshakes you took and gave, I began to rub his shoulders, but doing it with hands that did not carry emotion in them. He was a man, and I had no attraction to him in the least. My willingness to touch him he took for permission to grab my crotch, which he turned around and did, a bit forcefully, and I had to pry him off me.

Being a man back then that looked quite feminine, in a freakish sort of way, and being a Western tourist, and someone just passing through, I’d gotten my butt pinched a few times in the old city of Jerusalem by Muslim men, enough to suspect I was looked at like a woman by more men than those who pinched me. Just outside the old city, one Muslim Palestinian, accompanied by a small group of men, had threatened to rape me, as he put it, “drag me in the bushes, fuck me first, then kill me,” as I relate in the first story of this creative odyssey, “Behind the Mask Jerusalem.” Here in Egypt it seemed no different, and it made me wonder if I would’ve gotten the same treatment anywhere in the Muslim world as diverse and multi-cultured as that world is. One thing common throughout, of the societies where Islam is the dominant religion, is that access to women is restricted, and in some cases even just looking on their face or at their hair is forbidden to do in public, something debated quite a bit today. Somehow I doubt Islam would be willing to admit more prolific homosexual behavior as a result, of the casual kind, not the kind where a man identifies as being gay. The kind where one would let a penis and an anus do.

Posted on the wall at the camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telling this story 23 years after the events related, try as I might I can’t remember everything that happened inside that pyramid that night, or even which smaller pyramid I went into, only the massage and sexual pass the tourist guide threw and shortly afterwards being in a situation where I felt he wanted to kill me. I don’t remember the journey to a room of almost total darkness we ended up in, but I do distinctly remember I sat with the man near a large hole in the floor. He’d said beforehand we couldn’t use a flashlight because we might get detected, and so it took my eyes some time before I became aware we sat before a large dark hole in the floor that I could not see a bottom for. He was telling me to blindly jump in that hole and do my meditation. It was a chamber he told me. I argued with him, by this time paranoid he was trying to have me jump to my death, and I mean, under the circumstances and the huff he was in for being refused his sexual advance, it would be natural to assume you are at least in big danger. I did not make the jump, much to his disappointment, and we left the pyramid, and I don’t remember the journey out either. I just vaguely remember breaking off with the man once we got outside the pyramid, abruptly, and heading for the graveyard that bordered the plaza on the Cairo side so to get out and not the way he wanted to take me.

Once inside the graveyard I regretted my decision. In my travels I’ve slept in graveyards because they are usually quiet, clean, grassy places where you can be relatively alone. Doing that and being a mystic, I’ve had a handful of encounters with the spirits of deceased people, only one menacing. Here I had not started off on the right foot, and I was on the run from the otherworldly, and going from the pyramid plaza to a cemetery at night just did not lift me out of that worldview. It’s an old Moslem graveyard of a more modern era, and maybe some graves are a couple of hundred years old or more, but I don’t know if that’s the case. I didn’t look at gravestones. I just ploughed ahead dodging graves and statues as best I could trying to get to the end of the thing as fast as I could without outright running. After what seemed like an hour but probably was more like 20 minutes, I began to doubt there was an end to get to. Finally, there it was.

Getting back into normal civilization, in this case a greater Cairo neighborhood, did not get me out of the woods. It was late, somewhere around international closing time. I didn’t wear a watch back then because I didn’t want to be a slave to time, and I don’t now, but things have really changed since then in regards to what keeps the time on us, and I’d have to explain I don’t carry my cell phone everywhere nor reset the time every time I drop it and the battery falls out. The street was deserted, and I knew the buses would not be running too much longer, and I had no idea which one to take to get back to my hostel nor even where a bus stop was. I began walking down a street that was lined on both sides by residences stacked high one on top of another no break in-between them, looking for a bus stop. Before I got very far a man spotted me from a slight distance, the only other person on the street besides myself it was so late, and he came directly up to me, smiling a big smile. He asked if I were American, and I said yes, a bit wary of course. He was being such an excited kid about meeting an American he put me at ease. He invited me to his house to meet his family, especially his young son, who really wanted to meet an American he told me, and there I was again before an abyss being urged to jump in.

You would expect me to politely say no thank you and make a quick exit from the conversation in light of preceding events, in light of a lot of things, but at that moment I remembered Alison, if that was indeed his name (over the years it’s people’s names that escape me most), an 18-year-old boy from Amsterdam I traveled in Israel with after the peace fast and poem postings in Jerusalem. My memory involved watching him follow some men into a cave without the slightest hesitation. They had invited the both of us to see something ‘very nice, very nice” inside, not knowing enough English to say much of anything other than that. The entrance was a dark rough-hewed opening of a tunnel on the side of a small mountain where there was a mikveh fed by a spring issuing from it. I did not know how far into the mountain the tunnel went or where it went. I did not know these rough looking Israeli men. I had 700 shekels in my pocket I’d spent weeks working for doing daily labor in Tel Aviv. I was also very stoned on some strong skunk the men had smoked with us, and I was very paranoid.

We had been picked up by one of the men while hitchhiking to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. In the car the man turned to us in the backseat and asked, more in sign language than with words, if we wanted to smoke some pot. We really did look the part, and we really did want to get high. Yes, yes, yes was our excited answer. We waited and waited for him to spark up, but he didn’t. I got a little edgy when he pulled off the highway and onto a dirt road, but we came shortly to an abandoned village and parked, and since there were people milling and sitting about, not a lot but enough to know they weren’t all related, I relaxed. He took us to a spot under the trees where his friends were waiting. They had a large vicious-looking dog tied to one of the trees. They did not appear, how would you say?, refined men. They got us high and urged us to come with them to the mikveh, obviously wanting to show us something. Whether or not it was an idea that popped into their minds as result of getting high, or it was a preplanned maneuver take us somewhere so to knock us over the heads so to take our money, I could not tell. Stoned and under the influence of pot paranoia, I was leaning towards the latter. However much a peace pipe it’s billed to be, pot doesn’t oftentimes give you such a friendly feeling. When I saw it was a cave’s mouth they took us to, I was convinced they meant us no good.

They stood a minute or so outside the entrance to the tunnel motioning us to follow and repeating over and over, “very nice.” Obviously they knew how it looked. They went in, and I couldn’t believe Alison just followed them inside. Well, actually, I could believe it. In Tel Aviv he had succumbed to a temporary malady affecting especially adventure travelers: going off the deep end in the absence of any real social structure. He’d stopped saying more than a few words at a time, stopped bathing and changing clothes. His hair was a mass of mad curls and sand. I had taken him under my wing and was making sure he ate and didn’t come to stink too much. I was also watching out for him because he was wide open to anything and anybody. I tried to stop him from going inside the tunnel, but he ignored me completely. I danced on one foot then the other for a few seconds, and then I followed him inside, sure I’d meet a knock over the head.

You had to slightly stoop to walk through it, and it went in straight and narrow some 10 meters or so directly into the mountain. It came out into a large roughly oval shaped room aligned top, bottom, and sides with shining crystals. The ankle depth water flowing around about gave the place a magic feel, what with all the dancing of the light reflecting the crystals in a darkened cavern-like space. The men were obviously proud to show us this, and greatly pleased to share it, and they took the kind of pleasure that gets the biggest kick out of you feeling it too, sharing the experience with you, as they were as excited about our pleasure as theirs. They did not want a single thing in return except to share that with us, and we were complete strangers to them from a different land and language. As I see it now they were very refined men, and they were kind.

The experience, happening just weeks before coming to Cairo, had been a lesson for me that sometimes you just go with someone no matter what it looks like because it may have something for you you’ll both greatly enjoy and highly need, like it’s something from the divine or something setup-wise so good it is to you. Maybe I missed a great meditation not applying that lesson to jumping in that hole inside the pyramid, but that was just too much of a test of how much I will trust. Here with this friendly man, it was easier. So, remembering Alison, I politely accepted the man’s invitation to his house and followed him down the street and onto a side street and up flights of stairs to a small apartment full of the warmth of a smiling family wanting to meet an American. With him I smoked a hookah (tobacco) for the first time, and tasted again Arab hospitality.

After a short visit, where he made sure I was refreshed and ready to travel on, he took me to the bus stop and waited there until the correctly numbered bus came, and he put me on it and waved goodbye. I think it was the very last bus of the night, and I returned to my hostel feeling much better. The following day I went to the Museum of Cairo. The ticket taker let me in for free, I think just for being different. That was good because at that moment 10 pounds was a lot of money to me. Inside the museum was like touching a circle together, as I saw firsthand many of the artifacts I’d read about when I was 12. And on those  higher notes of hospitality and a 12-year-old’s wonder, I left Egypt on the bus for Israel, and a week later I was in India.

Posted on the wall at the camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time has killed the sense I had then that I was actually posting good poetry. I’m embarrassed to have thought that. It’s in the over simplified language of a nursery rhyme, but it’s meaning is quite dense, too dense in meaning and too simplistic in form to call good poetry, but maybe with the very short and to the point attention span of the net, and it’s love of simple shiny device, it might be appreciated at least as poetry at its most puerile, as doggerel poetry. The ideas and ideals the poems embody, however, aren’t infantile, and they might even be appreciated as high ideas and higher ideals that do us good to read, and, despite everything, net readers also like a good read. I wrote these poems and similar ones before I discovered my own muse. After years of developing that inner hearing discovery, I’ve had to throw out the idea that I have ever written or ever will write good poetry. I still have the same flaw of cramming deep ideas into shallow language, in this case conversational English with a twist, but now it might work a better and more lasting poetic spell because it’s how it’s meant to be, what comes naturally, not what I make up to try and sound poetic.

As I relate in the first story, the one set in Jerusalem, I began this creative odyssey as a result of tripping over my penis in a small community where I had come to some measure of prominence for grassroots social work and community level dreamwork. The journey of posting the poems and writing the report was something I did for that community more than for the world at large. I sought redemption, and I saw myself as doing penance for my wrong, and it didn’t escape my notice, nor should it yours, that often along the way I encountered situations that reminded me of my wrong, made me face it from the opposite direction, not as the wrongdoing, but either trying to protect myself or someone else from being sexually violated or being a victim myself, as defined by the new morality at any rate, but none of what I encountered as unwanted sexual advances, even the death threat one related in the Jerusalem story, caused the degree of trauma that would make me a victim in the sense of what that word implies, that someone messed you up. It seemed to me, and still does, that embarking on that odyssey involved surrendering to the powers that preside over such journeys of penance and redemption, divine powers as I encounter them and as they operate, a willingness to sacrifice even my life if necessary, and those powers took on my case and had me go through the lessons and hardships I needed so to give back to my community what I took from it: it’s faith in itself, it’s willingness to trust and believe, it’s dare to hope, in short, it’s innocence.

I made the mistake of only communicating with a single person from the community, and only with him for the Jerusalem part of it. I figured he was the best person for the job. He had helped me get out of town so I wouldn’t be beaten up, escorted me to the bus. He was centrally located at the only bookstore and was a dedicated 60’s style community activist in a place where that still fit. It happened he lost my correspondence and told no one about it nor about the journey of redemption. I had especially wanted it read to whom it most concerned, the person I tripped on, but he didn’t read or give it to anybody, just left it among all his papers under the counter until it was lost, what he said upon my short return some two years after I’d left. He did say it made him cry it was so honest and heartfelt, but he stopped communicating with me after that brief visit, and so you have to wonder if it was all that ‘strike the cords of sympathy’, ‘I hear you guy” as he said it was. At any rate, I’m telling the story again 23 years later, though this Egyptian part of it I’ve never written down until now. I’d like to believe putting it on the world wide web will make it easier to identify. I can only hope it’s not like believing in Santa Claus.

Posted on the wall at the camp

The greatest fact of our material existence we are all but blind to. We don’t even have a practical language for it it’s so unseen, and yet we live in an ocean of one another, are so into each other’s stuff it’s not even funny, inside and out, cannot even tell the difference between ourselves and others sometimes we so live and breathe one another. Inclusive terms and words such as civilization, society, culture, humanity, the human race or species, etc. group us together as separate individuals within the larger group, but they don’t give the hands on idea the group is a holistic entity that each individual is an integral part of, imply no sense of intrinsic oneness or underlying unity, no notion of a shared common identity. I say the greatest fact of our material existence because this common shared identity does not stop with just other humans but includes all things, God even, but in the material field, in the world, it’s other human beings that are the most immediate to our experience in terms of the dos and don’ts of our daily lives, the think and act feel and be of our mutual existence, inside and out, where it is we begin seeing the underlying unity, right here at our own house in human unity. The moment we got our hands on that, as my muse puts it, even a tree would not sink from hope.

We do have a hands on sense of a shared identity, but more in negative terms than positive, in ways that bring yet more division and polarization within humanity than unity, such as the outrage we feel when someone has violated someone else, the sense that now they have a debt to pay back to everyone and not just the victim, or the hate or mistrust we feel for other groups in humanity because we so completely identify with our own, be that a clan, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexuality, religion, political party or particular ideology, or even a friendship circle. The results of this negative sense of human unity can most clearly be seen in the behavior of a mob intent on hanging someone, which happens every day on the net, or an individual who’s strapped a bomb to their chest or put a gun or knife in their hand or murder on a steering wheel hell bent on killing everyone not in their group, which happens every day on the earth. We literally can’t see the forest for the trees, and at just about at every turn, we throw out the baby with the bathwater, as a point of pride in most cases.

Between the time I posted the poems and now the Internet has intervened, what I did not foresee, what has made my journey of redemption basically null and void since the net has so amplified our negative sense of a common identity, to the nth degree. It’s polarizing us in ways we would not have thought possible before its advent, and it’s creating a new morality, one even more black and white than the old one. What was once frowned upon before the net is now intolerable, but, if you did it when it generated only a frown, you’re held accountable for it now when there’s zero tolerance for it, which means you’re ruined. The gravity put on speech and act, the dead seriousness given to the least little gaff or moral blunder, is making the human condition more and more illegal. Nowhere is this more apparent than in regards to sex, what I’ve argued elsewhere is the heart of our morality, why it’s centerfold on the net. Today any unwanted sexual advance on any person of any age is being reduced to rape such is the gravity we give it. God help you if you’ve fondled a child.

I sit sometimes so surprised at all the smart people, journalists, politicians, professors, scientists, doctors, religious leaders, and the like, even artists, who sit at their computers and overreact no differently than the average Joe or Jane. The Internet has put a microscope on us, and being the hypocritical moral-minded creatures that we are, we’re focusing in on the dirt. Although the net has amplified it, we are not looking at anything that hasn’t been in humanity since the beginning of history. Seeing it up so close and in such ugly detail, our first reaction is to stop it. ‘Not one more time!’ rings the hastag.

Our reaction is not unwarranted or uncalled for, because beneath that dirt hides so much pain and suffering, for all parties involved, victims and victimizers alike. It’s just that it’s self-righteous, hypocritical, and blind, is not a reaction based on true values and real identities, isn’t founded upon the underlying reality of unity but on the belief of the separate individual. Get that guy! It’s the way we have always dealt with wrongdoing: react, accuse, and punish. If there’s one thing the net should teach us is that the way we try and stop it only adds fuel to the fire, however many bad actors are taken out of the picture. You just have so many rising up to take their places.

Overcome the prejudice of seeing the bad guy.
This is a non-judgment veggie.
It wasn’t the world over.
It was right in front of you.

                                                  (my muse)

Imagine a world where every person put humanity and the world where people now put their family, nation, race, gender, sexuality, religion, or whatever have you. It’s the global identity being bounced around here and there, but no one in any position of power is taking it seriously. What gets the press are the hundred and one problems that result from not having such an inclusive identity. It would be where, instead of being told and taught from birth onwards that you’re first a Jew, an American, Chinese, Russian, white, black, a Moslem, a Christian, a Hindu, a man or woman for that matter, you’re taught you are the world first and whatever else second, and just like you can still be an individual within your subgroup, you can still be one with all the trimmings in the original main group. You might can see how many problems get solved if everyone on earth would look at the world and humanity in that way.

In practical terms, where we really get our hands on the thing, that would mean each and every human being is as intrinsically important as any other, regardless of their position in society, not the same in the sense as being the same or having the same abilities, capacities, development, or needs, but as important as anybody else, the serf as important as the king, the poor as the rich, the woman as the man, the adult as the child, the violator as the victim, and on and on, which is what the higher ideal expressed in such sayings as all men are created equal and love thy neighbor as thyself is getting at, oneness. It’s not ‘there I go but by the grace of God’ when looking on someone less fortunate than yourself, but there I go[4].

In such a personal set of circumstances, not just feeling empathy for all but a living sense of a shared identity, you’re not going to just walk away and not help someone, whoever they are. You also wouldn’t get offended by their mess, if they’ve made one, and with that non-judgmental understanding attitude be in a better position to help convince them they need to clean it up and let you help them do that. When you apply this attitude to criminal behavior, sexual or otherwise, you have what’s been missing in the formula crime and punishment, what would make it more equal to stopping crime.

It’s really common sense if you look at it. Not knowing where it comes from because we are all but unconscious of the intrinsic oneness, we have the expectation that people should treat others with respect, be empathetic, not look on women for example as objects of sex, not take advantage of the innocence of children, and so on, all a part of the general human-wide expectation that you should be good to others and not bad. We believe it’s some code we adopt and follow at the same time we feel someone should just naturally assume this attitude towards others, in other words, have it innate. People who do not have empathy for others, disrespect and harm others, we look at as more animal and less  human, call them monsters, predators, and what have you. We are outraged at their behavior, hate them, disrespect them, and have no empathy for them. We just want them to pay for what they have done. We never ask ourselves how can we expect them to have empathy for others, the kind that you feel for everyone that keeps you from harming anybody, the kind that makes you feel remorse if you have, when we have none for them, and they’re somebody. Is the violator the only one here acting like an animal? Isn’t it supposed to be a preexisting empathy for all?

Posted on the wall at the camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We come to my redemption. I’ve kind of let that go for the most part because I have to face the facts, but, like I still write poetry although I may not be much of a poet, am even writing an epic poem that I’m unlikely to finish or is even likely to be an epic, I’m still writing my redemption. And I do so knowing that in today’s morally indignant world it’s more likely to bring me ruin than redemption if the story were to get out. It’s gone beyond that hippie community. I’m half mad, like I said, to tell such stories today.

I can take comfort in the fact there seems to be a moratorium on my web work, due either to it being too low in quality to attract any attention, or for the opposite reason, and it’s just over everyone’s head. I’ve posted some pretty controversial stuff over the years, the kind that explodes so easily on the net, but in my case nothing detonates. I am actually thankful for this, and I hope it stays this way.

I do believe in miracles though, and anything is possible in this worldwide movie we are all starring in unawares. If I’m able to do anything at all with my net footprint, it’s give some sense that the world goes deeper than we even dare to hope. I’m not talking grave here, about heavens and hells, gods and devils, but about who we really are, each one of us, outside of the movie. It’s the greatest fact ever. We are not our name. We are not what happens to us wearing that name. We are not even what we do. We are more than the world, go higher than heaven, and greater than the universe, are actually actors upon a stage, avatars of a gamer, or, if you like, do live in a computer simulation, all apt symbols for the unknown we are using the known to figure, and if we can but get some sense of this, we wouldn’t take ourselves so seriously, would be able to take what comes much better, be much more resilient, not so prone to suffer strong and lasting after effects when something happens to us shockingly real. In this world something like that eventually does[5].

What the fuck?
Leave ‘im alone.
That means not gonna hunt for you.

Thanks, real nice of ya.

Questions and Answers
hefty in your conversation.


__________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/09/12/archives/secrets-of-the-great-pyramid-by-peter-tompkins-illustrated-416-pp.html  A review of the book by The New York Times
  2. http://www.strangehistory.net/2013/12/02/napoleon-and-the-great-pyramid/
  3. My own experience with out of body travel in the article “You’re Like Wow, That Really Was Enchanted by a Rock” suggests this possibility of leaving the earth, but, as I was unsuccessful in my attempt, it would seem more is needed to achieve it, using a carefully constructed ‘launch pad’, the Great Pyramid for example, could help facilitate it. And, although it’s not included in the text, the pyramid might also have been used to travel in time, within limits of course, and I base this possibility on an out of body experience I had where I traveled in time, related in the article “The Epic of Man”.
  4. Sri Aurobindo expresses this same idea in his writings, but it came to me soon after the experience of Supermind, years before I read Sri Aurobindo, and so I don’t credit him as my source for the idea.
  5. The articles, “The Sponsored Man; What’s Bigger Than the Universe? Hang On, What’s Bigger Than Anything?” and “Help You From the Rear View Mirror” amply elaborate on this movie theme as well on what identity is beyond ego.

Post 11

Old City Jerusalem, Early Morning, by Josh Cohen http://travelwithjoshcohen.com/via-dolorosa-walk-history/#prettyPhoto

A Journey of a Thousand Tongues

part 1

Behind the Mask Jerusalem

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.