The following was jotted down in my notebook on the night after my workshop, on Tuesday 12th November. It does not represent my present state of mind. Or maybe, by the time you read this, it does (again). Comments from my current state of mind in [squared brackets].
[While I was working on this in a Pub called Ivanhoe, Vancouver, a virus in the Word doc started eating all the words, Pacman style. First time this has happened on this computer, tho i had a similar experience maybe 14 years back. It’s possible I suppose it wasn’t a virus, but someone f***ing with me using remote access? Fortunately it proved to be “containable.”].
The Eye of the Other: A Sort-Of Chronicle of My Mexican Odyssey
The first thing I realized once it (my keynote presentation and workshop) was over was that nothing had changed. I was still the same. There would be no reward for my great accomplishment. I was simply re-inserted into my routine with the memory of having accomplished something which previously I didn’t know I was capable of. What I had accomplished (besides finding out I could accomplish it) I had no way of knowing, and apparently I didn’t need to know. It wasn’t my business. [Yet.]
If I am going to give an account of the past four days (was it really only four days?), I will need to find a different method than simple journaling. I don’t have either the patience or the interest to “chronicle the blows.” A first-person narrative of how I went to Mexico, became a public speaker and workshop giver and hung out with Rushkoff, Pinchbeck, Davis and Dumpert, isn’t something anyone needs to read, or I need to write. [Not yet anyway.]
There is no first person. So how can there be a narrative?
As with all stories, there can only be a story of disappointment: how I went to Mexico (etc.) and came back exactly the same as I went. No character arc. No final epiphany. No enlightenment. Every mundane success story is a tale of failure in disguise. [Or is it? It now seems that recognizing the ephemeral nature of worldly success can—and must—lead to a deeper kind of integration, which is real, lasting success.]
Daniel Pinchbeck “sleeping” through my workshop intro.
Jennifer Dumpert telling me I could “feel good about that” after the workshop. Realizing it was true: I could.
Doug Rushkoff’s eyes shining with prurient and mischievous interest while I tell him about my “shamanic initiation” in Guatemalan whorehouses.
Talking with Erik Davis over pizza about his various (failed) attempts to have a mentor.
Explaining to a room full of Mexicans that “God” is only a dead word for the one thing of value, and that God can only come into and act on the world through them.
(OK, can I go now? Is my work finally done? You’ve only just begun, my son.)
The existential weariness of recognizing that a life in service to that “one thing” is not “a life” at all, only LIFE.
Being challenged by Daniel Pinchbeck for (what he saw as) my lack of social responsibility.
Joking that I was honored to be “in the Whitley role” (arguing with Pinchbeck in public).
Talking with Alejandro(Pijama Surf)’s driver about precognitive dreams and unexplained mysteries.
Reading Jonathan Lethem’s Ecstasy of Influence during “downtime.”
Having to struggle with BONUS bureaucracy to stay a third night at the Hilton.
Being locked out of my room at the Hilton on the third night, after giving my keynote presentation.
Observing the many different reactions to my refusal to shake hands.
Integrating social awkwardness into a “smooth and seamless,” almost nonstop social interaction.
Disappearing into the seeing of others.
Meeting “David” (the architect of light) and hearing about how natural light only exists in the present moment.
David’s wide-eyed, open-faced expression as I describe the difference between living and dead information.
Looking at a 1980 coffee table book on planets with Erik Davis and Jennifer Dumpert; Erik “checking out” Venus.
Seeing the images of myself on stage with my wife’s art projected behind me.
Realizing I need to hold the microphone lower down, like Erik does, so as not to obscure my face.
Talking to Jennifer, Erik, and Rushkoff about shifting identification from the self to the planet, then adding that the Earth would eventually die too. Erik and Doug joking that it was “a good first step.”
Doug Rushkoff asking me if I was a shaman.[He also asked Erik.]
Talking to Daniel Pinchbeck in the salsa ballroom about Whitley Strieber, and about autism.
Daniel Pinchbeck raising his hand during my presentation when I asked if anyone there grew up on Winnie the Pooh.
Jennifer Dumpert smiling all through my presentation.
Erik Davis’ friendly probes at the end.
Completely losing the ball at the start of the workshop. Coming clean and admitting it.
Joke-blaming it on Daniel Pinchbeck (while he pretended to sleep).
Finding the ball again through the act of admitting it had been lost (honesty/spontaneity/creativity).
Overseeing the improvisation exercises, realizing I felt comfortable in the role of overseer. Seeing how much people were enjoying themselves.
Hearing two older Mexican women’s complaining because the whole thing was in English and they didn’t understand any of it.
Dancing to The Kills (“The Heart is a Beating Drum”) and “Life During Wartime” with Erik Davis and others.
Dreams of Erik, Jennifer, and alien abduction.
Talking with Erik about crucial fictions and the difference between him, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Whitley Strieber (and me); seeing us as on a spectrum.
Having breakfast next to a table full of cops.
And so on and so forth.
It would be inaccurate to say these aren’t necessarily the most memorable points of those first four days, because these are the ones I remembered.
What is the sum total of an experience? In every moment there are so many things happening that it’s impossible to ever observe them all, much less report them. And while I am taking the time to report—in so arbitrary and inadequate a fashion that the report is little more than a swab sample of the whole—life is rushing on and I am facing backwards, watching the events recede, trying to capture an image or two in my lens before they are gone, forever.
For the benefit of who, it is hard to say.
If the trip to Mexico was the end of something—what ended? If it was the beginning, then what has begun? It seems to be that there is only one beginning and one ending that really counts for anything. The end of the phony story of “Jason/Jake/Aeolus/Jasun,” and the beginning of an authentic, embodied, and nameless/unnamable life, which no label can ever contain or define. A man with no name. A life beyond words in which words are only carriers of something beyond even what we think of as life.
The least and the most—the simplest thing—I can say about this trip [with the last day still unlived] is that I faced certain fundamental fears which have been haunting and hounding me, driving me forward and holding me back, simultaneously, for my whole adult life. Now those fears, while not completely gone, are more clearly identified, in shape and dimensions, and therefore that much easier to handle, and (paradoxically, now I have “realized” them) that much less real to me.
From another angle, the same is true of desires. Fears faced, desires met. Now I am—I think significantly—less defined by fear and desire.
The dilemma of being seen, of using a persona by which to connect to others in such a way that that persona-mask can be removed publically in a way that is safe, and what is behind it can show ITSELF and become known to me—the Soul’s face that even I do not recognize because I have never seen it before, and which I can only see through the eyes of others (or the Collective Other—my “public”)—that is a Game-Changer.
Certain subterfuges and dissemblings and strategies and habitual defenses (points of the false identity) can and even must be put to rest at this point (now “everything seems to be up in the air”). Because what’s been seen, can’t be unseen.
The crucial fiction of my being a marginal figure or a perennial failure, someone who is always destined to be isolated, on the outskirts of life (the social group/world stage), has been dismantled and revealed for what it is: fiction. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put it back together again.
I am feeling more acutely my aloneness. I reach more compulsively, desperately, for the tools I have learned to use to maintain a sense of (isolate) self, to keep me from putting my attention on my inner life, where something is stirring, something that seems ancient, primordial even, and full of voiceless anguish.
The workshop began with an experience of horrible inauthenticity, a painful groping to find not the words but the voice to carry them. Speaking from the outside only, from the neck up, from the head, like a burnt out ventriloquist’s dummy. Just grinding away, hoping I would hit a smooth patch and start rolling, knowing it was never going to happen.
It ended with the opposite experience, speaking in English and Spanish simultaneously, as if two voices were coming together as one, translating myself back and forth and back again, the words sailing out of me, like ships off the edge of a world (to steal a phrase from Whitley), or like birds taking flight, effortlessly propelled by a mysterious internal momentum-force.
Now an instrument and not a dummy, enjoying the music as much as anyone, but no longer performing, only present to witness, delivering what all of us had come there to hear, including, or especially, me.
People can’t have failed to notice the stark contrast between the person who introduced the evening and the one who closed it. In a way, that was what the event was all about: a living demonstration of the struggle for authenticity, ending in quiet, serene triumph (before the explosion of dancing, and “This ain’t no party!”). It’s doubtful this would have happened if I hadn’t addressed my inauthenticity directly and almost immediately (within the first ten minutes), confessing my struggle in front of the group and even (once I had found a suitably confident voice to ease everyone’s discomfort) apologizing for it.
Daring to fail publically, and worse, to own the failure there and then, instead of “braving” past it, to be willing to fall and DIE in front of everyone: there can be no greater cure for a lifelong affliction of stage fright than that. The worst happened and I survived. Or better yet, I didn’t survive. I was slain, buried, mourned, and replaced by SOMETHING ELSE.
What that something is and whether I can continue to make room for it—to keep on dying/self-slaying like that, all for the single reward of authenticity—remains to be seen. But the eye of the Other does not lie.
Last night was only a first step. But it was also no less than that.
A first step.
[To be continued.]