All right, I admit it: I’m being a bad wizard again.
I’m driving down the road, making good time, cranking the Dead, sun streaming down, then all of a sudden, I see the sign.
One lane road ahead. Goddamn it. The workers ahead are probably doing some of the most useful and inarguably necessary tasks of civil society, but I’m pissed, focused solely on the immediate effects of this on my present imperatives, real or imaginary.
Once again, a solstice approaches. Once again, it seems like the last one just happened. And once again, all I can think about is how inconvenient this is for me. It “messes up the flow.” I don’t actually have a routine – I’m supremely disorganized and my work schedule is irregular – and yet I imagine I do and that this, among the year’s most sacred of days, is disturbing it.
I have things to do, I imagine to myself. And maybe I don’t have a very traditional routine, but I’m almost settled into my groove. Once I get settled, the reasoning goes, there will be ample time for celebration and reflection and stuff like that.
We don’t get to pick when a solstice – or any other high solar holiday – comes round, and that’s part of the point. When I become consumed in thinking of these things, that’s when I at least attempt to be a good wizard (never mind a non-hypocrite) and find within me some measure of gratitude for the very sacred presence inherent to the calendar’s “disruption.”
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: just as the worst mistake in history and cultural studies is the Myth of Progress, the worst mistake we can make when viewing our own lines is to view ourselves driving down a road in a direction with a beginning and an end and a relatively short middle. Like everything else in the universe and nature, however, our existence is never a line, but a circle.
Saying it once or even a thousand times doesn’t mean we – or I – will ever have an easy time changing our thought processes about it. After all, when it comes down to it, the only way we can perceive time and experience is in a linear fashion. If we’re to see it any other way, it will only exist within the mind.
It is often said and believed that we’ve got but one life to live, but I believe myself to have lived many lives before. I’m not talking about reincarnation, I mean solely within the last thirty years of life, I’ve lived many completely separate lives. There are common threads between them, of course. I’ve been lucky enough to have lifelong friends and solid family ties. My thoughts are also shockingly consistent throughout the different lives. I have this weird tic where, once I’ve written something, I have no recollection of what I’ve written, so I can go back and read things I’ve written long ago or even as recently as last week as though they were written by somebody else and I am seeing them for the first time. So when I look at especially some of my more obscure writings and notations over the years, I almost always react the same way: “Yep, man, couldn’t have put it better myself.” My thoughts haven’t changed all that much.
The differences occur in other ways, and are very stark. I look back and recall the things I did, the common attributes of my behavior, and often find myself unrecognizable. I’m not trying to be like, oh man I was a bastard when I was young (being objective as is possible, my behavior has generally trended in a positive direction over the years, but it’s by no means a straight upward diagonal through each of the little lifetimes), but without passing that kind of judgment I simply can’t comprehend the underlying motivation for such modes of action. That my general thoughts and approach toward life can be proven as more or less unchanged makes such variance in character all the more mysterious. The things that motivated me are as different between these lifetimes as are the ways in which I reacted to everything. The cast of characters changes in pretty stark ways. The setting is sometimes the same, or comparable, between two or more little lifetimes, but often will itself show dramatic contrasts.
Reflecting back on the years and ages of my life, it seems inadequate, even metaphorically, to regard these distinct eras as “stages along a path” rather than almost fractally repeating cyclical patterns. The parallels and the distinctions fuse to form the geometric shape of existence.
Signposts on the non-road
It is for holidays, especially solstices, to remind us of this. I am not at all convinced that it is even possible for a living human to regard his experience as the truly circular experience that it is. I am extremely unconvinced that I will ever be able to achieve such an “enlightenment” or whatever.
But as we commemorate the sun’s zenith and only through willful ignorance are we able to ignore the earth’s rotation around our creator star and the significance of the earth’s circular polar wobble, we can benefit even without perfectly grasping these higher truthy-type things.
In these special and unusual weeks to come, we’ve much to do – and still have to somehow figure out a way to relax and take joy from it. We don’t say it often enough (or at all) this time of year in our society, but: ‘Tis the Season. Proceed accordingly.
More on this tomorrow.