Oil on Canvas
30 ” x 40″
Birth of Birds
Ocean of Cubes
I had an interesting experience the other day. I was meditating, as I do every morning, and it was going well. Unlike most days, I was not as distracted by memories, desires, or fictional characters from movies or books. I was in a peaceful state, approaching “no thought.” A feeling came upon me, along with an idea that in around 10 minutes some “event” was going to take place. Hmmm, I thought…what kind of event could occur? Probably the phone will ring, perhaps someone will knock on the door, or I suppose there could be a power outage. Sometimes when I finish meditating it is exactly at the half-hour mark, maybe that’s all it is. So I kept at peace for a space I felt was about 10 minutes, then I turned my head to look at the clock. It was 10:28. Well, I guess that’s close enough, I thought, so I stretched my legs and started getting the blood flowing again. Then the phone rang. Wow, I thought, that’s cool. I answered the phone, and it was Tchiya Amet, a fabulous indigenous reggae musician, who had never called me before, and we hadn’t communicated even by email in a couple of years. She said she had been trying to send an email for the last 15 minutes, but for some reason the computer wasn’t cooperating. She asked me if I would like to do the artwork for a new CD she is going to release soon. Well yeah! I would say that was a significant “event.”
I like to meditate, and I’ve done it daily for years, so I enjoy reading about meditation and Buddhism. Not too long ago I read an excellent tome by a Buddhist master (whose name I can’t recall) which pointed out some of the pitfalls one should avoid in meditation. I don’t remember them all, but one of them I found quite interesting. He stressed that one should avoid “oblivion”—which would be, as I understood it, complete lack of consciousness. I was surprised to read this because “oblivion,” I realized, was what I had always strived for—to be “zoned out” communing with the One. I still wonder if a being could experience enlightenment without at least passing through this stage. I’ve thought a great deal about it since, and this morning I realized something: in our society today, we are often seeking oblivion.
Once, when I was a bartender, I ran into a regular customer at the park, and he was talking about his favorite brand of beer, “after a six-pack I am GONE.” Apparently his goal wasn’t to relax and have fun, but to reach oblivion. I would guess that most drug users are also seeking oblivion, but there are various acceptable ways we seek it every day. People can “zone out” in front of the TV and not remember what they just watched, or they can get so into a video game that reality melts away. Just last week a blogger was advising to eat what you want as long as you remain “there.” She explained that the big problem with overeating is losing your self while eating. Virtually any activity or non-activity can lead to oblivion.
I have heard that the main argument for humans dominating all other species is that we alone are conscious. If that is true, then we should strive to maintain our consciousness as much as possible. So I must ask—are you conscious? Ever thought about how often you are conscious? Its much more than just being awake. Let us seek consciousness.
There was a short time during my youth when I liked to surf, or try to. Texas isn’t much of a place for surfing, but occasionally, when there is a storm in the Gulf of Mexico, there are waves big enough to ride. For years I would paddle out to the big waves, get pounded, occasionally stand up for a few seconds, then exhaust myself fighting the waves again. Then one weekend I was taught how to surf by someone who knew how. He showed me how to use the rip current near the jetty to paddle past those pounding waves, then pass up the second line of breakers I had always stayed at. He taught me to go beyond the third line of breakers, where the sea was calm—this is what is known as “outside.” It was beautiful there, just sitting on your board and rolling with the swells. The trick, it turned out, was to look toward the horizon and see the big swells coming—then paddle like mad so you were matching the speed of the wave at the moment it broke. That’s when you can really get a good ride. Then, after a nice ride, you have to peel off and get back “outside” before the wave moves you to the second line of breakers.
I was a waiter at the Lone Star Café at the time, and there was a serious surfer, named Bryan, working there as well. It occurred to me on a busy Friday night how analogous the work was to surfing. I kept telling Bryan, “ I can’t get to the outside, I’m getting pounded,” and he would nod knowingly, “ right on.” The more I thought about it, and I still think about it, almost everything we engage in can be viewed in terms of surfing. The reason is this: everything in our physical reality, relative to time, is rising and falling, growing and decaying, coming and going, in a wave-like fashion. We are on an ocean of change, and every entity and event in our lives is behaving like a wave. So here are a few points to my “surfing philosophy” or “wave theory” and how they may be applied to one’s life:
1) Find the rip current—“go with the flow,” why take a pounding and wear yourself out? There is an easier way.
2) Get to the “Outside”—its worth the effort to reach your goal. Settling for the first line of breakers could be painful and tiring. (This one is difficult to be sure about, I guess you have to use your intuition to know where “outside” is.)
3) Relax, and look to the horizon—contemplate the future, and try to visualize that perfect wave before it arrives.
4) Give it your all—when you go for that wave, you’ll have to really dig in to catch it. Don’t stop paddling.
5) Keep your balance—riding a wave is a heady experience, don’t slip up.
6) Peel off and get back “outside”—notice when it is time to move on, or you might get pounded and have to work a lot harder to get back to where you were. (again, you have to use your intuition here.)
Personally, I feel that I’ve been “outside” for several years now, and at the moment I’m paddling like mad. I’ll let you know if I catch the wave, but its looking good so far.
I have discovered a shocking piece of information that has caused me to re-think my dream of traveling the length of Central America on my way to Peru. Of course I’m not the first person to conceive of the idea to take the Pan-American Highway from one end to the other. Perhaps someone has even started in Alaska and ended up in Patagonia, Chile. Anyone that has, will have encountered one great, impenetrable obstacle to their plan: what is known as the Darien Gap. Apparently the roads south of the Panama Canal Zone dwindle down to nothing, followed by hundreds of miles of solid, primordial jungle. Even if it is not true that you have to have a machete or chainsaw to cross into Columbia and beyond, there are plenty of other reasons not to attempt it. The sparse population reportedly consists of criminals, guerillas, DEA, indigenous tribes zealous to protect their hunting grounds, and various other types that are far from hospitable to strangers.
I knew about Darien long ago, and had no delusions of facing that much adventure. I figured a flight from Panama to Bogota, Columbia wouldn’t be more than a few hundred dollars. Wrong. THIS is what I find shocking: from all my preliminary searches, flights from Panama to Columbia, or Costa Rica to Ecuador, or any other likely way to jump the Gap, are roughly the same price as flights directly from Tucson, AZ to Lima, Peru!! Supposedly there was once a couple of discount airlines that offered reasonable flights, but they’ve been bought out by the big boys. It appears that any flight, regardless of distance, that connects North America to South America costs at least $750 plus taxes and fees. I really find this hard to digest.
So this is what causes me to re-think my dream. I had a vision of becoming a human bridge, connecting friends and acquaintances from North America to South America. Well, I suppose that is still possible, but I don’t think I can do it in one trip. Perhaps building a bridge between cultures will require forming a solid foundation in Northern Mexico and Peru, then slowly branching further afield year after year. And maybe, just maybe, by the time I reach Panama there will be another discount airline in operation.