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Levin A. Diatschenko

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The Parable of The Rock

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THERE WAS ONCE AN ENORMOUS ROCK. It was smooth and round, and the only thing of its kind. As such, the local people loved and adored it. Streams of people came to visit it. Eventually they built homes around it, so that they could be close to it. Gradually a town formed around it. Everybody had the rock in common.

   The rock was so perfect and symmetrical that people said it could not possibly be natural. On the other hand, however, just as many people thought that it could not possibly be man-made for the same reasons.

   One day the rock decided to transform itself.

   A crack thus appeared in the rock.

   This caused great alarm. Some people panicked. Some no longer considered the rock to be beautiful. The crack grew larger and other cracks appeared. A larger number of people refused to admit there were any cracks. Pretending not to see them, they said, “Many of us are seeing things where there is nothing to see: the eyesight of the populous is failing, we need to distribute eyeglasses.”

   They even opened up shops that sold eyeglasses, the lenses of which were unclear so that cracks in the rock could not be discerned through them. This caused much argument and disagreement. Shouting matches were had at the rock.

   The community were polarised. The rock, as if in response, broke into two halves.

   One would think this an awkward event for the optometrists. But they claimed (and believed their claim since they too wore the glasses they sold) that only one of these now two rocks was the original rock. The other, they said, is a new one. “This new rock is a false one, a fake, an imitation.”

   Those who disagreed were not much better: “No,” said their leader, “this new piece is an improvement, the better of the two halves.”

   So, half the town preferred one piece and the other preferred the other piece. One side wore glasses[1] and the other did not.

   This situation did not last long, because both great halves started cracking too. The eyeglass wearers found it too difficult not to admit what they saw. But they did not call them cracks. Their leader said, “What people call cracks are actually signs of descent. These marks are indications that other false rocks will appear.”

   Strangely, the naked-eyed citizens had a similar opinion. Any new rocks would be faults, deteriorations, because they considered the second rock perfect.

   A minority rejected both sides: “If new rocks appear, then we must value them over the old, as new things are improvements. This is evolution.” Other minorities formed too, disagreeing with the evolution stance.

   And soon the two pieces crumbled into a pile of smaller rocks. At this point there was less certainty all around. Many remained attached to this or that piece. Many tried to convince others to favour the piece they preferred. Others grew detached and apathetic in their confusion. A growing view was that nothing more than deterioration was happening.

   Fights broke out between different gangs. Sometimes the rocks themselves were used to kill people, cracking skulls.

   When the little stones became a hill of pebbles, the town became a hive of confusion and diversity. This over sensitisation caused a profound numbness in the populous. People worked for pebbles, threw pebbles, swapped pebbles, stole pebbles, killed, fraternised, all in a somnambulistic routine. Fear and depression spread with regards to the future and the nature of things.

   Some people confessed doubt as to whether there ever was one large, beautiful rock. Former eyeglass wearers were afraid or ashamed to wear their glasses, unless in gangs. But that gang had shrunk significantly. Some donned glasses merely because their parents expected them to. Pebbles lay on the roads and were trodden underfoot.

   In time, the pebbles were reduced to sand. The townsfolk barely noticed this change. Attachments to past pebbles or rocks were more abstract and theoretical now. People had sand in their hair, pockets, and on their shoes. It dirtied their floors. No longer could anyone discern one speck from another.

   What’s more, if you poured the sand into a cup, it would take on the height and shape of the cup. If you poured it into a tray it took the shape of the tray. The sand was malleable to individual needs.

   When it rained, folks discovered that clay could be made. Some repaired their houses with the clay. Some built new houses from it. Pottery and crockery, sculptures and so on were made from the clay.

   As the years passed, there was nothing in the society that did not involve the clay in some way. And when hardened, it took on a golden glow, so that the town twinkled in the sunlight.

   Differences of opinion disappeared too, since the clay was viewed as a unity or singular substance. In the beginning it had been singular as a rock; in the end it was again singular – from a thing separate from the town, to a ‘stuff’ immanent and entwined within everything.

   The rock had completed its transformation.

   Despite everything that had happened, the townsfolk still held onto the belief that they acted out of will and reason; none but the wisest suspected their history was one of reaction and unconsciousness. It was even considered that the clay and the rock were lifeless material used by sentient people, and not the other way around.


[1] It should be noted that lenses by this time were clear, as the glasses were only worn symbolically now.


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Media & Consciousness by Levin A. Diatschenko

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On Media and Consciousness

 

   Neil Postman, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, puts forth the idea that different types of media are ideal for different types of knowledge. This is something of an expansion on Marshal McLuhan’s concept of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ types of media – that is, media which requires little participation (TV), and media which requires much participation (books, or even more, dialogue). This example of Postman’s idea I take from wikipedia—

 

“Only in the printed word, he states, could complicated truths be rationally conveyed. Postman gives a striking example: The first fifteen U.S. presidents could probably have walked down the street without being recognized by the average citizen, yet all these men would have been quickly known by their written words. However, the reverse is true today. The names of presidents or even famous preachers, lawyers, and scientists call up visual images, typically television images, but few, if any, of their words come to mind. The few that do almost exclusively consist of carefully chosen soundbytes.”

 

    When comparing these ideas to the theories of occult and mystic traditions, an interesting new depth comes up, since occultists are more concerned with types of consciousness than they are with types of knowledge. We could say this: that particular forms of media offer a path of least resistance for corresponding types of consciousness. As such, the quality of expression that comes from its corresponding level of consciousness constitutes the majority of that type of media’s output (and influence).

   In the diagram we have the basic constitution of man as taught in most occult systems[1]. Here are the three ‘tiers’ or bodies for the three levels of consciousness, which make up the lower self or “personality”: the physical, emotional, and mental. Next up is the intuitive or causal, the beginning of soul consciousness. Psychological evolution would mean progressing from physical awareness and control, to emotional awareness and control, to mental, and on to the intuitive. These separate parts, which each flare up and take control of the personality at different times, eventually become (through meditation and service) integrated into a synthetic whole and something of a vertical channel for higher (spiritual) influence to ‘pour down.’

   We are told in Alice A. Bailey’s books that the four main types of yoga are general to the development of the four parts of man: hathar yoga for the physical part, bakhti yoga for the emotional, and raja yoga for the mental body. Eventually agni yoga[2] is said to work on the whole at once, from an intuitive vantage point. Gurdjief refered to this working on the whole as The Fourth Way.

   I also recall in one of the Alice Bailey books the instruction that the more advanced way of development necessarily includes the lesser ways within it, in results if not in practices. This is interesting considering that the most advanced form of communication media includes all the other forms within it, though now in unspecialised forms. The Internet contains symbols, books, radio, television and film, though none of these take the stage as they did in their own times.

   Another point made here on the diagram is that the evolution of media moves in the reverse direction of the evolution of the soul. 

 

   In occult literature the physical world is viewed as the plain of completed manifestation. If an idea, for example, is developed enough to qualify for existence it will manifest in the world as a symbol or movement or group, together with its consequences. The physical form of a thing is the tip of the iceberg but also the ‘capping off’ of a thing. The physical form is also something like a cup that contains all the subtler parts of a creation within it. A human’s body has its corresponding gestures, movements, and indications of the non-physical parts: emotion, intellect, and so forth. Books of poetry are physical things that yet contain emotions and abstract ideas.

   Thinking of communication media as a parallel, we see that the Internet is the completed manifestation (or endpoint of evolution) of media – yet, since it seems ‘inverted,’ it is the least physical form of media. We buy and own E-books and MP3s where we used to buy paper and records, tapes and discs. 

 

   Nevertheless, we think of the Internet in physical terms. It has ‘sites’ with meeting places and ‘rooms’. When the military cuts off ways to meet, revolutionaries still ‘meet’ online. Facebook is essentially a solution to loneliness; we can get home and still be in the presence of friends.

   Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms and virtual places encourage a more instinctual or physical awareness. Internet is impulsive, and we click on links out of impulse – like instinct or reflex – most of the time. We accept changes and we pass on sound bytes and chain mails all automatically rather than with discernment. Sometimes this behaviour opens us up to ‘viruses’.

   Although the diagram here matches up types of consciousness neatly with types of media technology, the idea is more general: as media progresses and becomes more complex, its users become more automatic. Here are some points about specific types:

 

   Television and radio are ideal for emotional consciousness. If we stop to ponder intellectual points, the radio does not wait but continues on whether we are paying attention or not. Because of this we can grasp impressions and moods better than intellectual points. Advertising flourishes here, speaking to the emotions and encouraging desire. Pop music and its emotional effects are ideal for these mediums.

   Of course there are intellectual shows playing on these mediums, but these are not the ways of least resistance. 

   Books and especially the printing press in general are ideal for logic and reason, that is, concrete thought. This is because we can pause on a sentence, re-read and ponder until the point is grasped. And then, when ready, we read on. Because of this, books take more concentration than radio, movies and television – more mental effort. If the concentration is not there, the book stops. They do not pull the reader in as effectively as a television does, although some of the more modern books do a good job of imitating television (or cinema), which, in other words, speaks of aiming at the emotions. We call them ‘page-turners.’ Books are less accidental than movies or television shows, and discernment is a trait of concrete thought.

   Again, I speak generally: tabloid papers and magazines are obviously printing’s step towards emotional consciousness. Their short lives and quick disposability speaks of this.  So too are there radio and television shows, as well as movies, aimed at the intellect – though these are not the mainstream.

   Earlier again we have the medium of spoken words and ceremony (or ritual). Although we could call mythology a medium in itself, it is also the major content of spoken word and religious ceremony as means of teaching. This is conducive of a more intuitive and creative consciousness. Mythology is not always consistent from source to source, though the key points or patterns are preserved. A case in point is Jesus and Hercules – both of whom had a god for a father and a mortal woman for a mother, placing the heroes as links between the divine and animal kingdoms. As long as that linking-idea was preserved, many details around that could change.

   Spoken word teaching requires mutual interest, interaction and concentration from both the teller and receiver; it requires a subjectivity that books do not. Ceremony and ritual provide this inasmuch as ceremony is the acting out of mythology. The last supper is imitated in the first communion of the catholic tradition; the death of Hiram Abiff is imitated in a freemason’s third degree ritual; creation stories are imitated in aboriginal corroborees. And so invocation results.

   It should be noted that meditation also serves this purpose, as meditation is the practice of traversing from instinct to intellect to intuition, and holding the consciousness in the ‘highest’ place achievable to the practitioner.

   Aphorisms and sutras are similarly sparse, requiring intuitive participation. Soon we come to the sparsest of mediums: symbols and hieroglyphs. One symbol can provide a lifetime of meditation upon its meanings and applications. Thus we have the cross, the pentagram, the enneagram, and so on.

  

   At first glance, the opposite directions of soul and technological progress might appear that a Luddite’s outlook is implied. However, this is not the message. As the spirit is said to fall unconscious when it descends into matter (i.e. manifests), giving birth to worldly life; so might a parallel development be taking place with technology. The Internet might be the completed manifestation of communications media in a similar way that the physical body is such to the “involution” of the soul. (The term ‘involution’ refers to the descent of soul into matter and thus birth, while evolution is the soul ‘awaking’ in its form and turning back towards spirit.) This would imply the need to awake in the metaphysical sense, in media as in body[3].

   The problem then lies in sleep, or what Heidegger called “the forgetting of being,” and what Kundera called the “nonthought of received ideas.” Unconsciousness, in other words. Technology, and media in general, is like the Sabbath; when we are unconscious, we become servants – even “servo-mechanisms,” as McLuhan said – to our creations. The saying that the mind is a wonderful servant but a cruel master can be applied to media too; it is always master when we are in a state of unconsciousness. No sleepwalker can lead and direct. Sleepwalkers become mediums themselves. Hence the relevance of meditation and spiritual ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 


[1] For example: Theosophy, Alice Bailey, Gurdjief and Ouspensky. Alchemical and Golden Dawn traditions also agree though using different terminology (earth, water, wind, fire, etc.).

[2] See Helena Roerich’s Agni Yoga books.

[3] Incidentally, this polarity of directions may also be an indication of support for Poitr Ouspensky’s theory of evolution (see his book A New Model of The Universe) wherein he proposes that the human soul reincarnates backwards in time. Eventually all souls, each in turn, would sift through and relive the part of Christ on the cross and Buddha under the banyan tree.

 

 


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The Rooftop Sutras > by Levin A. Diatschenko

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THE ROOFTOP SUTRAS is a collection of strange and unusual tales set in the mythological 'Suburbia' of the mind, following various inhabitants as they attempt to stay awake amidst hypnotic routine of modern life.

Written into the vein of G.K. Chesterton, J.L. Borges, Franz Kafka and William Burroughs, Diatschenko has taken on a metaphysical subject in this mundane guise, and each story is a riddle within the fabric of his spell.

 Regard the bizarre parables of modern life contained within -- such as the man whose telephone follows him everywhere he goes, or the woman who becomes stuck in an infinite loop. Then there is the man who is summoned to court to justify his existence, and the band of gypsies who live on the rooftops of the city.

 SHORT-LISTED for the 2010 Northern Territory BOOK OF THE YEAR.

 Read a sample chapter from the book:

THE PLAYING CARD PYRAMID

 

To buy a copy of the flesh and blood book, go here: X

 

 

 


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Moons And Planets

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Moons And Planets.

 

Levin A. Diatschenko

 

  Imagine a moon who revolves around three or so planets. Frustrated, he exclaims, “I am a planet too! I am not just your moon!” It is not true, of course; he is only a moon.

   You can never convince people that you are a planet; you either are or aren’t. An elephant does not need to say he’s an elephant.

   If we do not have the strength, endurance or power to circulate the sun, we need to circulate some one or thing else that does. Those people or organizations are planets.

   Planets have responsibilities. Their job is to help their moons to become planets too. Their job is to direct the aspiring gaze of his moon/s gradually to the sun. A planet is only useful if he is fulfilling this role.

   From this perspective, it is important to choose a planet, as opposed to drifting to the closest. A planet who just gathers moons is no use. None of these moons will become planets as long as they revolve around him.

   Moons have responsibilities too. Being a moon denotes that you revolve around something. You are attached to something, part of a community. Moons affect the tides. On the other hand, meteorites are wanderers with no attachment to anything, and no effectiveness except in destruction.

   When two planets begin fighting for possession of one moon, this is indicative of a transformation. The planets have started ‘revolving’ around the moon, and therefore become moons themselves. If the moon is conscious of this opportunity as it is happening, he instantly changes into a planet and gains two moons. If not, the three moons drift automatically toward the strongest place of gravity. 

   Helena Blavatsky was a planet within the Theosophical Society, and the Theosophical Society was a planet within the occult movement. She pointed to the sun of spiritual progress, and gained many moons under ‘planet theosophy.’ The gossip against theosophy that appeared in the literature of many more distant planets of the time (e.g. Brotherhood of Luxor, Gurdjieff, Crowley, Spiritualists, and on) are indicative of how strong and influential was the gravity of the Theosophical Society. There was jealousy.

   When Blavatsky died, moons grew to take her place and continue nurturing new moons. Under her, many moons became planets in their own right, and then they even broke away on their own orbits. Steiner, Alice A. Bailey and Krishnamurti all became planets of their own. This is not a bad thing, but rather indicative of Blavatsky’s ability to foster true growth.

   It takes more than knowledge and imagination to become a planet. Whatever the mind is attached to, the thinker is ‘revolving’ around. This is what Gurdjieff must have meant when he said, “considering others is a form of slavery”. On the surface it sounds selfish but there may be a difference between ‘being considerate’ and ‘considering.’

   It takes assertiveness to become a planet. It also takes foresight and planning; one must see the sun, plan one’s trajectory around it, and have such concentration as to never lose sight of the sun for a moment, even when other bodies distract. A weak will revolves around anybody or thing that comes in its vicinity (automatically). In the spirit of diplomacy and love, one often becomes a moon for others in order to learn the other’s point of view; but eventually one must crystallise into an embodiment of purpose. This is not aggression; this is a show of honesty. This is Self-actualisation and it can also be protection against slavery.

   Let us say that by doing another man’s will, you become an ‘extension’ of that other man’s being. His manifested self spreads to others as he wins over obedience or imitation. Weaker personalities allow this kind of possession all the time, unconsciously or out of politeness, or in confusion of not knowing what else to do. Whenever we think what others persuade us to think, they have ‘possessed’ us mentally. Whenever we feel what they want us to feel, our emotional body is theirs. Think of a crew of workers all dressed in the same shirts, performing the same physical actions. Just being caught off guard by a quick-talking salesman can lead you to giving some of your life to him (symbolised by money) and taking on a symbol of his possession of you (the product he sells you).

   An esoteric definition of ‘being assertive’ might be: ‘attempting to resist possession.’ There are, of course, positive versions of ‘falling in’ with other people’s wills. A musical group needs its conductor. A boxer trusts his coach. The psychedelics let the ‘spirit of the vine’ Ayahuasa in.

   The extent of this kind of possession that has been going on in society (and my own life) is stupendous. But only recently have I comprehended it. This is, I believe, because of the ‘Intention’ or ‘point of tension’ being built as result of occult meditation[1]. It is this pool of energy built in the mental plane (through meditation) that fills a vacuum inside a personality. It is that vacuum which, if left unfilled, sucks in passing entities (unconsciously) and allows them to take possession. (If no ‘passing entity is near, the vacuum becomes a ‘form of propulsion’ until a stronger will is found.) The world is filled with such vacant personalities, all malleable and susceptible to the suggestions of group laws, billboards, peer pressure, patriotism, violence, and so on. 

   Herein is the significance of Alice Bailey’s idea of service by being, rather than doing. The first stage of projection must surely be to be able to say no, when a wave of worldly forces extend your way. We do this not merely by ‘saying no’ in the literal sense, but by ‘being’—coming forward as a law unto your self, as a soul-infused personality.

   In reaching out, joining groups in the community in an attempt at serving, you also risk becoming a moon of many planets. This is my experience, and while it has enriched the past few years, I have found it difficult to hold a peaceful state amidst the ‘smoke of the battle.’ A still mind, restraining all modifications, is not as difficult when you are in a quiet and eventless environment. But to project that onto a busy environment is the next task. To fall into orbit of everyone that comes in proximity drains one of energy, and, eventually of effectiveness to manifest the ideal.   

 

   


[1] Specifically, the Arcane School method (http://www.lucistrust.org/en/arcane_school).


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No Man's Land

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No Man’s Land;

Experimenting with a military approach to psychological evolution.

 

There are three barriers between you and the outside world. The first is your physical body. The second is your emotional body or ‘body of desire’. The third is your mind, or intellect, the mental body. Collectively, this is called the ‘personality.’[1]

   This suggests that ‘you’ are a fourth thing. Generally we identify the first three things as ourselves, however, I aim to show this is a misapprehension.

   Impressions first reach us through the first barrier. A sight, for example. The second barrier may give the sight a value. The sight may be disliked, funny, or it might cause lust, and so on. This sets off reactions in the third barrier, such as fantasies, memories and associations. None of these reactions are voluntary. This is the point; the thing seen is ‘getting to you’ via these three layers. It is affecting you. The external phenomenon is controlling the layers in those times.

   The personality can be thought of as a ‘no man’s land’ between you and external forces.

   A billboard is an extension of the will of the man who owns the company, which is selling the product advertised. If you react to the sight of the image – whether physically (a double-take?), emotionally (“I must buy one!”), or mentally (the image sparking off associations, or even if your mind diatribes against the billboard) – the owner has entered or ‘possessed’ you. If you accept the possession, your personality becomes – on sight – an extension of the billboard, and therefore an extension of him. If you rebel against the possession, he has still caused you to react unconsciously. He is a planet, and you a moon.

   Whatever you control is an extension of you. A tool, for instance. What you cannot control becomes an extension of something else. In the beginning, the barriers are non-existent: the gates are open. The strongest will absorbs the lesser.

   Imagine you are watching your weight, and somebody suggests ice cream. You say no, but then this somebody presents an actual ice cream to you, in front of your eyes. It is a hot day and ice cream is dripping down the sides. If there is temptation, there is something of a ‘tug-of-war’ over the first barrier. If you control it, you can make it not eat ice cream. If the ‘somebody’ controls it, then without physically touching it, he makes it eat. This somebody does not in this case need a strong will, just ice cream. But the power of temptation associated with the sight of it shows that the physical body is susceptible to outside control.

   Recently, I went for a job interview. It was a Wednesday. To myself, I decided that if they asked, I would not ‘be able’ to begin until Monday, loathing to start too soon. During the interview, the boss suddenly asked, “So, can you start right now?” It was a loaded question.

   Stammering, I said no.

   “No?”

   I stammered a lie about one more shift in my old job.

   “Well tomorrow then. You can start tomorrow, right?”

   Her question was not really a question but more like a beam of expectation, which penetrated all three layers. Almost as a reflex I answered yes. The prospect of turning her down twice frightened me. She controlled the personality then. Her will was for me to start tomorrow, and mine was not a factor. The three layers were under her control.

   A job possesses on different levels. The first level is physically. You do whatsoever your boss tells you to, physically. Your body is an extension of his will at least temporarily. The next level is emotionally, then mentally. In the case of management level jobs, the boss has broken through all three defences. He controls your mind inasmuch as you use it for his purposes for the day. You think what he wants you to think. You have given up more; this is perhaps why management is paid more. Labourers have only had the first barrier penetrated. So they are paid less. They are freer, as their thoughts are still theirs. If you find yourself desiring to please your boss, or taking a lot of pride in your job, the second layer too, has been conceded.

   This likens work to possession or obsession, but it must be remembered that most people need this possession. Anybody who is unaware of the fourth part, and therefore have no fourth part to speak of, need a substitute self. This they get in the form of employers; the boss is the substitute soul.

   If you, the fourth thing, have no control generally, it can be said that you are not a factor in your life. It can, therefore, be said that you do not exist for practical purposes. In this case, the belief that there is no soul is either true or might as well be. In the case where the three layers are controlled and protected by you, the fourth principle, you become a power. Assertiveness is a measure of existence.

  

   As said, the personality can be said to be a ‘no man’s land’ between the entity and the outside world of forces.

   The first task in any endeavour in life is to secure these three barriers. Until then all else is futile. However, they cannot be secured as long as you identify yourself as these barriers. Awareness of them as ‘not I’ is essential, which means awareness of yourself as a fourth part is essential. The fourth can be understood as awareness, consciousness.

   This awareness is the first assertion: “I am.”  Or “‘I’ am.” When this happens, the mind, for the first time, will react to the fourth thing, an internal influence. And so on down the line. The physical reaction will necessarily be creative, not consumptive; it will be responsive, not reactive. In Eastern symbology this conscious part is sometimes referred to as a flickering flame in the wind, the goal being to make it steady. To continue the military metaphor, we could picture it as the flag that must be protected in war games.   

 

The question of violence understandably comes up. This idea of building barriers sounds like a warlike way of viewing reality. Where is love?, one will ask.

   Love involves reaching out to others. The personality is your tool for reaching out to others. If you have no control over the personality, you cannot reach others, except by unconscious reaction. In other words, you are incapable of love. 

   Asserting the self over these three parts is not violent yet. The Old Testament comes before the New Testament; cause and effect is the first lesson learned. Afterwards, with full freedom from emotional reaction, you are able to resist the urge to retaliate—and turn the other cheek. Put simply all this is refraining from being a falling domino, or pinball machine. Before the securing of the personality, it is impossible to resist the urge in any consistent or predictable way.

   Assertiveness must not be mistaken for aggression. It takes great assertion of the fourth part (the soul) over the three other parts (the personality) to turn the other cheek. Especially when you are much stronger than the fellow who has struck you. Striking back is aggressive, but the self has made no assertion.   

   

    

      


[1] Terminology of Alice A. Bailey.


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The Playing-Card Pyramid by Levin A. Diatschenko

 

 

'The Playing card Pyramid' is an excerpt from the forthcoming book 'The Rooftop Sutras' by Levin a. Diatschenko which will be launched during the 2010 NT Writers Festival as part of the 'Tales of the Undergrowth' event.

Click here for more information about this event.

 

 

THE PLAYING CARD PYRAMID
by Levin A. Diatschenko

 

WHILE he was sleeping, Citizen Uccello heard a ‘knocking’ inside his head. Uccello, like all citizens of his day, only had one dream. It consisted of a single pyramid of playing-cards, stacked high and peaceful on a coffee table. But the present knocking shook the image, and the cards collapsed in a heap.
Uccello opened his eyes. After a moment of silence the knocking continued, only this time it came from the front door.
Uccello disentangled himself from his sheets, put some pants on, and opened the door to the intrusive sunlight, which, after a moment receded and introduced the silhouette of a small man. Uccello rubbed his eyes and focused. The silhouette slowly gained details. It was a police officer.
“Morning Uccello,” said the officer. His voice was too high and squeaky for that time of the morning.
“So it is,” said Uccello.
“You look a little shocked to see a man of the law.”
“Are you sure you have the right house?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? … But we’ve finally got you, Uccello.”
“What do you want?”
The officer held up a piece of paper in his chubby hand.
“What is it?” Uccello asked.
“It’s a summons.”
“A summons? … I don’t understand.”
The officer just smiled, faded until he was transparent … and then disappeared completely.
Uccello closed the door, sat down in the living room and looked at the letter.





Dear Mr Uccello D----,

Re: Revision of Citizenship

We of the courts have recently become aware of your existence. It is immediately apparent that you have evaded all your legal obligations thus far, possibly constituting a serious crime.
You are hereby summonsed to appear before a judge on this Twenty-Sixth of August, in the year Two Thousand and Seven, for the purpose of justifying your continuing existence. The hearing will be at three o’clock pm, Courtroom Three, the Supreme Court.
If it is found that you cannot provide acceptable justification for the space and resources that you use, or in the case that you do not attend this hearing, your right to exist may be discontinued.
Yours sincerely,

Justice M. Terd

Uccello hung his head and tears welled up in his eyes. When he finally pulled himself together, he stood up and said to himself, “Well, there’s only one thing for it … I need a solicitor.”
Uccello lived in a rural area. It was so peaceful that, not only did the inhabitants dream of undisturbed card-pyramids, but each home actually had a pyramid of undisturbed playing cards on their coffee table. Word has it that generations went by without the cards collapsing.
But on his way out to find a solicitor, Uccello slammed the door and every card-pyramid in the province collapsed. Not realising the harm he caused, Uccello sauntered down the road toward the city, hands shoved deep into his pockets. While he brooded on his troubles, the beautiful sight of the twinkling river and the blossoming trees was lost on him.

The solicitor was a button-eyed man with a hunchback. To Uccello he looked like a pincushion. His boss must have thought so too, because two or three pins were sticking out of the hump.
“How can I help you?” he asked Uccello.
Uccello gave him the letter. “Can you tell me what this means?”
The solicitor glanced at it and said, “It’s quite simple. You’re to justify your existence or they’ll take away everything that you’ve been getting for free.”
“What does that mean?”
“Have you been paying rent on the space you take up?”
“You mean my house?”
“No – your body. For as long as you’ve lived, your body has taken up space on the planet, breathed the planet’s air and consumed its resources. Did you think that was free?”
“I guess I did. How much money is the rent then?”
“You don’t pay in money. You pay in deeds.”
“Deeds? What kind of deeds?”
“Anything that might justify your existence. I suggest you get prepared, because the hearing is tomorrow.”
“Wait,” moaned Uccello. “I’m not sure I’ve done any deeds. How would I identify them?”
“First you need a purpose. Do you have one?”
“Hmm … no. One needs beliefs to have purpose. I don’t have any.”
“You must have some.”
“None at all.”
“Well get some by tomorrow or you can’t be helped.”

Back at home, Uccello paced up and down his living room. Finally he went to his study and pulled out all his ink and watercolour drawings.
“This should do the trick,” he said.

The Supreme Court was a huge concrete cube. It had a single door at the front, which was merely a rectangular hole. Uccello took a deep breath and slipped inside.
He found himself moving through dimly lit corridors, up and down creaky staircases, and passing portraits of judges and solicitors -- pale hunchbacks, their lipless mouths never smiling, their eyes sunken into shadow but the sparks of desire shining from inside them. They looked so thin that the skull was easily decipherable under the skin. Uccello began to worry that he would be late. The signs on the doors were in no discernable order. He’d pass Courtroom Four, then Courtroom One, Courtroom Seven and so on. Some doors were hung crooked or too small to enter.
Uccello finally saw some staff members, wandering around in their black robes.
“Excuse me…” he said, but nobody acknowledged him. Some of the staff passed right through him like ghosts, and others bounced lightly off him like balloons and floated off in the other direction.
Uccello finally came up against a wooden door with a sign that read ‘Courtroom Three.’
The room was more like a hall. At the other end of the room, Uccello saw a man sitting behind a desk, who was as thin as a stick and wearing a grey wig.
‘Come over here!’ called the judge, his gruff voice bouncing off the walls.
Uccello closed the door and approached the judge. His face was old and angry and his eyes and cheeks sunken, revealing the shape of his skull.
“Are you Citizen Uccello?” asked the judge.
“Yes.”
“Right on time. Very good. Well, don’t just stand there boy, have a seat.”
Uccello sat on the rickety chair, holding the watercolours on his lap.
“Do you understand the seriousness of this matter?” asked the judge.
“I think so, Your Honour.”
“You think so? My boy, do you know what it means to get your existence cancelled?”
“Not exactly. I’ll have to leave?”
“You won’t have to do anything! We’ll do it all for you, me boy!” His voice bounced off the walls and repeated itself – “We’ll do it for you!”
“Oh … Do what, exactly, Your Honour?”
“Sentence you to Life in the Suburbs!” The judge’s shoulder creaked as he raised his hand in a sweeping motion, “Which is to say Death in the Suburbs. And the end of you!”
Uccello ran his palm over his closely cropped head, but said nothing.
“You’re twenty-seven today. Is that right?”
“That’s right,” answered Uccello.
“How did you manage to go unnoticed for so long?”
“I don’t know. The first time I ever saw a cop was when I got this summons. I always thought they were a fairy story.”
“Listen closely. This is your current status.” Judge Terd opened the folder on the desk in front of him and ran his bony finger along some facts.
 “You have no position,” began the judge, “no money, no woman and no prospects. Shall I go on, boy?”
Uccello started to say no, but a wave of emotion took his voice.
Judge Terd’s voice bounced around the walls and off Uccello’s ears: “Well, boy?”
Uccello cleared his throat and tried again. “No.”
“For goodness sake, boy, you’re not going to cry are you?”
“No, Sir … Your Honour.”
“Good. And now, let me get on with it: I hereby charge you with having no good reason to continue existing, for yourself or the community as a whole. Do you understand the charge?”
“Yes.”
“Fine. Step Two, then. Can you provide an adequate reason for being granted continuance?”
This was it. Uccello dumped his collection of art on the table.
“What’s this?” sneered the judge, and the whole room creaked as he leaned forward in his chair.
“It’s art,” said Uccello. “Watercolours mostly … and ink drawings.”
The judge took it and perused the pages. “Hmmm,” he mumbled. “What about it?
“I painted them,” said Uccello. “But they’re not finished yet. If you cancel my citizenship they will never be finished. I understand that the law must regard my work as a potential service to the community. What’s more, a potential masterpiece might be among them. Surely, on those grounds, I have the right to go on developing.”
Ever so slowly, the corners of the judge’s mouth creaked downwards.
“Is that true?” said the judge to himself.
“I’m afraid so,” his echo replied, after bouncing off the walls. “The law says that if we discontinue this citizen’s existence, the government may be liable for the prevention of a masterpiece. That’s murder.”
“You are clever, me boy,” said the judge to Uccello.
“However,” added the echo, “if the art proves to be frivolous, a mere work of entertainment – then it need not be completed; the world has plenty already.”
The judge took up the papers again and looked them over. “Hmmm,” he sounded. “This has no underlying purpose – just goes well with the curtains.”
“That’s not fair at all!” cried Uccello.
“Fair? It’s splendid,” said the judge. “I hereby sentence you to Life in the Suburbs, without bail. This sentence takes effect as of right this minute. Have you anything to say?”
“Bollocks.”
Judge Terd slammed the desk with his right hand – only, he didn’t have a right hand. Poking out of his sleeve was a wooden mallet.

The Suburbs were like a vast prison. People were sent there to prevent them from ever breaking the law. Each Suburb was like a cellblock, the inmates all glossy-eyed and bent over.   
   On the way there, in the Convict Transport Bus, Uccello asked a fellow inmate, “What the hell happened here?”
   They’d been peering out the windows as the bus pushed deeper into the Suburbs, now and then dropping a convict off at his or her assigned house.
   “Aimlessness, I guess,” said the convict, an old timer with a few wisps of grey hair, and neck skin that flapped in the wind.  “Sounds a trifle, but boredom spread through the middle classes like a plague. Had very little control of ourselves when these here houses were built, as I recall. Our actions were barely deliberate. The aimlessness made us weak-willed and we went about our existence like an empty raft on an ocean. Pain of the situation made us reluctant to face it, and so it was a relief to let our thoughts get carried away to another place...”
   He stared out the window for a while before he continued. “Anyway, because of that, certain repetitions formed. The similarity in architecture throughout western cities, for example; the flow of the population as it rounded its daily routine; the colours and the clothes and the dialogue. Everything seemed like unconscious automatons. More accurately, it was an accidental mass hypnotism.”
   “And now they’re capitalising on it, aren’t they?” sneered Uccello. “Those judges!”
   “I used to think that,” said the old man. “But not anymore. Reckon they’re asleep too. Nobody is in control.”        
The cellblock where Uccello was sent, however, was not much of a prison anymore. The stone houses poked up from the earth in rows upon rows, like tombstones in a vast cemetery.
If you’d ever gone there and wiped the dust from the windows, you would have seen Uccello sitting in his living room like a corpse. He spent his days trying to build a card pyramid, but it always collapsed before he could finish it.
One day, Uccello stepped outside and saw his neighbour rolling around on the lawn. Uccello saw that the man had shackles on his wrists and ankles.
“What are you doing?” he called.
The man shook his shackles off and stood up. He had slicked-back hair and his moustache curled up at the ends.
“Practising,” said the man.
Uccello suddenly recognised him: “My God! You’re Loudin the Magnificent, the famous escape-artist!”
The man smiled and bowed low. “The very same.”
Uccello remembered that twelve months ago a prominent newspaper had challenged Loudin to escape from the Suburbs. A huge crowd had watched as he entered the prison/cemetery, waving back and smiling. That was twelve months ago.
“So you’re still here, eh?” said Uccello. “I guess not even you can escape from here.”
“Nonsense,” said Loudin. “I can leave this minute. I stay for dramatic purposes.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I were to escape in only one day, the audience would think the feat is easy. If, however, I wait twelve months and return with ruffled clothes and messed-up hair, they will cheer after having figured me for dead.”
Loudin picked up his shackles. “Besides, one mustn’t try to escape; one must attain and conquer. Would you like a cup of tea?” he asked.
There were photographs of carnival folk all over the walls of Loudin’s living room, and a card pyramid on the coffee table.
“How do you intend to escape?” asked Uccello.
“I can’t reveal my secrets, but I’ll tell you this: The human will can accomplish anything, but only once it gains full control of the mind. Until then there’s little hope.”
“That doesn’t sound like anything I can use.”
“On the contrary, that was THE most useful thing I could have shared.”
Uccello tapped the wall. “All that’s real is what we can touch. Don’t talk to me about abstracts.”
   “If the wall is an illusion then so is your hand. You cannot qualify one illusion with another.”
“You’re clever,” sneered Uccello. “But if you cannot escape from an illusion, it’s as good as real. And I still don’t believe you can escape.”
“Suit yourself,” said Loudin disinterestedly.  “I bet you believe in the police, don’t you?”
“I saw one.”
“A product of your mind, a pestering thought-form. Your subconscious sent him after becoming aware of your lack of purpose.”
Uccello thought for a moment. “Rubbish. There is no purpose, unless you manufacture a fake one.”
   “I could say the same about the police.”

Prison life was a hellish eternity. Each morning the inmates were herded to the factories and offices where they would do the work assigned to them. Afterwards, they were shuffled back to their cells. One or two days per week they were let out-of-doors where they would pace around and enjoy the open sky. Uccello lived for those days.
The streets were oppressively quiet, and if Uccello ever went strolling after work, the hum of silence made his ears ache. Cops were always following him or watching him from street corners. Whenever Uccello attempted to stack a pack of playing cards into a pyramid, a cop would burst inside the house and knock the cards on the floor. Sometimes, sitting in the silence of his living room, Uccello would hear police sirens passing. The noise would build and build until it was deafening. It sounded as if the police were moving in packs. They yelled out orders and taunts and warnings through their microphones, fired guns in the air and sounded their sirens.
Uccello could do nothing but curl up on his couch and shiver. “We’ve already ceased to exist,” he complained. “What more do they want?”


Uccello visited Loudin ever now and then.  He wanted to prod Loudin and find out what he really knew about the nature of things, or whether he was just another prisoner. Besides that, Uccello enjoyed Loudin’s company. Morning tea at Loudin’s became a regular occurrence.
   Loudin didn’t say much. He mostly sat on his veranda, drinking tea and watching the street. The silence was unusually rejuvenating; the police never seemed to show up there.
   “You don’t talk much,” Uccello said one day, breaking the mood.
   “No,” said Loudin.
   When no explanation came, Uccello asked: “Well? Why don’t you tell me about your escape method?”
   “There’s no point. You will believe nothing you haven’t experienced yourself.”
   “If you tell me your method, I can then try it out!”
   “The only useful kind of talk is debriefing—and you haven’t done anything to debrief. Try to escape yourself, and then if it fails I will talk.”
   “And if my method doesn’t fail?”
   “Then you won’t need to talk.”

 

 

The next day, Uccello went to visit Loudin again, but he did not answer the door. Uccello knocked harder and the door creaked open. The house was empty. Left behind were a few carnival photographs and the card pyramid still intact.
After gazing a while at the pyramid, Uccello returned to his cell.

The routine ground away at Uccello. He decided to escape before he was reduced to dust.
Using the money he had saved from working, Uccello bought himself a rusty old car that would be entirely adequate for the one-way trip. He filled it with food and hit the road.
As Uccello came to the edge of the Suburbs, a sign reared up from the bitumen: “You Are Now Leaving the Suburbs”.
   Uccello swerved and missed it by an atom or two.
   Uccello had not zoomed one hundred kilometres down the highway before he saw the smoke cloud of a band of police cars in his rear-view mirror.
   The sirens began screaming.
   Uccello stepped on it and tried to lose them. But the farther he got, the longer the line of cops pursuing him became. “By the amount of cops I attract you’d think I did exist, and that I was important.”
   It was no use. The police were catching up. The sirens screeched loudly, and     
   Uccello felt fatigued. He turned the car radio on and up, in order to drown the sirens out.
   The entire hoard of police cars vanished without a trace.
   Nothing could be heard except Uccello’s car radio. Uccello pulled over. He got out of the car, peered up the road, and found that he was still alone.
“I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed. There wasn’t a trace of the police. “What happened?”
Without the slightest spark of understanding, Uccello hopped back into his car and continued on his road to freedom. He turned the music up and bopped his head.
   Later that night, Uccello parked away from the road and slept. When sunlight hit him the next morning, he opened his eyes.
   Looking around, he had an uneasy feeling. He left his car where it was and walked out to the road to take a look.
   He heard engines revving. Then he saw a dust cloud. Within seconds the cloud grew larger and carried with it a pack of snarling police cars.
   Uccello bolted back to the car. Sitting in the driver’s seat, he listened and waited … hopefully the cops would pass him by.
   Sirens sounded. More police cars burst into view and screeched to a halt around Uccello’s car – he was surrounded in seconds. Looking right into the eyes of his captors, Uccello saw that they were shaking with laughter.
   Uccello fumbled for his key and turned the engine on. He would still go through the formality of resisting till the end.
   The night before, Uccello had not turned the radio off. It simply went off with the car engine. Therefore, now – when he jerked the engine back on – an early morning talk show that was on the radio also came on. “ … Marvellous day ahead of us,” the host was saying, “Absolutely brilliant …”
   Uccello found himself alone again. Even the dust from the police cars seemed to have vanished.  
   “Where the fuck did they go?” he gasped.
   “We’ll be playing the same classic rock songs again and again and again … all morning long!” said the radio.
   Uccello revved the car, steered it back to the empty highway and drove it to the horizon.

   After a night and a morning of straight driving, Uccello arrived at the outskirts of a new town. He saw cattle and fences, signs and a few shacks. On the horizon he saw rooftops.
   Without warning, a street sign reared up at the car. It said, “Welcome to the Suburbs”.
   Uccello swerved and went white. He recognised the streets. But how could that be?    Street by street, Uccello felt sicker and sicker. This place was exactly the same as the town/prison he’d fled from, right down to every loose brick.
   When Uccello arrived at his own house, he opened the car door and vomited into the gutter. He saw that his hands were shaking.
   As he dragged his feet toward his house, he saw a police car parked across the road.    When he opened the front door, entered and closed it behind him, he heard the cops drive away.
   Uccello looked around him. It was his home all right.
   “It doesn’t make sense. How’d I end up here?” he asked himself. “It was one road without any turns!”
   He went to bed, assuming his death pose.

   Later that day, Uccello climbed onto the roof and dived off. Perhaps it’s the only way out, he mused.
   He seemed to sail down peacefully, accompanied only by the hollow sound of the wind. It felt good, but with a pinch of fear.
He slammed into the ground. Everything went black.
Within the blackness, gradually a pinpoint of light appeared. It grew larger and larger, until Uccello felt that the darkness was a tunnel, leading towards the light. It was an opening.
Uccello zoomed into the opening of light. It was so bright that all he could discern was whiteness. He waited and floated in the whiteness. Finally the harshness of the light lessened and Uccello began to see forms. He felt that he was standing on solid ground again. The light retreated into a sphere that hovered high in the distance … surrounded by a blue sky. A sun.
Uccello then looked down from the sun… And he saw his house.
“Fuck!”
Uccello was ‘alive’ and standing in the street. He fell to his knees and sobbed.
He seemed to have ‘reincarnated’ into exactly the same situation he had known before. So much for escaping, he thought.

   He awoke at noon the next day and read the newspaper. There was an article about Loudin the Magnificent’s “Brilliant escape from the Suburbs”.
“Smug bastard,” said Uccello. “Wonder how he did it.”
Uccello then looked at his scattered deck of cards. He knew he should make the attempt to build a pyramid, but for now he just didn’t feel like it. So he put on a shirt and went for a stroll outside.
The Suburb was stagnant. Uccello kind of liked that; it reflected how he felt.
He strolled around the block peering inside various houses, he saw many tables with cards scattered over them. Sometimes there were half-built pyramids. The Suburbanites had their radios and televisions on constantly. Drivers had their car radios on too.
   One needs Background Noise to get by in the suburbs, he thought. Police seemed to avoid the ‘choppy waters’ of tumultuous soundwaves, but they swarmed to any gap of silence.
It occurred to Uccello that Loudin was the only person he met in the Suburbs who had successfully built and maintained a card pyramid. Moreover, Loudin was neither bothered by police, nor was he a user of Background Noise.
   Uccello remembered Loudin’s remark. He went back home and looked at his scattered cards. How can I do things like escape when I cannot even rebuild my cards?, he thought. And how can I rebuild my cards if I cannot even maintain the pyramid in my mind?
First I must attain the representation of the pyramid in my mind, then I must conquer the cards in my living room. Attain a pyramid of the ones in my living room then conquer the prison and the police. Attain and conquer, attain and conquer, again and again…

   So, each night and each morning, Uccello sat in a chair and closed his eyes. He visualised a deck of playing cards and, one at a time, he pictured himself building them into a pyramid.
The distant sounds of the police interrupted him countless times, but the more Uccello practiced, the stronger his willpower became – and thus the stronger his concentration became.
Eventually, he built a full pyramid inside his mind. It became stronger by degrees, until Uccello visualised snowstorms and hurricanes attacking the pyramid with no effect. The pyramid held sturdy!
During his days off work and in the evenings, Uccello sat at his coffee table and carefully worked on his actual card pyramid. Ever so slowly, the first floor was attained, and the next started on. But he knew the whole deck of cards would take months to finish, so Uccello just balanced a card or two (maybe four on a good day) per sitting.

During this ‘constructive’ period, while out walking, Uccello came upon an old friend and fellow artist. They clung to each other and wept.
“What are the chances!” Uccello said, “that we would be sentenced to the same Suburb!”
Hanna had been an artistic activist.  After the bout of depression following her arrest (she was arrested two years before Uccello), she resumed her activism in the Suburbs. Her plans involved breaking into establishments and homes and leaving card pyramids there to be discovered in the morning. She attempted to leave pyramids in the middle of traffic intersections, and to climb onto houses and drop cards over the streets.  Uccello told Hanna of his escape attempts and his current card-stacking discipline.
They met every now and then for coffee, in cafes where the music was always on and the volume always turned up. He looked forward to their get-togethers. She seemed to, as well, always rambling enthusiastically about her latest venture. She couldn’t understand why Uccello didn’t participate.
“That’s all very well, you building that pyramid,” said Hanna, “but what about the rest of the Suburb? It’s not going to beat the police force.”
Uccello did not defend himself. He didn’t feel he needed to; she wasn’t judging him, she was inviting him.
Hanna went on to explain that card pyramids were impractical, anyway. “All the pyramids I’ve tried to build in houses or in public places blow down or collapse before I’m even finished,” she said.
“That’s the point,” said Uccello.
“So, I’ve moved on to radios. I break into buildings and plant blaring radios in the middle of the floor and the cops are blasted clear. You should see it!”
On some days, Uccello would see Hanna’s accomplices walking around with ghetto blasters in a show of rivalry to the police gangs. In their wake, police seemed to gather like darkness around a dying flame.
 
“I admire what you’re doing,” said Uccello to Hanna on one of their get-togethers, “but don’t you ever crave silence?”
“There is no silence, silly!” she said. “Do you want to attract the cops? The choice is either noise or cops.”
Then he told her about Loudin the Magnificent, and how his home had neither of the choices.
“Wow! You actually met him out here?” Hanna’s eyes lit up. “He must have had some background noise, surely?”
“I can’t recall any. His home was so peaceful …”

Later that night, Uccello came home to discover his house had been broken into. Debussy’s opera ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’ was playing through the house. Uccello didn’t mind that at all.
Hanna was waiting in his bed with a smile on her face.
Hanna stayed with Uccello often after that. She watched him in the mornings while he carefully placed cards on top of cards, picked up the ones that had fallen and tirelessly rebuilt them.
Uccello came to realise that when Hanna was around, there were fewer cops about the place, and when she was gone there were twice as many as before. He hated being without her.
“It’s true,” he confessed one night. “Though I don’t believe in your methods, it’s as if your presence alone is a force that can not be imprisoned for long.”
   Shocked, she said that she thought the same about him. “It’s not me who the police are avoiding!” she said. “It’s you! I’ve never been so at peace than when I’m lying here with you.”
   “Maybe we ought to build a collective card-pyramid,” mused Uccello.
   “Wow, that’s it!” said Hanna. “We could see our culture and civilization as a cooperative art form, you know, that you would refer to in the same way as, say, Egyptian Art or Mayan Art. You follow? This way the Suburbs would cease to exist.”
   “I’m following,” said Uccello.

More and more, Uccello worked on his deck of cards. It got to the point where he’d be up most of the night working on them. In the beginning they had collapsed every time he’d gotten to the third level. But now, he was reaching the fourth and even fifth levels before his attention and hands started shaking. When that happened, he’d leave it alone for the night – if he were patient, that is. If he weren’t, he’d continue and end up knocking the whole thing over again. It was all about patience.   
Hanna came into the living room one night and said, “Aren’t you coming to bed?”
Uccello looked up with bloodshot eyes. “Oh,” he exclaimed, “what a wonderful thing is perspective!”
Uccello’s coffee table pyramid was almost complete. The structure only needed three more cards on top. They would form the triangle at the peek, but the interruption had shaken Uccello’s concentration … and, just to be safe, he left the three cards alone, to be finished tomorrow.
Hanna and Uccello hadn’t seen a police officer in months even though they’d ceased using Background Noise. They were living in a calm bubble of silence.
“Perhaps its time for us to disappear,” said Uccello.
“There’s nothing to stop us,” said Hanna. “The police seem to have disbanded.”

When Citizen Uccello finally disappeared from the Suburbs, he left behind an indestructible card pyramid on his coffee table. Next door, Loudin’s pyramid is also still standing. Across the Suburbs more and more houses attained card pyramids and the peaceful aura of strength that came with them, until eventually each house had one.
In time, the streets and houses became more like an art gallery, than a prison. Each street, public place and private home, was decorated with card sculptures.
People still visit the empty Suburbs to gaze at the beauty there – and to wonder what kind of people once inhabited them. They are no less mysterious and awe-inspiring than the ancient Egyptians or the Mayans. Why did they vanish? Where did they go? Perhaps we’ll never know.

 

Perhaps we will.




eleven's picture

Stalactites Vs. Stalagmites

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I consider it significant that most of us find it impossible not to overeat at Christmas time. Likewise, we cannot avoid company on New Year’s Eve. It could be a proverb. Just try it—and afterwards, ask yourself whether you believe in free will. Look at all the women lined up and packing the halls in shopping centres before Christmas, purchasing last-minute presents for their kids and relatives. They are sweating in trolley jams. Their money drains away as their stress levels rise. There must be an enormous percentage of people who dread the festive season, yet they keep participating. Why? Don’t tell me it is free will.

   Christmas could well be proof of astrology. At the least it gives astrology some credibility. The basic idea of astrology is that large invisible forces nudge us along in herds (or ‘types’) according to the position of the planets. This is another way of saying ‘according to the time of year.’ And because these forces are invisible, we are never conscious of them. So we assume Christmas time was a deliberate decision by us. We don’t think to question whether we could stop Christmas if we tried.

   Some will point out that the date of Christmas existed long before Christ’s birth, and was preserved from pagan religions as the ‘Winter Solstice.’ This only strengthens my point: they tried to change religions but the date would not budge.

   Muslims believe in astrology. Ramadan might well be an attempt at resisting overeating at Christmas time. Lent may be a similar crack at achieving free will by the Catholics, at Easter. This gives a new spin to religions that are often criticised as being controlling. The stars are controlling. Disciplined practices like meditation, prayer, fasting and giving your money to the poor all take will power. Free-will power.

   This is not to say that people don’t get controlled through religion. That much is obvious. What I am saying is that the religion is only the medium. Any institution or philosophy can be abused, and is abused. This is because our average underdeveloped psychological condition makes us prone to outside control. Science is no exception. The atom bomb, the industrial revolution, the pharmaceutical industry, pesticides and herbicides, asthma, cancer, pollution and other weapons of mass destruction all owe their existence to the employment of ‘scientists’ in one way or another. The Enlightenment is as ignored in science at least as much as The Golden Rule is in Religion.

   But people drift yet towards one or the other, until they polarise. We might call each camp the stalagmites and stalactites. The left wing and right wing in politics are the Stalagmite Party and the Stalactite Party. They react against one or the other just like water flowing downwards. There is no reason and logic, not without free will first—just emotional reaction. There is no free will in Palestine.

   Those who are developing free will are found in either camp. The religious of free will founded groups like the Salvation Army or Oxfam or World Vision. These are Quakers becoming human shields and Buddhist monks creating ethical economics in Sri Lanka. The religious of free will champion ethics to money-driven science (or ‘speak truth to power,’ as Quakers say).

   The scientific of free will champion Reason and Logic to money-driven religion. They dispel illusion and cry out warnings of environmental destruction based on evidence. They prove our unity on an atomic level.

   Inevitably, the free of both camps overlap. The scientific become ethical and the religious become reasonable. We can see this happening at least as well as we can see the invisible forces of Christmas.      

    

    


eleven's picture

The Wake

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waking fellow?The Wake

 

 

I stirred and awoke to find myself seated on the couch. A glorious sun shone through everything, as if my surroundings were translucent.

The television was on and I was alone.

   I could not recall how I came to be on the couch, or even what I’d done that day. I continued to watch television, to eat and mope about. At some point I discovered that it was not just that day I couldn’t recall, but also many days before.

   Just as you begin to forget a dream, I was forgetting my life. The surroundings were familiar (it was my home, after all) but it nevertheless felt new – like reverse de ja vu.

   So I went to explore the rest of the house, and I found a mirror and stood in front of it. The reflection only seemed vaguely familiar, like an acquaintance as opposed to myself.

   This scared me.

   Back in the living room I discovered that when I searched through my memory, it felt like looking into the mind of a stranger. My memory wasn’t fading after all; it just wasn’t mine anymore.

 

I left the house feeling like a trespasser. Though I didn’t notice them at first, two people were on the veranda. They sat silently around a table, so when I saw them I jumped.

   One was a Hispanic woman – about fifty years old – and the other was a lean boy of, say, nineteen. According to my memory they were my mother and little brother.

   They didn’t notice me. Their eyes were glazed over with a shine, and they sat like statues. On further inspection I saw that my brother’s foot was tapping so fast that it was a blur. My mother’s finger was doing the same speed on the table. They gave off a hum that reminded me of computers on ‘standby.’

   A wind whooshed by and the door slammed behind me. I started again and my family came to life.

   “Huh? Leonard, what are you doing?” mumbled the woman as she looked at me.

   “Who’s Leonard?” I asked.

   “Where are you going, Leonard?” said the boy.

   “Oh!” I forced a smile as I realised: “I’m Leonard!”

   The boy turned away casually, but the woman’s stare intensified. It occurred to me that I might be ‘inhabiting’ Leonard, because I sure didn’t feel like him. I had to get out of there, so I began to walk toward the front gate, sweating under the gaze of the woman who was Leonard’s mother. “I’m just going um out…” I murmured.

 

A couple of days later, Leonard’s family picked me up wandering along the highway. The feeling that I’d recently awakened from another life had persisted all this time. I still felt lazy and I was regularly stretching my arms out and yawning. 

   The woman who kept saying she was my mother had a solution: to send me on a journey to find a famous doctor. She asked Eddie, her neighbour, to accompany me. Apparently I grew up with Eddie, an Aborigine.

   “No worries,” he said. “The doc will know what’s going on, if anyone does.”

   Outside the window, I could see the suburban houses huddled around as if to trap me there. “Let’s get on with it,” I mumbled.

   We said goodbye and climbed into Eddie’s Ford. He revved the engine and it slowly left the curb… The tires sank halfway into the cushion-like road, and in the distance the houses rose and fell as if on water. A crowd of homes in front parted to let us through.

   “What’s going on, Eddie?” I asked as the car pushed its way slowly through the Suburbs. I was lost already, but Eddie seemed to know where he was going.  

   “It’s all good,” he said, lighting a cigarette. “I went through the same thing last year.”

   The smoke-ribbon from his cigarette stretched far behind us until I couldn’t see the end. After winding through street after street – like the repeated background of a cartoon – I could have sworn that the end of his cigarette smoke was in front of us. “Where are we going?” I asked.

   “To find Doctor Livingston.”

   “Who is he?”

   “The only man who’ll know what to do.”

   “Where is he?”

   “Some years ago he journeyed deep into the Suburbs – the deepest part – and nobody has seen him since.”

   “He’ll understand, then?”

   “If he’s still alive.”

   Our homes were not too deep into the Suburbs. The tops of the city’s high-rise buildings could still be seen over the horizon. These were beacons, to reassure us. “We’re not lost as long as they are still in sight,” said Eddie.

   Yet Eddie drove away from them. My sense of direction disappeared when the high-rise buildings disappeared under the horizon. 

After winding through an endless repetition of streets it was no surprise that I became hypnotised. I don’t know how long I was under, but eventually Eddie nudged me and snapped me out of it.

   “Look,” he said.

   The car was parked in a street in front of a non-descript house. Eddie and I got out and joined a group of native Suburbanites on a neatly manicured lawn. They looked up at the roof, where an Indian or Pakistani man stood holding a bottle and a ream of paper. When I squinted at the paper there appeared to be writing on it. As we watched, the man rolled up the paper, shoved it into the bottle and corked it. Then he raised the bottle above his head and let go.

   The Suburbanites all applauded as the bottle floated away – upwards -- across the town on currents of the air. When the bottle disappeared behind some clouds, the crowd dispersed and the Indian fellow climbed down from the roof.

   Eddie and I waited for him on the lawn.

   “Doctor Livingston, I presume?” 

 

The doctor was a middle-aged man with a potbelly. He was originally from India. The strange thing is that he also had a boxer’s nose, all bent and flat – the reward for giving bad news to patients. He called me into his dank office, which was the spare room of a private house, and sat me opposite him on a hard chair. Eddie remained outside in the garage, which was converted into a waiting room.

   When I explained my situation to the doctor he wasn’t at all moved. I might have just described to him the common flu.

     “…I don’t know,” I said. “Have you ever woken up one day and wondered how you ended up in this life?”

   “Yes, yes, Lenny, very good,” he said in a deep voice.

   “Leonard.”

   “Leonard. Sounds common enough. How old are you?”

   “Twenty-six.”

   “A good age. Not a moment too soon. What I want you to do Leonard is to think back to your very first memory and tell it to me.”

   I searched through the memory again. It was difficult but I finally found that there was no recollection at all before one event: I was on a sled of some sort, though it wasn’t snowing. It was on a plateau and the muddy path led down a hill into the sea. It zoomed down faster and faster until all I knew was the feeling of speed. I plunged into the water and the memory ends there. I told it to the doctor.

   “Ah yes, very good,” he said.

   “So what’s happening then?”

   The doctor told me to stand and lift my shirt. He put a stethoscope on my back and went on through all the usual check-up exercises.

   “What you consider to be your Identity,” said the doctor, “is an accumulation of debris – additions that you have picked up through your life thus far. Are you following me?”

   I made no reply.

   “Very good,” he continued. “Imagine that you are up on the plateau you speak of. This is you as a young child. Your soul is only just taking control of its vehicle, which is, of course, the body. Now you are speeding down the ramp and into an onslaught of influences. It is at this point in your life that you lose sight of yourself, being distracted by all the learning experiences. You then begin to identify with your experiences. Thus you are no longer conscious of yourself as you were – before the experiences – and still are underneath them. And what does no longer being conscious mean?”

   “Um, I’m not sure.”

   “It means being unconscious. That core part of you is asleep. And all the while, the outer identity has kept on building up.”

  “Go on doctor.” 

   “Now then … you zoom along under the ‘sea-of-unconsciousness’, which takes you through your adolescent years, through school right up to high school, then university. And you are running through new experiences along the way. You zoom through university and all the people you’ve met, and into the workforce. The sled/identity is catching more and more debris until you no longer even see the sled. Everything is latching on –

   “Suddenly, in your twenties and in the workforce, the sled is running out of momentum. It runs out and just drifts … and presto! You wake up here.”

   “End of the path?”

   “Not quite. Before you the track leads up, out of the water, to yet another plateau. But you have reached what we call the Wake Up Period, which ranges from the mid-twenties to early thirties – depending on the person. Are you following me? Leonard, for many years you have believed you were this accumulation of flotsam. This week you snapped out of it and intuited that you are, in fact, beneath it all. You are awake underwater.”

   “So I’m not Leonard!” I stood up. Everything I felt was confirmed.

   “Leonard is the name of that collective outer layer of crud.”

   The doctor smiled and turned towards a set of drawers. He opened one and rummaged through it.

   “You’re a very cryptic fellow,” I said. “But thanks. Now I don’t suppose there’s anything to be done.”

   “Oh there is much to be done,” he said taking a piece of paper. “That’s why I came here to the Suburbs.”

   “Are you kidding me?” The Suburbs are like an elephant graveyard: people only go there to die. Very few people who disappear into the Suburbs are ever heard from again. “Why don’t you come back to the city with us – back to civilisation?” I suggested. “We need more doctors.”

   “Oh, I’m not much of a doctor anymore. Not since I woke up.” He began to scribble away on the paper with a pen.

   “Then what is it that you do out here?”

   “I practise magic.”

   “Magic?”

   “The most important thing for us is to rise above the surface of the water and reach that second plateau.”

   I considered the metaphor… if that’s what it was. I couldn’t see the connection between that and magic.

   “To do this,” he continued, while scribbling, “we need to establish a connection with the surface. White magic works vertically.”

   He took a bottle out of the drawer, went to the window and opened it. “Some woken people become magicians, you see. The others go back to sleep.”

   “What is that?” I asked, pointing to the paper.

   “Your prescription: It is an S.O.S. I am sending to the surface.”

   The doctor/magician stuffed whatever he’d written into the bottle, corked it and held it out the window. As he let go, he chanted some words that I didn’t catch, and then said: “So mote it be!”

   The bottle bobbed and floated, and then rose higher and higher into the deep blue sky…  

 

Eddie was seated in the waiting room near two other strangers. The other two sat under a faulty light bulb. As it flickered on and off, the two strangers flickered from Anglo Saxon to Indian. 

   Eddie stood as I approached and said: “Come on. I’m hanging for a smoke.”

   From the moment I stepped outside, I was disorientated again. Suburbia stretched out before me in all directions. Eddie led me to his car. He started it up and once again the crowd of houses in front of us parted to let us through. But this time, floating overhead, was a message in a bottle.

   In time I began writing S.O.S’s myself. And to write, of course, I needed to ‘spell’. I became a magician.

   I’m about to roll this story up, stuff it into a bottle and send it adrift. Maybe you’ll find it.


eleven's picture

"Time-ism" or Father Christmas Does Exist

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 St. Nick

Santa Clause does exist. He exists in the Fourth Century, in the area that is now northern Turkey, under the name of Saint Nicholas. To say that he doesn’t exist is a lie, as much of a lie as saying he has magic reindeers and a home in present day North Pole.

   The obvious rebuttal is to say he existed—not exists—in the past tense. My argument is that this is not more truthful, just more ‘our-own-time-centric’. Biased, in other words, like a metaphysical prejudice. Saint Nicholas does exist in that time and place. Being biased towards our own time and place is closed-minded, and leads to illusion and even violence. A case in point: somebody once said that the world is flat, based on the fact that no one in his own time could prove that it was round. Somebody could prove it, of course, in the future. But some notable people went to prison or were tortured, or killed, because they did not cater to the time-bias (shall I say ‘timeism’?). Giordano Bruno, I hear, is being burned at the stake in 1590 for affirming the Earth's motion around the sun.

   I once heard an atheist say: “The burden of proof is on the believer; I don’t have to prove God does not exist, they need to prove he does.” This is the same as saying: “Nothing exists unless we can prove it exists.” If this is true, then the universe needs to run everything by humans before doing anything. If it is true, then the world was indeed flat, and it transformed into a sphere only at the moment we could prove it a sphere. It is human-centeredness posing as reason.

   Given a modern understanding of space-time, and the implied ‘time-centeredness’ we suffer from (not to mention human-centeredness), we must acknowledge a limit to human understanding. We cannot understand a theoretical being that either is an entire universe or created an entire universe (God) any more than an ant can understand algebra. The act of personifying him as an old man in a beard is dumbing him down to our level, so we can own him. Similarly, to say this theoretical being doesn’t exist is reacting against something we can’t own.

   To disbelieve is as much an act of faith as is to believe. The agnostic, not the atheist, is being reasonable. Buddha said the beginning of wisdom to be able to say, “I don’t know”.

   We don’t necessarily need to grow out of believing in Santa, we need to deepen our understanding of who and when (and what) he really is.

 

 


eleven's picture

The Punch Line; the unifying principle.

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puchline as unifying principle

   

  JOKES usually have three main parts to them. Here is an example:

Buddha walks into a pizza restaurant and says, ‘Make me one with everything.’

   The first part of that joke is Buddha. The second part is the pizza restaurant. The third part is the punch line. The first part is ‘supermundane,’ the second is ‘mundane,’ and the third part links the two inside itself.

   The punch line is the most important, and it always serves this function of ‘fusing’ the previous parts into a surprising unity. The surprise causes laughter.

   A Woodey Allen classic:

   “This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken.' And the doctor says, 'Well why don't you turn him in?' and the guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.'”

   The first situation presented is that the man who walks into the office is perfectly sane, and that his brother—a human, not a chicken—is deluded. The second situation presented is the delusion of the brother or the brother’s version of reality (that he is a chicken).

   The punchline unites the two brothers, and realities, into agreement (surprisingly).

   Sometimes they are delivered differently: “A guy walks into a bar … and is concussed for half an hour.” The ‘linking part’ here is actually the first line. The one sentence contains two (possible) meanings, one assumed. The next line separates the two and reveals the other, not-assumed meaning.    

   In poetry there is something called a ‘conceit’ which is attributed to the metaphysical poets. Here is a famous example from John Donne:

 'Oh stay! three lives in one flea spare

Where we almost, yea more than married are.

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage-bed and marriage-temple is.'

What it depicts is a couple in love, who are both bitten by a flea. The couple romanticizes the incident, noting that their blood is fused and united into a third life, the flea. The flea is therefore a symbol of their unity.

   Punch lines perform a similar function to Donne’s flea. These three parts of jokes show three factors that exist in phenomena generally. Ernest Wood, a theosophist, speaks of this occult trinity from a Hindu perspective in his book, The Seven Rays:

   “[T]here are three principles to be discerned, called tamas, rajas and satva, translatable as matter, energy and law. Ancient and modern scientists have equally discovered these three in that one, and have also observed their inseparability. They are principles of matter; not properties, but states, of material being, and a body can exhibit them in different degrees at different times, as consciousness can employ will, or love or thought, though they are always present to some extent.”

   Gurdjieff talks of three principles in nature too, calling them the ‘Holy-Affirming,’ the ‘Holy-Denying,’ and the ‘Holy-Reconciling.’ Alice A. Bailey talks of ‘form, quality and purpose.’ Of course, in spiritual literature we have the idea of ‘spirit, soul and personality,’ or life, consciousness and mind. The personality itself contains three: mind, emotions and body. 

   From this perspective, the United Nations is a ‘punch line’. Inside it are such different nations with such different agendas that to think of them as united would seem absurd. But, this linking principle is how to resolve them.

   Religion used to be a ‘punch line’—one structure and institution that brought different people together in a community. When the world got larger, and religion became a separator of people, a new linking principle was needed. Freemasonry did this to some extent, being a meeting place of all major religious persuasions. Theosophy did a similar function, being that members are encouraged to keep their previous religious beliefs freely when joining.

   Then there became a duality between religion and science, one believing and one disbelieving. Masonry, again, historically provided reconciliation within; the craft encourages both, and sees them as two pillars holding the same building up. Similar too is theosophy and other esoteric organizations devoted to scientific as much as mystic discovery. The first users of the scientific method were arguably the Brotherhood of The Rosy Cross, or the Rosicrucians: Christians.

   Mahatma Gandhi was India’s ‘punch line,’ uniting Muslims and Hindus.

   Families are ‘punch lines’ that unite the young and old, and both sexes. 

 

   Christ and Hercules represented this ‘middle principle’. Both were the child of a ‘heavenly’ father, and a mortal mother, linking both worlds. The mythological beasts of Greek mythology often were ‘punch lines’ in themselves. The griffon is the unification of the king of the air (eagle) and the king of the earth (lion).   

Whenever there is an impasse, the reconciling principle is missing. A poor worker may be frustrated over a lack of power in his community; he reconciles this with education and qualifications. Another fellow is stumped by how long it will take to get a message across town. He reconciles this with a fax machine. The fax machine is not funny because it is neither surprising nor unlikely, and it is practically needed. The punch line of a joke is not needed in a practical sense, and it is unexpected.

   It might be true that to compare serious organizations like the U.N., religion and science to punch lines in jokes is absurd. I don’t deny it. This article is hilarious.