30-May: 2015




The Death Card

It turns out the common conception that all the cells of the human body are replaced every seven years is a myth. For one thing, different cells die at different rates; sperm cells live three days, white blood cells live for a year, while brain cells last our entire lifetime (or are not replaced when they die). But seven year cycles, at least of the human psyche, seem real indeed. I used to count them and always found correlations with new beginnings. Now I've lost track, there have been so many psychic deaths and new beginnings in the last seven years.

I need a new algorithm.


I had a tarot reading yesterday and in it the clairvoyant pulled the death card for me, so I went online to find the image. It turned out there were dozens of death cards displayed, but I was immediately drawn to the card with death - depicted as a skeleton - riding a horse and carrying a scythe. In this card, death rides the horse well.


I wrote this eight years ago, in Cambodia:

Dinner in a corner restaurant. One other customer. A family running it, the grandmother with her left arm in a homemade cast of boards lashed with torn apart shirts. I answer the young waitress in Khmer who predictably finds this astonishing and hilarious and I interrogate her with questions that bring more laughter. I'm parked in the corner of the place whose walls haven't been scrubbed in years if ever and stare into the amphitheater of a contemporary Phnom Penh lit by headlights of passing motorcycles like bonfires in a caravansary apocalypse in which no one is wearing a wristwatch, much less looking at it. The television plays a poignant countryside scene, the family enthralled with concentration, silent, everyone on their elbows. No feeling of a past to rely upon or a future to venture into, no safety net, not even the word survival is adequate to conjure the vitality here, a well-oiled chaos running on bare light bulbs and charcoal fired cooking pots - where else can one find such a nowness?


Twelve years ago I began to let go of my life as I knew it. In leaving everything from my job to my father's record collections of Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert, my lover and consort became a series of places: Assisi, Phnom Penh, Istanbul, Bursa and Washington DC. People asked me what I did in those places, some of which I stayed for months. My answer was often, "Next to nothing." I meditated, wrote and wandered. I tried to discern what was calling or leading me, the dralas. I discovered an ablution fountain in the Grand Mosque of Bursa and bore withness, for the subsequent many weeks, to the astonishing healing power of the water. I saw the frescoes Giotto painted in Assisi. I witnessed the caravansari apocalypse of contemporary Phnom Penh.


I like the idea that each human being (and all sentient creatures) is an expression of the cutting edge of evolution. As human being proliferate our planet is plunged into greater chaos. That is an idea I also accept, in all its horror and paradox. The human ream is the realm of passion. I still believe our savior is human creativity, which goes against the habitual grain. As Paul Klee said, Genius is the error in the system.




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