As we walk, his voice echoes in my ears and the sun-washed hall grows brighter in syncopation.
“This planet, adrift in space, dances in the stately process of creation alongside a cohort of 12 sisters and brothers wooing Sol, the source of life, star of your destiny. One star among many; one solar system among innumerable solar systems, one galaxy within the macro-constellation of over 125 billion galaxies, one universe within the greater Omniverse.”
The little man stops for a moment and removes his gray bowler, scratching his shining, black head. He peers up at me suspiciously as if I were a stranger, which, I remind myself, I am. Then he continues.
“Physically speaking, you are stardust, born of Sol with the breath of life infused within flesh. Your body is imprinted at conception with electromagnetic patterns that determine individual and group behavior; Sol is the beginning of the end and back again. Your flesh is one with all flesh, one with earth, water, fire and air. There is no ‘they’ or ‘it’ at the level of quarks and mesons. All is one. Dark matter is the fabric of creation, its aspects differentiated by vibration alone.
He rubs the black skin on the back of his hand with a stubby finger. At the same time, your body seeks to experience the moment with every breath. It seeks to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh and to subdue your soul, obscuring the memory of who you really are. As a result, you are torn, your intentions misled.”
At some point during his lecture, the building disappears. The shiny marble remains beneath our feet but the walls and halls vanish, to be replaced by a portentous, glowing mist. I am unconcerned by this transformation and continue to pace the strange, little man. Nothing else is important. He walks silently, his hands clasped. His aura is peaceful but my agitation is too immediate to contain.
“Who are you? Why are you helping me?”
“It is enough for you to know what I have already told you. I am here to help you find yourself; to help you remember who and what you are. Clear your mind of small matters. You must concentrate upon the journey to come.”
“But do you have a name? Surely you possess a name.”
He sighs theatrically. “Can you explain your meaningless preoccupation with definitions? With defining the indefinable, naming the unnamable? How does one of limited understanding know the wind? Or how to capture the essence and purity of a star with a syllable or two? What about the beauty of a moment or the joyful exuberance of a summer’s storm? Or how to encompass a reality as awesome as eternity’s cyclic procession? It cannot be done. Without meaning, naming alone is inadequate. ”
He glowers for a moment more then relents. “If you must call me something, call me Aum. And listen to these words that I speak. Words of power.”
I nod dutifully and bend my ear to him.
“It must be emphasized that all things are connected. The web of life spans all existence, finds purchase in the most inhospitable of terrains. Life upon this planet, within this solar system, galaxy and universe is tied to life elsewhere. The Omniverse prefers holism to segregation on a grand scale. In order to truly find yourself, to finally remember who you are and what your purpose is, you must intuit the reality of these words; you must investigate for yourself. You must be decisive. There is no space allocated for meandering thoughts. Clear intentions are required.”
Accordingly, there is no hesitation on my part. “Lets begin.”
Black, star-tossed space extends above. There are mountains all around us. We straddle weighty stone powdered by the dust of ages that puffs in gentle whirls around our feet and I shift and ogle in wonder. The horizon rises impossibly high and distant, affirming my realization that we are no longer upon the Earth. This planet is larger by far, ancient and sad. Somehow, I know that she is dead. The fire that burns within, extinguished.
Cresting the craggy peaks, gargantuan machines work, chugging, humming and belching furiously. The massive, interlinked construct obscures the entire northern horizon. It is impossible to determine its function from this distance but I try anyway. There are processors, factories and what look to be dormitories, malls and city complexes, bustling with activity. Dense, noxious smog huddled jealously about the structures corrode their exteriors. High overhead, small shapes flit between the gleaming towers and I realize that they are ships. The foundations of the megalopolis are stained a sooty black and the carcasses of rusting, metal machinery languish in the shadows.
Dazzled, I turn my eyes from the spectacle to find Aum forming miniature cyclones out of dust. With subtle twirls of his fingers and silent spells, three, five, then nine rise from the ashes as others continue to form, undulating gently. I ask him again: “Where are we? Why are we here?”
Impatiently, he waves my question off. “Have you found yourself yet?”
I think for a moment then shake my head. His attention remains focused upon the twisters as they skip across the rock but he rises briskly as he answers. “Then we have not yet reached our destination. Come. Let us walk further.”
It is then that I notice that the marble path is still beneath our feet and we stroll leisurely, trailing a cohort of thirteen miniature cyclones as they forge the way ahead.
“We must speak of intentions. And purposes. Do not let me forget to speak of purposes. ”
I assure him that I won’t let him forget.
“Intentions can be your worst enemy if formed upon false premises. Often they begin as subtle insinuations; placed in the path of your spirit by your ego like so many little mines, set to go off when their detonators are triggered. This is how you are sabotaged from within. The flesh is programmed for servitude but, for most blessed with physical bodies, ends up becoming the master. How is this done, you ask? ”
I did not ask, but I try to appear more attentive.
“By the misdirection of intention. The ego masked as self aggregates the functions of the body. This leads inevitably to physical, emotional and spiritual sickness, then death. Lacking the power to direct or change behavior, the ego manufactures intentions that lure the body, intellect and spirit along the path of its choosing. Eventually, all must arrive at the crossroads. Do you understand?”
“I think so, I allow, “but what of the world we just visited? Surely it is an example of the triumph of the rational mind! Intelligent beings envisioned it and created it through the harnessing of technology and the forces of nature.”
“That is true . But that world is dead, its inhabitants devoid of compassion and slave to that very same technology they once controlled. As a consequence of their ignorance, nature itself turned against them. Their greed resulted in the total consumption of their planet’s biosphere. Do you see the lesson in this tragedy?”
I nod but do not respond. The marble path has twisted into the sky at some point along our journey and in the space of timelessness I recollect vague impressions of starbursts, super novas and black holes lurking, evoking sublime delight as the implications of our fateful sojourn gestate within my mind. I have no idea how much time has passed, but the distance we have traveled appears to be vast.
“Where are we now?” I ask.
“Have you found yourself yet?” He counters.
I dodge a twisting vine ambling past, intent upon its destination. The sky is suddenly adrift with vegetation: purple, green and a deep, midnight blue flora predominating. There is no soil, or ground. Only dense cloudbanks and rustling forests of kelp-like trees that whisper in the moist, hyper-oxygenated atmosphere.
“No. Where are we?” I repeat.
“We are in a nebula, ” Aum explains, “an oxygen bubble billions of miles in diameter within which entropy has blossomed. Life finds purchase in the most inhospitable of terrains.”
The marble path sweeps through the radiant sky, twisting and looping between billowing, gaseous formations, diving into the greenery and emerging on the other side to rise again into the cloudy distance. The thirteen cyclones continue to dance into the future, drawing us forward in their wake. Crystalline reptiles bloated by gaseous air-pouches float upon the currents, blown by anal eruptions of flatulent energy, trailed by crackling wisps of fire.
I laugh despite myself and am surprised to be joined by Aum.
“What are these creatures? Are they intelligent? They certainly are funny.”
“No funnier than you and your misguided intentions. Humor derives from judgments that require introspection as well as empathy. Right now, you are sorely lacking in both. I was laughing at you, not them.”
He eyes me smugly. “These beings know exactly who and what they are. They are not lost at all. Can you say the same? Do you understand that they possess the knowledge of self? Can you feel the profound peace in their lives?”
I can. They interact harmoniously, their voices rising and falling in what is clearly measured speech. I sense their connection, one to the other, as something deep and pervasive, allowing no space for individuality or deception. There are no artifacts to be seen, nor do these beings seem to indulge in self-centered pastimes. But I am not satisfied. Rather, I am disturbed and lash out.
“Why did you bring me here? What lesson am I supposed to take from this encounter? Surely you do not believe that the lifestyle of these aliens is transferable? These beings live idyllic lives, with all of their needs met by their environment. There appears to be no over-crowding, no wars or discontent of any kind. In no way does this situation approximate that of the Earth.”
Aum does not respond and I stalk the marble path in a swirl of emotions, barely acknowledging the splendor of the extra-terrestrial garden. I feel remorse, but do not act to clear my conscience. Instead, I dwell upon my outburst and realize that my attempt to emotionally manipulate the little man has resulted in the opposite of my intentions. I have moved only myself.
Lost. Part II