How do you separate the tragic from the comic? How do you keep philosophy in mind as you contemplate your empty wallet? Maybe this magic balancing act is our main call to arms as humans. We have this amazing life filled with happiness and sadness, and these large cerebellums filled with our own ideas of who we are in this world, and what this world means. Maybe love trips us up so much because we let others take over our own journey for awhile, so that we can rest. But after the rest we can't find the path again, and maybe just let the lover leave us on their own journey. Of course in real life they still sleep and eat with us, but spiritually they have their bags packed. Maybe if we all just kept in mind that we all have to go down our own paths, no matter what, some of interrelationship problems might dissolve, whatever they may be.
I have this overarching ambivalence these days, mixed with extreme concern. It is a hard wave to surf, my friends, a huge, choppy, cold wave. Yet I know it will break and crash its vast wetness on the sandy shores of time. It has to, because that is what life does.
I've been fighting that wave, looking for ways to get through, under it, past it, but it just stays underneath me.
Or maybe I've been lollygagging on the shore after a particularly heinous wipeout, going over it in my head over and over again? Yeah, that's more likely. I need to get back on that wave, my path, and see where it leads.
I want to clarify my concept of what I think a peaceful warrior is.
Being a warrior means coming to the tremendous realization that you are a living human being, and pursuing the art of walking a path with heart. Being a living human being means knowing that your death stalks you, always. Knowing that death stalks you always allows you to pursue life wholeheartedly, without reservations.
For the most part, our story as human beings has consisted of hunting and gathering our sustenance, clothing, and shelter. Perhaps most of our innate behaviors comes from this immense ocean of experience. We have divorced our selves from this period of our evolution and called our current story "Modern Civilization". We love the comforts of this modern world, and we live longer lives. Lives in which we look for meaning.
The warrior does not seek comfort. A warrior can relish physical comfort, good food, laughing companions, and other pleasures, but no easement in life is sought or required. In fact the warrior recognizes that discomfort and fear are primary teachers. Like the spiritual warrior Siddhārtha Gautama, the warrior can see that all the world is illusion, but knows that the illusion is the only reality.
A peaceful warrior is one who seeks peace in his or her life. Some seek peace for themselves and their circles of friends and family, others for their countries and states, and others for the very future of the planet.
If a person can realize that they are alive and that all life is really a dream, essentially to be present and active in each moment, then they can be effective warriors.
That is what I now believe a warrior is.
As of right now, October 21, 2009, I am on the warriors path; a path with heart. I follow the wisdom of my elders. I listen to the words of my friends. I experience the many songs of the universe; the chirp of the cricket, the smell of the river, the taste of asparagus.
I believe that your fears are your main soul killers, but if you face your fears, they become your primary soul teachers.
Went for my first run, I think ever, this morning at about 5:30 AM, 36 degrees F. It was beautiful out. The oak leaves rustled in the early morning breeze. Peeked at Orion through the maples. Rabbits kept hurrying away, timepieces in hand.
I don't have running shoes. I used an old pair of beat up sneakers. They hurt my feet and knees, and didn't provide any support at all for my arch. Today I will go buy some proper running shoes.
I couldn't run constantly. I had to make little bursts between various light posts. The first half hour I was just trying to break my heart in, as it seemed sort of painful. I didn't want to have a heart attack. But after awhile it seemed to mellow out, so I was able to push myself a bit. Hopefully I will work up to sustained running sessions of ten minutes or more soon.
He's smoking his last cigarette, standing on the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis. He is walking north, toward Dinkytown. The old pea green army coat doesn't provide as much warmth as he needs to keep warm, and he shivers slightly as a cold breeze snakes up his back. His worn out boots swing passed each other in an old, sad dance.
He had been fired from his job that morning and had been smoking and drinking beer all day long. His eyes are watery and unclear. His mind is a jumble of anger, apathy, and despair. The despair lodges like a woodtick in his heart, a small, unnoticeable creature that slowly sucks the oil from his rusty motor. The rage bubbles up and he punches the metal railing, bruising his middle knuckle and causing a sharp pain to shoot up his arm. That hurts, he thinks bluntly. Fucking stupid railing.
He looks down into the dark water and thinks about jumping in, realizing how cliche that is. Probably wouldn't die anyway, probably just get soaked and frozen, catch hypothermia, rack up some hospital bills. His eyelids feel like anvils as he stumbles off the bridge onto a brightly lit street. Some well-dressed people are walking in clusters here and there, emerging from nearby bars, movie theaters, and offices. He feels a certain comfort being in the midst of people that seemed to have it all together. Not like me, not a loser who can't even hack a simple warehouse job for more then two weeks. They look at me and see the failure I am. It's written all over my face.
Fuck it, I just can't do this anymore.
He turns down a dark alley and looks for the right one. When he finds it, he takes off his stocking cap and wraps his hand in it. The car alarm bursts into life, shrieking a pissed off melody into the night air, as he smashes his fist through the rear passenger window of the car. The effort hurts his injured hand, and he throws the glass shard encrusted cap into the backseat of the car. Then he realizes that he can't get the doors unlocked from the back door. Shit.
He's at the coffee shop typing on the borrowed laptop, sipping a large dark roast and sniffling. His sinuses have been congested for a few days and he's worried he might be coming down with a virus or a cold. He has to blow his nose every ten minutes or so.
The coffee is making him jittery now. He is typing an email to a friend. He hopes she doesn't read it right away. It is a very personal email and he feels that as soon as he sends it, it will be too hot to touch. It needs time to cool down. His cell phone rings but he doesn't answer it.
A beautiful woman in a long red coat walks in through the glass door, a bell tinkling. He is captivated by her sharp features. A moment later a tall man in a leather jacket enters. The beautiful woman and the tall man exchange greetings and hugs. He wonders if they are a couple or friends. He wonders what the difference is.
His coffee and email are almost done. He finishes them both up with an artistic flourish and grabs his coat. Outside in the dark night he turns up his collar and hunches over a little to stride back to his apartment. He is ready to lay down for awhile.
He feels a presence. He moves his head a little to try to catch sight of anything behind him with his peripheral vision, and spots a figure trailing him. He doesn't care, just keeps on walking. The night is damp on his cheeks, but his internal temperature rises as he walks and all surface moisture evaporates.
All of a sudden he finds himself tripping over a bump in the sidewalk. His head is falling down, down, and smack! He feels a crack in his skull as his face kisses the pavement. Holy shit, he thinks, this could be bad.
He reaches up to feel his forehead and encounters a warm wetness on the sidewalk. His blood, the blood of his head. His heart begins to race and he starts to shiver in fear. Then a hand grabs him by the back of the neck. He calls out in alarm.
She's strolling down the black street in tan shoes that she's always thought were a little too heavy for her feet. The streetlights that line Washington Avenue cast yellow light haphazardly out into the wet autumn air. Downtown Minneapolis smells like car exhaust and fried foods, popcorn and gasoline. She turns and walks up a street to her regular bus stop in order to catch the bus that goes down University every ten minutes or so. It is dark out and she is feeling nervous. She worked late tonight, trying to get part of a project done so that she wouldn't have to go over it all again tomorrow. She is tired of that part of the project.
Being a small female, she is inconspicuous to most people who pass by. But she thinks of the type of men who lurk in the shadows and prey on the small and defenseless. She doesn't usually worry, but every now and then she catches herself in the mirror and senses what could happen.
She wishes she had some pepper spray in her pocket. It makes sense to have some sort of protection, she thinks. Not a characteristic thought for her, but the dark coldness of the urban night feels tinged with danger for some reason. She stands, hunched into herself at the bus stop, trying to exude an empty feeling, trying to shapeshift into a blob with no distinguishable sexual characteristics.
The bus whizzes by without stopping, splashing a little dirty slush onto her newly laundered pants.
What the fuck was that, she thinks in disbelief. The disbelief slowly turns into a smoldering rage at the world. Why the fuck didn't the bus stop for me? Her thoughts go around and around in circles.
She starts to walk home, over the bridge that spans the Mississippi River. She was really counting on getting into that warm bus to help shake her crazy feelings of personal danger, but now her senses are on heightened alert and she is simply afraid, too tired to keep it together. Every noise is a maniac in the bushes ready to pounce. Her fear is slightly ambivalent now, as it all seems like a dream.
Snow has hit the ground this morning and the white blanket immediately takes me into the vortex of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am sure in a few hours the snow will melt all over the rain soaked ground, which is not a bad thing. I am sure my soul will melt into a gooey mess this holiday season, but let it come as it may. Whatever, I am ready for it. I am excited right now for this cold, frozen, dark season to whip through my life like a maddened cougar running form naked hunters. I will stock my tea, perfect my bread baking abilities, read and write prolifically, and work toward a future I can not imagine.
I know that the term "warrior" is not popular right now, especially in progressive left-leaning circles. I am well aware of that, and it is not a popular term for many good reasons, mainly because it has been co-opted by violent men for violent purposes. But I think to be a true warrior in this age is unusual. We have many soldiers; of fortune, professionals, coerced kids, insular gangs. A true peaceful warrior must look toward the pain with delight, as one who know that the pain means growth or death. These are some of the peaceful warriors that come to mind when I think of true warriors: the Dalai lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ghandi, Will Steger, Martin Prechtel, Robert Bly, Pablo Neruda, my friend John Brian Becker, Alice Walker, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Winona Laduke, Rosa Parks, and Rachel Carson. Feel free to add your own list of peaceful warriors that have impacted your life in the comments.
I feel as though I have cultivated the inner farmer in me to the exclusion of the other soul parts that make up my Self. The inner farmer could be thought of as the corollary to the warrior, in terms of the diametrically opposed cultivator consciousness and the hunter consciousness. For such a long time I thought of the hunter in me as something bad, something culturally tainted, but now I see it as simply a part of me, a part of my genetic and soul make-up that needs to be addressed. There is no simple action to take, just simply an awareness of how I interact with this world.
Know this though. I have come to the strong feeling that you can't successfully embark on a path of healing without embodying some aspect of your inner warrior, your inner hunter and gatherer. Without this type of inner strength and fortitude, you run the risk of losing your Self to some force in this wide, crazy world.
Like the ancient Yamabushi, I strive to embody the warrior/monk attitude toward life right now. To connect directly to the divine with poetry and art, to live simply, to fight for what is right; these are simple ideals I hold deep in my heart.
The cold rain growls outside as I sip my yerba mate with honey. This is the time of year when the landscaping season starts to wind down, as the weather is just not conducive to working well outside. For me this year, many things are winding down, changing, metamorphosing from slugs and weevils into butterflies or bats of a better future.
This year I have many ideas of what may or may not happen over the winter. This snowy season I may or may not be more alone then I have ever been, which may or may not be good or bad. I intend to work through the winter before starting my own business in the spring, which may or may not be my full time gig, at least in 2010. My hope is that some sort path will crystallize before me. This happened before a couple time, once when I was an intern for Happy Dancing Turtle, and once when I started working for Local Roots. Before that, working for the Seward Coop helped me solidify my abilities. Before that, I had dreams of becoming a musician, a poet, or a genius in general.
Not only do I desperately have to address my creative abilities and possibilites, I have to delve into, swimming all the way to the dark bottom, issues of the pocket, the career, the cash flow. As an adult male who wants to have a house and family, I need to be able to provide for those potentialities. One doesn't do that by sitting around an apartment in your underwear watching Netflix movies until beer thirty. But without the geyser of creativity being addressed within me; making a pact, coming to terms, outlining a potential future; I won't be able to put those feelings aside and simply make work work.
I want to start a new group of people who have decided that we can, and will, be the Hiber Nation. I swear, I want to hibernate right now, the chill and wet air have me reaching for the blankets and the ever present darkness of the clouds and night have me closing my eyes in exhaustion. It is time to slow down, way down, and pay attention to the small and big deaths that unfold all around us. In my life, fear of the unknown is dying a long painful death, and all the friendly asters alongside the roads are drying up like corpses of grasshoppers in a cut down cornfield. Their is a grief deep in my heart that has become my companion, my second heart of frozen winter.
Within my mythical make-up, the warrior has slept a long time, a slumber made possible by various circumstances and behavior, but my struggle today is to reach deep into my DNA and find that warrior who will guide me through the bogs of doom. You know, kind of like the Princess Bride...
Men have struggled alongside women in this hard contemporary urban based life, and it is certainly as valid for a man to go on a journey to find what being a man means to him, as for a woman to explore her womanhood, but I feel that in this society we are fed facile and grotesque examples of both as our daily fodder. To understand who I am as a mythical, spiritual, and physical man is my daily bread. I have drowned in the sea of womanhood, a baptism by salt water, and now it is time to be burned into ash as a man.
Is it a coincky-dink that Burning Man happens around my birthday, a wild arts festival held on a dusty desert in Nevada? What is more important than art, love, spirituality, and pyromania? I don't know, and perhaps I don't care. Perhaps I will go one day when I have a good grasp on my Self, because I don't really want to be shattered into a million shards over and over again if I can possibly help it.
Is it coincidence that Robert Bly has spoken to me in a deep way for the past couple of years, and I am just starting to read a classic book, Iron John, and that is speaking to me in a way that could never have happened before now? Is it a coincidence that Martin Prechtel was helped through his dark night of the soul by his friendship with Bly and his beautiful books have played a major part in shaping my consciousness this last year?