Becoming Oceanic, and the Vain Search for Self

“We can never cease to be ourselves.” ~ Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

But what is that? Ourselves? How can we be what we cannot truly know? By accepting the unknowing. The closest metaphor is water. We are raindrops. An individual life is a journey from cloud to earth. We are falling, but we are water. The fall is but a momentary distortion en route to the call to transform. Gravity is that call. We’re not the globule but are contained within it, formlessly held by cohesion and speeding toward the splat. Water doesn’t die.

Do I?

Was I even born?

It’s been such a long struggle. This journey inside a body. This story of places and names. This hall of mirrors. It has been an epic tale of escape that began with a digging-spoon and ended with a ladder made of knotted bedsheets flung from a tower in a storm.

How can we deny what we believe is real? How can we ignore that which we see and touch? Our visceral selves. The body we find ourselves in. The hands that extend across the table and rest now on the keyboard. My feelers. My ten little mouths. The builders and the masons of projected thought whose mortar of alphabets must be forever moistened and churned. Tap, tap, tap. Scratch, scratch, scratch. The egg teeth chipping at the shell of this, this elastic form, every chirp a cry in search of an echo, each muted yawp burbling through the tulgey wood, feeling something, sensing, something, a glow, perhaps, outside the womb?

I began to suspect that I wasn’t here at all.

The self is formless and unbound. The self is untethered to spaces and names. There is no other, and there is no them. I am is a collective statement, a unity; communion. The search for the self is a non-linear journey through realms that cannot be perceived with such primitive organs as these I employ now, in this very moment, to confirm the notion of a reality endowed to me by those first voices and those first simple books.

See Spot run. This is fun for Spot. These are people. This is Earth. See these bodies? This is you. See, see, see! You’re a boy, just like Dick. That is Jane and Spot’s a dog. See all the fun bodies moving through space? Space is fun! Bodies are too! 

Propaganda. They stacked their bibles of truth and perception beside the bed where I slept and I dreamed the dreams of the ever-affirming alter-self/altar-self. The wild things live not beyond the sea, my son, but here in places with names like Laos and Vietnam. This is truth. This is us.This is how we are.

This is the way things are and have always been, but its better now, I promise you that son, be thankful you weren’t born in the Industrial Revolution where boys like you were prized for their slender, nimble arms. 

Viseral. Viscera. Viscus. They tell me I am flesh and blood. They show me. They provide me with a mountain of irrefutable proof. That I am temporary and fragile. That I live at the whim of the strong. We all do. They don’t say it in so many words but they don’t have to. I see it everywhere. Show, don’t tell. Hiroshima, Holocaust, and Ho-Chi-Min. The images fly thick as flak and tear like shrapnel. When you see enough dead bodies, you believe. The self is an organism. The self is a machine. The self is born thus the self will die. You’d be a fool to believe anything else.

But there is a knowing beyond cognitive thought, a knowing beyond articulation. A knowing beyond vision, beyond all perception. Words are not a map to the self. You can’t talk yourself through this journey. There are no waypoints, there is no end. Seeing stands in for faith but it is not truth. Neither is touch. The body is hardly capable of recognizing the self. There is sense beyond sense.

You are water – falling, freezing, flowing; rising up as mist. There will come a time when all is ocean, again, when all water returns to the source and boundaries will cease to exist.

Look, look, look! Sea! Sea! Sea! 

There is no us.

The body is a device to calculate the astronomy of the spirit. Look through that astrolabe and become oceanic. ~ Rumi

o O o



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