Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crossroads of absence

By Mr.VI

Let me tell you a story.

Let me tell you a story because well, we're here together. I'm writing this and you're reading it, and even though these two events are distinct and separate, we come together, and occupy the same idea-space for its duration.

Perhaps it'll help if you imagine the things that make you think of storytelling. I don't know what that is for you, what ideas and things let you relax and pay attention and enable you to put aside distractions and focus on a tale.

And I don't know what it is about the memory of a twilight sky, the crackle of fire and the scent of woodsmoke. I don't know what it is about the dance of flame; the way it flickers and dances like a live thing as the fuel hisses and pops.

I don't know how the taste of honeyed mead comes so easily, conjured out of the past with sweet thickness and potent intoxication of boozy warmth. All these things, I don't know how they arrive like heralds, like doorways, signals from a distant space that's somehow wrapped in skin.

And you have them too, those things that arise and bring a smile and the sense anticipation, though I don't know who you are or what they may be. But you do, and because you know, it's there too, drawn in the form it always had.

You don't know me, except in these moments, through these words and the others I have written. In a way we're two strangers sharing a moment, each never seeing the other fully. It's like graffiti on a toilet wall, all we have in common is the space and the words; the time and the unknowing.

And this story is about Time and Unknowing, which means we're already there, beyond the edge of the woods. Our old paths and guardians into story have met us here and led us on as always, because they were always here, waiting.

That's their function, these psychopomps, these mind-conductors, these soul-guides. It's always the same; each excursion is both familiar and strange, like deja-vu or a dream. It might be the first or last time we leave the known world. Equally it could be one of countless journeys, but somehow we've always been here before.

Venturing out, into the unknown.

All we have to share is ourselves, and here, and now?

That's everything we have been.

It's the crossroads, the place where it all intersects, and you know how the story goes; the traveller meets a stranger at the crossroads, and contact is made.

“Would you like to sell your soul?”

Now, I don't know what that soul is, and indeed, in such tales we often don't. Not until we do, if you follow me?

But of course you follow me, for you've come this far, and so the question hangs there. The stranger stands inscrutable, more a silhouette than anything; a sketched out shape almost indistinguishable, camouflaged in shadows.

Just what is that intangible soul, and more to the point, what is it worth? When it's gone, what will the absence feel like?

And to focus on the absence makes it real, brings it forth. There at the crossroads, there's a decision to be made. It can be easy, like peeling off an old set of clothes we no longer want, or it can be difficult, like the step into the precipice, the leap into the void.

Whichever it is, we still have to consider a thing and its absence, and each of these has a weight. So they are weighed and measured up; that heaviness is felt by hand and mechanism and then inside, at the traveller's core.

Inside at the core, because whichever path is taken, a change is made. The traveller never returns home the same as before. It is as if the eye, the very gaze has been altered, and nothing is perceived as-was.

As if, no matter the decision, the consideration of the soul had opened a new door, propelled the traveller into an unfamiliar country; presented with the notion of the intangible essence, such things were carried back with them, into the lighted clearing of the world.

Imagine it thus; that such things were spoken of at home, but never known. That everyone talks of an immortal soul, that intangibles are conceptualised in language, but hardly ever weighed or explored. To do so would be ridiculous, because all know what a soul is, whether they believe in it or not.

The traveller then, is alone in their experience, in their consideration.

They become a stranger to what was once familiar; alien in some way. They carry stories of their travels – exotic places, strange thoughts. Fey, touched, changed. Such is the affect of the stranger at the crossroads, be they devil, god, wizard or fair folk.

The breath in the lungs of a human often flows without interruption – the mechanism is elusive intangible. To think of it, to focus upon that sensation in the chest and abdomen; feeling the inhalation and expiration, the rhythm that occurs outside of conscious control – that focus brings it in from the unexamined dark.

Suddenly, the breath occupies space in your awareness. Now mindful of that sensation, how might it feel to consider its cessation?

The absence of breath.

Might you dare to focus on that, to examine the absence of a previously unknown thing?

Because the story of the traveller and the crossroads is exactly that, and we are strangers to each other. Even our intimates are undiscovered lands, so what of our own psychogeography?

Practice the wanderlust. You'll need it.

Be seeing you.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.(Or sign up to be notified of its release on Amazon.com)

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