I am traveling in time. So are you and so is everyone. Or did you think you were sitting still? The future is an inconceivably vast and unknowable abyss into which we are all plunging at the dizzying speed of 3,600 seconds per hour, helplessly, whether we wish it or not, with little or no ability to determine our course and only the dimmest guess as to what we will encounter.
Well, I know one thing that’s going to happen: first thing tomorrow morning, I’m gonna call Southern States and have them come by and put some oil in my tank. I never remember to check the tank – there should be a fuel gauge on the house like there is in the truck so I’ll know when I’m running low. I’ve never run out of heating oil on Monday morning – always happens on Friday evening. The wee grrrl was at her Mommy’s house this weekend, so I decided not to pay extra for weekend oil delivery. I’m old and tough, a weekend of cold don’t bother me none. I lived in a house for several years that had no heating system whatsoever, plastic sheets over the windows. I don’t know why I didn’t install a woodstove in that place. I’d put a woodstove in the current digs, but I made the mistake of asking the landlord if that’d be okay and he said “no”. I shouldn’t’ve asked.
Anyway, the cold didn’t change my plans at all. I had a bunch of movies from the library and a big piece of art to work on. I watch movies on the computer which sits on the bed, next to the Tascam Mini-Studio, the wretched old four-track that so many BDSR releases were recorded on. The Tascam lives in its box now and makes a good surface for the huge book of watercolor paper that I do most of my art in, while sitting cross-legged on the bed. It’s a cozy set-up and the cold didn’t change anything except I kept a brown hat on and a sweater and socks on my hands with my right fingers shoved through the holes so I could hold a pen. I actually got more done than I would’ve if I’d had heat because I wasn’t wasting time on frivolous activities like washing dishes or folding laundry. The piece I’m currently doodling is a portrait of Rangda, the Balinese daemon queen. Rangda is one of my favorite naked, horrible, child-eating, death-dealing hag-goddesses. There’s a BDSR cd inspired by/in homage to her and her bug-eyed, hook-nosed, tusk-protruding face is on my left bicep, covering a bunch of crappy tattoos I got when I was stupid. Rangda is sorta like a smaller version of Kali, the most misunderstood of Hindu deities. Kali is generally thought, in the West, to be an evil, destructive goddess, like Satan in drag. She is, actually, the form that the Great Mother seems to have to those who resist the inalterable rush of time and tide. Try to fight the inevitable, try to hold on to your youth, beauty, fortune, anything, and you will know her as Kali the Destroyer, who tears from you everything you hold dear. The best part is that if you don’t try to hold on to any of those things, you will still know her as Kali the Destroyer. Kali is Kali and that’s that. All you love and cherish everything you believe in, every dream and desire will be swept into her gaping maw as soon as she decides to sweep it. Rangda will appear to you, sooner or later, doing her jerky dance, pendulous dugs swinging, huge mass of tangled hair shaking, long curved claws reaching into your breast to snatch away your life. The Cailleach Bheur will strike the ground with her staff (sometimes she uses a hammer), bringing the winter winds to freeze the world, including my place, right now. Resist if you like, it doesn’t matter.
Why are they female? Because nature is female and the hag goddesses represent the uncompromising forces of nature: the cycles of the year, the inevitability of death, the merciless ravages of time. The world/universe/Great Mother gives us life and takes it away. From her body we are born and to it we return. And she loves us all, loves us as infants at her nurturing breasts and loves us as food in her cavernous belly. This is all pretty basic stuff in some parts of the world, kindergarten Sunday school stuff. It strikes Westerners a little odd because we were raised up in a tradition that denies the existence of the Great Goddess. Be good, say your prayers, go to Heaven, says our tradition. Malarkey, says me, hogwash and malarkey. Heaven is not a shining city in the clouds, ‘tis a state of conscious where neither fears nor desires hold sway. Or is that Nirvana? Oh yeah, it’s both.
Heaven and Nirvana are eternal, another misunderstood concept. Eternity is not a long time; eternity is the absence of time, which the concept of time renders impossible. We can never grasp it because we are bound by what Immanuel Kant called “the forms of sensibility”, that is, time and space, the pairs of opposites, our dharma and so on, all of which are, in the Hindu view, inside the womb of the Great Goddess. Our entire universe is her womb and we the babies inside, swimming in the amniotic fluid, imaging that we have achieved something wonderful because we have learnt to wiggle our fingers and kick, but oh the shock we’ll get when the time comes for our birthing. I’m pretty sure babies don’t really want to be born. They may think they do – p’raps the womb seems a little confining – but they really don’t want to give up the comfort and security of the only world they’ve ever known any more than we want to die. Birth and death are the two doors of life – entrance and exit – so it’s natural that we pair them, as we pair male and female, good and evil, up and down, the pairs of opposites. As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are alive in this world, which is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and Eve was really a handmaid of Kali, as Mary was a handmaid of God. You see how all these things mesh together? How the myths of the various corners of this fallen world fit together? That’s because they’re all telling the same story, the story of our bodies and spirits, which are not enemies as some would have us believe.
In the womb, we have our universe, but the Great Goddess is more than just a womb. Beyond all forms of sensibility, beyond time and space, beyond opposites, beyond the imagination, is where she really dwells and that is where we will dwell, too, when we have matured enough to be born into her presence. Maybe you’ve never seen an infant, only moments in this world, placed for the first time at its mother’s breast, but I have. I assure you, those little creatures know exactly what to do there and so will we. Death is nothing to fear. Hell hath no fury. All will be made clear in time, or rather, in timelessness.
For now, however, we are still ensnared in this world, with all its horror and delight, still being assailed by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, still being pulled this way and shoved that way by the needs and desires of our carnal bodies. If it wasn’t so funny, it would be terrible. But it is funny, really, the carrying on, the sturm und drang, the much ado about nothing, like a cosmic slapstick.
It helps; it really does, to immerse oneself in the myths. When things go awry, when suddenly we are reminded that ours is a fallen world, a whirlpool of suffering, a maelstrom of agony, a freezing Hell (unless you live in the tropics or in goddamn Iceland, where every home has free heat), it helps to meditate on the Great Goddess in her most honest of forms, as Kali, destroyer of even the Gods. And to know that she is past, present and future, and beyond those concepts as well.
Life is an awful thing, ain’t it? What can one do in such a reality, but laugh and plunge in? Of course we suffer, life is suffering. There’s nothing wrong with suffering. There’s no reason whatsoever why we should or must resist the pains of life. We are voluntary participants after all. Maybe we didn’t ask to be born, but we certainly are not being forced to continue to live. Suicide is an option.
Still, it isn’t an option I feel inclined toward today. In the morning I’ll call Southern States and order the minimum amount of oil they’ll deliver. I’ll drink coffee and see if I can reinstall that little piece that fell off the truck. I’ll get the sprat from school and see what she wants to do. Eventually, the house will be warm again and spring will prob’ly come sometime and then there’ll be flowers and butterflies and a new bike to teach the girl to ride and skateboards and lightning bugs, then summer and trips out to the woods to swim in creeks. I think I’ll actually take the girl on some overnight camping trips this year, maybe with a friend who is also a single dad with a small girl. We’ll roast marshmallows and not dogs and the girls will beg to be allowed to stay up later until they fall asleep in our laps. There are shows to play, recordings to record (maybe a cd inspired by/in homage to Kali), and mountains to climb and, of course, incarnations of the Great Goddess whose carnal bodies have needs and desires to be attended to.
The future is nigh upon us and there will be blood, but there will also be coffee, ambrosia and cunny juice. All things considered, I’ll take it.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.