Culture Shock, Night Two
This is it. The moment. The ascension.
Lactic acid feels just like good drugs when you’re in the heat of things. A warmth spreads over the frame. When it starts percolating with the adrenaline? You feel superhuman. For a lot of folks, that high is enough. But an enlightened man always wants to break through, doesn’t he?
We’re in the “absolute fucking chaos” section of any good Battle Royale. Rings full, bodies clashing, barely any room to find space. Land a hit, get hit. Or…hang back. Scout your position. Take your time. If you can–but those clubbing forearms have a way of knocking a man’s focus. But he gets up, shaking off the meathooks of Matt Ward, his eyes darting.
Breathe. Feel their energy. Let the path come to you.
There it is.
There’s the beauty.
Like a dream, the bodies spread apart. Moses parting seas. Will it with your mind, envision the outcome, and achieve. You can see the moves before they happen if you know where to look, the particular Matrix code of the battle laid before you. Mori hits a cross body, Avalon tosses someone clear. Colton finds separation from FLEMBERGE–there it is.
Run. Fly. You are a leaf on the wind. You are the eagle, the phoenix. Rise.
Flight isn’t natural to a man as tall as him. It short circuits the brain, if for a moment. But as soon as your reality calibrates, your breath goes away. Because he doesn’t just sort of leap, no–Bodhi got hop. Hands free, runs and leaps. Corkscrew your body down as the rope sags. Explode as it launches you. Nate Colton doesn’t even notice it until all gangly six and a half are right in the danger zone.
Wrap the legs. Twist. Toss him into another fracas.
Because you are blessed. You are a great man.
Elation should be the order of the day, but there’s trouble in his skull. He can’t shake it.
It’s too easy. Easy paths never open doors.
Stomp the man half to death. Goad him. Dig deep in his soft parts until you find the bones–then dig deeper. The causation of pain is the black half, the receipt the white. All balance, yin and yang. Give Colton a reason and he’ll roar back like an enraged lion, right? He’s a warrior, he should be able to bounce back. But he isn’t. Now there’s desperation in these moves. A subtle change in the face, from calm and enlightened to worried. Not for his own safety, mind you. For something more special that is sifting through his fingers like sand. Stomp, Stomp. Koppo kick. Nothing.
Come on. Hit me. Hit me. Hit me.
Nothing. Leave in a huff. Because the highs aren’t there, you aren’t going to find what you need from Nate Colton. Where to seek them? This shouldn’t be this hard. This is what you waited for, the sheer batshit violence of it all, and everyone is playing it too safe. Everyone is trying to bide their time and win, no one is here to make violence happen. Desperation kicks in. The backbreaker from Avalon does something, but the hunger is still there. Still gnawing away. Still whittling him to nothing.
Then he hears it.
A grin crawls across his face.
The promise of someone who wants to trade knuckle skin reignites him. He kips to his feet, ready to wade, but…but no. No. Too many people want that war–how inconsiderate of them! He looks crestfallen, cuckolded in his violent pursuits. Now he’s adrift, scanning, looking. Ward proves himself to be a steady source–always ready with a shoulder strike or a clothesline right when he needs it. But the lust is still there, the drums always thumping, the beast still gnawing at his bones. He’s not stumbling because his bell has been rung, he’s trying to find the person that will take advantage of what they perceive to be a wounded animal. And he plays it up. Slow blink. Slow circle. Invite them.
Forearm. Cutter. Violet Samuelsson.
Thank you, fellow traveler.
Avalon, bashing his knuckles into Bodhi’s jaw like he personally insulted him.
Good, good. Now it’s a party. Now we’re warming up.
DDT. German. Elbows, too many to count. Shining Wizard.
Thank you great spirits, sacred patterns and the knowing of all-knowing. Almost ready to shepherd my flock, almost ready to show them all how high they can fly.
And there he is.
Matt Ward doesn’t like him.
Matt Ward is afraid that his best years are behind him and he’s decided to make this the problem of an enlightened man.
Matt Ward has such potential in those meaty arms. Such promise in those ham hock fists. Such violence in his rage.
And this time…he makes good.
Punch after punch, Frye and Takiyama. Meat and bone and meat and bone. Don’t worry about the exhaustion. The pain is building. Jaw already swelling. Keep pushing forward. Piss him off. Spin him to the turnbuckles. Knees to the gut. He’s softer there than he’d like to be. It bothers him. Look in his eyes, he hates it. Build that rage, get him nice and fuming. All things in balance. Yin and yang. Complete the circle. Grab the arm. Make him run a bit–but it’s a battle of weight. He reverses the Irish whip. Hoists.
Time to fly.
His head spikes wrong. His whole body’s weight collapses on itself. And there it is.
And then his night gets ruined.
Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico – Four Days After Culture Shock
Playa Zipolite, something of a playground for nature-minded hedonists, actually has a pretty strong hippie subculture. It’s also home to a clothing optional beach. Also a hundred dollars will get you a force-flex bag full of sacrament.
Worse places to lick your wounds.
So this is where the Bodhisattva has landed. Get ejected from your job and fined because you lashed out one time too many. Go on a tear through central Texas until you’re no longer in the continental United States. Sleep on the roadside, beaches, parking lots, because your van is your home. All the way through Oaxaca until you feel like you’re on the other side of the world. For who he is and how he left, it might as well be. Down here, he’s anonymous. He’s not beloved or reviled.
And how does “neutral” look for him, here?
Sunset. He’s adjacent to a group around a bonfire, but he sits separate from them. He’s nude–most of the people here are. The group are listening to someone who, for all intents and purposes, is just a different version of Sage himself. Just older. Gray hair, a big beard, sun baked to a roast turkey complexion. He’s having an animated conversation amidst the accompanying oud and djembe, holding court. Sage can’t help but look. The wonder hits him, somewhere deep in himself, if this is how he looks. Or if this is where he’s fated to end up, on the edge of this plane of existence passing wisdom to tourists, burnouts, and young hippies who are finding themselves.
What worries him the most is that this doesn’t seem like a bad life at all.
He knows people who are living worse than this–and he’s known plenty who didn’t make it, their Icarus pursuit of new highs landing them firmly under the topsoil.
He can’t hear what’s being said, but gazing at the scene, bathed in the pink/purple of the oncoming dusk and the dancing Halloween orange of the fire, he almost knows the notes. He’s an accomplished pianist watching a performance on mute–he knows the music without it tickling his ears. Not rote, but an appreciation for artform.
Sage finds his gaze drawn to the ocean. He could float away right now, just like if he was on a wave. Find someone who needs companionship, shack up with them. Carve himself out a piece of this heaven. Or stick to his van, live up and down the southern coast. Forget fighting, forget his pursuits, forget it all and be reborn anew.
A shake of the head sends his dreadlocks flying back and forth.
He knows that’s the closest thing to domesticity that he could hope for.
And he knows he’s not built for it.
And deep down, he knows he’d hate himself for it, too.
A deep sigh grips his ribs.
He was so close. He wasn’t close at all. All at once.
And he’s not sure if his belief in his Mahapurisa can hold him aloft on its own. Not right now. It’s not that he’s bereft of belief in himself or his sacred charge. He’s not having a crisis of faith in Sage Anikulapo Pontiff, far from it. He knows he’s good. He knows he has been blessed with divinity. He knows that he is the agent of change that the planet needs, in his way. He knows he has the ability to change the world.
But the world itself?
Sage is a bit shaken on its ability to change, right now.
The revelry is becoming animated down the beach. New logs for the fire give it a new life, all roar and crackle. The music has gone from contemplative to animated, and he can see their souls bright as the sun as they dance and throw poi. It elicits a smile from him–maybe the first one he’s cracked in a few days. For all his moping, he can’t help but find the joy on display infectious. Briefly, he marvels at the restorative power that can be generated when people of similar psychic attunement get together to raise their condition.
And then the moment happens.
His eyes lock with the old hippie who has been holding court.
Slowly peeling off, the man begins his approach, clad in little more than sand and the accumulated hemp and beads of a lifetime. Never one to shy away from a conversation, Sage relaxes into a comfortable seated position, his eyes inviting. Closer, he can tell that he’s unsure of his age. Though the hair is stark, slate gray, the face lined, he could be anything from 40 to 70. Clean living and not letting the world put you under its hobnail heel can do wonders for the complexion. But Sage isn’t in the headspace to be the Bodhisattva, not right now. So rather than lead things, he decides to let himself be led.
“Hey brother. Noticed you over here on your own–and if that’s the type of journey you need right now, you just say so.”
“I’m not sure of the journey I need right now, fellow traveler. I made it as far as here. Seems to be treating me well.”
“Yeah? Your aura says something different.”
Sage doesn’t like this. He does the seeing, not the other way around. But this isn’t his planet.
“You got the vibrations of a man at the crossroads. A man who had his faith in something shook–but you don’t have the nine to five haircut of some of those baby birds over there. See, plenty of folks trek down here to get high and fuck anything that moves. They do that and call it ‘enlightenment’, and while judgment isn’t a thing I do, I can’t pretend like I don’t wish they wanted more. But you can’t make someone want a greater expansion of their soul. You can just show them the path, right?”
“So what happens when they still don’t take the path?”
“Oh well. Results are for quarterly earnings reports and statisticians, man.”
The man reaches into a leather medicine pouch that he keeps around his neck behind a curtain of beaded necklaces. He pulls from it a cloth bundle. Unfurling it, he shows its contents to Sage: many dried stems and caps of what he can only assume are psilocybin. He looks into the kind face of the old hippie, his eyebrows raised.
“Of course, if you’re really feeling out of sorts, I find experiencing regular ego death tends to scrub the barnacles off the spirit. After all, man, you already know everything–the mushrooms are just going to make you aware of it.”
The Bodhisattva inspects the offered medicine, before plucking up three stems and three caps. His easy smile returns, its brilliance practically lighting both of their faces up.
“Here’s to dying, man.”
Zipolite, “The Beach of the Dead” – Sunrise.
Sage sits on a blanket, skyclad, perched high on a rock formation where the mountains meet the sand. The revelry, the medicine man, all scattered to the wind. There is only he, on the cusp of something.
In my life, I know that I have great power.
I can visualize things and give them form.
Call it…positive thinking, or vision boarding, or setting intentions. If I have willed it, it’s no longer a dream right?
But then…then it was.
I had such dreams of what we were going to achieve together. And they were all…smashed. To nothing. Eliminated, kicked out, not able to transcend this flesh into the higher realm of spiritual awakening.
Every loss, every setback…those are supposed to be windows and doors, right?
One closes, another opens.
Learn your lessons. Evolve. Come back better, stronger, smarter.
And for the longest time, I believed that. Man, maybe I wanted to, y’know? We’ve all done that. Rationalize and philosophize, soften the blow.
I remember something my Dad said once. I had gotten into trouble for fighting again, and this time it was like how I felt after the big battle. Frustrated, sure. But I’d also lost. Hard. I’d gotten beaten good–lost two teeth and had to have my nose reset. They had to stitch this knuckle back up right here, because I’d smashed it open. First time I ever saw my own bones. They’re sewing me up, right? My face is lumpy, I can’t really breathe so good. And my Dad, who is a good man. a kind man, had no empathy for me. First time I can remember that, too.
And he said, “He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.”
So how do you count it?
I didn’t know then. I am embracing that I don’t know now.
I thought that I could count it by holding the losses against the lessons I’ve learned, right? Like if I learn more than whatever a stat line means to me, then I don’t care. And I also thought of my impact, like how I’ve bettered who I faced by showing them a part of themselves that they didn’t know was there. About how I help them to ascend, transcend, evolve. That held up against any physical injury I could suffer? Fuck me up, man. Because that’s what it means to me.
But I keep lashing out and no one seems to be the better for it.
I keep fighting and I’m learning less and less each time.
Windows and doors.
One closes, another opens.
But all I’m finding are closed windows and locked doors and I’m running out of house.
The man who is sick with cancer has to remove the cancer to get well. The man who has an infection must expel it.
And when a man has a sickness in his soul, he must confront it.
And he must embrace that he does not know truths while also embracing that he knows all truths. He must embrace that he is a fool and a guru. He must embrace that there are ever-shifting facets and patterns to our existence, and that his lifestream may have been cool and placid before, but is now a turbulent whitewater. Is that the man’s fault, his doing? Hardly.
But failing to do anything about it?
That’s where most of us fail.
“It worked before, so it should work now.” But the world doesn’t cater to your comfort level–quite the opposite.
Isn’t that all we are? Darrin, Tony…are we not beings who have found the crossroad, all of us?
Will you be content to tread water until your dying days? Wondering how the world passed you by? Wondering when it became so difficult until you’re shells of who you once were, clinging to a memory of a time that gets ever softer, ever less vibrant?
Clinging to a sad imitation of what you once were?
It’s my great shame that I considered letting you wither like that.
After all, what are your lives? What is mine? Why work so hard to save those who don’t want it?
But the problem with your lack of evolution is that it’s not your fault.
Because I have yet to show you the path.
I truly thought I was, but I was doing an imitation of myself. A bad impression. Contented to float throughout without giving any real thought to what I was doing, how I was doing it, and what I was giving all of you. There’s a fine line between having a healthy zen attitude and just not giving a shit. And while I have elevated past letting petty concerns drag me into the dust of the grave…that shouldn’t be an excuse to be aloof.
It’s so typical, isn’t it?
Morose and moping because the doors and windows opening weren’t right in front of me.
Sometimes, you have to go searching for those things.
Sometimes, they don’t even show up.
But I saw the answer, man. Clear as the river, bright as the sun.
If a door closes and another doesn’t open?
Break down the door.
And if there aren’t any more doors?
You rip one out of the walls.
So we’re going to find your doors and windows. And if the need is there, I will–with the utmost care–tear new ones into existence.
You already know everything. The violence just makes you aware of it.