He remembered a teaching in a time of strife, as most do.
Funny how we don’t realize how interconnected our bodies are until they’re hurt. Sure, you expect a bit of pain when moving from seated to standing, bending over for something. But the steering wheel of a car? Agonizing.
And that’s where he is. Agonizing. Nursing wounds physical and metaphysical.
Where he arrived, we’re not certain. Sage has tapped in to what is practically a global network of these fringe types, folks with a place to crash and food to eat–off-grid environmentalists are pretty common, as are latter-day homesteaders, trying to return to a more pastoral way of life free of things like GMOs and microplastics. If he’s desperate, he can generally find some squatters who have a safe haven for an evening, a friendly fire to huddle around with the crust punks near the rail yard–worst comes to worst, he can get a hotel room. But there’s something about them that makes him bristle, maybe the stink of disinfectant or all the formica. They feel like an imitation of a world that he already considers fake.
He rolls over, wincing, the pain in his midsection waking him up. He’s taken up in a room that is relatively sparse, resting on a mattress on the floor. About him are the accoutrements of his life, itinerant as it is: a backpack, books of various belief systems, clothes, hair ties. He blinks his mismatches eyes, taking in the day–the window in the room has cast golden light on him, which Sage knows means it’s nearing evening. He slowly turns, preparing himself to push to standing–and jerks back when he realizes he’s not in the room alone.
“Who are you?”
“Me? Heh. I’m Sando. S’my farm.”
Sage blinks, taking this figure in. He’s large–broad in the shoulders and prodigious of gut, the type of firm paunch that workingmen develop. His face is a worn in catchers mitt, all jolly cheeks and bristly hair the color of slate. Is he 40, is he 70? He’s probably somewhere in between. Seated in a creaking wooden chair, he’s wearing patched up carhartt overalls and a beaten blue short sleeve button up. He’s also idly chiefing on a joint.
“Sando. Namaste. I thought this place belonged to Essence–if I was mistaken, I apologize. I can find somewhere else, I–”
“Aw, quit yer yappin. This Essence’s house, but the whole farm been with my people fer a long while now. Used t’grow sorghum out here, truth be told. But my leg got all messed up, and renting out the houses the hands used t’live in and hosting the occasional event keeps them banker men happy. Stay long as ya like.”
Another big hit, and he grunts as he reaches out.
“Try it. S’homegrown. None of them pesticides.”
Sage, ever the gracious being, accepts the offered sacrament with a nod. He leans back, exhaling deeply before taking a drag.
“Never did cotton to the gov’ment selling me reefer. Can’t trust what they put innit–hell, we had a feller out here a month ago said they was putting tiny cameras in the buds! I ain’t never heard of such a thing, nano-machines he called ‘em. No nano-machines in my leaf, I kin give you th’ Sando guarantee on that.”
There’s a lull as Sage takes a hit and thinks for a moment.
“Sando…not to be ungracious, but, like…why were you chilling here while I was sleeping?”
“Heh, well, first I came here t’make sure you was still alive! You came in all banged up and people round here been talkin’ about how you was giving off some bad vibes. Real dark shit, cold psychic waves, man. So I thought to m’self ‘Sando, that there boy either fixin’ to die or he’s in a crisis’. Figured I’d see which it was. Seems you ain’t fixin’ to die, so I guess that ding on yer head and yore busted up midsection ain’t the worst thing that’s plaugin’ ya.”
He offers the joint back, and Sando shakes his head.
“Naw, hold onto it, I’m right where I need to be up here.”
The old man gives the guest a long look.
“Gets me to wonderin’ though. Cause I can feel it off ya. What’s eating you, man?”
The Bodhisattva has to consider this for a moment. For all his self-love, cosmic attunement bravado…he rarely gets asked this question. Partially this is self-fulfilled: he presents himself as a man with answers, and people believe in those answers, so the assumption is made that he’s in perfect balance and happiness at all times. And for most of the time we’ve seen him, this has been true. But this is a man clearly in pain beyond the self-inflictment of his corpus. Leaning his head back, he closes his eyes, envisioning the scene in his memory through the psychedelic fogs.
“There I am, right? I gave him something he hadn’t experienced before, or maybe he just…didn’t expect me to be who I was. You know? I’m not blind to how I’m perceived, he saw what most do: a lanky, granola, hippie guy. Why would he take that seriously, right? But the bell rang…Sando that bell rang and I could tell. There’s this proximity to things where once you’re in it and the blood is pumping, all his bravado and all my words about evolving and spiritual oneness fade to the background and it’s just these bodies, together. No pretense. And I was so close, man. So close.”
“No. To helping him change. To a breakthrough. He was right at the precipice, and then…poof. It was over.”
Sage sighs, his melancholy overtaking him.
“Same as the one before him. And the one before him–she was an especially challenging case of psychic subduement, of a person’s true purpose and happiness being sacrificed to stodgy viewpoints and the god of capital. I keep…running at this wall, right? Over and over and over. And nothing seems to change. People who want the ascent are able to achieve it. People who are resistant to the message stay the same. I thought this was powerful medicine…now I’m not so sure. I thought I had discovered the gateway to Golconda. But I feel like I’m pressed against an invisible barrier and I can’t find the door handle no matter how…frantically I grab for it.”
His eyes open, and for the first time, we see Sage truly looking hopeless. Frustrated. Gone in that soliloquy was his clam, measured demeanor and smooth, enlightened speech pattern. Those who have talked to people trying to kick habits know, though. He’s jonesing, he’s trying to get a fix. And that fix is eluding him. Sando seems to recognize this in his demeanor, as his jolly smile droops to a more sad one. He scratches the bristles of his beard thoughtfully before talking.
“Y’heard of Pine Ridge, man?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Heh, y’all kids forget yer history too much. See, I was there. Me ‘n’ the AIM was there–but Hell, I weren’t more’n a whelp, really. Took the town over and th’ FBI decided they ain’t cotton to that. It was real bloody business, I ain’t gonna lie to you. We fought hard cause it meant somethin’…shit, guess it still does. It was war, don’t let no gov’ment narrative tell you any diff’rent. I was there shoulder to shoulder with Crow Dog, tryin’ to do my part cause it never was right how them peoples was treated. I just had enough sand and piss in me to actually do somethin’ about it. We lost some folk–but they did too. And them was righteous deaths, for a cause. I took a slug to th’ arm m’self. An’ sure, we ain’t win, but it was just maybe two hunnert of us against the feds. But y’know what always sticks with ole Sando?”
Pontiff looks at him, legitimately curious.
“I ran back to my family land to lick my wounds. But they kept fightin’. Always bugged me all them years, that I didn’t have whatever it was I needed to stick with it. Maybe that’s one a the reasons I try to open up all this acreage t’those what need it. Part of me paying fer my sins. Guess what I’m sayin’ to ye there, man, is maybe just cause the walk gets tough, don’t mean it’s time to turn tail. Cause I ain’t gonna be fitted for my wooden coat without decades of regret hangin’ over me.”
With a grunt, the old man jerkily gets to his feet, his left leg staying stationary in the process. He sighs, steadying himself against the wall, and his jovial nature returns.
“Doin’ a big supper. Should be up in an hour. Join us, if’n yer up to it.”
Sando opens the door and limps out, his body bearing a lifetime of labor and apparently a few battles along with it. As the door closes, Sage takes stock of things. He looks out the window, then shakes his head as if he’s trying to get his bearings again. Idly touching his stitches, he sighs.
“Fuck, he’s right.”
When he raises his head, it’s with an odd expression. No regret, no ruefulness. His mouth on the precipice of a smile, His eyes sparkling.
“Sage, your thinking has been far, far too uptight about all of this. ‘Courage is the key to creativity and the relinquishing of the ego structure’. Be courageous. Be brave. And win, so that you might awaken the largest number of sleepers…”
With a wince, Sage reaches over and grabs his cellphone. He taps a couple of buttons before clambering over and setting it on his backpack at the foot of the mattress, pressing record and sitting in a frankly broken lotus posture. With an inhale, the life returns to him, and he bows. Gone is the prophet in danger of losing his belief. Here is an assured man, the true Bodhisattva. Act or not, he’s visually a changed man.
“Namaste cosmonauts, I’m recuperating in farmland right now to better commune with nature. A friend who has the wisdom of years reminded me recently of a saying: ‘Philosophy is a combat sport’. We move forward, backward, duck and weave, absorb points of view and give our own, seeking a more formal, universal truth of humanity…”