YouTube upload from account @CatsUnderTheStars92, “Rainbow Family Gathering, Day Two”, Uploaded 02/14/2022
Sage spends a fair amount of time in the square community–mostly finding a friendly bed for the night or picking fights, if we’re being frank–but here?
Here he’s in his element.
The camerawork, though shaky, accidentally finds a wonderful angle. They’re gathered under a tent, all sitting on the ground on rugs, mats, pillows. Seated in the lotus is The Bodhisattva, whose head is right in front of the brilliant rays of the setting sun. It gives the effect of glowing, something only aided by his golden dreadlocks and bright eyes. Around him? His people, in all their patchwork glory: mostly vagabonds, hippies, bohos, crunchy Earth mothers and burnout wasteoids alike. Despite any differences in specific philosophy, there are two things they all share. One, none of them live in or participate in polite society. Two, they’re under this man’s spell. Not a person interrupts, has side conversations, or does anything save for sharing cone joints and paying rapt attention.
When the video starts, he’s finishing a parable.
“…so he pours the skeptical professor a cup of tea. And it gets to the brim, right? Dude says ‘hey, hold on! The cup is already full, you’re spilling tea all over the place!’”
He’s animated, in the zone. They’re in his palm, hanging from his words. His charm is on full blast, and the gathered crowd chuckle at his impression of panic.
“Nanjin says to him, ‘like this cup, you are already full of opinions and decisions. How can you hope to learn zen if you are already so full?’ And that’s what you have to do. We’re all, in our way, really fuckin’ full, right? We have what our parents instilled in us. What society instilled in us. Judeo-Christian morality. Then we have what we absorbed in an attempt to undo all of that conditioning, right? Buddhism, Nihilism, Humanism, Anarchism–all these things to help us better contextualize why all that learning felt so…wrong.”
Sage calmly, idly scratches the light beard on his chin. He takes long enough to make the listeners antsy. Then he speaks again, his tone somewhat soft.
“Most of us never escape that place. And that totally valid–journeys of deep learning aren’t for everyone. And I count among some of my dearest friends the people who reside in that place.”
Sadness gone. Easy smile now.
“But for me…maybe for some of you, right? Words for why what society expects of us feel so wrong aren’t enough. We need to not only have that context, but to…”
Fist to palm.
“…break through. Into something new. What exists past the horizon, past the sunset, past what this flesh and its pleasures and pain give us?”
He enunciates with extra sumptuousness those words. ‘Pleasure and pain’. He knows the effect this has–in fact, he’s rather banking on it.
“We need to be empty so that we can be filled with the wisdom of our lived experiences.”
There’s a suggestive nature in this, but Sage doesn’t sound anything less than a hundred percent authentic–if he’s lying here, he’s the best in the world at it. That’s what causes this enrapturement. There are a million guys who look as good as he does. Some of them are even charming. Pontiff is both, and he’s a true believer.
“Existence is…a bucket. And even if you carry that bucket mindfully, it will still gather detritus, right? Like…ambient trash. And that’s after the bucket has been packed tight full of our upbringing. You have to, we all have to, empty the bucket. That’s what we do when we expand our consciousness, isn’t it? We poke holes in the bucket of existence and watch the accumulated debris, dirt, and sand pour out until we’re ready. It doesn’t have to be LSD, or shrooms, or Ayahuasca. We can expand our minds through anything! Dance, drums, community, conversation, exchange of sexual energy, on and on. What works for you, that’s what you have to figure out. Cause no one can tell you that. I know what works for me–so that’s what I do. I go out, I bleed, and I catch glimmers of true nirvana. I empty my bucket, that it may be filled again with knowledge, understanding, and insight. That I can be filled again with joy.”
He unfolds his body with an easy sight, furling himself up to standing. The person holding their camera phone is seated, and as a result, his lank looks almost otherworldly–he towers.
“Find what is yours. Empty yourself. Tuonane inshallah.”
It’s well past sunset now. Sage has left the back doors open on the biodiesel camper, allowing fresh air in–but the night is cool, so he’s clad in a baja hoodie. Interestingly, though there’s one hell of a drum circle around a massive bonfire going on closer to what accounts for a common area on this disused sorghum farm, Sage has parked his home and means of conveyance a ways away.
He’s dragged some meditation pillows onto the roof of his van, where he watches the dancing and revelry, a soft smile on his lips. He is at this moment, it appears, truly at peace. But all silences only exist to be broken.
“So, is it all just an excuse to beat people up?”
Searching for the source of the noise, Sage leans over the edge–finding an individual, he hops down, his brow furrowing in confusion.
Sage Pontiff: Why would you ever think that…
Sage Pontiff: Orchid. Your vibrations are confrontational, I’m catching a lot of aggression from you, psychically. I accept that, though I’m more used to facing that out in the world.
She does seem to be confrontational, that can be said. Standing not terribly shorter than he, Orchid is gazelle-lean, all limbs and long neck, sinewy muscle underneath her golden brown skin. She’s got a sort of devastating beauty to her, and she’d be a model were it not for her collection of piercings and propensity for tattoos, the most prominent of which is a half mandala that encircles her ear. But her eyes? Pure, unfiltered, aggressive challenge in them, meeting Sage’s drug and philosophy-induced dilated calm.
Orchid: I saw you once before, y’know that? You showed up at Terrapin talking this same stuff. I remember, when I saw it, I was impressed. Because you really spoke to something, the value of lived experiences. Then, later on, you and some guy beat each other half to death. That’s when I realized it was just the same macho, patriarchal caveman bullshit that men have been slinging since ever. Now here you are, same song. And I bet tomorrow you’re gonna find someone to fight, won’t you?
There’s a long, long moment here. He looks at her, not backing down, and his eyes show us many things–one, that he is, even for a moment, very angry at her. But that softens, and his calmness gets the better of him as he looks to her feet, absently scratching his neck.
Sage Pontiff: The person you’re referring to is named Soren. Soren had a life that was defined by abuse–and what we did was an opportunity for him to break free of those binds. Mentally, spiritually, and psychically.
Orchid: Yeah, right, he–
Sage Pontiff: He broke my nose. And he said it was the first time that he had felt empowered in so long, Orchid. Do you grasp what that is worth, to me? What that means? A simple act–two people fighting–and he was able to feel free, finally. If it would have taken more, I would have gladly suffered the recovery. Because that’s what transformation takes. You see caveman antics? I see someone who’s desperately hoping that meditation and prayer will take her to where she needs to be–and that desperation is getting all the more severe, because I’d bet you’ve been at it for a long while, right? You can dislike me, and what I represent. You can think that I’m just…I dunno, regurgitating Fight Club for the flower set. You can take umbrage with my privileged status or the fact that I’m unconventional–I’ll take that. I don’t need to be loved by everyone.
Finally, his eyes meet hers. Eyes that don’t match, that are as calming as a warm breeze. And like that, she softens. Her stance drops in its rigidity, her eyes lose their fire–she even seems remorseful. It’s one hell of a thing to see, and it’s clear now how he’s able to hold a crowd at attention–but when it’s one on one, all that magnetism has a single outlet.
Sage Pontiff: But don’t discount the people who have found happiness and growth from what we’ve done. Deal?
Orchid takes a moment for herself before nodding. Sage pulls a joint from behind his ear and sparks it, taking a big Method Man-tier lungful before placing his hand on her shoulder. His smile is easy, inviting.
Sage Pontiff: Now, why don’t you join me up on the roof, and we can discuss what you’re really mad at?
We’ve taken to doing this part on the road. It gives him undivided time to speak at length with little distractions.
The Bodhisattva is smiling in a contented fashion, the sunshine golden. He’s sporting a black eye and a split lip–evidence of a proper thrashing. But his knuckles are raw as well–evidence that it wasn’t one-sided. This is his way.
You’re such a…mirror.
I know that’s a difficult image to envision. Allow me to guide you. The paths are the same and where they diverge is at once superficial and significant.
Two men defined by what they do best. Two men who will seek their lessons on the streets, in the fields, in the alleyways and undergrounds. Not the type of places that the world wants us to be. They want rules and regulations and…order. They seek order, more than anything. They want to impose their will on what is a natural chaos.
Because fighting is not an orderly, rule-abiding thing.
It’s heat, sweat, ache, blood. It’s a thing of guts, of digging deep.
And you understand that, brother. You understand it better than most of those sleepwalkers who put on tights and worry about how cool they look or if they can better insult the man they’ve been booked against.
You get it. You get that it’s a bloody business.
Two men defined by why they do it? That’s where the path splinters. You do it because you see no other way out than through. There are big parts of me that respect that, it resonates in my soul. That’s powerful, proper energy to have. That’s real magic. But you’re only taking half of the lesson. Using that violence to reach a goal and then…letting that be that, is…it’s like you’re at the foot of a mountain, right? And up top is the wisest master of your form, the kind of man who can teach you in five minutes what it might take a lifetime to learn. And you climb up the mountain. It’s a treacherous thing. You reach inside yourself and find brand new reservoirs of determination.
And then halfway up the mountain, you decide that you’ve learned enough.
Enlightenment is there. You just have to keep going.
You don’t get it. You don’t get that these aren’t just battles of the flesh.
And though I’m talking to you, Paxton, directly, don’t fret–that’s something I would tell every other combatant here. You’re all too linear, too within the box, too literal. European Hermeticism is like that. Everything has a box and a place and numbers are important, numbers are like God.
So many people want their lives to just be a series of boxes checked.
Is that what you want for you? For your daughter?
So many parents, when they have children, make a resolution. It’s a powerful psychic intention, a mantra of almost unrivaled transformative power.
“I will give them everything that I didn’t have. They’ll have a better life growing up than mine.”
I bet you made the same vow. Didn’t you?
Because you’re a good man. Forget alliances and betrayals, forget all of that diluted orthodox moralism. You’re a good man. You deserve good things. And you deserve to provide good things for her. These are as close to universal truths as we can find, because they’re built from the most powerful force in any plane of existence, the one force that has the power to reach across all of those planes–temporal, psychic, physical–and bind them together.
My fellow traveler you love harder than anyone. I see you.
I also see how much you suffer.
The thing about suffering is that we…recoil from it, right? The natural reaction of any human being is to run away from suffering, to avoid the sensation of pain, to…escape it. Look at me, Paxton. Look into my eyes. You understand the truth. You hear me, man? You understand the truth. It scares you, and you’re a long way’s away from accepting it, but you know it down in your bones. The trick of suffering is to embrace it. Take it in. Look it in the eye and tell it that you want more. Because only then…only then, can you move past it. You can’t process trauma if you’re still in the midst of experiencing it. You’re learning that.
Let me help you. Then you can help yourself. Then you can help her, and you can give her that better life.
Reach out, Paxton. Complete the climb.
Look in the mirror. Embrace the man you see.
And after we meet, there’s going to come a moment after the bell. And we’ll be so covered in blood that we’re practically indistinguishable from one another.
And that man in the mirror will embrace you back.
He’s almost to the state line–the signs indicate he’s 15 miles from Pearl River.
He kisses his fingertips and touches his forehead. His smile is brilliant. And what he intends to do to Paxton Ray will be biblical.