Rare though this is, sometimes it does happen.
Sage is with someone for more than one encounter.
He apparently felt some business was left undone regarding the boy with the beautiful lips and his travel through the astral plane of existence. Sage so often is a one-night-stand sort of person, both for intellectual conversations and matters of the flesh. Call it his precocious nature, intellectual agility, or the fact that he just gets bored easily, but…he loves. He leaves.
But it’s not without precedent. He spent almost three months in an ashram as part of a triad, a whole month with a group of protesters in Washington state–he is a being of pure wanderlust, but his nature can ebb and flow like the tide. Maybe it’s that he doesn’t want to be so transient right now. Maybe he wants to return to the scene of such a profound journey, see if he can recapture that magic. Maybe it’s just that he and the boy–Arnel– unfinished business. Who’s to say?
They’re laying together, sharing a frankly oversized cone of sacrament, a joint of King Kong proportions. Sage’s head is on Arnel’s stomach, and they’re looking to the ceiling, the both of them. It’s hard to tell if this is post-coital, if only because Pontiff is generally half-naked most times, always ready to show off his lean, lanky physique. He’d balk at anyone calling him conceited, but it’s obvious if only in the math of how often he struts shirtless that he is, if a little. Arnel takes the offered bone and considers for a moment, before speaking.
“It’s not that I mind, but…you left in a real rush, Sage. And you left me with like ten other people coming down from a trip. Not exactly being a steward for our journey, y’know?”
At this, The Bodhisattva chews his lip, looking at his own hand. Is it disinterest? No, something in those heterochromatic eyes…remorse. He looks genuinely embarrassed.
“I can’t sit here and say that what I did was justified, cool, or even offer you an explanation that makes like…a lot of sense. I had just come to a major realization and I needed to be where that could breathe, where that realization could stretch out and find it’s own legs like a newborn calf. “
“And this is your process for every fight?”
“Hardly. But as of late…”
Arnel finishes his hit and hands the joint back to Pontiff.
“…thank you, I’ve been…approaching things differently. It used to be that I was on a sort of purely consumptive trip, it seemed my hunger for combat on it’s most sacred level could never be satisfied. I think that’s where we first crossed paths, probably at a festival. Im there, Im holding court, I’m helping whoever wants it to break through their trauma and their deadened spiritual nerves through combat until there’s just…nothing of me. Until I’m an empty vessel ready to accept the spiritual lesson, the wisdom of the cosmic plane.”
“Diminishing returns after a while, eh?”
Sage nods, talking a certified Method Man lungful. He exhales as he speaks, his first words choked out before his regular tone returns.
“Exactly, exactly. Do anything long enough and it’s just a routine like any other, that’s the trick of it. Smoke weed and fuck every day or work in a cubicle every day and after six months the differences between the two seem less and less, right? We need, as human beings an…agility of purpose. The days of working your factory job from teenager to retirement and lying to yourself about how happy you are have been dead for a while. We’re forging new lifes, new pathways, paving new roads, and we’re realizing as the collective that swimming the same stream until we die is it’s own sort of death.”
Accepting the joint, Arnel considers this.
“It’s like we all want that variety. Capitalism has even gotten it’s fangs into this, look at the gig economy. Nothing but ‘you like change? Hustle four different jobs to make your landlord his money!’”
“Right! That desire is all over, it’s pervasive, so I had to ask myself why I was supposed to not be affected by it. What made me different, y’know? There’s some level of me wanting to retain a kind of monklike stoicism about the whole thing, but I am human–just an incredibly enlightened version of human. Needed a change.”
He pauses, idly scratching his belly.
“So I shut it down. Carved my flesh and told a crowd that what they knew of me was dead. You know that they followed me to my car, man? Begging, grabbing. I’d become something I wanted to avoid, a figurehead. That shit is too seductive.”
“Now I want to travel inward and outward, but on a journey that doesn’t require violence. I want to save those sorts of expressions for every now and again, when I feel a great pull to a task or if something has been requested of me in between the lines. Because a lot of these individuals I do combat with are profoundly broken individuals. And they need that rough, violent wake-up call more than most, I’m breaking through years of bullshit macho belief and stuffing down any notions of doubt. They need me, but sometimes the how of it is a mystery until I hit a realization. That’s what happened last time. This time, I’m less excitable…because the how of it is already there in front of me, like text on a page.”
Arnel idly strokes Sage’s face, causing The Bodhisattva to settle in and close his eyes in contentment.
“And what’s this time?”
“Plain text. I have to bury a man so that he can be free.”
He seems to have retreated to the roof, wrapped in a sheet from the bed. We’re in the predawn, the sun just beginning to chase away the curtain of the night’s sky. Whether he stayed up until this moment or woke up early, it’s hard to say, but Sage has found the necessary quiet to pontificate at length about his matches and place in the world. This is no different.
“To know yourself, you must first sacrifice the illusion that you already know.”
I’ve said that so much over the years. Behind food tents at music festivals, at farmlands, communes, off-the-grid utopian polycules, and the streets themselves. You know what I’ve found out, in saying it so many times?
People fuckin’ hate it.
I think it has to do with that word.
Sacrifice is one of those words that just…hits.
Because I say that, and your first thought is “loss.” People hate loss. Because, I think, they don’t want to feel like they themselves have lost.
American culture is all about winning, man. Winning big.
Loss? Voluntarily losing something?
I turn it over and over because the poison of our modern era is a strong one. The obsession of success, The almost…like, you feel at odds all the time, don’t you? With everyone. Neighbors, people at the market, coworkers, everyone is your enemy–and you act accordingly. You seethe. You plot. You let anger and rage fuel you until you just have to do something about it.
Do you get how…profoundly damaging that is?
To the world. To the animus. To the psychospehere and the vibrations of the universe that govern all action.
Most of you are out there living the lives of a forest fire. You consume and destroy and it’s not even a conscious decision anymore, is it?
It’s just how you exist, now.
The collateral damage from your continued vampiric lifestyle to this planet is nothing short of genocidal. And those of you that really consume, those of you that take especial pride in your devouring of all things green and good and sacred in this world–you just so happen to be obsessed with staying on this material plane as long as possible to chew up as much as you can. As much as you can.
As much–let me tell you about a tradition, okay?
You have to understand, our relationship with death as peoples of the Western world is very much rooted in finality and fear. “Don;t speak ill of the dead”, “this iss a sacred resting place”–heck, even the practice of coffins is one of fear of losing the memory of the person we loved, right? We’d rather visit a rotting box full of dust buried underneath the earth than to face that loss, than to recontextualize it.
Other cultures hold it in different esteem.
Some embrace death as not an undercurrent of life but the point of it, right? Think like…the Aghori. They don’t just embrace death, they inhabit it, living in cemeteries and rubbing cremation ashes on their bodies, drinking from cups made from skulls, flutes made from femurs. To them, death isn’t a condition, or even something to be remembered, it’s the undercurrent of all existence. A sort of “without it, there’d be no life” kind of trip.
Or! Or, take like…ancient Vikings. For them death wasn’t even something to be feared–just the wrong type of death. Otherwise, death was this honor you were given, either by an opponent in battle or by being chosen by the holy men for sacrifice. Hear that word again? Cause it keeps coming up.
But the man I’m set to face belongs to none of these traditions.
Let me tell you about the death song of Joe Bergman.
See, Joe isn’t like many of you. He’s not sticking around with his fangs in the business of combat until he’s far past his prime, merely consuming resources that could better be utilized by the youthful. Joe sees the horizon of his existence and does not tremble. Has no fear in his bones. He isn’t stammering or worried. He is brave, man. Spine straight. Jaw set. He knows what he needs to do, what he has to do. For himself, his loved ones, his company, his business.
In Tibet, you can be buried in the sky.
That’s what he’s doing.
He is committing jhator, an act of generosity on the part of the deceased.
Because once the soul has transmigrated, the body is just a vessel. It’s just there, empty. Maybe Joe’s soul migrated already. Maybe it is actively doing it at this moment. But once he has no more soul for the fight, what’s left but meat and bones? What would you do, go through the motions? Cash empty paychecks? Pad your coffers and grind your legacy to nothing for a few nostalgia paydays? Not Joe Bergman. Joe Bergman is more enlightened than that.
See, when you’re on the verge of transitioning from this life, you can be taken to the site for the sky burial. And when you pass, you are processed–dismembered. Because your body is just a hollow shell now. There are holy men there who break you into pieces and leave you strewn about the temple for the elements, for the scavengers, especially for the vultures.
These holy men are Rygyopa, body breakers.
And for Joe Bergman’s quest, he needed a truly holy Rygyopa.
And that is my task.
My journey is one of cosmic importance. My journey is the vulture, the sun, the wind, and the wolf–it must feed on our bloody truth in that ring. I will break your body so that the spirit of your career can finally be free. No bleeding for dollars when you’re seventy. No matches wearing sweatpants with other over the hill fighters before you do two hours at the signing table. That life isn’t meant for you, and you know that. Why else would we have been placed here, both of us at our respective crossroads? I had to kill the prior me so that the new me could flourish. Now you come to me with your hat in hand.
‘Sacred Bodhisattva, Holiest Rygyopa, please send me from this plane so that I may know freedom.’
‘Please help me make this sacrifice.’
Look at me, Joe Bergman.
I can see what’s left in you.
You’ve given up so much for this life, and you think you’re…depleted. But I’m the judge of that, Joe. And I see that there’s still spirit yet left in that bone cage. I can remove it from you forcibly if the need arises, but…I am not a man of violence, Joe. I am a man of transformation.
I want you to harness it. Let me see the fires of old! Use up every last ounce of who you were against me.
And you better.
Because I want you truly, truly empty.
I want you truly empty before I leave what’s left of your career for the carrion birds.