On any day of the week, one could accuse Sage Pontiff of not being one for introspection.
Oh, he certainly meditated. Often. At length. Ad nauseam.
But he doesn’t spend that time thinking of Sage Pontiff, almost at all.
You could say he’s…extrospective, though. Lots of time spent thinking of and diagnosing the ills of the world, putting out positive vibes to heal the troubled psychosphere. When it comes to that, he’s a world champion already. Lotus position. Take powerful medicine. Let your soul fly wherever there is a painful wound to be patches or disarray oscillating at a dangerous vibration. You can fix this–you’re uniquely equipped to do so, because you’re The Bodhisattva: there’s nothing you can’t do.
You’re the Bodhisattva. There is nothing you can’t do.
Does that count as a mantra?
Not important. Don’t allow distraction in.
Consider the form. In front of the holy man stood an aged gladiator full of self-doubt.
And though he was skeptical, most square folks are. They’ve had an entire life suckling on the nipple of polite society–anything divergent to the nuclear family and mortgages and superbowl ads is treated with revulsion. And that’s how the old warrior treated him, he who had discovered secret answer to the cosmic questions. That’s how they all treat him until they see the truth of a world with its auras on full blast.
It’s so rare that it almost feels foreign, the first instinct is distrust, you know?
It worked! The old warrior succeeded where others would fail.
True, he didn’t listen…but it worked.
He insulted, but it worked.
He did listen.
Because of you, Sage Anikulapo. The voice is God, it is the Buddha, it is the Prophet, it is…his mother.
This is because of you, Sage Anikulapo. This is all your success.
This is all your fault.
Hold yourself together.
Don’t fall into the spiral. Focus but be unfocused at once, still pond
Hold it, hold onto the visions of spiritual healing.
You’re the Bodhisattva. There is nothing you can’t do.
You’re the Bodhisattva? There is nothing you can do.
Oh, I’m all alone now.
No love to shield me
Trapped in a world that’s distorted reality…
Through the mirror of my mind /
Time after time /
I see reflections of you and me
The vinyl crackles and pops. Mom always had a taste for the music of Motown. One of his fondest memories of childhood is how she’d always play “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder every saturday morning while she tended to her plants and made Sage breakfast. She’d spin and snap with the beat, changing “Isn’t she lovely” into “Isn’t he lovely” just for him.
Using a wooden spoon microphone.
Wheat cakes on the griddle.
But this isn’t Stevie Wonder and this memory isn’t a happy one.
Like the horn of the heralds, he is announced as he enters the room
Just the horns are a backpack full of clothes. An entire life stuffed into a worn Fjällräven.
And the scream. That anguish still makes your/his eyes hot in the back, the bubbling of that pain seems like a scar that is always going to itch.
He knows why she’s mad. You know why.
His father is in a cage right now.
It’s his fault.
This is all your fault.
It is. See himself, see yourself. But you/he aren’t who you/he are now, no. All lank, but baby fat. The dreads are still infant status. But you/he even at this childish age already sport the telltale signs of who this boy/you would become–a black eye, a split lip, raw knuckles. Eyes on space cadet. Effortlessly looking like a photoshoot–that kind of easy attractiveness that’s going to make you/him very popular, more so than even you/he know. Same as it ever was, same as it’s ever been.
You/he gathers the pack up and your eyes are wet, his eyes are wet.
Do we know this is the last time?
Not yet. But we do now.
Your mother is telling you to fuck off for good.
Seems you wore out your welcome. Your tricks were no longer precocious and endearing and your well of charm ran dry, and now your Dad is doing a year for a battery you committed. A year in a cage with all the pigs and violent men. A year that he didn’t have to do, but he still shouldered it, because sometimes good men make hard sacrifices for their children. A year away from the work he does for the less fortunate–that’s on you. That’s your man.
Let’s stop thinking about it, man.
Remember the breakfasts and the Stevie Wonder.
I’m sure they forgave us a long time ago.
Keep holding on /
To the happy times
Bring it back, young soldier.
You’re the Bodhisattva. There is nothing you can’t do.
Settle in. Remember the lessons.
The void is existence, existence is the void. Everything is nothingness, everything is everything. Embrace that you are the entire oscillated duality on one, powerless and the most powerful being. You have the power of enlightenment by embracing your own powerlessness, isn’t that funny?
And that’s how the old warrior found his strength and actually achieved.
Remember that, not the other thing.
Feel his aura. There’s a certain thing that happens when someone is on the cusp of a transformation but the self doubt is undercutting them, it’s like a pink haze laced with veins of deep navy blue. The Bodhisattva consumed the navy blue, swallowed it whole because he can do that, he has that power, you have that power. Consumed it and suffocated it underneath the power of nirvana. That man, the old warrior, was searching for…something. In a way they all are.
But the lesson took.
Five stars. Consider them. Has the old warrior ever flown past the stratosphere? Has he ever danced with a white dwarf, communed with the pulsars, consumed a hypergiant, made love to the Sun? Of course he hasn’t. He’s still tied down, lashed to the earth by doubts and regrets and obligations. Chained by his age and his doubts. Chained by fear of the uncertainty.
But you changed it.
This is all your f–no. No.
You changed it.
You’re the Bodhisattva.
You led him from uncertainty to a land of promise.
You changed his life with one meeting.
Imagine, if you will, what can happen now?
In the space of a few words you changed his prospects and altered the course of his life.
This is it, if you were looking for it.
What a fuckin’ word.
Proof is just applying math to the wondrous, it’s trying to find data points in the wonder of the energies of the universe. They always want proof, they want to see your magic in clinical terms because for them, that’s safety. If it can be dissected and broken down like a nutrition label then they don’t have to ask the big questions that may lead them to actual awakening.
But there it is and there it was.
Not your chosen title.
More one that fit.
Your parents named us, right? Sage, seer, powerful medicine. Anikulapo, he who carries death in his pouch. Death itself, transformative. Death of the ego, death of outdated modalities, death of things that we knew so that new forms of life can thrive. And transformation radiated off of you, off of us. How many lives have had their course permanently altered?
Boys in school. Girls in school.
Your own father.
Perfect strangers–shitkickers, fascists, pigs.
Gave the king a crown.
As I peer through the window /
Of lost time /
Looking over my yesterdays /
And all the love I gave
With a jolt, Pontiff inhales deeply. Gasps, really. He is damn near woven into place, his limbs interlaced with the limbs of others who elected to travel the subconsciousness and superconsciousness with him.
In what appears to be an attic that has been fitted for this entire purpose. The floor is covered in a collection of rugs and mats, a hi-fi set against the window with speakers as tall as a man, record spinning far out of the groove at this point. The walls are covered in the sacred art of stoner culture, the works handed down from generation to generation like a living document: Robert Crumb, Frank Frazetta, Alex Grey.
Sage shakily gets to standing, disengaging himself from the granola rat-king he was entangled in. He blinks slowly, realigning himself with the fact that he is not elsewhere or elsewhen. These are floors. They are real. That is a wall. It is real. He goes through the checklist one by one, rubbing his eyes, scratching his belly, feeling the healing knife wound on his chest. Stumbling–partly from still waking up to the physical plane, partly from avoiding the various people still zonked on the floor–he makes it to the window, peering off into the grey. It’s daytime, but the overcast sky makes everything feel like an eternal 5:30am. He’s lost in his reflections of the clouds, so much so that when he hears a voice, it startles him.
“Yo, Pontiff…how long were we out?”
The voice belongs to an acquaintance. Sage probably met him once or twice before, but when The Bodhisattva recommended a vision quest, he readily agreed. He appraises the man–no older than he, septum ring and a thick black beard framing beautiful lips, eyes like he’s seeing into the engine of creation.
“Hard to say…at least twelve hours.”
“Shit. Guess I’m not making it to work, hahaha. Seven whole grams, man. I’ve never seen anyone take that much.”
Pontiff considers this. Is he still flying? No. The floor is real. The walls are real. But the heroism of the dose notwithstanding, did he get where he wanted to go? He looks to the floor, to the sea of flesh–at least eleven other souls traveled with him, yet he met none of them. Maybe their journeys were as solitary as his. His brain takes a long, long moment. Placing all the pieces where they need to be, fitting all of what he experienced in the confining framework of language. When he does speak, it is with the haunted tone of seers and soothsayers mixed with his weed-soaked Cali/Desert timbre.
“I was…I was everywhere and I was nowhere. Perfect Shunyata, man. Aware of the void and taking comfort in its vastness. I saw people I had helped. People I had hurt. My mother was yelling at me, she kicked me out–that happened to me, but it’s like I was watching it as a ghost would, haunting my own past. I came face to face with the word death and consumed it and spit back out its bones and the bones spelled ‘transformation’. I saw the faces of all those who I had bested in the purifying fire of combat all conjoined to make my own face, like a photo made up of other photos. I saw…”
He closes his eyes, holding his arms out, bowing at his back. His every muscle is tensed to vascular perfection as the boy with the beautiful lips looks on.
“…I saw a great golden crown, man. It glowed with undeserved power and spun and spun until it became this shining orb, until it became the sun. And I grabbed it, right? And it pierced my hand but my blood was another galaxy. And I broke the crown and it turned into a constellation that watched upon the Earth with benevolence and ancient wisdom, I…”
His arms drop. He is gripped with something–when he opens his eyes, they are wide as saucers, as if the great revelation has washed over his mind.
He looks over to the boy, who is looking at him like a confused puppy.
“…I saw his face. The man I helped. The man I have to destroy now so that he can finally emerge as the man he’s supposed to be…the crown! Of course!”
He breaks into an infuriatingly handsome smile and chuckles to himself, dryly. He hasn’t looked or felt this elated in what seems like a lifetime. Hurriedly, he grabs a baja hoodie–who’s to say if it’s his–and that same battered Fjällräven. Shouldering it, he hops over legs before making it to his conversational partner, who he kisses briefly. But there is tenderness in the act, a promise of a future, a dream sold, a thanks for taking the trip with him. The boy stares at him with some measure of awe and yearning. Sage smiles again and opens the door to the stairs.
“I have to go kill a king.”
For days I waited, y’know?
Like I know it’s sometimes hard to get me on the phone, but there are plenty of ways to leave me a message. Text, IG, any of my video platforms.
The Bodhisattva has steered himself near a body of water–maybe Cochiti Lake. It is predawn, the first orange rays of the day slashing across the horizon like a knife. He stands at the water’s edge, letting the soft waves lap at his feet. And while his eyes are focused, not laden with Psilocybic echoes, he isn’t looking here. He’s looking out there.
And then I had to ask myself a hard question. “Why do you want him to thank you?” It just seemed so…petty. I don’t do this for riches or recognition, so why did my heart yearn for it from you? Why did I have this need, why was I checking my inbox and feeling disappointed?
Why do I need you?
I realized that I had done this act, this gift. And these gifts I give selflessly. But everyone else who I’ve helped? Sure, some of them thank me. Some of them shower me with gifts. Some of them offer me their pleasures. But not all.
Do you know what they all do, though?
They all acknowledge me. They all recognize the turning point. They all freely admit the catalyst.
Something you never did.
But power corrupts, doesn’t it?
And fast, with you.
You were given the blessings of The Bodhisattva without first having to learn the lesson. Without first having to earn it. And that was my mistake. I’m evolved enough to recognize my mistakes–that’s why my paths have been more astral and less physical as of late. Do you remember what we talked about when I gave you the blessing that led to your success? Do you remember the conversation at all, or did you just take the gift and forget about me? I don’t blame you, I hope you realize. You’re sick and the medicine that you need can’t be injected or ingested.
I made my mistake.
But I’m not making that mistake again.
The Bodhisattva cares not for the trinket. The flesh of some poor animal riveted to cheap metal? Who needs that, really? It’s lust for those idols of the modern age that has ruined the psychic health of the populus, man. Nah, I don’t need to hang a title belt off of my waist to feel some measure of worth. I am rich beyond your wildest imagination in the only currency that truly matters: enlightened thought, spiritual wholeness.
What the trinket means to you?
That I care about deeply.
Because this is your proof, isn’t it?
Proof that you’re still strong enough to compete, to climb, to achieve, to win. Proof that you aren’t just another creaky old man clinging desperately to youth. Proof that the chill you sometimes feel isn’t the hand of the reaper grasping at you to bury your career once and for all. And you proved everyone wrong, didn’t you? So many people doubted you. So many people assumed your failure. So many people mocked you for even trying.
Except for one man. One man believed in you.
He smiles, letting that hang for a moment.
But you have all the gift and none of the insight. And that’s dangerous, man. That puts you in an unbalanced state, the positive and negative furies are in disarray. And though you don;t want to admit it, you know your time is borrowed. But that’s not the real secret fear inside you, that’s just the plain fact of existence. Remember, you are powerless against the march of time and you are powerless in the face of the void of existence. The real secret fear in you is the one you don’t want to admit, the one that you keep locked away because even in acknowledging it, you would give it too much power to be buried again.
You have known since the day we first crossed paths that I am what you actually need.
I can see inside you.
I know you better than anyone.
I know how the pressure of this crown weighs heavily.
And I know you want greater strength to bear it or a way off the ride, but you don’t know how to achieve either of them.
Not in a way that would leave you with any dignity.
Not in a way that would be…acceptable to you.
You’re sick, and the medicine you need can’t be injected or ingested.
Look me in the eyes, Coral.
You have been placed in front of two paths. Both lead to me.
To the West you learn the power of our shared pain. You learn the transformative strength of suffering. You learn the power of what we can achieve when our souls dance and leak blood together until you see the world through enlightened eyes.
To the East, you learn nothing. Your doubts are louder now. The weight of your existence is heavier. Your life sisyphean until you break something or simply fade from the collective unconscious, a ghost haunting the combat you thought you loved but never, ever understood.
But no matter which path you take…you will not be taking it with your unearned prize.
I have seen the future.
I have seen my path.
I have to tear holes into the night’s sky with the shattered pieces of your crown so that new stars may shine.
The Crownless King is dead.
Long live the Crownless King.