Somewhere in rural Tarrant County, Texas – 03/28/2023
The dust cloud does much to mask the approach, but the vehicle is almost unmistakable now, as part of his milieu as his dreadlocks and thirst for violent confrontation. The Biodiesel camper seems to always be gaining things–stickers, dents, paint. But most notable at the multiple strands of buddhist prayer flags that billow from the luggage rack on top, as if his campervan was base camp at Everest itself.
But where he would normally find an easy travel to whatever corner of the subculture he found himself this week, he instead faces a wall of people. Six, to be exact, all various shapes and sizes, dressed differently enough for it to not be a uniform, but uniformly enough that they’re clearly members of hippie experience. The Biodiesel Campervan comes to a stop, and the man himself emerges: Sage Pontiff, The Bodhisattva of transformative experiences, high on supplies that you cannot fathom. Walking forward, he smiles easily, floating on air.
“We’re not letting you in.”
This stops him in his tracks. His eyebrows raise, actual genuine surprise on his face. The Bodhisattva’s eyes scan from person to person, and finds no kindness or opportunity in their gaze. Finally focusing on a woman in little more than a tie-dyed sheet, he speaks.
“Aster…what do you mean?”
A shorter individual steps forward, dressed in patched up overalls. She looks at him, zero mercy in her gaze.
“We mean just that, Pontiff. The organizers aren’t really down with your vision of enlightenment, and we made a decision as a group that you wouldn’t be presenting at the Phoenix Rising this year. But past that…we don’t want you attending either.”
“Can I ask why?”
This elicits a scoff.
“Shit, you want us to go down the list? Last year you sent two people to the hospital, and that’s increased local pig scrutiny for something that a lot of us worked way too fuckin’ hard to get for ourselves. We don’t need that kind of attention–but the aftermath’s never been your thing, has it?”
Pontiff holds his hands out wide, placating.
“I think we’re approaching this conversation from a place of anger, and that’s not the type of energy we need to be–”
“No, Sage, dude, shut. the. fuck. up. You show up, beat some people half to death, get your dick wet, and then you’re in the breeze! All for what, enlightenment? I know, I know. You could name hundreds that you’ve helped with your transformative experiences, right? But how are they weeks, months, years down the line? You don’t know, and you don’t care, and that’s the worst part about it. I bet you even forget them sometimes. You’ve lost their names and have no clue–you’re like a boulder into a pond, dude. Break the surface, cause a bunch of chaos. And then you’re a ghost. I’m tired of it. We’re tired of it. We’re trying to be a refuge for people to bring their families and recommune with the spirits of nature, man. What you do doesn’t fit into that. You got a lot of people fooled, but not us. So go find your high somewhere else.”
The experience is flipped from when he was in front of the sheriffs. In that space he was collected, measured, effortlessly cool when he needed to be and cutting when that was necessary. But the cops couldn’t hurt him in any significant way, and he knew that. Their opinion of him meant nothing, because he barely saw them as human–a feeling that he’s sure was mutual.
This? He’s everywhere at once. Angry, gutted, deflated, defiant. The Bodhisattva lives a thousand emotions before he finally decides to speak, and when he does, there’s a distinct edge in his tone.
“And does Oberon speak for all of you?”
No words are spoken, but they don’t budge. Pontiff speaks again, practically tearing into them–we’ve yet to hear him this animated.
“You’ve lost your way. All of you. You’re denying entry to a being who is committed to engaging in the process of psychic healing and enlightenment in exchange for…what? ‘Family friendly nature reconnection’?! There was a time when every single one of you actually believed. Believed in something greater than any of us. We were warriors in a battle against the deadening of our natural connectivity to the energy of the universe by fascists and religious, oligarchical dogma! We were winning, right?! But you all have decided that you would rather lie asleep than face the realities of an awakened life. Fear rules this, fear is the driver of this car, man. It’s sad. I don;t want to feel pity for people I’ve known for years–I want you to shake off your shackles! Now..look at all of you. Afraid of losing money. Prostrating yourself at the altar of capital. Forest, your father would be ashamed of what you’ve become, he–”
Sage is cut off as the burliest amongst these collected hippies rushes forward, his face full of rage.
“You’ll keep my dad out of it!!”
He squares up, ready to do something…and Sage smiles. Drops his hands. Closes his eyes. He seemingly invites the strike that he’s earned…but Forest thinks better of it. Shakes his head, turns on his heel, stalks off under a thundering cloud. Pontiff opens his eyes, and he actually looks morose. Sad. Deflated. Finally, he walks over and grasps his dropped backpack, shouldering it. Turning back to the group, he bows.
“There will come a day when you regret this. Namaste.”
TurnbuckleNewzNetwork ( @TurnbuckleNW ) Video post, Instagram, 03/29/2023
The white letters on the black screen tell us exactly what we’re seeing: “SAGE PONTIFF’S UPLOADED AND DELETED VIDEO FROM HIS @COSMICBODHISATTVASPEAKS IG ACCOUNT”. The letters stay as the black cuts to a shaky video, clearly taken while Sage is driving. To say he looks infuriated would be to put it mildly–he’s hurt and enraged in one as he navigates the Biodiesel Camper down a gravel road.
“I just want to take a moment to apologize to everyone who was looking forward to seeing me at the Phoenix Rising Festival this weekend. It seems that the opinions of a few reactionary organizers who are far more interested in making money than they are finding enlightenment hold wild amounts of weight there.”
He chews his lip, He’s full of energy, his skin seemingly fit to burst.
“But I’m not mad so much as I am disappointed. I thought in this festival and the people that put it on that I had found people who I could trust, people who were committed to alternative expression! How could they have deceived me, and by extension all of you, for so long? Still…the teachings are rife with stories of those who let a grudge become poison that they consume every waking moment. And I’m not going to let that be me.”
We can actually see him try to work himself down with transcendental circular breathing. But his eyes tell a different tale. He’s furious.
“This is a good example, my fellow cosmonauts. The hooks of capitalism’s poison run deep, deeper than we even can imagine. They can even reach us where we feel safe, where people who we trusted can decide that we are expendable because we might hurt their bottom line. Because trust me, this was not about my conduct. This was not about money, because I never ask for it. This was about perception. Sage Anikulapo Pontiff preaches a method of enlightenment that gives some people of tender dispositions pause, and rather than letting all of us grow from speaking with one another and sharing energy, you shut it down like that! I’m not gonna be part of that kind of jackboot mentality, and I’m not going to spend my time trying to change their minds. Fuck them. Not when there are actual changes to make for those who yearn for true enlightenment.”
He considers his position for a few moments, then with a tap of his finger, ends the video.
Bedford, Texas – 03/29/2023
Verdant fields? A sunset? Adoring followers? Flowers and flesh and fun?
Nothing of the sort.
He’s an indica flower among concrete. A wilting one, at that. His placidity and almost float-along way of existence would feel foreign on the man we see, who looks like he hasn’t slept in days.
He also looks entirely healed up. No nagging bloody knuckles, no stitches under bandages. Which means that this haggard look is all his own doing. Already scrawny, he looks drawn in and gaunt in a way that speaks to undernourishment, spiritual and physical. He hasn’t done a live chat, he’s not amongst his people, and has found himself here: an industrial area near some train tracks and a few run down honky tonks. Truthfully, he’s probably lucky the cops haven’t spotted him–though his troubles in Burnet Country are behind him, he looks at this exact moment like the type of drug casualty that police just live for busting up a bit.
As he stalks down the road, Pontiff’s eyes flit this way and that. He’s looking for something, anything.
And when it happens, it’s almost like the color returns to his face.
“You lost, man?”
The call out isn’t stated in a tone of being helpful, this is no Samaritan here to assist a weary traveler. It was stated in the tone of someone who’s ready to show you just exactly how lost you are. Sage pauses his stride and turns, his bedrock sandals crunching gravel and stray bits of broken glass under their treads. Though it’s nighttime, the odd street light and the neon signs in front of the bar give enough illumination to show the man who said it. He’s every bit as tall as Sage, but significantly wider in the shoulder. He bears the build of a man who’s very accustomed to lift belts and dockwork, all stevedore forearms and oil rig neck. He stands alone, nursing a Lone Star and a cigarette in equal measure. But the Bodhisattva doesn’t say anything. He just stares through the man, trying to assess him.
“You fuckin’ deaf, pothead? Asked you a question. This ain’t your kinda place, I figure you’d do better off with all the freaks down in Austin.”
“I heard the question. I just didn’t see anyone worth answering.”
Now he’s fishing. Seeing how far he can push this. Reactionaries are like catnip to people like Sage Pontiff, and now he’s slowly making his way towards the guy. The man chuckles dryly and takes another sip.
“Oughta watch yourself, shitbird. Guy like you could get really hurt trying to be cute out here.”
Pontiff doesn’t smile. Doesn’t hold his arms out like the messiah. His voice isn’t even his normal tone, he sounds ragged, raw. And when he speaks to this stranger, his mismatched eyes flash fire towards him, a silent defiance. But just in case the silent challenge doesn’t work, he decides to seal the deal.
“Yeah? Why don’t you let me know when someone who can really hurt me decides to show up. Otherwise all I see is a run-down hick who likes hearing his own voice.”
The man tosses his smoke and finishes his beer in a hard guzzle, and throws an incredibly telegraphed fastball. Sage doesn’t move. He takes the bottle to his forehead with a deadened ‘thwonk’, stumbling back a step before walking forward. All grim determination. No love in his stride. Unenlightened. The stranger shrugs and steps forward, burying his left into The Bodhisattva’s ribs with a meat-on-meat rapport. Sage doubles at this, but doesn’t cover up whatsoever–and eats a massive overhand right haymaker right to his face, dropping the Bodhisattva like a sack of bricks. He groans, his limbs moving of their own volition, trying to get a handle on things.
The stranger, seeing this, shakes his head, muttering something about freaks and hippies. Sage coughs, shakily getting to his hands and knees.
The man puts up some very casual dukes and spits on the ground as Sage gets a hand on one knee and works himself up to his feet. Shambolic. Wobbly. He’s on skates, trying to get his sea legs, his body still curled at the torso and his head hanging like a limp balloon at the end of his neck. Finally, his feet settle–and he straightens his spine and neck, throwing his dreads back. His cheek is already swelling, causing him to squint, but…
There’s the serene smile.
There’s the Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience.
There’s an almost orgasmic declaration.
“…fuck yeah, man. That was perfect.”
He rotates his head, cracking his neck. Pulls off his hoodie. Grins.
“Let’s fuckin’ do this. Let’s ascend.”
La Quinta, Pantego, Texas – 03/30/2023
The look on his face says that he’s gone twelve rounds with a lover or twelve rounds with a bong, but we can see that he’s alone–and without his trademark cone joint, as well. But his demeanor is decidedly post-coital.
He also looks entirely fucked up. Gash above his eye, cheek swollen, lip split. He didn’t even bother to clean up before booking this room, but mercifully, hotels look the other way most times.
He is radiant.
He is in the lotus position.
He is almost floating.
You ever, like…feel lost?
I know that I present an image on an enlightened being. And I am, make no mistake about that, but that doesn’t mean that I’m free from worry, right?
Free from feeling adrift in a world that doesn’t care about me or the things that are really important.
Feeling lost in a world that values profit over ascension. Nah, I feel it all the time. But I have my anchors, my mantras, meditation, the things I do to stay…present. To keep the concerns of living in a nation that doesn’t want me rolling off of my back like cool water.
I have my charge.
My driving force…you. Every single one of you.
Enlightenment is awakening, not a thing that you put work into to see tangible reward. It isn’t putting in extra hours at the gym or at your job so that you can get a nice paycheck and buy a wave-runner. It is literally as simple as I describe it. Wake up. Accept that we are all nothing and that we are everything. Accept that you can achieve something so spiritually amazing by sacrificing your flesh to feed your soul and free you from the shackles that you’ve become so comfortable in.
But you are not Bodhi. You do not possess Bodhi. You have not attained Bodhi.
You are puthujjana.
You are committed to suffering. Endless cycles throughout the ages, hungry ghosts searching for meaning and wishing that your pain would at least deaden over time, that your starvation would be satiated if even only for a brief moment. But you cannot know peace, right? Because you aren’t feeding what needs to be fed.
You have to break free from samsara.
And as most of you have stubbornly refused the enlightenment I provide, I will have to force you to awaken.
I take no joy in this, I take no satisfaction. I have evolved past the pleasures of the senses.
But you need it.
Look inside yourselves, and be honest. Do you feel fulfilled? Have you ever? Or have you been hopping from brief satisfaction to brief satisfaction, silently hoping in the darkness of night that this one will be the one that sets things right. This will be the moment that all the pieces fall into place. This will be the moment that you’re finally happy and free.
You’ve been doing that, haven’t you?
Chasing your dragons.
It hurts you. Every day. And I feel that pain…every day. I weep for every one of you.
Which is why I am going to have to be resolute.
I am going to have to be stern.
I am going to have to break every one of you free, person by person, being by being, until you enter the stream of enlightenment. And you might hate me now, but you will realize that your hatred is misdirected. Once I have broken you all so thoroughly, you will see your own blood covering me like a baptism. And you will realize that you never hated the Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience. You hated the form that the world forced you to become. And in that moment, you will feel it. A rush unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, like sunshine and cleansing fire and a cool breeze all at once. The Mahasanghika called it ekaksana-citt.
“You will know everything in a single thought-instant”
I want that for you. So badly.
So badly that I’m willing to hurt you all to give you such a gift.
When I step into the fight, this will not be a man out to prove his worth as a fighter. I have done that already, many times over.
This will be my greatest act of mercy.
My greatest act of sacrifice.
We have been given a grand altar, friends.
And I love every single one of you more than you’ll know.
Piece by piece, bone by bone, person by person, we will achieve greatness in that ring. Not greatness as measured by the corporate class–greatness that can’t be quantified by Excel documents and quarterly earnings. Greatness that will heal every one of you spiritually just as much as I will break you down physically. A feedback loop. I will wear you with pride, with exultant joy. And you will embrace me.
You will embrace me as the Bodhisattva.
You will embrace me as your friend.
You will embrace me as your lover.
You will embrace me as your Guru.
For I will dispel the darkness that has gripped you. And I will replace it with a light so beautiful and pure that it burns away all that existed before that moment.
Come join me.