Who am I?
I’m slipping away, forced to bear witness to my ego's death. An early demise precipitated by melancholy and crystallized in solitude. Struggling to distinguish between legitimate opinions and silly things I want to satirize. What is loss? What is desire? Which parts of me are parodying the other?
Which parts of me are real?
I shoot a plaintive look of befuddled know-nothingness at the Poet sitting next to me in profile.
Green eyes forever alight with boyish curiosity belie his rugged visage. Windswept, dark brown curls flecked with gray adorn his head.
Before speaking, he taps his fingers on the tray hosting our half-drunk coffees.
What do you mean the real you? I thought you liked the cheeky imposter placed upon the throne of your subconscious? That rascal whom we installed in an orchestrated psychedelic-induced introspective coup?
You assured me that those mushrooms would help you see God and bypass the need for any more of my teachings.
I was rather banking on it. You repay me with some pretty dodgy instant coffee that I try to avoid drinking. Although, those half-full cups do grant some much-needed intellectual gravitas. They help me play up the old distracted genius trope.
I make a great show of pushing one of his semi-finished cups towards him.
Whenever we have coffee, you bring up that perfect blend you had in Nicaragua. You tell me how nothing compares to it. I figure it’s best to disappoint you thoroughly by keeping the bar for savoriness near rock bottom. Besides, weren’t you the one who encouraged my psychedelic experimentation?
The Poet swigs the cold remnants of his coffee and grimaces with mock exaggeration.
Encourage is too strong a word. I told you that psychedelics will open the window to the spiritual realm. If you’re lucky, they'll even get you in the door for a few hours.
But sooner or later, the bouncers will unmask you as an unsolicited squatter. The psilocybin ebbs out of your system. They'll inform you that the plane of heightened awareness is currently at capacity. You don’t have to go home but you sure as hell can’t stay here.
So you're bounced unceremoniously. This brings you face to face with the incompetent puppet ruler who rules over you. He's allowed gentle satirical lashings of the nebulous other.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
If you linger overlong in the realm of detachment, we’ll introduce you to Madame Guillotine. Another amusing fool will soon wear your crown. One that wouldn’t dare derail the gravy train of lustful attachment and possession.
So what'll it be?
Do you wish to wield the meager power we grant you? Would you prefer we behead and impale you upon the palace walls to remind your successor not to rock the boat?
Don’t try to pilot the seeker’s vessel upon the ocean of unconcern. We’ll poke holes in the hull, smash your oars, and warp the rudder. When you realize you've lost everything you’ll drown in the eddy of abject depression.
The Poet peers longingly into his empty cup.
I rise to clear our mess and brew us a new batch.
He sneaks a not-so-furtive glance at the nearby bottle of Bailey’s. A well-defined eyebrow raises with the unspoken question.
I add a hefty pour to both our cups and return to the table.
If this false me has already slipped past my defenses what can I do? Can I distract him with busyness? By exhausting my body and mind with perpetual motion? Will this lower his guard so I can reclaim ownership of myself again?
The dash of Bailey’s seems to have livened the Poet up. He drums out a lively samba beat on the table.
I can almost close my eyes and see the Caixa in front of me.
Again and again, you attempt to outwit and overpower yourself. How many times must I tell you that ease comes from within the flow, not the froth? Stop fighting yourself.
Stop resisting the current of the Universe.
Be here now. Let the present moment envelop you completely. Don’t hold off its loving embrace with imaginary defenses in which you languish in the dungeons of the past. Don’t stretch yourself over the racks by fretting about the future.
How can you bring the full weight of your potential to bear if you’re distracted? You’re dimming the flames of your internal light. Gusts from the obsessive winds of worry see it sputter and gutter out.
How can you know who you are when you obsess over who you were, who you might become? You’re obscured by the voluminous folds of the fog in which the tantalizing future hides. There’s no appreciation, no gratitude for the beautiful soul that’s enjoying the moment. He’s upstaged by the demons of the past, by the resentment bubbling inside of you.
Below us, peals of laughter curl their way upwards. We look out over the balcony to see some boys juggling a yellowing soccer ball. They take turns trying to catch and balance it behind their necks. Taunts and words of encouragement pass between them in equal measure.
We watch for a little while before I turn back to the Poet.
You mentioned resentment. I don’t think I’m resentful.
A lilting, high-pitched laugh escapes from his lips.
Not resentful? Are you sure about that friendo? You regale me with your woes every week. Why did my project fail? Why did they say that to me? When will I be happy? Am I ever gonna be famous? Will they still be my friends then?
How can you be someone’s anyone before you set out to discover the contents of your soul? How will you know what your heart cries out for in a partner when it’s never examined with compassion?
Whenever your feelings dare arise, you immediately shove them down with mindless distractions. Can’t you see that you’re yearning for yourself to come home and play? Relax, soak into the dreamless rest of the void’s nothingness.
The Poet interrupts himself to shout an appreciative “Ole.” One of the boys has panna’d the other, cupping his ears for applause from an imaginary stadium. They look up and smile, their ears reddening in youthful self-consciousness.
He resumes his discourse.
The personas and aesthetics you adopt are but fantasies concocted by the part of you that’s most afraid. Afraid to know who you are. So what does it do?
It tries to figure out what other people might like. Those tattoos, those clothes, those shoes. Who are they for? Pour toi ou tout le monde? For you or everybody?
Do they make you happy because somebody sees you for once? You’ve breached their inner monologue’s defenses by peacocking. Mais, qui ont ils regardent? But, who are they seeing? You, or your accessories? Do they like you more than your gaudy bangles?
Why are you irritated that people don't invest in you when you’ve locked your soul away? You only present surface-level impressions of depth. Can you begrudge them their disinterest in splashing about in the shallows?
He accentuates the last sentence with a gesture at my tattoos.
I push back with a good-natured look of indignation at the plethora of his body ink.
Didn’t we agree that our tattoos' only purpose is to highlight the fact that we once had $300 burning a hole in our pockets?
The Poet smirks with ill-disguised mirth.
He doesn’t subscribe to the whole “my body is a temple” outlook. He sees his tattoos as the roadmap of his past self. They remind him of the people and places he had loved.
You’re right my friend. I didn’t mean to demonize the accouterments of your person. It’s when they overshadow you that the problem arises. They’ve kidnapped your true self and left it hogtied in the basement.
Souls are two-way mirrors. They can act as conduits of energy and love. Or they can reflect the impressions and thoughts you’ve accumulated over the years. Those impressions clog your being’s purity with the griminess of desire.
You must rid yourself of attachments to become free. Yet, be careful. Desiring to become detached is the final, most subtle attachment of all. It tricks you into thinking you've achieved perfection. In reality, all you've achieved is associating yourself with detachment.
You don’t notice the distance that has arisen. The chasm between yourself and the worldly attachments to yourself. For it’s you who engages in detachment, isn’t it? Those are the last dregs of ego swirling around the drain. Your identity has become “I am the one that's detached.”
Tired from their game, the boys have walked home. Faint echoes of their bliss mix with infinitesimal motes of dust to hang in the still summer air.
I lean back in my chair and rub a patch of stubble.
So how do we go from “I’m detached” to true detachment?
Lose your sense of “I”. It’s your final attachment to the illusions separating you from unity. You must become neti neti. Not this, not that. Not attached to the past nor detached from the future.
You’re aware of the universe cavorting within you.
You’re here, you’re now, you’re present. You finally remember your life’s intention. Not to crave, not to desire, not to lust. Not to have, not to hold, not to lose.