Feb 25, 2008

3. End of the Road

SnakewalkConsciousness is a light that once burned deep in the stars. Reason is not its outcome but its suffering.

I think about that every time I come here, to the end of this road.

Look how abruptly the asphalt terminates. The boundary of the artificial frames the indivisible. That frame is our sanity.

And the faded line of paint --- it’s famous in all our lives, isn’t it? A line of agreement more binding than any contract. How often on any given day does your life depend on this … streak of paint?

What a perfect emblem of the collective mind. Our consensus understanding of what is right and wrong, of where we belong and where not resides in this painted line. And here is where that understanding ends.

Beyond here, there are no agreements.

My elder friends, the stonemovers, won’t take a single step past the end of this road. They are agile, leather-faced men in their eighties, who grew up in an agrarian environment steeped in ancient traditions. They individually chose to pursue a unique and remarkable vision as the islands became increasingly commercialized by the onslaught of American culture. Disgruntled with the politics of both American statehood and contentious Hawaiian revivalism, they look back to the time of the earliest settlers, who arrived from the Marquesas around 300 C.E.

For over a thousand years, the original islanders cultivated these initially desolate volcanic islands, constructing irrigation systems, terrace agriculture, fish ponds and sacred shrines of astronomical orientation. They established a vivacious and independent civilization --- until invading Tahitians obliterated them and installed a formidable warrior culture, which is what the world today recognizes as Hawaiian. Nothing remains of the original islanders except their obscure stone constructions.

My friends imagine they are descended from the islands’ first people, and if you even suggest that there is no possible way that could be true, you earn their derision and enduring disregard. As a science fiction writer, I have no problem with people imagining whatever they like. I respect the imagination, and I accept that these men, alienated by the brutal subordination of Polynesian culture by American interests, retreated into a secret society of their own making.

They believe that the stones (as well as the flora and fauna) speak to them. In conversation with the stones of ancient shrines, they have reconstructed the spiritual identity of sites long forgotten by the incursive Tahitians. The sacred places, which to outsiders appear as rubble fields overgrown with vegetation, offer secrets from the depths of our awareness: mysteries of death, regeneration and joy.

But to reclaim these secrets, the shrines must be restored, and these men have been doing just that since their adolescence in the 1930s and 40s. The work is arduous, because many of the stones have fallen off high crests and wait to be reclaimed out of dangerously steep and thorny ravines, and then hauled up narrow, friable trails to windy ridgelines. Along the way, the stones offer helpful suggestions, encouragement and a peculiar psychophysical force that magnifies ordinary human strength.

Despite having developed uncanny powers, the stonemovers will not enter the crater where we are now going. That’s because the deity whose vagina imprinted this land is the fearsome and dread goddess of sorcery, Kapo-‘ula-‘kina’u. She is the intense inner event of our own deaths and what lies beyond. For men, whose meaning and power reside in the warmth and beauty of this world, to enter the vagina of sorcery is … madness.

The end of this road is the hinge between worlds. The ordinary and the extraordinary join here, like the event horizon of black holes. One more step and the familiar world falls away and no retreat can reclaim it. If the stonemovers could have their say, they would warn you to go no farther. Shake it like a snake and make your break, right now, back down the winding sidewalk to the parking lot and the dayworld of bitter truths and the heart of your childhood.

I will pause here to give you that opportunity. Heed the wild patience of these old islanders, who have imagined a magnanimous truth and altered the world at the expense of history. We can all do the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stone Titaness was cool..

The great grandmama composed of stone was cool..

all in The Dragons of Babel..
ok/ok patience is virtuous..
Starthrower was in a dream twice recently and both times it took place in an alternate Hawaii..
The second dream..produced a thousand foot construct built in a second by a googol of nanobots..
I made a drawing of it when I got up from my futon...

12:50 PM  

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