Wings of Fire

In a few days she’ll be back, wrapped inside a thunderstorm and with wings made of fire.

She’ll visit me in that garden where we first met — under the tree with no name and leaves heavy with iron.

And together we’ll drink the venom that bleeds from the tree, and which turns Eden into a dying mire.

Then I, too, will get my wings and together we will fly. High into the heavens where mortals go to die.

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THE DUSTY TRAIL, THE WITHERING JUNGLE, AND THE LONESOME YOUTH: REMEMBERING ZARATHUSTRA

dusty path…And it happened that as I was traveling on the Dusty Trail, as I weaved through the denseness of a thick, Withering Jungle that had long ago begun to decay, I noticed how much of the flora this deterioration had infected, withering once-colourful flowers into black lumps of crispy, dead petals. My heart quivered with sadness; my hands trembled with rage. I looked around desperately, hoping someone was around with whom to share my great discontent: my panic at what I was seeing in front of me, my fear of the possibility that I too may begin withering and crumbling, leaving nothing but broken pieces of a man to carry my name and breath into the auras of the future. But I saw no one; I was alone.

But I knew that I simply could not go on my own selfish way after having seen this, just leaving it to continue to rot,  hoping someone else may find it so that they may fix it. There had to be a root: there had to be an infected piece at the base, where the nutrients flowed into the soil – a reason why Color and Freedom had been taken away from these jungles, and why Darkness and Dullness had taken their place, reigning over the Living. So I veered from the dusty path on which I’d been walking and broke through a thick net of jagged branches and black lumps to my left that had once been flowers and leaves — when Freedom still reigned — but which were now void of everything…even Death.

But it happened that as I walked deeper and deeper through this swamp of branches and dead trees, I began hearing ghostly whispers and even macabre howls that sounded like tortured souls emanating from within the bowels of the jungle; at other times they sounded like vultures or demonic creatures screeching far in the horizon and swooping down on me.  But there was nothing there. At other times I’d see shrubs shaking or swaying, and I’d feel something run past me but, again, there was nothing there. Panic was taking hold….My Solitude in this place became magnified, which made my goal – to reach the root of the problem and fix it – seem ludicrous and suicidal, and my faith wavered as my knees buckled with fear in the face of the utter lonesomeness in which I found myself.

I felt like I wanted to turn back, like I should let the demons scare me…like I should let them win, for I knew they were purposefully scaring me; that they wanted me to turn back so as to let them continue to Absorb the Life of this Wonderful Jungle and to Control the Freedom of Growth and Evolution. And just then, just when I’d reached the climax of my horror, my mind had a flashback to an earlier time – to a time of formation – when I had read a tale that, until then, had only seemed like wonderful poetry lauding the soul…like beautiful words…But at that very moment, the words were actually the catalyst I needed to renew my strength and faith and to finish that Great Trek I had started…if not for myself, for the ecstasy that is seeing Life Grow…

And so it happened that I remembered a tale that had found Zarathustra walking “alone through the mountains surrounding the town which is called The Motley Cow,” where he’d suddenly found the same young man who had been avoiding him on days past, leaning against a Lonesome Tree Atop the Mountain, and “looking wearily into the valley.” Gripping the “tree under which the youth was sitting,” Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

“If I wanted to shake this tree with my hands I should not be able to do it. But the wind, which we do not see, tortures and bends it in whatever direction it pleases. It is by invisible hands that we are bent and tortured the worst…But it is with man as it is with the tree. The more he aspires to the height and light, the more strongly do his roots strive earthward, downward, into the dark, the deep – into evil…”

And with these words I began to feel anew. Then, upon realizing that I’d have to cut and maim some branches – get rid of what wouldn’t let me pass, and even sacrifice some remaining, seemingly healthy petals to avoid further infection of the blooming ones, that is, of the Future to Come – my hands became heavy with doubt. And then again I remembered Zarathustra’s wise words:IMG_20130412_111235

“Some souls one will never discover, unless one invents them first.”

My situation, I noted, was not unlike the young man who had been sitting by the tree, who’d wavered after having climbed so high that he found himself entirely unaccompanied, even spiteful of himself and confused at his choice to Fly so High and so utterly alone; after having received the full brunt of those he’d left Under – with the Herd – and who now casted aspersions at him for having dared questioned and shaken their complacent and dormant acquiescence. There, isolated, bedevilled and mentally exhausted, he Thus Spoke to Zarathustra:

“I no longer trust myself since I aspire to the height, and nobody trusts me any more; how did this happen? I change too fast: my today refutes my yesterday. I often skip steps when I climb: no step forgives me that. When I am at the top I always find myself alone. Nobody speaks to me; the frost of loneliness makes me shiver. What do I want up high? My contempt and my longing grow at the same time; the higher I climb, the more I despise the climber. What does he want up high? How ashamed I am of my climbing and stumbling! How I mock at my violent panting! How I hate the flier! How weary I am up high!”

Calmly, Zarathustra responds thus:

“This tree stands lonely here in the mountains; it grew high above man and beast. And if it wanted to speak it would have nobody who could understand it, so high has it grown. Now it waits and waits – for what is it waiting? It dwells too near the seat of the clouds: surely, it waits for the first lighting.”

Unhinged by the magnificent revelation, and as he “wept bitterly,” the Youth, in turn, responds thus:

“Yes, Zarathustra! You are speaking the truth. I longed to go under when I aspired to the height, and you are the lightning for which I waited. Behold, what am I, now that you have appeared among us? It is the envy of you that has destroyed me.”

Putting “his arm around him” and leading him away, Zarathustra says to the Youth:

“It tears my heart. Better than your words tell it, your eyes tell me of all your dangers. You are not yet free, you will search for freedom. You are worn from your search and over-awake. You aspire to the free heights, your soul thirsts for the stars. But your wicked instincts, too, thirst for freedom. Your wild dogs want freedom; they bark with joy in their cellar when your spirit plans to open all prisons. To me you are still a prisoner who is plotting his freedom: alas, in such prisoners the soul becomes clever, but also deceitful and bad. And even the liberated spirit must still purify himself. Much prison mountain tree lightning 2and mustiness still remain in him: his eyes must still become pure.

“Indeed I know your danger,” he continued. “But by my love and hope I beseech you: do not throw away your love and hope!

“You still feel noble, and the others too feel your nobility, though they bear you a grudge and send you evil glances. Know that the noble stands in everybody’s way. The noble man stands in the way of the good too: and even if they call him one of the good, they thus want to do away with him. The noble man wants to create something new and a new virtue. The good want the old, and that the old be preserved. But this is not the danger of the noble man, that he might become one of the good, but a churl, a mocker, a destroyer.”

I was more calm. The shrubbery felt less jagged.

And Zarathustra’s words continued reciting themselves in my head, as if being whispered by a tiny being in my mind reading straight from the book:

“Alas, I knew noble men who lost their highest hope. Then they slandered all high hopes. Then they lived impudently in brief pleasures and barely cast their goals beyond the day. Spirit too is lust, so they said. Then the wings of their spirit broke: And now their spirit crawls about and soils what it gnaws. Once they thought of becoming heroes: now they are voluptuaries. The hero is for them an offense and a fright.

“But by my love and hope, I beseech you,” Zarathustra had said. “Do not throw away the hero in your soul! Hold holy your highest hope!”

And the voice intonating Zarathustra’s speech went on inside my muddled brain:

“‘He who seeks, easily gets lost. All loneliness is guilt’ – thus speaks the herd. And you have long belonged to the herd. The voice of the herd will still be audible in you. And when you will say, “I no longer have a common conscience with you,” it will be a lament and an agony. Behold, this agony itself was born of the common conscience, and the last glimmer of that conscience still glows on you affliction.

“But do you want to go the way of your affliction, which is the way to yourself? Then show me your right and your strength to do so. Are you a new strength and a new right? A first movement? A self-propelled wheel? Can you compel the very stars to revolve around you?

“Alas, there is so much lusting for the heights! There are so many convulsions of the ambitions. Show me that you are not one of the lustful and ambitious.

“Alas, there are so many great thoughts which do no more than a bellows: they puff up and make emptier.

You call yourself free? Your dominant thought I want to hear, and not that you have escaped from a yoke. Are you one of those who had the right to escape from a yoke? There are some who threw away their last value when they threw away their servitude.

Free from what? As if that mattered to Zarathustra! But your eyes should tell me brightly: free for what?

IMG_20130406_094039The words lingered in my mind. The sharp audible contrast between the from and the for sounds were impactful, much more than a simply auditory curiosity…They meant a lot more…The Jungle in front of me began taking a new look, a new air about it – there seemed to be a new aura emanating from and palpitating in the centre, where all the jungle’s energy seemed to concentrate, and where I figured the poison would have to be bled….Tribal Drumming was filling the background, and my heart itself seemed to be navigating towards the Centre…The palpitations, I then realized, were coming from within me….And then the voice intonating Zarathustra’s song came back:

Can you give yourself your own evil and your own good and hang your own will over yourself as a law? Terrible it is to be alone with the judge and the avenger of one’s own law. Thus is a star thrown out into the void and into the icy breath of solitude. Today you are still suffering from the many, being one: today your courage and your hopes are still whole. But the time will come when solitude will make you weary, when your pride will double up, and your courage gnash its teeth. And you will cry, ‘I am alone!’ The time will come when that which seems high to you will no longer be in sight, and that which seems low will be all too near; even what seems sublime to you will frighten you like a ghost. And you will cry, ‘All is false!’

The words, again, were palpably true! My enthusiasm at giving a helping hand in the reconstruction of this Exotic Jungle had wavered; I had seen the black petals, and my skin had torn after getting caught on the jagged branches, and the sight of my own blood had made me think of turning back – of abandoning all hope and fight and sacrifice, and just run for the dusty path which, though still lonely, was decorated with artificial trees and plants that gave the impression of life…I had wavered…But the invoked words worked to placate my fear again and invigorate me with courage:

“There are feelings which want to kill the lonely; and if they do not succeed, well, then they themselves must die,” Zarathustra had said. And then he’d asked: “But are you capable of this – to be a murderer?” And I was now asking myself the same question:

I swallowed the thought with ambivalence, and my brain continued to recite Zarathustra:

“My brother, do you know the word ‘contempt’ yet? And the agony of your justice – being just to those who despise you? You force many to relearn about you; they charge it bitterly against you. You came close to them and yet passed by: that they will never forgive. You pass over and beyond them: but the higher you ascend, the smaller you appear to the eye of envy. But most of all they hate those who fly….”

Yes! I was beginning to realize that perhaps I was ready…And plus, by God! I had gotten my wings!

“‘How would you be just to me?’ you must say,” continued Zarathustra. “‘I choose your injustice as my proper lot.’ Injustice and filth they throw after the lonely one: but, my brother, if you would be a star, you must not shine less for them because of that.

“And beware of the good and the just!” I immediately remembered he’d warned against that very cautiously. “They like to crucify those who invent their own virtue for themselvesthey hate the lonely one. Beware also of holy simplicity! Everything that is not simple it considers unholy; it also likes to play with fire – the stake. And beware also of the attacks of your love! The lonely one offers his hand too quickly to whomever he encounters. To some people you may not give your hand, only a paw; and I desire that your paw should also have claws.

“But the worst enemy you can encounter will always be you, yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caves and woods.” Under the circumstances – in the midst I was in – the reality of those words resonated within me, and made me feel enlarged.

“Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself. And your way leads past yourself and your seven devils. You will be a heretic to yourself and a witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and a villain. You must wish to consume yourself in your own flame: how could you wish to become new unless you had first become ashes!

“Lonely one, you are going the way of the creator: you will create a god for yourself out of your seven devils…”

My heart was beating faster…

Lonely one, you are going the way of the lover: yourself you love, and therefore you despise yourself, as only lovers despise. The lover would create because he despises. What does he know of love who did not have to despise precisely what he loved!”

I was trembling faster and harder, realizing the events that were going to take place; realizing what my brain, guided by the great feelings of love the speech had reminded me of, was now telling me I should do if we were to arrive at the Centre, which now was an arm’s length away…With tears in my eyes, and with a sublime understanding of the reasons for the very violent acts which my arms were executing, a machete came down with all the force of a thousand horses and chopped the rotten though still living branches, flowers and shrubs that blocked the Centre. My heart was heavy with sadness, feeling myself a destroyer of life….but my mind was fixed on the prize: on that vortex from which life flowed outward, and which, until now, had been saturated by venomous weeds masqueraded as unhealthy roses. And Zarathustra’s words came rushing back:

“Go into your loneliness with your love and with your creation, my brother; and only much later will justice limp after you.

“With my tears go into your loneliness, my brother. I love him who wants to create over and beyond himself and thus perishes.”

And Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

thick jungle 2And as I reached the Center, though alone, I felt accompanied by the spirit of the Jungle, which, upon feeling my first efforts of Liberating it, seemed to dance and rejoice with the enthusiasm of someone who’s been given their sight back, or whose suffocating muzzle has finally been removed. And with every breath that I inhaled and exhaled, the Jungle seemed to swell as it breathed with me, and we became one…

…And so it happened, that the Jungle regained its colour, and I my strength.

A Tale of Truth, Fiction and Crime

WINTER FORESTThe white, furry beast trudged through the forest, ahead of myself, who from time to time stopped to take in the icy scenery. The cold was bitter, to be sure, but it had not fully frozen the streams and ravines, so that their crystalline water sparkled as it flowed beneath imperceptible layers of ice, roaring gently, like a small sleeping animal. The rest of the forest, which in summer-time engulfed these sparkling waters with thick and lustrous flora, seemed to have a surreal, almost fairy-tale-like look to it in the winter, with icicles stretching from the tip of naked tree branches covered only by a white blanket of snow that sparkled as radiantly as the water; the slightly mountainous terrain gave the entire trip the air of a quest, as we trudged and climbed and even crawled at times; in the sun-light, which peered intermittently through the opened branches of the tallest eucalyptus trees, the entire thing felt enchanted behind an azure hue, though at night and against the bitter cold, the darkness behind the trees felt macabre, and you could almost hear whispers emanating from within the nothingness that seemed to lurk in there. But at this time we were safe, and practically felt serenaded by a concert only orchestrated for our quest – a mixture of nature sounds that seemed to still break through the bitter and lonesome winter cold in the humming of the waters, the guttural hollowing of the air and the rest of the subtle background full of hidden chitters and snapping twigs. But there was not much time to stay still, for my furry companion was still young and impatient, and he demanded that we carry on. Plus, remaining for too long in the same spot was an easy reminder to the bones of how cold it was outside, despite the breath-taking scenery.

However, despite moving quite quickly, by the time we arrived at the peak of the forest, where the little furry beast knew we’d set up camp, the sun was already slowly disappearing behind the trees at the western end, illuminating the sky above them a fiery purple and orange colour, which made it feel as if we were being set on fire. My wolf-like companion, full of energy and completely equipped to not only stand the winter cold but, indeed, to thrive in it, ran around frantically, barking and howling in a seemingly uncontrolled but elated fit. When I finished setting up camp, we played together, fighting as most brothers do – without a care in the world and full of confidence in the other. But as the night began to approach faster and faster, with darkness beginning to engulf everything like a gigantic devouring maw, we settled into our nest near the fire, and braced ourselves for the wonders and terrors that come with the night, especially under the open, vast and unforgiving winter sky. The cold was surprisingly tamed, so it was easier to stare into the nothingness without feeling assaulted at the joints. After a while, I realized I must have dozed off, or perhaps just lost myself in the night, because I suddenly became aware that the little furry beast had run off. I got up and began calling for him immediately but heard no response, so I started walking towards the thick blackness in front of me, where I was sure only trees and night critters lurked.

Nevertheless, as I approached the darkness, away from my camp-fire, I began hearing twigs snapping and a low growling that I recognized as that of my own furry friend. When I finally got near enough to make out a slight silhouette in front of me, with the aid of the beast’s white fur, I realized he was tugging at something that he held in his mouth, but which was attached firmly at the other end to something which I could not make out. I called out to the beast but he refused to come; he simply continued tugging and growling. When I got a little closer, and aiding myself with the scant moon-light that was sheepishly peering through, I realized it was only a tree branch. Relieved that it wasn’t anything or anyone else, I let out a deep sigh and rested my back against the nearest tree, still able to witness the scene. And that was it…The only thing that happened after that was that I watched the beast tug at the branch and pull it backwards until it snapped, making such a loud “THWACK” sound that it resonated through the hollow forest like a gunshot. I felt there was something sinister about that entire scene; that I was enjoying seeing the beast tear at that poor branch for no reason at all, and that I felt somewhat disturbed at that fact. NIGHT TREE

When it was all finished, a green scab covered what was now the stub of the branch, and the beast simply ran off with the rest of it in his mouth, happily prancing back to our camp-site. I was speechless, for I felt as if I had witnessed a crime, almost enjoyed it, and had done absolutely nothing to stop the perpetrator or even help the poor victim who, I immediately began to realize, had been utterly defenceless. I approached the mangled tree slowly, almost embarrassed to be in its presence and finally placed my hand on its wounded and severed limb. I began to feel infused with something; to feel something inside of me…Emotion…Yes, that’s what it was…I began to feel emotion for this victim, and I whispered, “I’m sorry…” I don’t know why. But I felt as if I were starring into the watery eyes of a bullied victim after the fact; as if I were responsible for not having stopped the tyrant when I saw what he was doing and had the chance to do so…

******

I realized then that all those fears of the night which I had held onto not long before, and the images of something horrendous lurking in there, waiting to snatch my soul or my mind away, were indeed unfounded. And not because they are impossible things, for the mind is powerful and can find any horror where it faithfully seeks to find one; but because what really lurks in the night in the deepest and thickest forests and jungles and parks and backyards are only Trees: Guardians of our most precious need – oxygen – and authors of our most coveted dreams – pure and awing beauty.

As we walked back the following night, now against a slightly harsher cold, the trek suddenly felt more alive…more holistic…more serious…more solemn. And the engulfing night no longer seemed tenebrous but rather tender, like a cozy and quiet womb inviting you to rest. However, what really felt different was the way these benevolent giant creatures, who’d never dare cause harm and who never speak a word, seemed to be watching over us, painting a picture of enchantment and reality far beyond the confines of our understanding.