Archive for August, 2011

You see them at the portals of shopping establishments. Mechanisms containing candy or cheap prizes which dispense them for the price of inserting small change.

Children are especially susceptible to these small change bandits, with their cranking knobs and randomly released surprises.  The displays promise cool little toys or a delicious flavor experience if only you will take the plunge!

Usually what you get is predetermined—only different kinds of rubber balls or a figure from a collection—or the prize is lame.  You wanted the cheap metal skull ring and got a plastic pink smiley face instead.  The gum is good for about five seconds and then turns to sticky, tasteless wall sealant.  Sometimes, the machine doesn’t give you anything at all.

What a rip off!

Teaches a valuable lesson, however, doesn’t it? Beware of getting ripped off! All is not as it seems.

Yet we return again and again, hoping this time will be different.  Sometimes you get a halfway decent prize or experience, and then your parents are tired of waiting for you or don’t have any more change.

Oh yeah, this was like a religious observance for me. And there are many permutations of the gumball machine experience let me tell you!

One time at a Hardee’s hamburger joint, I discovered the back door so to speak.  The gumball machine only worked with tokens that you had to obtain by ordering something.

This particular gumball machine was enclosed in a kind of decoration, with the front flush to an opening where you accessed the machine.  I found that my arm was thin and wiry enough to reach up and down between the gap.

This enabled me to grab handfuls of prizes at a time!  I managed to fill my pockets before an employee noticed the crowd of kids watching me in awe and chased me out. Those prizes were some of the best I ever got too.

Then there are times when you come across a machine and everything you get is cool.  Neat stuff on a roll, and you run out of change.  When you come back the next day, however, the machine is gone!  Rip off!  But you still got some good loot, so it’s not a total rip off.

One time in Japan, in a remote mountain village I came across a gumball machine with small metal medieval weapons. Alas, I only had enough change to get three of these super cool items! Then I had to go and I couldn’t come back, due to my traveling schedule.  That’s how it goes!

In a sense, the gumball machine is a manifestation of the monstrance, that container that holds the sacred host.  It’s not unlike a dragon guarding treasure, or a form of the ordeal you face when you go on an adventure.

You pay your fare and take your chances. What is released is what you need—a tiny companion, a tool of play, a moment of sweetness—these are no small thing when one adventures in the depths of the soul! The worthless, useless thing turns out to be the most important of all.

These mechanisms may have been invented to separate children from their parent’s money in exchange for some “magic beans”, but even the charlatan may find themselves peddling rather more serious wares when destiny takes an intervening hand.

Everywhere you go, machines of meditation, teaching lessons as surely as any Kung Fu master to those who will listen. The time may come when we see how advanced these pieces of technology really are.

As a kid I did a lot of drawing. One of the things I enjoyed drawing were labyrinths with goodies at the center.  Over time these doodles evolved and began to acquire various characteristics.

At first, there was usually some treasure at the center.  Later on I began to tape paper doors over these pups so you couldn’t see what the treasure was until you got there—surprise!

Then a figure of adventure began to take shape.  Usually the figure was a girl, sometimes holding a torch.  On rare occasions it was a boy, and a few times it was a group of greedy hunters with hats—spittle spraying from their leering smiles.

The labyrinth became a maze, with dead ends and rooms with dangerous experiences.  Monsters, traps, accidents, or words saying “You didn’t find it sukkr!” or “Nope!”  These too were covered up with doors so you couldn’t know what was under them until it was too late: “Bomb, you ded!”

A map of the psyche perhaps, both for consideration of how people approach me, and how I approach myself.  We can get lost in the vastness of our own being, sometimes a map helps.

Can we find the gold in ourselves?  How much of a maze and/or labyrinth do we build around ourselves when dealing with others?  Do we let them have our gold, or do we direct them to the spear trap?

So I drew up another such map in the old style.  Without the paper doors, but I could code a table with rollover images now to adapt for the Internet.  Certainly not a difficult journey, although the hazards are still there. The path still connects the inside and outside—some people close off their paths completely, mind you.

Has the time come to perhaps re-examine my map and draw something more complex? Taking a bit of inspiration from my seriously inventive and clever insightful Hexe, I believe I shall attempt it!

I was reading a blog post today (which vanished and then came back), where the blogger did a shout-out to their call to adventure.

Basically going over what they had done in the past.  A recitation of their years of struggling with ordinary life, leading up to the moment in which they realized they needed to return to their quest.

We meditate like this, going over our treaded paths again and again until we see.

What stood out to me in their shout-out was the the early part.  About going out into the world on their adventure ready to die for the cause of goodness.  I thought rather than die for it, maybe the real adventure is to live for the cause of goodness.

The thing about goodness is that it can’t exist except in the face of evilness.  What does one do when one finds out they are the enemy?

Yet, evil spelled backwards is live.  Recognize the shadow at our feet.  As surely as the moment when Luke Skywalker standing triumphant over his father takes a moment to stare hard at his mechanical hand, we all have to eat a bit of dirt before we die.

Adults telling us how great we will be—putting their fears and hopes into us with their grandiose, inflated expectations might be one of those most horrific things they do to children.  It sets us up for disappointment and distracts us from our real nature.

What if we aren’t so great?  What if we are far from destined for glory?  Is it so bad to sweep floors and be content?

The temptation to imagine grand fantasies of our self-importance is one of the most devious tricks the One Ring plays on Samwise, filling his head with leading an army to defeat the Dark Lord and save the day.  Wisely, he turns away from this projected image and remembers that he’s just an average Joe.

Taking the One Ring to throw down the Dark Lord (and take his place!) or carrying on with the worst burden imaginable—which is the most glorious and noble act (if there is such a thing)?

“There’s a way to live with earth and a way not to live with earth.”

Holding on to one’s dreams and confronting the expectations society places on us are both common themes for women adventurers.  The system wears a black cape and works long hours draining the lifeblood out of dreams, distracting people with duty and responsibility.

Ultimately, the hero/heroine must surrender and die to themselves if they are to avoid being the tyrant of tomorrow.  This is the part of the journey known as the sparagmos—the tearing asunder, the sacrifice of the hero in the fire, the destruction and plunge into the abyss.

Evil. A failure. A nobody. Empty dreams and a lifetime of carrying buckets.

“I will fight no more forever.”

The labyrinth is filled with the bones of those who cried out in despair until they expired, lost in the woods to be picked apart by wargs…or worse.

People forget that what they imagine is real. The Black Hats are packing real guns and really do shoot women and children in the back.  Both in real life and in fantasy.

Hey! What are you doing listening to that voice telling you to get up? Stay down and scrub that floor, drone!

The Prophet Gibran speaks of evil being good tortured by hunger and thirst, drinking of dark waters by necessity.  That to stumble is only to walk without balance and may lead to a surer step.  Even a lost person may find their way, just as truly as a wicked person may step out of the mist and find themselves in sun.

Failure is discovery, and in our screw ups are found salvation! Even a nobody is somebody, for nothing is something.  Dreams can strike without warning and waken you to the secret Kung Fu concealed by a lifetime meditation of waxing on and off cleaning the floors.

It’s stupid and foolish, and pointless, but we crawl on.  We live, transformed and transfigured by dying in our minds.

Humbled, head bowed on hands and knees, we see the glint in the dirt.

The camel throws off its burdens and becomes a lion.  To the sounds of tumultuous thunder, you stand up.

“The wolves are running.”

Can you feel all the heroines who passed on to become queens through the ages standing beside you, dazed as you are?

The lengthy and lonely moments of longing and hoping, of wondering are a feature not a bug—or if they are a bug then they are the secret and hidden Goldbug!  Now you can see what is before your eyes and truly behold the treasure you were seeking.

Time to get to do the thing, lioness.  You have one more change to undergo and recognize before you complete the journey.

Now begins a different set of challenges. Only this time you can see in the night, having accepted the darkness inside your own self.