Archive for August, 2013

143_thosewhodidntmakeitThis post is for people who have played or studied the Journey video game on the PS3. If you don’t know what this video game is about, check out the wiki article here.

Spoilers are a-comin’ in, so if you want to avoid major reveals then take the tape out now and vamoose.

One of the more interesting parts of the video game for me is the point where your character collapses on the slope of the mountain. There’s a lot of dialogue about what this moment means and how to interpret what happens afterwards.

The game takes an open-ended approach to interpretation, and this is one of its sources of appeal. A blank slate allows you to project onto it anything that suits you.

However, the choices you make in constructing a blank slate still reveal certain clues. Narrative choices, however vague, define and limit the available meanings. As a storyteller you can’t help but make “poker tells” along the way.

When I experienced the scene of my journeyer’s collapsed form, surrounded by the white robed figures, I broke down in tears. This is a moment I experienced in my real life, so I recognized what was happening immediately.

This is the final defeat, the last temptation, the lowest point.

What happened next in-game also resonated with me. Like my own experience, the journeyer’s soul is illuminated from within and you find a new experience of life. One that carries you past the last gap and into the new life waiting for you.

This is your moment of atonement, of bowing down low enough to allow the call to finally be heard.

What I find most interesting is how easily people interpret this part of the game to mean you died. In a game where you can travel like a bird and sing with a holy voice, it’s easier to believe you died and either went to heaven or were resurrected.

Not that others before you didn’t die. The whole side of that slope you climb is littered with gravestones. And I don’t want to ruin your experience either, but instead have you consider another idea.

The idea that in the moment where you couldn’t go another step you opened yourself to the divine and found in yourself resources that were provided all along.

It’s easy to see defeat as being like death, and in a lot of ways it is—you are forced to believe that your time has come and you are in need of help greater than you believe is within you. Will you give up?

Much easier to believe some outside force lifts you up and carries you the rest of the way, or that you are done and get to see the end as a consolation prize. At least then the blame falls somewhere else.

No. This is the most important moment of your life. If free will exists it is a very tiny thing, and so all the more important that you use what little you have. The entire world is waiting to see what you will do.

Joseph Campbell said, “The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.”

Defeat is not a negation of your identity. It is a facet of your identity.

I’m going to break it down for you.

First of all, the game spells it out. You have to look closely at the clues, but it’s there. During the visions in which the story of the past is revealed to you, what a dead “Clothian” looks like is shown pretty clearly.


Face and body down, no spark of life in the heart space. In the ground.

Later on in the lighthouse you are shown the full majesty of your journey and what it is leading up to—your experience at the holy mountain.


You are on your knees; face bowed down, but your heart space still has the spark of life.


In the two player version of the game the second figure has their face up. This injects time into the narrative and suggests that the way forward means bowing down and then looking up, which is exactly what happens.

In the lighthouse, the vision story of your journey stops at the moment of your humbling before the holy mountain. This is because it’s not known yet what you will do. Will you give up and die? Will you finally heed the call with your whole heart? It’s the scariest moment because the outcome is in doubt.

If it was inevitable that you die then the vision story in the lighthouse would have reflected that.

Mind you, you can still cling to your “I died” experience if you want. The game doesn’t take that away from you. However, see what a brave step the game actually is taking! It is giving you an experience of wonderful healing and joy by showing you how it happens.

And here’s how it happens.

You’ve reached what you think is the last climb to the peak of the holy mountain, only to discover that it’s still far away. You climb the next slope as the worst blizzard of the game hammers you into submission. Lightning flashes and thunder roars. The two monsters are waiting overhead. Your scarf is blown away to shreds and you are frozen to the bone.

Somehow, you come through the storm, only to watch the mountain fade from view as a circular cloud formation whirls in the sky. You can barely walk, and are losing strength with each step. You are exhausted at last, despite all you have done.


This is the center of the storm. When the center passes and the storm begins again, it’s a fair bet that you may not survive. Either the cold will claim you or the monsters will be able to finish you off in your weakened condition. And you still have a long way to go!

You fall. This is as far as you can go as you are. Hopelessness seizes you.

For a while all is a blank, then some consciousness returns. You are on a flat space—you made it to the next crest somehow. Maybe you fell over because you were leaning against the slope and when it eased out you fell forward.


You are not alone. You were never alone. Are they angels? Ancestors? Sages? Regardless of who you believe them to be, something is different. You can see them now! Without the help of the story stones you used in the previous waypoints of your journey.

I think of the words of Carl Jung at a moment like this: “Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as they believed God did in former days. When I hear such questions, it always makes me think of the Rabbi who was asked how it could be that God was manifest to people in the olden days whereas nowadays nobody ever sees God. The rabbi replied, ‘Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.'”

Are you not beaten? Is this not the lowest point you might reach?


The figures merely witness you, their alignment mirroring the climb you have made to higher levels of knowledge. Yet, knowledge alone is not enough. You must have understanding as well.


All around you the motes of the divine word fall amongst you, much like the snowflakes that pelt your exhausted frame. Always there, always calling. You heard, you awakened, and you made the journey. Yet still you did not heed. Until now.


You open your eyes. At last you finally see who is always there, for all people at all times. You don’t need the story stones anymore. You have atoned.


You rise from the depths, head bowed, humble, letting the call reach all the way into your heart.


The moment of enlightenment is here. Your scarf, symbol of your connection to the living spirit, returns and grows, and grows, and continues to grow.


Head still bowed, you see your heart is still alive, strong, glowing with the joy that is one with you now.


You return your attention to the journey. The last blow of the storm about to strike. On your knees, head bowed, you are glowing with the holy light that illuminates your soul. You have accepted the call all the way through.


Then, you fly. Through the center of the storm and across the gap to bridge heaven and earth. The dream at the beginning of the game is fulfilled. Your people and the divine are reconciled.


So strong is this opening of the heart and the hearing of the call that even the two monsters cannot harm you any longer. They try again and again to seize you, but their actions only bring them into the light where they are restored to their true forms. Your enemies. Your guardians of the gateway. Your friends.


You pass through the threshold into your new experience of life. You are almost to the top of the holy mountain! Your activities are now filled with a sense of awe and happiness, maybe some apprehension?

I am reminded of a narration from the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments: “Learning that it can be more terrible to live than to die, he is driven onward through the burning crucible of desert, where holy men and prophets are cleansed and purged for god’s great purpose, until at last, at the end of human strength, beaten into the dust from which he came, the metal is ready for the maker’s hand.

And he found strength from a fruit-laden palm tree…and life-giving water flowing from the well of Midian.”

Have you not found the true source of all strength and life? Here the spirit creatures roam free, unsullied by human bondage. The only human structures here are the Tori gates, which are simple monuments to sacrifice and worship.

You are finally ready. At the top of the holy mountain you will realize your calling.

Have confidence! By all means we are living in a sad, pitiful wasteland of people who close themselves off. Yet still, a humble video game reminds us all that we can shine.

It can be done and indeed, will be done.

141_pdxdeathtrapThat’s “lair of the spider” for those of you who don’t know Sindarin.

Michael the cat’s demise has got me thinking about my Battle of the Galaxies with the Gingerbread Witch. Michael’s poor health made him a weak point in my defenses against the all-out attack of my adversary. It makes the conflict serious in a way I’d hoped to avoid.

I’ve been mopping up the traps and minions left behind in the wake of the burning up of the Gingerbread Witch. There’s more work here than any one person can hope to achieve, but I have been making a start so adventurers after me can dig for gold with less jackup.

Just like that, the Nightchild came back to me with reminders. He’s been doing stuff.

I’ve been meditating on the passing of my beloved cat ani-pal. I barely managed to escape being a victim of horror. I barely managed to defeat that horror. The costs to myself I accepted, yet to have a dear companion fall in the struggle hits me hard. Michael didn’t have a conscious say in this as far as I could tell. Did I tell him in my sleep that it would be like this?

Michael the cat was stubborn and strong willed. I don’t know how many hits he took for me, but I know he didn’t think twice. His meow bombing made him a target because even the Gingerbread Witch could not resist a cat giving her a severe penalty to her actions.

Maybe he bought me the time I needed to figure out the Gingerbread Witch’s secrets and dumpster her once and for all. He only knew he loved me and wanted me to reach my goal.

As awesome as I have been, I still needed someone to watch my back.

Michael the cat lasted as long as he could. He got to see me victorious, healing, moving past the horror of my life. I’d learned the lessons he’d been trying to teach me over the years, of patience and kindness to the unlovable. His work was done.

This death of a dear intimate friend affects me all the way to the core. It changes things in me. I haven’t been able to form a coherent thought for a month. He was on borrowed time as it was; yet still I feel a sense of guilt because my adventure put him at greater risk.

Even though I know in my soul he wouldn’t give a damn about no Gingerbread Witch. He wanted what he wanted and he loved me even as he was in the most intense of long-term pain.

All I can do is break open the barrows of Portland Oregon, spill out the treasures into the sunlight and rain so that a fresh rose of human being can grow and blossom without fear of horrific devouring. Scram, evil spirits! You’re done.

I take my share of the treasure, plundering the Mummy’s Tomb for the jewels that are mine to have and use for the work I will do to bring new life to the world. People will live better lives, but it still chokes in my throat. For once I cannot say the mantras, the prayers, the songs that would spring to my lips.

The price feels too high to pay now.

142_goodbyemichaelcatMy trusted and adorable ani-pal companion Michael The Cat is dead. This is a blow to me. It’s also a blow to K, and our other kitties Blink and Frankie.

Even though his demise was long anticipated it still hits me right in the vitals.

He was a terrible cat—needy, high maintenance, puked everywhere all the time, and he laid the nastiest poops I have ever had the privilege of smelling. Michael was a difficult cat to love, but I loved him with a fierce devotion despite his mind-numbing flaws.

Michael had cardiomyopathy. He was on drugs for that. He had a tendency to get crystals in his bladder so he was on a special food for that. He survived two operations to clean his bladder like it was nothing. The last six months he was having seizures or mini strokes and was on medicine for that. Fifteen years is not a bad run for a cat with so many health problems.

He never lacked for food and water, affection, pets, and a lap to sit on. Toys galore, high end cat litter—he had it all. He would purr all the time when he wasn’t howling like a banshee for what he wanted. There were many sleepless nights trying to figure out what he needed when he needed it.

The honeycomb hideout is so quiet now it’s uncanny.

The move to Portland must have been the shock that set him on a downward spiral. The move cross country to a cramped apartment with no air conditioning. The coyotes at night howling, the maintenance on the deck, and the stress of his human owners all added up to a push down the drain.

Something gave and he started to fill up with fluid in two sections of his body cavity. Pink fluid in his chest, milky white fluid in his abdomen. It made it hard for him to breathe and lay down. He stood by the food bowl for hours. It was heartbreaking.

Took him to the vet and had him drained, but the vet was like “this is it man, whatever it is none of the causes are good.” Skilled hippie vet with a jazz beard with all the knowledge, telling us the whole picture and what our options were.

Deflated like a balloon, Michael got to eat whatever he wanted and slept like a baby again for about a week. We petted him, talked with him, let him know we loved him and thanked him for everything. He started to swell up again though.

He had a meal with the other three cats all at once—tender beef feast his favorite. Then we all got to have one last Belonging Time together on the couch, watching the original Star Trek. He closed his eyes and for a moment was at peace. Then when it was over and we were getting ready to go to bed he had a seizure, crying out, relieving himself. Worst one ever. K and I believed he was telling us it was time.

For the last time ever I cleaned up his nasty poops, we put him in the kitty carrier, and the other cats said goodbye to him with a nose kiss. Then off to the vet.

The late night clinic was awesome. They did everything right to get us to where we needed to be. We said goodbye to Michael, but he was having trouble being present. Just before the injections began he rallied a little, to face the East, but we were committed. He grew limp as we spoke to him, petting him.

After a while his body grew cold and we had to say our last goodbyes, walk out of the room and never see him again. That was such a hard thing to do, even though I knew there was nothing else we could have done, that we did the right thing.

Out into the growing daylight of a new morning. I can only hope he has gone to someplace fun, what else have I got? As much as I know what I know while I’m alive, I still don’t really know what awaits us.

Grieving. Got Michael’s ashes a few days later. We’ve put him in a place of honor for the ritual of keeping and releasing. We keep having poltergeist effects and seeing him out of the corner of our eye. We set out a little food and water for him, a catnip leaf for him like he would love.

I dreamt that he visited me as an angelic owl cat much bigger than he used to be. He licked my hand and I knew he didn’t blame us for deciding that was it, that he loved us and he was our kitty.

Blink is happy to have one less competitor, while Frankie is depressed that her playmate is gone. Exact opposite of what K and I expected.

It’s a tremendous blow to my psyche. Michael and I spent many a long moment together on the Marshmellow Couch cuddling and relating to one another. The Marshmellow Couch is gone and now Michael is gone too. He was a good cat.

The vet told us that white and longhaired male cats are known for being stubborn and strong willed. K and I had to laugh. Now you tell us! It explains everything.

140_gameoftoiletsI’ve been sitting on the dumper with this one for a while. Now that the TV series has effectively broken the book series out of the echo chamber and into the mainstream, I figured now is a good time to examine what’s going on with this story.

If you don’t know what Game of Thrones is, all you need to know is that it’s a story about rich people in medieval times raping, torturing and killing their servants and each other over who gets to sit on the Iron Toilet and call themselves King of the Dumpers. The twist is that none of them know they can’t win until the author gets tired of writing thousand page bestsellers.

The story has two things going for it which I think are noteworthy and worth remarking about.

First, it’s a limited information campaign. Messages, news, and rumor travel slowly if at all. Often when people hear that so-and-so attacked what’s-his-name’s castle with a mallet, so-and-so has already killed what’s-his-name and eaten all the chicken tenders in the winter stores.

But it goes further. Intelligence gathering is primitive and unreliable. People misjudge, jump to (often wrong) conclusions, and make dangerous decisions without knowing crucial information. For example, who-is-he-again assumes all assassination attempts against him are from the same some-dude-he-hates because he heard somewhere-or-other that some-dude-he-hates doesn’t like him either.

It makes for a compelling read because one can’t help but share the character-of-the-moment’s bias. Then in the next chapter you get a whole different perspective and start to wonder what the truth really is. It’s a nice trick, giving the reader an omniscient observation based on clueless people.

The second thing the story has going for it is the immersive identity politics of the rich families. They all have memorable catch phrases, distinct recognizable qualities, and totemic animals designed to appeal to various consumer self-images.

Because there are multiple points of view, readers can choose which side of the power fantasy they want to explore and root for. Go Ice Weasels! Show those nasty Toe Jammers who’s the boss.

This appeals to the very basest urges of nationalism, drawing in our desire to see ourselves in the heroes of our projections. It has an irresistible attraction for anyone who is not acquainted with their own need for spectacle. How can you not try on each noble house, imagining yourself as mindlessly loyal, lusty without consequence, or stinking rich?

Most of the world longs to live like the 1% and have the power to decide one’s own fate.

Except the characters don’t really have any agency. Whenever any of them gets too powerful, the author sneaks in and resets the board. Nobody can win the game on their own merits, no matter who they are.

I have to admit; the books sucked me in at first. A puzzle wrapped in an emotional costume? You can rush from high to low in an instant at every move in the game, letting yourself live in the moment of people who despite being rich and powerful are just pawns of a greater power—the author.

See what a cage the book’s stance is?

2 out of 5 Stars of the Magi.

139_discoveryFor a long while I’ve been seeking an experience of The Diamond Island. That is, a mountain peak that exists within my inner world. Now I see that I’m already on the mountain. The things I was looking at were reflections of what was already there.

The black hole through space is a journey through the maelstrom of destruction, where what is true comes out the other side to a new existence. In the process many things are redeemed and made clear.

I’ve been fighting my ass off, struggling with opponents much stronger than I think I am. Both personal and collective engagements with the realities of my life, with different obstacle courses and challenges to pass through and overcome.

There are mysterious sources of power within myself I don’t fully understand. Yet somehow they come through for me, get me to the next pit stop and show me ways to push the limits of my being when I feel I haven’t any more to put into the work.

I’m listening to the personalities that help me run this psychic mechanism I use to get myself through the world. I have a lot of work to do there—people are unhappy with some of the stances I’ve taken and the way I go about things.

I don’t know where the UFO will land, other than home. Part of the stress I feel is in not knowing how things will end up, as the process is very much a push and pull in multiple directions at once. It will lead things to the right path, but it’s just one of those things you can’t predict until it happens.

Going over how to make things that are important to me now that I’m ready. Lucerna’s Mother-Mary-Personal-Helper training has given me something to focus on. Music helps me understand, but the practice is going to be a long one.

Out of the sea comes a nourishing goblet. Learning to drink from this source of refreshment, cultivate myself before I can encourage others.

I see that I do have an effect on the world around me. The places I find are brought out of myself. The things that move or are demolished are of a mind from me. Maybe they were messed up? Maybe things that reappear are okay now? The things I find will not be wrong.

The humming of bees, the helping of bees, the signs that bees are coming to the forefront of consciousness. This is important stuff.

The realization that the land inside me needs a brute conqueror king to bring the bounty out. My self image doesn’t like this figure, yet I manifest him anyway regardless of my hang-ups. To resist is only to become dishonest and incompetent.

A revelation of my personal destiny comes into view, right in front of me all this time. The signposts and helpers were there in abundance showing me the way: Imagination, family, and masculinity are the core of my being.

Movement and non-movement are also a part of this. I need to become more physical in my activity so that I can be at rest more wholly. A king needs a traveling the realm meditation to do his work properly. I must have been blind not to see this, yet again it happened with or without my knowledge. Better for me to see it now and make it a part of my conscious life.

I’m saying yes to many many things. I’m also learning to say fuck off to a lot of things I don’t need anymore.