183_stardrekI thought the 2009 Star Trek movie was horrible. The newest movie makes that junkyard of half-baked grandstanding look like a decent flick.

The director and his posse make their handling of the re-imagined Star Trek a modern day Phaethon and the sun chariot. This movie is the moment when the horses sense that a newb is at the reins and begin to run amok.

I can’t wait to see how incoherent the new Star Wars films will be.

I’m going to dodge all the obvious problems everyone else has pointed out and focus on one very important thing I haven’t seen anyone mention.

There’s no action in the film at all.

I mean, isn’t that what this director dude is known for? Action?

Nothing happens in the movie. Nobody does anything that matters. At the end of the film everything is the same as what it was in the beginning.

The evil admiral dies. Some people die. It doesn’t matter. Nothing changes as a result of these deaths.

The big evil starship is destroyed and it doesn’t matter. Its existence is completely irrelevant.

Khan looks badass for the audience and then is put back into deep freeze. This has no effect on the story at all.

The crew of the Enterprise are right back where they started at the beginning of the film.

There are no consequences for anything that happens in the movie. There are no stakes to the story. Nobody loses or gains anything.

A waste of material.

1 out of 5 Stars of the Magi

178_cryptworldfrontlawnYou can never tell when you’re going to find the gold. Just the other day I ran into a cool little free indie game by Cicada Marionette, with a smashing soundtrack by Ella Guro aka Liz Ryerson. There’s also a Lilith in there, among several others.

It’s an exploratory and simple puzzle solving first person funfest that reminds me of a very primitive DOOM without firepower. The action is mainly internal as you uncover the world’s secrets and accomplish your goals.

And what a world it is—a surreal, disturbing, nonsensical nightmare world of messed up people and situations. Everyone is selfish, stupid, deluded or unfriendly.

179_cryptworldpeeYou are the only person, it seems, who has any agency. Your main ability is the ability to pee—a curious choice that is both ridiculous and a secret clue to the primordial mythology of every heroic journey.

A unicorn goddess has awakened you to find her missing plot coupons before her evil rival blows up her messed up nightmare world out of self-centered grief. Meanwhile, a monstrous chaos god waits for a chance to break free and turn the nightmare world into a really boring and empty nightmare world.

Life is rough when you’re the protagonist with the deciding vote.

The graphics are blocky, pixelated old school images that recall the simple programs of the salad days of video game design. The gameplay has to rise to the occasion in such a case, and delightfully it does.

180_cryptworldcryptsofaYou gather resources, do fed-ex quests, and click around looking for clues. This isn’t as easy or as ho hum as you might think. Everything about this game is warped to some degree, often against assumptions.

For example, you come across an underground fast food cafeteria inhabited by ghoulish skeleton people. They all appear to be worshipping the counter where the fast food is dispensed, like a group of cultists.

It’s an obvious mockery of fast food, and one could easily take it as an attempt to be disdainful while hiding behind a ‘just kidding’ façade. But the detail of the conversations with the burger cultists—the attention paid to the material—suggests that a lot of serious thought went into the observations that were articulated in this scene in the game.

That’s both disturbing and a valid, relevant statement. You are witness to a scene of unconscious horror that makes you question whether this world is worth saving. Who would want to save this dispensary of banality and mindlessness?

181_cryptworldpilgrimeshopThe soundtrack really makes the game. The sound effects are calculated to throw you off and undermine your expectations. Again, it may seem like the gameplay is just being funny or difficult, but it’s consistent throughout the entire experience. This is a statement of building cognitive dissonance. I applaud this commitment.

The music is at times sad, alarming, or pensive. It matches the game world perfectly. Approaching the unicorn goddess to give her a status update, you’re surrounded in an unearthly dirge that approximates being in the presence of a divine being. It’s eerie and beautiful, a small master stroke of game genius.

Then she tells you to buzz off if you haven’t got all the plot coupons and you shamble away. Who wants to help such a difficult and ungrateful being? Yet, why not? It does make a certain irrational sense.

Later, nearby you discover a corpse in a coffin who tells you how annoyed they are that that goddess is always playing her music so loud. They can’t get any sleep!

182_cryptworldtunnelsYou have to decide what all this means.

I found the music and the graphic blob of what I presume is some kind of unicorn or pony a strange experience that stays with you in a really powerful way.

But then, when you look at it objectively through her treatment of you and the opinion of one of her own denizens, you realize it’s also mundane and grounded in imperfection.

You know, I want a game to move me. I want it to be fun. I want it to make some kind of internal sense. Crypt World hits all of these for me. Unforgettable scenes, inventive ideas with some bite to them, relaxed gameplay that draws you in, and a storyline that evokes a mostly broken world limping along.

Just when the bitter nihilism gets to be a little too much, the game shows you a small piece of beauty. Rescue the gold bugs and they build a stunning temple in your basement honoring your heroism. Eat enough fast food and you unlock a passage to a mysterious retreat within your own being. These are oddball discoveries that are deeply touching and a reward for staying with the game.

I had to keep playing just to unlock some of the more accessible mysteries.

Is Crypt World a place I’d want to be? Hek no, talk about a depressing, bizarre place. You know though, a lot of the concepts in the game are worth meditating on. That we have all lost our way, maybe for good, is an important idea to consider.

The mirror the game presents us with reveals some unsettling reflections. The best you can hope for is to be a pawn of the gods, which allows you self-determination within a very limited scope.

Then there is everyone else, trapped in their private game trap of saying and doing the same thing over and over. And maybe some positive thinking protagonist will change the world a little for the better so that what you repeat is at least decent.

Scary, isn’t it?

Mainstream games like Okami or Rune Factory Frontier are in almost every measurable sense better than a game like Crypt World. They too can bring important moments to the forefront of our consciousness even though they are many times more complex and polished.

But as in mythology, the basic experiences are the most important and powerful ones of all. Pee, poop, spit—These things are transformative and have the true magic that moves things forward.

As much as I love those two mainstream games, I was never able to finish them. Too much of a good thing. Crypt World I finished several times. Just right.

Crypt World operates in the realms of the underworld of our consciousness, much like a dream. It’s an impressive achievement that demonstrates the value of originality, vision, and determination in crafting gameplay. I had a very satisfying and enriching time with this quirky little gem.

5 out of 5 Stars of the Magi

And tips his hat.

Like the previous post, this exploration is for people who have played or studied the Journey video game on the PS3. Again, 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 hit the road, Jack.

One of the elements of Journey that I’ve been rolling over in my thoughts is the cutscene at the beginning of the game. It sets the stage for the game by showing the player a number of images that I believe shed illumination on the game’s overall narrative.

The game takes an open-ended approach to the meaning of the game, and I think that should still be kept in mind. My ideas do not negate yours.

However, as I mentioned in my last post when you make certain kinds of symbolic decisions you can’t help but assign them some structure. Piece by general piece, you narrow down the possibilities.

As before, I’m going to break it down for you.

The first image we are shown is a shift from white light to sand. This is incredibly significant.

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It bridges the white light at the end of the game with the beginning and it shows us how we rise from the earth to become self aware. We grow in consciousness to an awareness of who we are. This also has ties to how we move out of the unredeemed darkness into a growing vision of who we are.

Right off the bat we have an image showing us that the theme of the game is about raising our consciousness.

The next image we are presented with is the sun over the horizon. Is this a sunrise or a sunset?

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Regardless, the time between light and darkness is always the “in-between” time. The moment of greatest danger, the time when the barriers between worlds are weakest and things can pass between existences.

Is this the dawning of daylight and an emergence from darkness? Is this the approach of the darkness and the descent into the unknown? Maybe both, or maybe the outcome is in doubt. This is a time of transition.

Close up to a hill where the sun shines bright. We can see what will later be revealed as the gravestones at the start of the game.

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This continues the cutscene’s progression. It means something has changed. Since the sun is higher here than in the previous scene, it means daylight is coming. Illumination has increased and we can now focus on specifics, rather than muddle about in the darkness of grays and indistinct shapes.

What has changed? We don’t know. But time is passing and an idea is forming.

The next scene is a large grouping of gravestones. Where as we were contemplating an individual, or two people, now we move into the collective realm.

162_allthelonelypeople

Look at all the lonely people. All the dead, unredeemed people. This is a sorrow. All is desert. All is wasteland. There is no sign of life, only the passage of time. The people have lost their way.

Above, in the sky, a shooting star flies through the heavens.

163_whoisthere

This is God, asking “Who is there?” Calling to us. Showing his signs. It is not a blue sky, however. It too, is lifeless. Heaven is also a wasteland.

You might ask, how can God not know the answer to his question? God knows, but like us God must pretend not to know so that we can discover the greater purpose together. God needs our help even though God doesn’t need it.

The next scene is also a sorrow. God’s call streaks through the sky above the landscape of gravestones, yet goes unheeded.

164_gapbetweenus

There is a gap between God and the people. Heaven and earth do not meet. God and the people have lost their way, and there is no life. Or perhaps there is no authentic life. We are all living a phony life that is a shadow of what we might know.

The next scene is a flying through the desert.

165_youareflying

Who is flying? You are. This is a premonition of what you will discover in the game—both through moments of small and gradual discovery, and through great moments of inspiration. We are leaving the collective problem here and shifting to the personal.

The focus is zeroing in on you—the player—and the journey you will take.

It should be pointed out that in dreams (and this is indeed a dream) flying means spiritual development. This is entirely appropriate given what you will be doing in the game itself.

Then, you awaken from the dream.

166_youawakenfromadream

This image is very important. You rise from the earth (because you are mortal), but your head touches the sky. You will be the bridge between heaven and earth. You will redeem the great wrong that afflicts the world.

Contemplate that image, the cloud over your head like a halo. You have heard the call of God. You may not understand it yet, you may not even be able to answer God’s question….”Who is there?”

However, now there is hope. If the people were alive they would rejoice.

The next scene pulls back. You were meditating (an action you can take in the game).

167_youweremeditating

This is appropriate. You were engaged in an attempt to understand or commune with the state of the world. This opened your heart and mind to the call of God.

You stand up, realizing that there is a great task needing to be done. This is the true beginning of the game.

But what is this great task? You are to atone for the sins of the past and become one with God. This is exemplified in your growing relation to your Self. That is, the part of you that is both mortal and one with the divinity, as opposed to the self, who imagines itself as mortal and separate from on high.

This scene from later in the game explains a great deal.

172_Selfandi

You and the Self are one. You and God are one. This must be re-discovered through atonement. The Journey is your quest for atonement and the realization of the Self.

One of the first wonders you encounter is the glowing symbol surrounded by cloth strips (spirits).

168_holyground

This is holy ground. This is a place where another person heard the call, just as you did. They began their journey here. Now you benefit from this holy place by increasing your awareness of your spiritual connection to God.

This is where your scarf first appears. If you look closely at the World card in the tarot, you will see the evolved Self is naked, but adorned by a scarf. A scarf is a symbol of the spirit flowing free.

171_scarfasspirit

This marks the beginning of your spiritual evolution. You will find other symbols along the way and your scarf will grow in size.

Later on you witness a symbol landing in a deserted ruin.

169_landingofthecall

This reinforces the idea that the call of God (shown in the dream flying over the earth) lands where a person hears the call. Person by person a connection is being rebuilt.

Indeed, at the end of the game it is shown that a symbol lands where you first awakened.

170_youhavemadeyourlandmark

You have made your mark for others to follow. The world is changing for the better with every person who hears the call.

In the lighthouse you are faced with several glyphs that display your journey.

173_scatteredpieceswhole

This is a gathering of all your scattered piece into a whole. There is an unconscious sequence, symbolized by the out of order glyphs. However, the fact that you have all the pieces means you will fit them together in the final challenge.

Near the end, you are faced with a gargantuan figure. Some believe them to be sages, angels, or ancestors. I believe this is your Self, regarding you.

174_mammothformyouinhabit

As you grow in knowledge and experience, your Self appears larger each time. Your true being is so enormous! It draws me back to an issue of the Doctor Strange comic book in which the hero confronts death. You will be required to grow in order to fill the mammoth form you inhabit.

Seriously. Did you never suspect that your true being is much greater than the form you seem to inhabit?

Your mortal adventurer is faced with this realization in the wide panorama of their journey.

175_bigpicture

The big picture is big. You are bringing into existence your Self through the trials and wonders of your journey.

This is the hard part. Only our mortal striving can awaken in ourselves the part of our being that is one with God. It’s one thing to hear the call, to know it is there. To understand it is a whole other thing.

I talk about the defeat that is necessary to ascend in the previous post. To reach the summit and the final realization requires a beat down. A humbling.

176_topatlast

Yet if you do not give up, you reach your goal.

At the top, your scarf retracts. You don’t need it anymore. Your Self is one with God, as you are coming to realize.

Dumbo no longer needs the feather to fly because he could always fly already!

177_intoultraviolet

You walk into the white light where you will encounter the experience that will lead to the realization of the Self. Something wonderful will happen.

178_realizatinofSelf

You pass into the final gap between the two poles of life and death. This is where you will fulfill the dream at the beginning of the game.

What does that mean?

Go back to the very first story-stone cutscene in the game, where you were shown what the mountain does. Life will return to the wasteland. The birds (the animals) and the plants will return. The people will appear (they will revive).

Do you see how important it is that you have gone on the journey?

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.

144_deadclothians

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.

145_lifestillinyou

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

146_littlemorenarrative

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.

147_stormcenter

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.

148_yourSelfwasalwaysthere

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?

149_developmentyouhavewrought

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.

150_thewordtheretoo

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.

151_youopenyoureyes

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.

152_yourisefromthedepths

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

153_momentofenlightenment

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.

154_stillstronghearted

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

155_returntothepresent

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.

156_youfly

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.

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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.

158_youarenowready

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.

137_PteradactylUp here in the treehouse, among the tall and magnificent trees, K and I have been maintaining a rest stop for the birds. On our back porch we have a bird bath, a seed and a suet station, and a multitude of plants. Even some flowers and a liquid feeder for the hummingbirds. The birds are getting the full on treatment.

Hey, it’s cat TV for the three cats of Daenerys Targaryen as we call them now. Anything to keep the little furballs entertained I tell you.

However, it’s also deeply satisfying to support the little wingeds. Seeing them go about their business and making their various sounds is relaxing. We’ve gotten to see and hear so many birds now—chickadees, nuthatches, spotted towhees, and grosbeaks. Hummingbirds galore, more than I’ve ever seen before. I get experience points just thinking about it.

Now though, we’re starting to see a whole new range of birds. Big birds. Unnervingly big. Northern flickers (pictured in this post), pileated woodpeckers, and big blue jays with mohawk looking tufts on their heads and loud distinctive cries. They’re beautiful creatures, gorgeous to behold, and we see them often. K and I will be working on our computers, hear a certain chirp or tweet, and look out the window to our side to find exciting friends going to town on our gifts of seed and suet.

138_PteradactylNext of course come the predators—the hawks and then the barred owls with their distinctive hooting sound. Hearing them so close all the time, and spotting them regularly as they sit on a branch just outside or swoop down to catch something in the meadow below. It’s truly a healing, powerful experience to be in such company.

Crows inevitably follow, harassing the larger predators and bugging them until they go away. The crows don’t want the seed or suet. They want junk food and roadkill more than anything else. Other birds show their bravery against the large predators as well: Robins buzzing the larger avians to keep them away from the nest. Quite an inspiring and incredible sight!

The tiny little birds hopping around the porch amid the lushly growing plant life we’ve provided, pecking at the seeds strewn about by their more messy cousins. The huge birds as big as our cats coming over to snack on some berry suet and check out what’s going on. What fun and excitement!

Then the grown up babies start jumping in from the branches, doing micro flights to pick up their own meal under the watchful eyes of the parents.

This is wonder.

136_ShivamessagebraceletI finished the Shiva message bracelet and rang that sucker in the sacred woods. The crown-grove with all the humongous trees that go all the way up.

It’s taken a long time for me to settle in to the fact that I’m whole, that I’m myself again. I really never expected this. I was resigned to doing the best I had with what I had left, because somehow I had found a trail within myself.

I think about my past self, and if he could only know what I’m feeling now. What I’m seeing. All I can do is send him encouragement and dreams to strengthen his being. I bless him with all my heart and soul, his desperate muddled seeking to understand and find himself whole.

What’s the blood of the dragon taste like? It’s like a heavy metal concert where you’re both audience and performer at the same time. You taste your own shadow and realize you’re only deceiving yourself if you think that by chasing an image of yourself that you can escape what you are. This is, in a strange way, a relief.

I’d thought the Shiva message bracelet was something you rang when you were done and then you got a message, but now it occurs to me that it’s more about sending a message—that I’m done with the quest. I’m letting good ol’ Shiva know that I’ve completed the assignment.

Now I’m sitting here, letting the change sink in.

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