I've stated the notion crudely, but there's something to it. The world we see as such is a creation of something within, a figment of our imaginations. It is perceived as it is perceived because it is the projection of a collective subconscious. New York City is what it is because many individual consciousnesses have made it so, along with the greater collective. Yes, of course, made it what it is "with their own two hands," all the labor and thought that built it and keep it running and make the corners of it what they are. Arduous work indeed. But the phenomenon, according to the yogi, is deeper than that. There's something about the phenomenon that is the product of the ego we project upon it.
Going out doesn't seem to work for me anymore. I was feeling unsettled after the taking in the deep soulful Beau Biden funeral, chewing on something. (My mom tells me I probably needed to stay in and absorb and read the Bible rather than go out and talk of the usual scuttlebutt.) Best friends invite me over for dinner; sure, who wants to spend a Saturday night alone. I grab a couple of bottles of a light Kermit Lynch red from Cheverny, a Loire blend of pinot noir and gamay, from my shop off Dupont and make my bike lane journey down to 10th. A DC Brau before dinner, the red with it. I swill it down pretty good. I'm chastised rightly so for a juvenile comment, and find myself, now that I do yoga, a slight bit too much. We part ways, I go check out a bar to see what the young folks are up to, I have to rye ales, sneaky at 7%, sitting at the end corner of the bar away from the front door. A mid-level consistently fresh attractive young crowd, a scene, not a pub, too much busy for the barmen to talk. And I realize after two that I'm pretty much gotten what I will get out of it.
I wake up thirsty, not feeling up to getting out of bed and starting the day. The alcohol has thinned the type O blood in the veins enough that the heart is rapid. Not this again. The guilty feeling. Going out doesn't seem to work for me anymore.
When I have meditated, started the day with my own thoughts, then worked on them, as I do now, but also in yoga, getting aligned, then doing the spiritual part of the work, the city streets are alien to me. Two nights ago, I go for a midnight walk. On the hill by Mitchell Park on S Street, I see the Big Dipper through the clouds high above the trees. I walk further on, eastward, past the front steps of Russia House, past the second story of the Royal Palace, on, toward 18th Street. I get as far as 16th. I've seen enough. The Maya world. Chi Cha Lounge hookah parlors, bouncers, misplaced ID problems in Stetson's, the line at Local 16. I may have intended to get as far as 14th, walk down it, then back on R. But I wish I'd stayed on Massachusetts Avenue, the quiet of Embassy Row, absorbing nature rather than confusion and people's presentations of how they see and make themselves up to be. What I see out where the bars are does not agree with what I seem to be able to see from the deeper levels of consciousness, and all this I see as it is makes me sad, as if it all were, secretly, tawdry, a hill or pit of beasts sluggishly fighting each other almost. Well, I knew it was going to be a spiritual test, a consideration of this business of Maya, the projection of egos to shape the world as it is. And yes, Maya looks exactly like Maya ought to, and it does not make me happy.
I beat a retreat almost, at my own slow pace, getting across Connecticut Avenue at S Street, then up the quieter street. And I feel no failure not in meeting anyone, and good to get home.
So as I sit the next night in Lost & Found it comes to me again, Maya, the place of illusion, and the beer is not harmless, and the pretty girl in a long black gown with low heels on is having a gin and tonic and she's about to leave anyway, so that's my cue to escape.
And today I wake, feeling, yeah, kind of like I've messed myself, why this pattern, what to do about it. Hard sometimes, fighting against the biddings of the lesser levels of consciousness. No wonder I've made a point recently of doing yoga and got in tune with deeper thoughts and feelings.
Where does that leave you? Are there any sort of establishments where drink is served where it is about the deeper consciousness, where it does become thoughtful, considered and considerate?
The familiar sadness sits upon me today: what have I done? why did I go out rather than just meditate?
I'm not the drunk, I'm just a bit stressed currently, a bit lonely. My vision just seems a bit different. As you would naturally expect from a man who's turned fifty. I guess you have to try things, for too long, to develop, in a negative, the picture of what you want in life. Maybe the deeper vision, because of its depth, simply, is a lonely spot, when everyone else is simply trying to make a buck with the way things are and how they are. I think of Eric Clapton's Lonesome Stranger "I have crawled/ down dead-end streets/ on my hands and knees." Dead-end streets, yes, dating sites, apps, bar scenes, so much of it hollow, as if one were the only one honest in them, honestly saddened, honestly look past all the egos to offer a real person, a mensch, in all his vulnerability. I've been down those streets, being human, and I find soon enough I'm not getting anywhere.
Over the dinner table's peace and quiet, good conversations I listen to like a kid amongst adults, as I've not yet figured out the basics of a prosperous life, I hear, initiated by a very intelligent British journalist, "starting a church is the only way to make money here in America anyway." Is that it, asking people to donate?
If you're a poet must you first enchant people with a particular kind of image, the lining up of poetic lines with persona with life as it is led, say like Ted Hughes. Or does that stuff just come out of the deeper explorations, the Jungian dreamer explorers, whatever, of the imagery of subconscious. Hughes, many times, takes it straight from the animals, owls, fox cubs, crows. And I can see now why maybe I ended up at the zoo staring at tiny blue frogs, a lounging seal, a prowling Sumatran tiger, because the animals are natural; they know how to do their thing.
Heading home, one night last week, too late, I stopped to take a picture of the St. Jerome statue, wet with rain. A man driving with an older woman passenger pulled up alongside. Ostensibly, they asked for directions to The Diner, which I explained, but they lingered, waiting for something, some form of being hit on, solicited for who knows what. I was polite to them, and finally they drove away, and I went speedily home. People lead neater lives than I do, I'll give them that. And last night, yes, straight home I should have went, I knew that at the time.
Is drinking, then, necessarily deluding? It seems at least, at certain times, it is. Maybe that's why some of it leads to more of it.
Balance, we all seek balance. I slowly recover from the night of extra beer, and end up reading about "root awakening" on a site dedicated to the principles of yoga, Aum Love Tantra.
Jesus, as was Gautama Buddha, was human. He drank wine. He suffered pain, physical, mental, spiritual. This makes teachings all the more real, accessible to us. He came up with his wisdom sitting in his own living room (probably with the TV off.) That he is so human makes him all the more accessible to me, I'll say that.
I get a whole lot more out of tending bar than I do going to one, for the most part. In truth, I feel awkward at most social situations. I'd rather be serving, welcoming the stranger, finding the shared, the common, the humanity. I've often thought how imperfect a job it is, how susceptible it leaves me to the bad influences within and without. I know that it is a good spiritual practice to be able to find wholeness alone. As that is a spiritual practice, so too must being the sometimes noble host wherever you can find yourself in that role.
Not a Beau Biden am I, no such accomplishments, not, as it is, the good family man he was. This was something I had to absorb while watching his funeral and listening to eulogies. I sort of felt the need to look back on my life and see how little I've tangibly accomplished. Yeah, we look up to that which is outside ourselves, and see people with better haircuts.
And yet, and yet... That seems one of the lovely lines of Fellini. Look at History Channel, providing us with tastes of this and that to fulfill something. Ancient Aliens. Reenactments of the life of Jesus (which are good, to my tastes, anyway until we get to the bloody parts, at which point they become highly discouraging and depressing.) Don't we sometimes look at our TV sets hoping something would come out of them. Maybe Bobby Kennedy, himself back from the dead.
It's not what you do, it's the love you put into it. And to this end, tending bar is not the worst of things, by any means.