At the height of the Middle Ages, say in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there were current two very different concepts of the earth. The more popular was of the earth as flat. like a dish surrounded by, and floating upon, a boundless cosmic sea, in which there were all kinds of monsters dangerous to man. This was an infinitely old notion, going back to the early Bronze Age. It appears in Sumerian cuneiform texts of about 2000 b.c. and is the image authorized in the Bible.
The more seriously considered medieval concept, however, was that of the ancient Greeks, according to whom the earth was not flat, but a solid stationary sphere in the center of a kind of Chinese box of seven transparent revolving spheres, in each of which there was a visible planet: the moon, Mercury, Venus, and the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, the same seven after which our days of the week are named.
The sounding tones of these seven, moreover, made a music, the “music of the spheres”, to which the notes of our diatonic scale correspond. There was also a metal associated with each: silver, mercury, copper, gold, iron, tin, and lead, in that order. And the soul descending from heaven to be born on earth picked up, as it came down, the qualities of those metals; so that our souls and bodies are compounds of the very elements of the universe and sing, so to say, the same song.
Music and the arts, according to this early view, were to put us in mind of those harmonies, from which the general thoughts and affairs of this earth distract us. And in the Middle Ages the seven branches of learning were accordingly associated with those spheres: grammar, logic, and rhetoric (known as the trivium), arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy (the quadrivium). The crystalline spheres themselves, furthermore, were not, like glass, of inert matter, but living spiritual powers, presided over by angelic beings, or, as Plato had said, by sirens. And beyond all, there was that luminous celestial realm where God in majesty sat on his triune throne; so that when the soul, at death, returning to its maker, passing through the seven spheres, it left off at each the accordant quality and arrived unclothed for the judgment. The emperor and the pope on earth governed, it was supposed, according to the laws and will of God, representing his power and authority at work in the ordained Christian commonalty. Thus in the total view of the medieval thinkers there was a perfect accord between the structure of the universe, the canons of the social order, and the good of the individual. Through unquestioning obedience, therefore, the Christian would put himself into accord not only with his society but also with both his own best inward interests and the outward order of nature. The Christian Empire was an earthly reflection of the order of the heavens, hieratically organized, with the vestments, thrones, and procedures of its stately courts inspired by celestial imagery, the bells of its cathedral spires and harmonies of its priestly choirs echoing in earthly tones the unearthly angelic hosts.
Clichés and stereotypes such as “beatnik” or “hippie” have been invented for the antitechnologists, the antisystem people, and will continue to be. But one does not convert individuals into mass people with the simple coining of a mass term. John and Sylvia are not mass people and neither are most of the others going their way. It is against being a mass person that they seem to be revolting. And they feel that technology has got a lot to do with the forces that are trying to turn them into mass people and they don’t like it. So far it’s still mostly a passive resistance, flights into the rural areas when they are possible and things like that, but it doesn’t always have to be this passive.
I disagree with them about cycle maintenance, but not because I am out of sympathy with their feelings about technology. I just think that their flight from and hatred of technology is self-defeating. The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha…which is to demean oneself…
By the sacred earth on which I kneel, by the Shades that wander near me, by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night, and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemon who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge will I again behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth, which otherwise should vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you, spirits of the dead, and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me.
A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as “state” and “society” and “government” have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame. . . as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world. . . aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.
It started here with the walk. Summer of 1989, and a newfound freedom being that close to the center of a city. I’d wander far and wide. Learning the city, it’s people, it’s pulse. The little neighborhoods and how they connect. The veins and guts of the place becoming second nature. When i felt disjointed or out of sorts i’d walk. Get my center back.
Lexington has always had a battle between innovation and the status quo. Not so much an obvious one, but one of perturbed tolerance on the part of the local government and churches. The horse money. The university that has organized crime levels of influence on this town. The artists and weird kids pushed off to their little clubs or streets. The African-American community left to it’s own devices, as long as the horrors stay on their streets and not spill out where the good citizens can see it. A gay community that’s felt two waves of AIDS sweep through it and nary a peep from the people here about it. The influx of Central and South American immigrants causing a strain on neighborhoods that had plenty of problems before a cultural and language barrier moved in next door. Heroin has flooded this place, as if out of nowhere. Residents can tell you that most of the crime goes unreported. You’d never know it on your way to the mall or work though. Manicured lawns and lives around these parts.
Now that i’ve had to come back i’ve noticed the pulse is different. Not just the architecture or the people, but the tempo and cadence of Lexington itself. The energy is different in ways i haven’t been able to fully fathom yet. It doesn’t feel like something took over, so much as settled into itself. At first i assumed it was me, but i wonder. It’s a horse town. The old money and powers of this area know what to do with a wild thing. You fence it in. You break it. You separate it or put it down if you can’t break it’s will. Treats for the obedient. Fences for everything.
I’ve never cared for being fenced in.
Concern, not peace, is what i get after these walks. I came back to here to fight for something, but i see so much more worth fighting for. There’s questions i now need answers to. About this city and myself. The boy that was here is not the man that has returned. Time to excavate my past while i’m looking at this new thing i find myself in. Treat my old life as a corpse, and this city as a murder scene. I need to take a good look at this place. Watch that obedient nag trot where a mustang used to buck. Someone broke it. Maybe i’ve been broken in more than i’m willing to admit too. I’m curious who or what did that to us. Curious if it can be undone.
I’m going for a long walk.
Nothing ever begins.
There is no first moment; no single word or place from which this or any other story springs.
The threads can always be traced back to some earlier tale, and to the tales that preceded that: though as the narrator’s voice recedes the connections will seem to grow more tenuous, for each age will want the tale told as if it were of its own making.
Thus the pagan will be sanctified, the tragic become laughable; great lovers will stoop to sentiment, and demons dwindle to clockwork toys.
Nothing is fixed. In and out the shuttle goes, fact and fiction, mind and matter woven into patterns that may have only this in common: that hidden amongst them is a filigree which will with time become a world.
It must be arbitrary then, the place at which we chose to embark.
Somewhere between a past half forgotten and a future as yet only glimpsed.