Sunday, 15 April 2007
The hanged man
I am slightly frightened by tarot. The rational side of me thinks it can become a deluding self-fulfilling prophecy; the more spiritual side of me thinks that it is a terrifying window into the unknown. Charles Williams wrote beautifully and authoritatively about the Fool as the 'still point of the turning world' in his novel, the Greater Trumps. In doing so, he may have inspired his friend, TS Eliot.
The following is a sketch of an idea. The trouble is that I'm not entirely sure of what the idea is, but it haunts my dreams.
The hanged man
A summer morning, stream greeting water meadow, time and space are one.
On Northmarsh, the man in a dark business suit steps from the taxi that has brought him to this place from a glass and chrome office in the city. Here is the same man in a peasant smock who has walked to this place from the village over the hill. Here is the same man in rags of animal skin who has left his cave to hunt deer and who wandered to this place.
Here is the man who has left behind his Blackberry organiser, his phone and his pager. Here is the same man who has left behind his plough, his dogs and his horses. Here is the same man who has left behind his sharpened stones and his short spears.
Here is the man who has left behind his mistress, his wife and his party escorts. Here is the same man who has left behind his wife and the binding frustrations of the 'thou shalt not' commandments. Here is the same man who has left his senior wife and his secret liaisons with the shameful cagga.
Here is the man who has abandoned the beliefs of his parents in favour of what is in vogue. Here is the same man who cannot afford to stray from the pattern laid down by his forebears. Here is the same man who is burning in the full glare of Mother Moon and Father Sun.
Here is the man who steps onto the stream-soaked meadow as the water stains his hand-made shoes. Here is the same man who steps into the water in his home-made working-farmer shoes. Here is the same man who steps into the water with his callused bare feet, hardened by years of running on stones.
The man wades across the water meadow, past flowering marsh marigolds and yellow irises. He is drawn to a lone ash tree guarding the streamside: its broad trunk is split into two climbing boughs. He sits in the space between them, dangling his feet into the water.
Here is the man who does not know why he came here, but who knows that he cannot leave this place. Here is the man who sits and waits for something, without knowing what it is.
Father Sun moves across the sky and is replaced by Mother Moon. Here is the man who is hungry and wet, but who dares not move away. Here is the man who is mocked by his tribe, whose values and motives are scrutinised by the male elders. Here is the man who is secretly pitied by the mothers. Here is the shaman, who goes into inner space.
The guardian moon goes to sleep as the sun rises on the second day, and the third day, and the fourth day. Drinking only the sweet dew from the sky, eating only leaves whose sap takes the pain away. These are nourishment enough.
The pain of sitting? The pain of waiting? The pain of not knowing why? The pain of feeling that there is no purpose to the why?
The pain of having nothing to fill the day.
The sun moves across the sky, and the patterns of light speckling the leaves are constantly changing. Breezes move the leaves in unpredictable ways. Insects fly, clouds form and move and die, rain comes and goes, fish swim in the reedy shallows of the stream. Energy flows through the food webs of life.
The nothing is filled to bursting with unpredictability, the stillness is filled with constant motion. Orbiting electrons explore empty spaces.
Here is the man who cannot begin to count the number of objects moving in the nothing.
Here is the pain of having nothing filled with objects moving unpredictably through the stillness. The power is within all things: the power flows from object to object.
Six days, seven days, eight days, nine days.
Waiting. Waiting for nothing. Nothing happens.
Nothing happens and the man rises in response to its coming.
Here is the man who starts to climb a bough of the tree, losing a shoe in the climbing. Here is the same man who tears his darned smock on a sharp branch. Here is the same man who leaps up to grasp a sturdy branch.
Climbing for no reason, other than to climb. There are two twisted branches forming a t-shape to the main bough. They have grown alongside each other in parallel for many years: like twins, they have grown to accommodate the others ups and downs.
Between the branches is a space, just big enough to take a man's foot.
Here is the man sliding his bare right foot into the gap in the branches, so that it is jammed tightly against the supporting wood.
Falling down, the man is upside down with his hair and arms in the water. He is prevented from falling (or if you prefer, is supported) by the twin branches of the tree supporting his right foot.
Here is the man who folds his left leg so that his foot touches his right thigh. He makes the shape of a figure four against the morning skylight.
Here is the man who sees a plastic credit card and a few Euro coins fall from his pocket into the water. He looks at the shape of the card. It means nothing: it is a pennyworth of tat that pollutes the atmosphere. The Euros mean nothing: it is a pennyworth of cheap metal.
Here is the man who sees his rosary beads fall from his smock into the water. He looks at the shape of the necklace. It means nothing: it is a farthing's worth of wood and cow hide.
Here is the man who has nothing to lose because he owns nothing.
Here is the man who looks calm and untroubled. The moment of nothing is upon him. He does not flinch or cry for the gods to deliver him. He does not curse or moan. He does not plan or scheme for promotion in heavenly places.
Here is the man who accepts. Here is the man who accepts what nothing brings. Here is the man who has renounced taking, but who is ready to receive. Here is the man who has renounced giving, but who will not hold onto any of his possessions.
Here is the man who is ready for what is coming next. Here is the hanged man.