The last of the undercast disappeared behind and a vast blue world of ice, sea, and sky engulfed me. I tried the autopilot again without success and fiddled with my oxygen mask. I wished I had my old navy mask, a sophisticated piece of equipment, custom fitted to my face. This one was a little plastic cup that pinched onto the nose and leaked oxygen around my sunglasses.
The heater was operating well. I had already used it three or four times and, as the temperature dropped, I cycled it again. A few minutes later the temperature was still dropping, and I had not detected the faint odor that accompanied the heated air. I flipped the switch a couple of times, and hoped. The temperature continued to drop. The sun warmed me in my Plexiglas greenhouse, but unpressurized aircraft always leak, and eddies of cold air built around my legs. I fumbled with the suitcase on the seat behind me and pulled out a ski sweater, wool socks, a knotted hat, and gloves. I put the socks on first, then struggled into the sweater. There was still a draft on my knees, so I broke out a blanket and draped it over my legs. The temperature settled to comfortably crisp, but the sun was beneficent, and the whole magnificent sky mine to enjoy as though from a mountaintop.
The Baron spun itself out into a world ruled by ice kings and thunderheads. Time became the substance of dreams, a kaleidoscope of vapors. From inside, I watched streams of consciousness cascade through my passivity. Gradually, I quieted my mind and fell into a meditation that fronted as a door for another state of consciousness. The perfection of the moment dissolved my thinking about it, and something else shone through, lightening all about.
This meditation is one practiced regularly by Zen Buddhists and others. It is an excellent way to ravish time while guiding a vehicle through space. The Zen people trace its origin to an Indian monk named Bodhidharma who traveled to China with a thousand years of Buddhist teachings hung uselessly, like beads, around his neck. The Chinese themselves had been stirring their classics with the Buddhist sutras for several hundred years, so there was little need for Bodhidharma to explain anything. For the most part, he just sat in a cave, eyes open, facing the wall. A lot of people came by, full of questions, but left with them unanswered, quoting quandaries to essence with essence. Every now and then, someone would sit down next to him. Occasionally, somebody stayed, so his insight spread — slowly perhaps, but inexorably — and now, a millennium and a half later, in a lonely, lovely sky above a sea of ice, the essence of Bodhidharma lurked like a dragon, for piloting the Baron was like facing a wall, nothing was seen, nothing missed.
I returned to myself flying the aircraft, staring at the unmoving instruments, with my ears tuned to the droning engines and the radio that would not speak for hours.I reached out to the power controls and adjusted them slightly, smoothing the sound.I was conscious of my breathing, aware of its calmness.I knew I was hovering on the edge of a magical space and remembered the first time I had drifted beyond the confines of an airplane, to roam free in the sky…
©David Anirman 2008 excerpt from "Sky Cloud Mountain"
PATHWAYS OF LIGHTLAND
This book is about the gods and the ways in which they allow us to approach them. The focus is Ancient Egypt for nowhere else were the gods so completely in evidence, so clear of feature, and so abundantly active. They dominated the mental world of the Egyptians even as the sun and river dominated their physical world; indeed, the sun and Nile - Ra and Osiris - were themselves deified, so every aspect of Egyptian culture was controlled and enlivened by spiritual forces. So powerful were these forces that when the gods departed they left behind a civilization which stood virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Embedded in this period is a historical symphony in three movements, called the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. These were separated by periods of dissolution and ended in confusion, but at their prime were the splendor of earth and since their demise their ruins have been among its greatest marvels. Historians consider them one of our species' major accomplishments, but to the Egyptians themselves the three kingdoms were but encores to the celestial music that had earlier been played.
Everything in Egypt was focused backward, to a time in the past, to the time of the gods. Like all traditional cultures, Egypt was firmly rooted in those remote ages where gods actually trod the earth, interacting with human beings. In modern scholarship, every one of these traditions has been consigned, not to history, but to myth. The preoccupation of our ancestors with the gods, however, was not a psychological misperception on their part. The problem is rather our failure to understand them and the spiritual nature of the universe they confronted. The early Egyptians remembered their gods as humanlike beings who came from the stars, but unlike our more immediate ancestors of historical times - the later Egyptians, Greeks and Romans - we no longer believe them. Instead we tune up our most sophisticated sciences and listen to the electromagnetic universe, hoping to hear extraterrestrial beings speak for the first time…
…. Much of what the early Egyptologists uncovered was inexplicable to the 19th century mind, but when examined in light of our current sciences is quite understandable. The question is whether we may attribute this type of modern understanding to such ancient people: the answer is we must, if we ever hope to appreciate our ancestors. The Greeks who honored the Egyptians by incorporating much of the Egyptian wisdom into their own work, characterized the Egyptians as the most ethical of men. Such people are not accustomed to lying, so we may assume they told the truth when claiming their knowledge was given them by the gods. Since they considered the gods distinctly superior to themselves, it is perhaps not inappropriate to equate their wisdom with our own.
Interpreting the ancient records in accordance with current conceptions of the cosmos presumes our quantum/relativistic world view to be more closely allied with the thinking of the ancients than the Newtonian bias of 19th century humanism. The problem is complex because the Egyptologists who translated and interpreted the old records viewed the universe as a mechanism running much like a clock, while we who read them live in a vast, expanding bubble whose parts are built of immaterial forces connected by flexible parameters. The Egyptians, however, lived in a post-Einsteinian universe where communications with distant star worlds were essentially instantaneous and what we call magic was an operative aspect of their way of life. Their post-relativistic world view was firmly embedded in a larger absolutism which, in its wisdom, allowed them to manipulate the spiritual nature of reality for their own benefit. Thus in mental acumen, we should not consider them behind us, but beyond us.
©David Anirman 1987 excerpted from '"Pathways of Lightland"
This is a book that should not have to be written. The events it describes should not be occurring. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The prison industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy. It is an industry in which convicts are commodities and those who profit are the nation's predators. The media bewail the necessity for the system but gloss over the nature of the commodities and the means by which they are selected and harvested. That the real purpose of the system may be quite different than what the apologists tell us is something they ignore.
The Russian word gulag was transposed into English with the success of Alexander Soizhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago which recounted the horrors of life in the political prisons strung out across the Soviet Union. So a gulag, as we all now know, is a political prison. America doesn't have such places because we're a democracy, have a Bill of Rights laws, and a history of freedom to protect us, and are obviously the nicest folks on the planet...
So much for the rhetoric. The proper response to all of this is incredulity. Our federal and state prisons are interlinked across the country in a web of political control that makes the Soviet model - though perhaps more brutal - a poor comparison. We are not a democracy - but I'll get into that later - the Bill of Rights has been emasculated, our laws manipulated, and our history of freedom proven a myth. I don't know about the rest of the nice people, but the adjective does't work for me. I'm just another cipher - and what follows is but one among millions of stories from the American Gulag.
. . . . . . . .and yet I say that nation fails
whose hallowed mind is framed with jails
©David Anirman 1998 excerpted from "American Gulag"