When I was younger it was a habit of mine to experiment with psychedelic drugs. I felt that these experiences opened up new vistas of thought and creativity within me. It had been years such I had done such a drug, until a few months ago. What I found was that the experience no longer opened up any new doors of perception from which to step into brave new worlds. However, it did reawaken the desire for me to re-explore the limits of my own thinking apparatus. I considered many alternatives from meditative yoga to sensory deprivation, but none of these appealed to me because they seemed to lack extremity. I recalled several books I had read, fiction and non-fiction, on Native American cultures. One of the things that always fascinated me most was the spirit quests in which an individual would fast in isolation until they were visited by their totem spirit guide. This was generally an animal of some sort that represented an individual’s link with the natural and/or spirit world. Why I didn’t necessarily believe in the religious aspects of the ritual, I saw how such an action could open the mind to new insights.
I spent two weeks making preparations for the outing. Although most Native American cultures used the spirit quest, they tended to vary in their pattern from tribe to tribe. Instead of choosing just one of the many, I attempted to blend these customs while personalizing it with my own ideas. The plan was to spend six nights and seven days alone in an isolated patch of forest without food or water. Actually I originally planned to take along a flask for emergency purposes, to be used only in a life or death situation. I read about the human bodies limitations regarding food and water, and decided that I was pushing the envelope. I didn’t want to die in this experiment. I decided to ration out a very minute portion of water each day to prevent total dehydration, while still allowing the lack of fluid to push me over the edge of normal bodily functioning.
Only one friend was willing to help me with my journey, the others were all too afraid for my safety to participate. The plan was that my friend would drive me the location and hike into the woods with me so that he would be able to locate me on the seventh day. I explained it would most likely be the case that I would need physical and mental assistance getting out of the woods. The night before I was to leave I visited with family and my closest friends. Those who were not aware of my plan were not made aware as I didn’t wish to alarm anybody. I then prepared letters and a will should anything unexpected occur during the outing. Finally I went to my favorite restaurant and ate an entire plate of Pad Thai. I should not have done that. The large meal stretched my stomach and would make the fast more difficult, as I learned later. I was careful not to drink any alcoholic beverages, as I didn’t wish to dehydrate prematurely.
The final preparation was to secure tobacco, and a carving knife to make a ceremonial pipe, such as been used in the Native American spirit quests. I set to bed early, but hardly slept a week all night due to anticipation. The next morning before the sun rose, we began the hour drive to the large wooded area I had chosen. When we arrived dawn had just received the day and the sun lit our way through the forest canopy. We hiked a few miles into the woods to an area I felt I would be left undisturbed in. My plan, were I to encounter hikers or such, was just to hide to avoid contact with other humans. My friend bid me some encouraging words and then left me alone with the flora and fauna of the forest.
The first day I was very eager, for what I did not know. I had used fallen branches to create a large circle which I would be confined to. I studied my surroundings, and tried the best I could to name all of the plants and trees I saw. It was obvious I did not know many, and I made a promise to familiarize myself with such knowledge after the excursion. Only in the evening did the hunger become a distraction, but it was not yet bad as it would get, I knew.
After a mostly uneventful day I fell asleep early nestled in a nest fashioned from dried leaves. I dreamt about a spiral staircase, which I climbed both up and down in seemingly infinite stretches without ever reaching anything. When I awoke to birdsong, I interpreted that the spiral staircase of my dreams represented not only DNA, but the spiraling nature of our infinite universe, in which there was no beginning or end.
Upon awaking I allowed myself half of my daily water ration. After that I began looking for a branch from which to carve my ceremonial pipe from. The Native Americans always spoke about finding a piece of wood that spoke to them and revealed the shape waiting to remain when all excess was stripped away. I looked for such a branch, but determined after several hours that I could not hear wood. So I picked a piece that seemed easy to carve due to a lack of knots. I spent most of the day slowly whittling away on the piece of wood, and what finally emerged was a crude but working pipe whose stem and bowl could be separated. I located some juniper berries and used them to dye the pipe, and then I thought to attach some feathers I had found using thin strips of soft bark, but the result was ridiculous and the adornments were removed.
As darkness fell I finished the other half of my daily water portion, and entertained myself by singing as many songs as I could remember the words to. I fell asleep to the sound of owls protesting my rendition of Paul McCartney’s ‘Band on the Run’. That night I dreamt of clouds that could coagulate into the imagined forms I saw within them. For whatever reasons many of these forms were cartoon characters I had remembered from my childhood.
Awaking the next morning on the third day, I could find no meaning within my dream. The third day started with severe hunger pains. As I had the morning before I immediately drank half of my daily water ration. I found it difficult to focus on anything but my hunger. I didn’t have the luxury of the previous day’s activity to occupy my time and my thoughts, or the enthusiasm of the first day. I paced within my circle into the afternoon. As the afternoon went on my will to continue faded rapidly. I cursed my self for setting upon this course of action with no plan for escape. I continually thought if I could just eat but one little insignificant cracker, everything would be okay. I realized the pacing made the hunger worse and sat down at the edge of the circle staring into the woods. I noticed something out there, a sight familiar from my childhood. It was a gooseberry bush. I knew it was early in the season so the plant would not be incredibly fruitful, nor its fruit ripe yet. I began to make every excuse I could to justify leaving my circle and breaking my fast with these berries. Before sundown I convinced myself it would be okay to eat a few of the berries. I picked about a dozen berries and ate them rapidly, and washed them down with the second half of my water ration.
Somewhat satisfied I lay down in my nest and recalled favorite stories until I fell asleep late into the night. That night I was aware of several short dreams, but did not remember any of them. I slept in a little later on the fourth day, and fought every attempt of my body to awaken until it could be put off no longer. It must have been shortly after noon. I had gotten confident in my ability to gauge time during the day by the suns position overhead. I drank my usual water and tried to think of something to occupy my time. My mind was over-ridden with doubts about this spirit quest. I became angry at myself. Within a few hours I decided to ditch the whole experiment. I would gather several handfuls of berries drink plenty of water and hike back to the road and hitchhike home away from this nightmare. I was eating the berries as fast as I could pick them and washing them down with my canteens contents. I must have eaten three dozen or so berries and consumed all but a day’s ration of water when I was inextricably stricken with feelings of shame and remorse at my own weakness. I went back to my circle, lay in my nest and cried for what seemed an eternity without emotional or mental content. Somewhere in this catharsis my resolve to continue went on. As I began regaining control of myself, I considered forcing myself to vomit the berries up, but I knew this would increase the danger of dehydration. I reassessed my situation. I knew I could survive the remainder of the trip with no water. I also realized that while I had broken my fast, the three dozen or so berries were really quite inconsequential as far as nourishment goes. I might still experience some revelation in my time left. I began to doubt very much I would meet with a spirit guide, but I thought the experience would still teach something useful.
I sang songs of my own devising late into the night. I sang songs to the moon and the stars and all of the plants and animals that lived in the forest. I sang songs to those who came before me and those who would follow after. I sang songs of beauty, love and joy. I sang late into the night and into the early morning until I sang myself asleep. That night I dreamt of a civilization of intelligent humanoids called Dandrites who had evolved from a single speck of my own dandruff. Within this relatively short dream I dreamt the entire course of Dandrite existence from beginning to end. I dreamt of the experiences and cultures of Dandrites in different regions. I even dreamed of some Dandrites who were my favorite throughout their history. The dream spanned millions of years, but in my reality lasted probably only an hour or so.
When I awoke the fifth day it was just before noon. I was thirsty, but the aching for food and water was only a dull undertone. It was as if it was merely a symptom of my body but no longer part of my conscious or subconscious desire. The need to cheat my fast had subsided and I began to accept the environment on its own terms and not as a barrier to my expectations. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and other animals no longer seemed to move about frenetically. I saw them living within their own patterns, related to, but independent from human ideas about time. I realized their apparent scurrying was only them reacting to their life spans. I envisioned the squirrel accumulated just as many experiences in its life as I did in my relatively longer life. The sun was bright, even through the tree cover.
Occasionally I would stare into the sun, mesmerized, before becoming alert to the danger involved. Each time as my eyes retreated from our nearby star, my vision was flooded with the rods and cones that make up our sight. At the time, however, I did not think of them in these concrete scientific terms. Instead I saw them as subatomic particles floating about the atom that was my eye. Lost in these thoughts I unknowingly returned my gaze upon the sun. Revelations collided! Now the sun was the nuclear center (nucleus) of an atom in which all other things in our solar system from life to matter were merely subatomic particles. It followed in my mind that many solar systems (atoms) combined would make up a galaxy which was like a cell, which when combined made up the single body of our universe. By god, a God! Universe. And we are merely its most minute constituents acting out our part to preserve the body of the divine. What then of the cells that made up our bodies, our matter? Did this process repeat itself fractally in both directions micro and macro? Was there no end to small or large, infinity to oblivion? Or were these all just incomplete thoughts, confined by the apparatus of my perceptional and analytical capabilities? I saw at once that all truth I manufactured would be just that, manufactured. If the closest thing to a perfect thought could be so flawed, what then of the thought of a perfect thought? I began laughing hysterically. I had the sensation that I was not an individual within Universe laughing, but an individual tuned into and channeling the laughter of Universe. I grokked in fullness. Who is the great master who makes the grass green!
When at last I bifurcated from the laughter of Universe, I noticed it was nearly dusk. All of the thoughts of the day seemed to occur within mere moments, but in truth had been stretched out over nine hours or so. Like the other inhabitants of this forest, my pattern of time was no longer conforming to human standard. I wondered if this changed my very nature. Was I still myself or a new probable version of myself? The thought ‘probable’ sent me spiraling into yet another aspect of awareness. Was the very idea of individuality, of nurture and nature, completely flawed? Was it that I was not simply a product of my meat and its experiences, but a function of probability? I did not confuse this thought with destiny. Destiny is predetermined. Were all things simply a function of probability, playing out every possible action and generating experiences to fill the void of curiosity of Universe? If so could people and their actions not be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but merely probable? Was Universe and eternally cyclical infant learning from its discoveries and mistakes? What then of those who acted in deviant ways. Did they weaken the overall cells structure and thus compromise the health of the universe. Could misaligned egotistical beings create a sort of cancer in the flesh of Universe? After thinking these thoughts I realized the prejudice or polarity of my thinking that labeled cancer as ‘bad’. Would not the learning process of the divine require obscenity as well as beauty? I mulled over the idea of my life being a matrix of probabilities acting in the interest of a single grandeur intelligence. Universe!
Some time later I fell asleep. I did not dream. When I awoke at dawn I did not wake into the consciousness of my being. I was a disembodied spectator observing a narrating the experiences of my flesh. From such and angle I was poised in front of and above, looking down upon myself. A peculiar thing occurred in my observation. The ‘self’ I looked upon was a two dimensional image. It was as though physical reality was a cartoon, and perched above the vision of myself was a thought bubble of the like used in comic strips. It said, quite simply, ‘ACME’.
Immediately the barrier between myself and my disembodied consciousness dissolved. The next thought did not belong to me, and it said, “How I feel, now know you.” I should not have recognized that voice, for it belonged to a fictional entity that had never been given a function such as speech. The revelation of its identity was tantamount with significance of its appearance. I had found my spirit guide, and it was none other than Wile E. Coyote.
“Of the nature of existence, insight you have gained. But of the self, much have you to learn.” It was Wile E. Coyote, now standing right before my eyes. All of our surroundings were two dimensional replications of reality like a cartoon. Rather than the lush forest, we were now in a desert sitting upon a cliff overlooking a highway. “To be knowing of all things and their futility is a truth, but tis not a lesson from which the will of action benefits.” Wile E. Coyote, my spirit guide, talked just like Yoda. He went on. “Not a proper motivation for action or inaction is futility.”
After saying so much he lifted an anvil that had recently materialized and dropped it over the cliff to the road far below. I looked over the cliff, and though faint, recognized below The Roadrunner eating a pile of birdseed Wile E. had left there as bait. No paying attention to the scene below, Wile E. spoke to me again.
“Because meaningless our lives may be in the scheme grand, means not our lives are to ourselves meaningless.” As Wile E. spoke these words, The Roadrunner had noticed the anvil and exchanged places with a trampoline that had not existed moments earlier. The anvil hit its new target and was sent careening back to its place of origin. “Undefeatable The Roadrunner may be, but of this truths essence, my will is not.” The anvil came arcing overhead with great speed and hit the wise but blustering cartoon coyote on the head. It bounced up and down repeatedly striking Wile E. and pushing him further down into the ground with each blow. Just before the final blow sent his head beneath the rock surface he spoke his last words to me. “Thus is life.”
Having met my spirit guide, I felt spiritually renewed. I removed my pipe, put it together, and loaded it. I took long drags and turned in a circle blowing smoke in all directions and offering the smoke as a gift to Universe and all that I held sacred. The smoke carried my prayers far away, eventually dissipating and becoming part of all things. I sat still for many hours interpreting the truths my spirit guide had shown me. Although there really was no meaning to life, there was no reason to live under such a pretense. Life would only be as meaningful as I lived it, and to live was to live without fear, hatred or greed. Universe was not mine to use, but ours to share. Peacefully, under two thirds of a moon and millions of stars, I fell asleep.