(Iosif made the return journey along the West Coast by train. He wrote every hour for the duration of the ride. He set one rule for himself: he could not read what he wrote the hour before until the train arrived at its final destination.)
I wish to know what it feels like to cross a bridge dreamed up by another. I try to remember the initial bridge, but all I recall is the most recent crossing. I listen to the passengers in the front two seats converse - they just met on the train. In conversation they form a bridge. Words erect bridges. Depending on the depth of the conversation, man and woman could build a bridge to connect their souls. Or they could cross a bridge connecting their memories. A bridge connecting their churches. Or simply settle for a bridge which connects them physically.
I listen to the exchange of strangers, picking-up on conditioning. It is polite to take turns asking questions. I used to have no genuine interest in people. My mind calculated that we were all calculations. It knew we were all connected and cross our paths for a reason, yet believed everyone to be of service to my purpose. To my reason. The questions I asked lacked genuine interest. I see that now, but back then used to enjoy the flavor of a lollipop reality.
In listening, I finally remember: I am the result of a bridge. One my father and my mother formed. Consciously or unconsciously, in lust or in love, in good intention, in social status quo - it doesn't matter. I have manifested into the world of trains because of the bridge two formed. So, to get one - I - two must come together. Two opposite forces.
Blessed to remember my bridge nature, I prepare myself for the journey ahead. To unite two in one.
In crossing we live!
The train ghosted over several bridges in just the first two hours. How many bridges will it transcend in the next twenty?
Taking the train gives me a place to converse with the stranger within and the stranger without. Otherwise, life decides, for the sake of progress, to reduce all conversation, which is a bridge, to facts. Facts love to pose as truth. But all facts are facts according to the understanding of our world. My reality, at the deepest level, can never be your reality. In order to know your reality I have to empty mine.
The steward grips the stern, to sink with the halved ship. In the netherworld his facts do not hold up. Bread is called water and water bread. Sky tears and sailor sky. The steward sinks even deeper to discover there are no names at all. Just transformations, as the properties of energy teach. Indeed, 'tis the art of living. The constant emptying and filling of form.
Sinking, the steward remembers an artist who once asked for permission to inhabit his world. Offering the steward her art as a transient home. Waxing and waning in and out of existence. She used her art, her body, as a bridge to cross, to become his set of eyes, to pour meaning into the world through him, as he experienced her-art-form. Once parted, the artist returned from inhabiting the reality of the steward. She was now charged with creating more art, for she needed to express the experience of being him. The steward, in turn, returned from inhabiting the artist and perhaps approached life with a bit more creativity, mystery and whimsy. Yet, he still clung to the stern, and still sunk. Crossing the netherworld, I want to know, Which came first? The facts? Or my heart...
Empty trains or trains empty. It doesn't make sense to switch words around. My brain is conditioned to believe a train to be a train, but maybe a train is empty and empty is a train.
I wish to sleep. When I awake I will feel that time has somehow stood still.
Asleep. The train is an experiment. It is dark outside. I know we are passing through valleys and mountains, hidden under the long gypsy dress of night. A mother protective of her children. Inside the train car everyone is asleep. I know they too are passing through valleys and mountains. Landscapes drawn on the palms of their hands. Who is the artist drawing life-lines in the wombs of mothers?
The steward must revisit the studio, where his mother posed naked for a still life portrait of her son. He lays down to rest. Recharging the body is but a small part of healing. A battery is a body and a body a battery. The steward must walk to the macro and micro cosmos meeting and dancing and loving, and along with him you walk too!
How many more trains until the truth settles down? It is sobering to know that no matter how hard the body fights to have control over its function, it must sleep. I am awake while almost everyone else on the train sleeps. It gives me a great pleasure to watch the breath expand and contract within the walls of mankind. In the vacuum of the train, we breath the same air.
Tonight I will watch all my thoughts set, once and for all, the matter of righteousness. I will trust the passage into the call of the steel train-tracks. Built along the spines of men of red, black, yellow and white color. The sound of movement is soothing. I know I am coming and going. Far away, my daughter sleeps in her bed of childhood. My wife travels like me and perhaps roams the train.
The steward can't see outside and must trust the bridge within. The bridge which tells him he is crossing the pallet of a painter. She painted him here, gave him the brush, and the colors, and the imagination to paint himself onwards.
We pass through lands shuffling like a deck of cards. Pieces to collect and to match. I am in charge of the hands sewed on each side of the heart. Black is the background along which the train seeps. Upwards it creeps. I journey inside a snake. Night. Sound. Song. Can't see outside. Can see inside. Only the steward's reflection in the window separating the free-fall of the dreaming from the structure of a sentence. I bought a ticket to board a snake, knowing it will eat me whole.
The train - an invention of a human-being just like me. Who is he? She? It? Energy? I board the train to celebrate an imagination of passage.
Perhaps close to fifty people sleep in the train car. Sleeping is a very private affair. One is entirely vulnerable. His guard is down. It is a moment in which one knows all too well that his possessions, and even life, are not his own. One must sleep and in sleeping learn the lesson of giving up what one has acquired.
I dream and in my dream trade all I ever was for another day of life on barefoot Earth, so I can be all I never was.
We rarely watch strangers sleep. In a world of exterior extremities it is a beautiful revelation to be in the company of fifty sleeping strangers.
The first sun rays reveal a frost covered landscape. On my right, the eyes paint a sunrise. On the left, the severed trunks of a burnt down forest. Blackened. I am reminded of how many trains carried weapons, tanks and soldiers to the frontiers of ideals. How many bridges were blown-up to derail man's longing for utopia.
On the right, yellow and pink, blue and green and the steward wonders why we war...
Poetry writing by outside the windows. Dressed in mist and mystery. I take some photographs. I hope you get to see them.
The train is a bridge that moves through time. Rather, the railroads are bridges that connect space and time. You - time and, me - space. The sun comes and goes. The moon waxes and wanes. Man kisses woman. She kisses him back. A kiss is a bridge. Ocean. Snow. I can't take my eyes off of you. Who are you?
I am a man. This is what the steward learned growing up. I am human, different than animal. This is what the steward learned growing up. I am citizen of my train and to go to your train, I need to ask for permission to cross the tracks.
This is what the steward knows now: We are still children, asking society for permission. Permission, via a paycheck, to buy. Permission to walk the Earth, permission to ascend at my own pace and permission to descend into disassociation. Permission to love myself, permission to wed, permission to follow my heart, and work what I love, and to love freedom.
It is clear now. I am a bridge. Not a man, not an animal, neither freedom or prison. I am not me. The steward is perhaps more society than anything else. For what a society does affects the steward far more than what he does. The worlds a society creates and the realities it promotes. The dreams it gives the steward and the threats it makes.
Patterns. Fear. Simplicity.
My mother brings me into the world to give me up for adoption. I am an offering! I may still live with my mother and father and grow old with them too. But I live according to rules just as they did and do. I am an offering, yet live in a society which no longer honors ritual. My mother cried to bring me here.
I choose to be a bridge. To let the past march through in the direction of the future. And the future in the direction of the past. And my father in the direction of the mother, and my mother in the direction of the father. I am movement and if movement seized to be, so would I. I serve to connect two opposites. Born a man, I seek to connect to a woman. Born a woman, I reach out to inhabit a man. What if I was just born?
My very presence becomes a bridge between matter and antimatter. The collision of the two, releasing energy that is the combined mass of both. Undefined, I am the collision and potential to be the sum of two. I am one mass. Defined, I am either one or the other. Always building. Never resting. But in the beginning I was neither the egg, nor the sperm. What has changed?
The steward observes the mind, a staggering drunk seeking help between opposites. But it can't get any help because the opposite of sober is drunk, and the opposite of drunk, sober. In realizing that it is neither sober or drunk, the mind is freed.
Plus and minus are the building blocks of the physical world. For every plus, I am a minus and for every minus, a plus. I am always two and therefore always one. Always seeking matter or antimatter. I could not get charged if more minus were present than plus. Let the balance be restored! By way of refusing all names we manufacture for the sake of order. Out of fear to become creators again!
Begin to work with the properties of disorder. With atoms spinning at the speed of no speed. Order existed before you separated the sky from the sea. What solace did you find by separating man from woman? What vessels of transportation would mankind build if it viewed the sea and the sky and the soil as one entity? Add man to the sky, sea and soil and now you have the potential for a vessel of transportation that is entirely unfathomable, yet entirely plausible.
The sea spills into the sky, just as you spill into me, and I into you. By the lack of any definition the cherry tree seed expands. For it knows itself to be potential. It expands and in expansion its essence is never lost. The trunk, the branches, leaves, blossoms and fruit all contain the seed. They are the seed. Undefined, I am the seed. The Earth. The Cosmos. I have no goals, hidden motives, no competition and no striving, for my nature is expansive. Defined, I am lonely because I place value on an independence which does not exist.
I contain my father and mother in me. I contain all the planets, all the stars, all the I(s), all the you(s) and all the suns and all the all(s).
I used to eat ten times the amount of food my stomach could hold. Today, I am reminded of my glutenous past. The train passes over an expanded young man who becomes the bridge. I observe the offensive he launches on a pieces of dessert, squeezing out every bit of cream from the plastic container. Slurping, sanitizing the plastic clean with his index finger. Licking it. Wiping sticky hands along his sweatshirt. Taking a bite of cake. Throwing the remaining half eaten piece back in a tray full of baked treats - leftovers from Thanksgiving. It looks like he doesn't like the ends. It is as if a sugar wave has overcome him and he just can't stop. A tsunami!
When I was a teenager I viewed food as I viewed the world. Immediate gratification. Rarely did I wonder about the roots of sweet. In the past seven years I started to learn more about myself and hence food. Today, I will pass on foods which don't nurture the citizens of my body. What type of people live inside of me? Stewards and slaves and glutenous creatures feasting on sugar dreams...
I don't know who lives inside me and to a what end, but know that in each one of us a layer of dirt slumbers. I know this much because I have seen how dirt changes the color of a puddle. A puddle which, just before I stepped into it, reflected the sky. But a puddle is deceiving at a first glance. Dirt has settled at the bottom, waiting for (e)motion to stir it up. Here comes the steward, to step in the puddle... It is my duty to remain clear as I observe the steward stomp and sink into me.
Everyone that lays eyes upon me walks a puddle path, everyone I embrace with my words swims across a puddle. A journey I do not wish to soil with the rising mud of a confused and scattered existence.
"The snow is sure pretty," remarks the young man.
"Joe wished for the train to stop so he could go roll in the snow," continues the young man. Joe is his brother, a few years younger, he is an expert at the video game his older brother plays. Perhaps both Joe and his brother long for the white of snow in their own way.
With every passing tree I realize that hours, days and years pass just as quickly. But unless I stopped to observe the passage of trees, I would remain oblivious to the transposition of the scene of the passing trees onto my consciousness. I would remain unconscious. The realizations, the changes in attitude such observations ignite are exactly why one cultivates and values observation. Observation is reflection. Without a pause for observation, the eyes would not reflect the world and the world would not travel via the train of the eyes. To the heart and back.
The passing trees become a bridge connecting my experience of now to their experience of now. Inviting me to cross the bridge between man and the passing forest. So, I may see what lies on the other side. The side of the passing forest.
Have a home, but don't grow roots in your home. Have a job, but don't grow roots in your job. Have a wife, a husband, a child, a dream, but don't grow roots in your children, and spouses, and dreams. Those all come to pass. I realize I am a tree growing in water with roots reaching deep. I am floating. Suspended.
Suspended how high?
Floating how far?
Reaching how deep?
A musician on the train is playing his instrument - the kora. I'll join him to play the kaval.
Mankind continues to spread thin over the earth. Growing up on asphalt, pavement and concrete, already somewhat disconnected, man craves the perfect alter ego - the car. To put an even larger barrier between him and her. To drive him mad. To break the speed of the sound frontier. To get places faster, to add on victories and add on stress. The burden he shoulders leaving a polluted underexposed footprint. For modern man lacks enough light in his heart to leave a well exposed photograph for the Gods to follow.
The soil is foreign to me as is the notion of planting a seed. The sacred ritual of impregnating the soil ought to transpose on my relationship to my wife.
The force the steward encounters, sinking still, holds the tidal wave in her fist. To unleash onto the old world the consequences of a skewed utopia.
I am powerless before her, yet empowered by my allegiance to her. Outside of the train, factories and wires come together to celebrate production. Production of what? Only the locals know. The emphasis on creating jobs. A parent starts to save for collage before his child can spell wonder.
It takes me a few turns around the ferries wheel to realize I am the master and the slave. Kept upward by gravity, in my own compartment reality moving along a circle. A two faced extroverted human-being. Only observing the paradox I have become can set me free.
Man builds along a line. I wonder why houses don't look like circles. Wouldn't a circle hold air and energy different? I imagine a house would hold temperature differently if air was allowed to circulate in circular motion. If energy can travel within a spiral inside of a circle home. Such are the thoughts the view from the train-car ignites. Square buildings after square buildings greet the steward amidst the forms of nature. I become more and more aware of the linear shapes mankind uses to build his history. Maybe there is a good reason for the shape of our dwellings and 20th century memories. I am not well informed. I am thankful for the bridge the train becomes, inviting such thoughts to fancy and stimulate one's mind.
A linear curiosity perhaps also triggered by the constant air conditioning on the train for the past seventeen hours. One starts to wonder if there is another way for air to circulate. What if air conditioning resembled more the function of the lungs? What if we took the processes of the liver, heart, lungs and nervous system and superimposed them onto a new type of city? A city which is a micro cosmos, a mirror image of our bodies. Wouldn't such a city be in more harmony with us and ultimately with nature? Wouldn't there be less waste? Is it too late to explore and dedicate energy to such an adventure?
Contemplation certainly holds promise.
Leave a blank page so the reader can imagine it to be anything. To, in turn, realize his life to be blank, to be anything he breathes.
None can predict the present therefore all the seers predict the future. This is because you are the only one charged with changing the present. A seer will point the possible outcomes, but your will validates or averts them.
The steward used to always try to arrange the future according to his chess mindset. But his imagination proved to be far more limiting. So now he sinks. Along with him, I sink too. And together, at the bottom of the puddle, we want to know: In a world of over seven billion minds how could one logically expect to arrange the future according to his chess whimsy?
It is only natural to conclude that a different path to integration exists. It can never be by force for that is just not practical. Yet we continue to ignore the properties of water. The path stops at the golden arches of material indoctrination - the most common kind of slavery at the dawn of this new century. Integration comes and goes. It is not a constant. The process is the only constant. Hence, the more fruitful and joyful way to become a part of the seven billion family would be to adopt the properties of circular motion. Where you give the sun its due for warming you by shining onto yourself and others. Where you bow down to the night for she reminds you of the many galaxies existing in the shimmer of the thousands of stars above. This is wonder. This is integration at a level where one identifies with motion. And because one is always rotating, the past and the future repeat themselves. Just as day and night do. In actuality there is no present. The only present is your motion. Traveling along a spiral, the spheres and magnetic powers of the past and the future gradually weaken. We are given a way out. To reach the core where all that was doesn't matter. All that could be is also discarded, for only then can one go through the eye of the needle. So small have you grown, so concentrated is your power that you have merged all time into one single passing.
It is nighttime again on the train. Nature too builds bridges. Dusk being one of them. To allow the wanderer some extra time to find the path to his resting place. My resting place is in the cupped hands of a child drinking mountain spring water. It naturally bows down to receive the water. Done in reverence, such simple gestures hold the energy to replenish not only the wanderer, but the wandering too.
I breathe in the world. Unaware of the reverence until now. If I breathe in the world, it ought to be of supreme harmony. The world breathed in nourishes me or, depending on its density, pollutes me. When I breathe out the world, I do so in gratitude, to share it with others. The world, having traveled through the universe I am, undoubtedly contains me in the exhale. Contains my essence. And in the fragment of stillness before inhaling again, I am dead. Empty of anyone and anything. All notions suspended like stars out of reach. All names unnamed. This death, fraction of a pause, becomes the bridge for the new breath to rise over me. And so with each inhale the sun rises and with each exhale it sets inside, while outside of me the process is the same, but slowed down. Each inhale is the world transformed in me through spiral-like inward vacuum motion. Hence, the world I breathe in should be of supreme beauty and harmony. Beauty and harmony is exhaled by the weightless wanderer. It is his playtime to transform the world during the inhale, for knowing the secrets of the breath he becomes the supreme transformer. This is the art of breathing breathlessly.
Become like the blade of grass, which the strongest of winds can't uproot. Swaying to and fro. You dance between opposite trains. And when the wind quiets down, and the trains have passed into two horizons, one on each side of you, you become still. The blade of grass which became a bridge to stillness.
God, give me what I do not know I need most.