Planet Waves | One Eye In a Cave by Christopher Grosso


One Eye in a Cave

By Christopher Grosso

egos drone
and pose alone
like black balloons
all banged and blown
on a backwoods river
the infidels shiver
in the stench of belief
i tell my momma i'm a
hundred years late
i'm over the rails
and out of the race
and the crippled psalms
of an age that won't thaw
are ringing in my ears


Whomever is issuing external "jihads," angrily declaring "fatwahs," or recalling posters out West that read "Wanted: Dead or Alive," I dare say, missed that lesson in Sunday School.

I'VE ONE EYE TURNED INWARD, and one turned out.

I suspect my right eye is the "out" eye because it's the one I've rendered sightless with an accidental splash of a mixture of hot beeswax and soywax while making candles.

The reason I suspect this blind eye is the one trained outward is that the outer world right now holds nothing real to see.

Not only is it "illusory," as Buddha along with a whole flanking sequence of wisemen have concluded, but these days it's downright fanciful of illusory. That's twice removed from real. Maybe more.

So my right eye, my "out" eye, isn't retrieving light for my brain to ingest. Its function has shut down nearly completely, rather than sharpening its focus as a compensatory function of some natural healing process as I was expecting.

But what good would sharpening its ability to retrieve light do? After all, according to my logic (which is of the left side of the brain) it's trained outward, where, as I was saying, there's no light to behold except illusions of illusions of light, which is, of course, no light at all.

That there is no light outside of us is the same as saying that what seems to be happening outside is of no consequence. It's of no consequence because all wars are outpicturings of the inner war, and this I know something about.

Whether karmically (from which, some say, all experiences derive) or by choice, or delusion or dissociation or whatever, I've had the exciting and terrifying experience of passing through layer upon layer of what the Description Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III R & IV) calls schizophrenia. But you and I can call it a prolonged, unconsciously- induced acid trip minus Jerry Garcia tinkling in the background.

Replace Ripple with Beethovean and Wagnerian piledriving pillars commanding you to "WASH YOUR FACE, MY SON!" and you've a clearer picture of schizophrenia.

Isn't that a scary word? It's so scary it's almost mysteriously alluring.

The American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV criteria are scary to those who haven't lived it, and laughable to those who have. In order for a diagnosis, two of the following symptoms must be observed:

(a) delusions

(b) prominent hallucinations (throughout the day for several days or several times a week for several weeks, each hallucinatory experience not being limited to a few brief moments)

(c) incoherence or marked loosening of associations

(d) catatonic behavior

(e) flat or grossly inappropriate affect

(2) Bizarre delusions (i.e., involving a phenomenon that the person's culture would regard as totally implausible, e.g., thought broadcasting, being controlled by a dead person)

(3) Prominent hallucinations of a voice with content having no apparent relation to depression or elation, or a voice keeping up a running commentary on the person's behavior or thoughts, or two or more voices conversing with each other
B. During the course of the disturbance, functioning in such areas as work, social relations, and self-care was markedly below the highest level achieved before onset of the disturbance (or, when the onset is in childhood or adolescence, failure to achieve expected level of social development).

You get the idea. But let's throw all that out for a moment, lest we drive ourselves into a laughing psychosis.

Despite its renowned proficiency at listing symptomatic categories that are generalizable enough to include every human being and organizations of human beings, and thus be an ideal tool for selective control and targeted attack, the A.P.A., perhaps symptomatic of psychology's relative youth as an academic discipline, has yet to philosophically scratch the surface of a real cause/effect realm.

Regardless of whether the sufferer has tried to traverse the mental and emotional minefields of incest, as many of us have albeit with a leg, ear or an eye blown off, one thing is certain: a mind is schizophrenic when the mind is at all out war with itself.

It's not "peace time" as the world thinks of its lulls of inertia; not a "truce" as the Israelis and Palestinians mistakenly identify their "peace process," or the day-to-day state in which most people find themselves in relationship with their God. It is an active, present battleground where the mind, split apart by, and into, false dichotomies, is literally fighting itself to keep from obliterating itself. Sound familiar? (Hint: mutual destruction deterrence during the Cold War.)

Catatonia, seen by the light of this example, is an attempt to "duck and cover" while one's mind tells him "What good is duck and cover going to do?"

But what have we here, now?

We, for all practical purposes, have a War on Terror, as they say. And the terror is "somewhere else"; it's "over there," trying to get "in here."

Well let us make like MC Hammer and stop, break it down

. . .

Astrology, I'm told, tells us that all signs are in each person somewhere. And many, if not all, esoteric religions (see root word: religare, to refasten or retie) teach that each person is within every other. In science, it's like the genes (blueprints for the parts), are contained in each strand of DNA (blueprints for the whole), which are in turn contained in the nucleus of every cell, regardless of what kind of cell, or to which organ system it contributes.

Jesus, if he's to be trusted, resolutely told me (see DSM criteria #3) that we, as an academic species, generally have misunderstood the whole mechanical process of perception; that we don't really look out and see what's there and then process it in our brains so's our brains can have a picture of reality. That's just what we tell our journalists so that they'll go into the war zones and stay clear of Washington.

No, what's happening, he says, is that we look inward first, and then outward. In, THEN out.

But we thought it was the other way around.

Remember, though, what we learned in the most entertaining class we all ever had in high school-Physics. The eye inverts the image of whatever object it is beholding-turns it backwards and upside down. Remember those textbook illustrations of an eye with the cone reaching out, encapsulating the object, usually a tree or a horse? Then, when the signal from the object-which is really nothing more than an electromagnetic light impulse-reaches the brain, the brain, with all its convoluted squigglies and mushy gray twists and turns-look like glorified intestines-actually turns the upside down and backwards electromagnetic light impulse image frontways and RIGHT SIDE UP!

Right. This is the process our experience of our "visible" and tactile world is based on. No wonder tires are blowing out on Ford Broncos.

Someone wearing an American flag lapel pin asks "Are you saying that those terrorists don't really exist; that they are a figment of our collective imagination?"

And I have to answer "Fuck if I know. Go ask Carl Jung. All I'm saying is that whatever this thing is, this terroristic impulse, this tyranny motivation that we're hunting for, searching for in caves in the desert in the form of a one-eyed mullah sitting in samadhi, in order to destroy it and him . . . it's like OJ Simpson's DNA on Rockingwood or whatever the hell the bloody street was named; if it's DNA we're looking for, we might as well search within, because we've got plenty of it IN HERE. Then we can really understand what is inside. Otherwise, we're just going to let O.J. go anyway, pick him up on a roughing-the-driver call later on."

This is when the lapel-pin person walks away.

And I can hear all those courageous veterans from the beaches of Normandy, and Tom Hanks, beating my skull in with American flags and red glass cemetery vigil light lanterns, while I'm pleading for them to stop beating for a moment because I want to point out whether we did, indeed, wipe out Nazism.

Because I see Nazi punks everyday on the train even though our forefathers bravely and sacrificially stormed the beaches in the forties, and even though Black Flag told them to "Fuck Off!" in the seventies.

I recall living in a cabin in a state park in the mountains of West Virginia a few years ago, where I would literally walk out the front door and into the forest. At the time, I was driving myself mad with the ramifications of an affair I was having with a "motherly" yet fatalistic boss. Now I can see that my own childlike jealousy was the single variable in the stability or instability of the formula.

But there was an old unfinished and abandoned cabin, a shack, really, not far from mine and one day I poked my fingers through the hole in the door where the doorknob assembly would have been placed, swung the door open and walked inside to see what was in there, if anything.

In the middle of the room was a big blue dusty tarp covering what appeared to be some furniture underneath, and I lifted the tarp up off the furniture and looked under, and there was a cardboard box. Inside the box was some forgotten college notebooks, and underneath those were some corresponding textbooks. As I rooted down through the stack I came to a book with exquisite chopping and slashing caligraphic Chinese ideograms, in wide black strokes on the left half of the cover. In English, on the right, it read:



Lao Tzu's Classic
Guide to Leadership,
Influence, and Excellence.

Translation by
R.L. Wing

Dusting off the cover, then looking at my dirty fingertips, I opened the book randomly to someplace near the middle, and here is what it said:


The beginning of the world
May be regarded as the Mother of the world.
To apprehend the Mother,
Know the offspring.
To know the offspring
Is to remain close to the Mother,
All free from harm throughout life.

Block the passages,
Close the doors;
In the end, life is idle.
Open the passages,
Increase undertakings;
In the end, life is hopeless.

To perceive the small is called insight.
To remain yielding is called strength.
If, in using one's brightness,
One returns to insight,
Life will be free of misfortune.

This is called the Absolute.

I closed the book and gazed off into space.

Down the mountain, in the forested Bluestone and Greenbrier River valleys where my house mate and I would swim, there is a luxury resort hotel, called The Greenbrier, under which was secretly built an enormous, cavernous, fully equipped, nuclear blast-proof bunker that would accommodate one thousand government officials. Call it their mountain cave.

It was here that, in the event of a nuclear "exchange" with the Soviets, the American "way of life," embodied in trust (sometimes stolen) by our elected officials, would be protected and preserved for future generations in one final noble duck and cover. All the political delusions of our culture, all the lawyers-turned-public servants who self-servingly told us-throughout the day for several days or several times a week for several weeks, not being limited to a few brief moments-that we are "a nation of laws," rather than a nation of people, and free people at that. All the incoherent, time-wasting filibusters, or loosened associations between thought-broadcasting and mass-market advertising, or between freedom, equality and love, for that matter. Every scrap of grossly inappropriate affect, such as spending trillions of its society's dollars not on feeding the hungry or clothing the homeless or educating and otherwise loving its children, but on shoring up that society's dependency on things harmful to its existence, like a future based on petroleum speculation and nuclear weapons production, to name just two.

What else would be safe in that luxury cave, while outside West Virginians-noticing the miles-long queue of navy blazers and striped neckties streaming in under the Greenbrier, are shot trying desperately to enter the thick blast-proof doors? What else will have been saved, as the rest of humanity had vaporized in kitchens, living rooms, in doorways, under tables and schoolroom desks, along with the entire animal kingdom?

We need only look on the DSM-IV criteria list to know. Did you remember to bring any prominent hallucinations or instructions from a catatonic President with content having nothing to do with depression or elation like, say, Ronald Reagan's? Or how about a voice broadcast that keeps a running commentary on our behavior or thoughts, like say that of The Reverend Dr. Jerry Falwell? Y'all didn't forget to put that in there, did jya?

All of this, and more, would be in that bunker, preserving the American "way of life" for future generations. Oh stop. But nothing of any redeeming value would be in that bunker, including the president and 999 assorted public officials and doctors and business leaders, because anyone who would attempt to put his own nut sack before the rest of the beautiful, living, breathing world, is worth but the contaminated nuclear wasteland he would be left with.

Good thing for him it's of no consequence.

By the way, when I asked Jesus if what happens in the outer world is really inconsequential, he smiled and said: "You see me standing here talking to you, don't you?"

I don't think this new worldwide preoccupation is about Palestinian statehood or Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or some one-eyed guru sitting cross-legged in a reinforced cave issuing Jihads.

[Hold on. My cat is drinking water from her coffee mug on the floor. Love that. Gotta listen.]

Incidentally, mature-babe Queen Noor of Jordan said that the word "jihad" really means "the inner spiritual struggle of Islam." You don't get to be the queen of the biblical kingdom of Jordan without knowing such things, especially if you're from America, as she is.

Whomever is issuing external "jihads," angrily declaring "fatwahs," or recalling posters out West that read "Wanted: Dead or Alive," I dare say, missed that lesson in Sunday School.

We haven't rid ourselves of hate yet and it's because we still think it's out in our planet somewheres. We don't know where to look.

For Christ's sake, even the Islamic word Jihad, properly understood, points directly to the Alpha and Omega of the big Struggle: Inner. Really simple, turns out.

With my left eye, I think I can see where my terrorist is:

Sitting, half-blind and cross-legged, in a reinforced cave somewhere buried deep inside my mind.

I'll light one of my candles. Maybe I'll find him. Give the sonofabitch a hug.


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