A Life Forming Experience

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the concept, self as vessel, meaning and life experience connects to create meaningful life experience. For instance, just as self as vessel is hollow enough to contain our present conception of the physical universe…hollow enough to be concerned with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful…hollow enough to hold the meaning and purpose of existence;…so to is the concept self as vessel hollow enough to feel pain, love, anger, compassion, hate, and divinity. Make no mistake, though; meaningful life experiences are not simply a product discursive thought mixed with life experience. Because meaningful life experiences originate from and return to their point of origin in the self, their derived meaning is more of a circular driven process then a linearly derived process.

In A Life Forming Experience, I describe what for me was a circularly driven life experience, a profoundly meaningful one that hinted at an ultimate meaning. Loosely translated, this ultimate meaning suggests---that self as vessel is a heartbeat away from the connection that connects everything to everything else.

Submitted: August 14, 2009

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Submitted: August 14, 2009

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I Was In It All, When Suddenly I Felt My Body (My Exteriors) Collapse

Juan’s basement sitting on the bed

May 30, ‘72

 

My first 6,600 feet up wasn’t too bad. It took me most of yesterday to climb that high. The first eight miles was almost straight up, but after that it evened out a bit. The traffic was light, so it felt like I was up in the mountains alone, and I really liked that. I passed a couple of nice looking trout streams, but I didn’t stop until I got higher up. Around 3 p.m. I found a stream and started to fish. I fished for a long time, but I only caught one little Brook trout.

 

At first I thought I wasn’t catching fish because I wasn’t using a commercial fishing pole (I had sent my collapsing pole home with everything else), then I happened upon a couple of fisherman and showed them the “stick” that I caught my trout on. They just smiled. They hadn’t caught any fish either. I ate my fish for dinner along with some dried cereal sprinkled with raisins. It was delicious. I can’t wait to get to a place where I can eat trout all the time. It’s sure an emotional trip up here in the mountains.

 

May 30—night

 

A lot has happened today, and since I have the time, I’ll put it down. First off, it has been a fantastic day. In the beginning it was all uphill, not too much traffic, though, and a lot of scenery. Towards late afternoon I reached the summit, or at least the top (passes are usually cut through the lowest part of a mountain range). It was a long climb; it took me two days of bicycling. The BigHornMountains are big. As might be expected, at the pass there was an overlook for people to enjoy the view. On the pass, the snow was four feet deep. On the south side of the peaks, along the edges, the snow had melted, leaving bare rock for me to climb on. I left my bike in the parking lot and started up the mountain. High up along one of the peaks, I found a nice sunny spot and settled in for some quiet time.

 

When I climbed down, the sun was moving toward the horizon, and the air had turned chilly. In the parking lot, I got on my bike and headed down the mountain. It wasn’t long before I stopped peddling. At first the decent was steep, and the switchbacks were frequent and scary. I knew this was going to be quite a ride, especially when I came to the sign that read, “Down hill next twenty miles.”

 

I hated to brake, but not braking here, ultimately, would create a meld of bone and rock that I was desperately trying to avoid. (There was a concern that my brakes would fail, but I tried not to think about it). Soon, the switchbacks going down the mountain lengthened, and the 40 to 45 mph speeds that I had to negotiate became less threatening. On top of the mountain the frigid snow reflected blinding sunlight. At lower elevations, though, the heat from the sun warmed my face. As the sun got closer to the horizon, it added a rich yellow hue to the already spectacularly colored canyon walls, the walls of Ten Sleep Canyon. The vision was as overpowering as it was irresistible.

 

On wings of light, sailing down the mountain, I lost all feelings of attachment and weight. The farther down into the canyon I went the more I was filled with the overwhelming beauty of the place. I felt transparent to my surroundings. It was at that time, in the beauty of it all, when suddenly, as if a chair had been pulled out from under me, I felt the contours of my body (my exteriors) collapse. What was left of me after that was/is impossible to describe, but it felt like this: “It was Wow! Amazing! I was upside down and inside out.”

 

A feeling of “grasping,” of “being engaged” substituted for what used to be my body; but even that connection, that subject-object connection, was extraordinarily strange because I felt it from the outside – in, not from the inside – out. I did not fight it. I just let it happen. In that joyous trembling, throbbing, moment, zooming down the mountain, with a warm wind in my face and unbelievable beauty everywhere, I metamorphosed into an infinite array of connection with my environment. I had no idea as to what had just happened to me, but it was a fantastically passionate experience. There was no anxiety, fear, or negatives of any kind in it. I had never felt that way before (nor probably will again).

 

As I reached the canyon floor, I knew that if I died right then and there, it would be okay. From the vantage point of being inside my outside environment death had no meaning. It was an illusion. Once I had gotten outside of myself, once I became entwined within the environment, the Truth that death was an illusion was everywhere apparent. When I started peddling again it was as if I was peddling in a dream. It took a while to come down, to come down out of that dream. However, on the canyon floor it was 95 degrees and peddling in that kind of heat was a reality check all by itself. When the orange sun slipped beneath the horizon, it was still 92 degrees. Again, it was as if I had just landed on Earth after some intergalactic journey. I acclimated well, though. I came upon a restaurant-bar, and, of course, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to reflect on what had just happened to me, so I went inside and ordered a beer.

 

At the bar, two Mexican Indians struck up a conversation with me. Apparently, they had watched me ride up on my bicycle. When I told them how far I had come, they were surprised. We drank some beers together, and Juan told me I could sleep in his basement if I wanted to. I agreed, but before arriving at his place we went out into his fields and I helped him redirect some irrigation water. Now it was his turn to impress me. He told me that he was under contract to provide all the barley that went into making Schlitz beer. Back in Michigan, I drank a lot of Schlitz, but in Wyoming it wasn’t available. Juan couldn’t even remember how the beer tasted. I assured him it tasted great.

 

Standing four inches deep in mud, surrounded by a field of green barley, and after another one of Juan’s friends had stopped by to help us drink the beer that Juan had stashed in the back of his truck, I guess you could say I made my way back to Earth, but even then, in that relatively innocuous moment, poetry flourished. The four of us--two orthodox Catholics, one agnostic military lifer (the new guy), and myself, at the foot of the BigHornMountains, in the cooling twilight of a very hot Wyoming day, talked God and religion. That was the second time in less than a couple of hours where language failed me. Words did not help me then and even now, in my attempt to describe that situation, I cannot find the words, so I won’t try.

 

In Juan’s basement I was sitting on the spare bed writing in my journal while trying not to listen to Juan argue with his wife upstairs. When I walked up to the house and entered through the door I could tell that his wife wasn’t happy. Juan, before we met his wife, told me that if I wanted to stick around for a few days he would put me to work. I said, “Sure.”  I even told him that I would work for free because I wanted to get a feel for what it’s like living at the foot of the Big Horns, and that for me was worth more than money. He said, “You can thin sugar beats and I will pay you, maybe not much, but you’ll make a few dollars.” It didn’t look like any of that was going to happen now. Judging from what I was hearing upstairs, I decided not to unpack my things.

 


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