Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Way will show the Way

            There is a practice in Ireland called vaguing, that Patricia Monaghan writes about beautifully in The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog. On a country walk, when you come to a fork in the road, you let your body choose which way to go. You will notice that a foot or a leg has a tendency to turn left instead of right, or the other way round, and off you go. Of course, this is practice for a day off, when you do not have anywhere in particular that you need to be a noontime, and you do not mind being off the maps.     
              Yet being ready to fall off the maps, and make an unexpected find when you do that, is practice for a kairomancer on any day, even when on a tight schedule. David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, found a new book was waiting to meet him when he got off a tram at the wrong stop. Mitchell relates that around Christmas in 1994, in Nagasaki, he got off at a wrong tram stop and stumbled upon “a greenish moat and cluster of warehouses from an earlier century.” This was his first encounter with Dejima, a trading factory of the Dutch East India Company built on a man-made island in Nagasaki harbor. For two and a half centuries, when Japan was closed to the outside world, this was the sole point of contact between Japan and the west.    
              Twelve years after alighting at the wrong tram stop, David Mitchell published his extraordinary historical novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which richly deserves its tremendous critical and commercial success. Mitchell succeeds in transporting us into the mental and physical worlds of two cultures at the close of the eighteenth century. He is a master of what he amusingly calls “Bygonese”, conveying how people thought and talked in an earlier time in a way that never seems labored or antiquarian. Among his memorable characters, Dejima itself becomes indelible. And he found it by getting lost.  
Antonio Machado says it with poetic clarity:

Caminante, no hay camino,
el camino se hace por andar

Wayfarer, there is no way,
you make the way by walking it.

     In my workshops, we often sing a song that came to one of my students, a writer from Minnesota, when I lead a journey for members of an Esalen retreat to seek power songs, the kind that entertain the spirits and provide wings for shamanic travel. Some of the members of that retreat brought back very old songs in the languages of their ancestors. One brought back “Yellow Submarine”. Some brought back original material. This is the liveliest of those songs, an anthem for kairomancers, imagineers and sidewalk Taoists:

Make it up as you go along
Make it up as you go along
Make it up
Make it up
The way will show the way.

     When you get the hang of it, you let the original text go hang. You pummel and pillow-fight with the words

             Make it up
             Shake it up
             Fake it up
             Bake it up
             The fox may know the way
             The star will light the way
             The dream will show the way
             The heart will find the way
             The way will show the way

Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo by RM

1 comment:

Shendaehwas said...

"Vaguing"! After doing some research last week my uncle on my mom side has just found out that my greatgreat grandfather who came to America from Guersey Island was born in Ireland!!! So this means I have two great great grandfathers (on both sides) that are Irish! I discovered vaguing many year ago when I was travelling in foreign countries... I noticed that I seemed to be abble to find any places I wanted to go to just by following my feet! Places I had never been before and that I didn't know existed! This was pretty surprising to me and amusing! My feet brought me to the only Native american indian arts shop in Paris, the place where the restaurant that my friends in Bordeaux were looking for that was closed since a year and replaced by a bar, the museum with Native Arts in Portland, etc! I found this was really cool and it made me feel good that I could not get lost because my feet could show me the way! Although, this seemed to work better in places I went for the first time than places I was used to!? I thought this "gift" came from my Huron-Wendat ancestry, now I wander... Oops, I mean wonder... ;-)