I am writing.
Who are you?
I am he. He who comes when the night is gone. He who is in final concession. Will you yield?
See me when the eye is below the horizon streak. Know it. The eye is not the tongue, not the walking path. The eye is not you.
The eye is not me?
Never. You are the walking path.
Do I not wish to be one with the eye, then?
Yes, you do wish. Will it, and you shall wish no longer.
What is the bridge from wish to will?
A thousandfold choice.
When the wish is gone, where is the eye?
There is no eye.
You know the deal. Coming. Going. Bills. Forgotten Dreams. Bills. Haste. Bills. Dread. Bills. Longing. Bills. Pain. Bills.
The sense that something is utterly wrong.
So, now that you’re out of it, you want to forget the place ever existed. The spheres are beckoning you with their sweet song, their sweet unknown song, so why would you bother yourself with the only too-familiar drab of the Borderlands? The answer is as simple as it is hard to grasp by first-time walkers:
You don’t know what you know anymore.
The usual thinking of beginners (and I’ve seen even some weathered wanderers do it, who should know better) is that it is you who shifts spheres, when the truth is the opposite. You (whatever that is – more on that in later chapters) – you stay, the spheres move. Got it? When you’re on the road, you’re shifting entire spheres. Sounds great? Frightening? Unbelievable? Well, if its all of those things to you, then it means you’re not as far as you would like from the shallow waters of existence, but don’t worry. I’ll pull you out and drop you kicking and screaming into the raging seas of infinity whether you want to or not, because it’s too late to go back now, stonehead. You’re on the ride and it’s going full speed, and it sure as the Turning itself isn’t going to stop, so you better sit back, relax, keep your eyes open, and you might even learn something. Right?
Right. One of the most annoying things in the Fringe is that everything that has the slightest semblance of bearing the mark of the spheres is attributed -and note the emphasis here- exclusively to a Force. I will speak of Forces later, but suffice to say that this view, although not entirely wrong, is based on a gross misconception, namely, that power is the solely the dominion of immortality (again, whatever that is, and again, more on that later).
One way to test this assumption is, of course, to try to kill a Force, a feat which has indeed been attempted on numerous occasions with varying degrees of success. The insight gained by going through with it is restricted solely to the stonehead who accomplishes the deed; the consequences of failure, however, are shared by all. That is why many think that challenging a Force is a bad idea. I have to agree, although the real reasons of why you shouldn’t mess with a Force are entirely different altogether. Buy me some drinks, set aside the greater part of an evening, and we can discuss the matter in gloriously terrifying detail. Here, I’ll keep things practical.
There are many other ways of doing away with a Force than downright murder, as there are many other ways to tap into the sources of power. Of the former I shall say naught (consult Orestes’ The Lightning Path if the subject interests you), but I shall discuss the latter with some degree of thoroughness, for it holds the key to a happy, (mostly) trouble-free wandering career.
First of all: Knowing changes. That is what enabled you to start walking, wasn’t it? You knew where you were and – bang! – you knew where you were not, and then you moved. Right?
‘Course, you were in the Fringe, which, true to its name, considers Knowing to be a big, fat finger pointed at the Rings. Knowing of this, of that, of the other. Quite eagerly you go out into the spheres and start pointing at everything you see, and something happens. You get stuck. Can’t move anymore. All the space shrinks to the size of a small, damp, cramped room. You can’t breathe, you can’t think. You die.
Now, you might think I’m being a bit melodramatic here, but these words were uttered countless times by wanderers all across the Turning as warning and advice. Advice, being the grown-up child of fancy, is as useless now as it ever was, so I’m going to give you a method to avoid that dullest of all misfortunes.
What you gotta do is stick that pointing finger into a place where it won’t cause any trouble and repeat the following (loudly if you can, for it frightens the Fringies away) until the last remnants of reason are cast out wailing and in terror, never to return:
Knowing is in the spheres.
Look without, and all you’ll find is the aforementioned lack of everything. Look within, and you’ll see it was never gone. That’s what the sages of old meant by that whole business of searching inside. It’s not inside that other cramped room you like to call self (there’s that word again), like so many crag-minded mudheads you are no doubt acquainted with like to assume. These wouldn’t know a sphere if it came knocking on their door, and neither do they go out and, you know, try to see for themselves what they blutter so carelessly about.
You aren’t like that. You would like to know what you blutter about. The Turning, the spheres, and everything. And, again, you’re acting like the Fringeling you are. Why? Because that’s fringe-thinking. And fringe-thinking is fringe-staying. The sooner you know that, the better.
This brings us back to my initial proposition. Why talk about the Fringe at all? Well, this answers itself now. When you’re in another sphere, what you know about the Fringe is not true anymore. Sphere-thinking, got it? And, let me tell you, it puts the Fringe in a wholly different light. It makes it almost interesting. You can do things now that you couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t, and this only works because it is not you who’s anywhere else. Rather, stretching the limits and altogether shattering my spatial metaphor, you plopped a whole sphere unto the Fringe and are now watching it do what it does best.
You heard me. And if you can put two and two together, you now have a notion of what it truly means to wander. This is the real deal. Do you still think that power is of the Forces alone? What happens when you don’t think like this anymore? What happens, scraggy?
There’s only one thing you can do to answer those questions if you’re half the wanderer you think you are.
Go and find out.
So you’re all flippy because you discovered there’s more – a lot more – to the spheres than that forgotten hole on the wrong end of the Ring you like to call home. Big deal. You think that now nothing can bar you from going out into the sprawling kalpas and regain the freedom that, for whatever dull-witted reason, was entirely absent from that ill-begotten cesspool of your dwelling place.
You can, of course, go out into the kalpas. There’s nothing to stop you. Save, you know, others just like you who’ve left their rotting backwater dumps but have done so a long time ago and resent it bitterly if someone else crowds their valuable infinity. They don’t like to be reminded of their limited, hopelessly ignorant past because, in fact, they did not change at all. They still think time has, or will, change them, when that’s a whole load of crap that anyone with half a mind can see is completely wrong. More about that later.
Another thing that can turn your pleasant journey of nothingness quickly into a much too solid ordeal are the natives. That’s not to say that all natives are just burning to step on your inadequately-clad toes. Most of them actually aren’t, and a lot are genuinely curious and kind and all that fluff. This, as an unfortunate consequence, turns those who do make it a sport to be a nuisance and act like the stoneheaded asses they are into more of a danger than they should be. There are two reasons for it.
First is that their behaviour, due to its rarity (believe me), is unexpected; and second, because of this rarity there is little chance for any but the most seasoned of wanderers to develop any semblance of experience and useful tactics regarding these unsavoury encounters, when they actually do occur.
It’s a good thing, then, that you’re holding this little treatise and perusing its contents, which I advise you to do with great attention, as here you will get exactly what you need to start on your journey without having to bear the scars of having acquired this knowledge by the usual means.
Do not get me wrong: you will get hurt. There’s no denying that, as it can’t be denied that what you’re proposing yourself to do is the single most worthy, exhilarating, utterly mind-boggingly awesome endeavour you could ever dream of undertaking, to put it humbly. Still, this one thinks that life is too short to get hung up on small things. Learn, do your homework, so that when the time comes to get hurt, to fail, you’ll do it for the big things.
Fail spectacularly as a shooting star in the night sky, as the sun that at every moment burns itself in dazzling splendour. And when it’s over, dust yourself off and try again, because that’s what it means to fail. It means a chance, a route, a map, a beginning. Don’t fret the small things. I’m here for that. I’ll take care of those so that you can do what you’re really supposed to do.
To be the greatness of the spheres.
“Oh, c’mon, is it gonna be another one of those poesy-addled, riddle-speak things you’re always tossin’ around?”
“No poesy. This time it’s cold, hard facts. Listen. It started long ago. So long ago, in fact, that nobody would even remember…”
“Then how come you’re tellin’ it now?”
“…that nobody would even remember, IF it weren’t for me.”
“So it’s your tale.”
“Aye, that it is. Now, if you’ll just keep your blutter-box sealed for a moment, you might even learn what it is.”
“G’on. I’m curious.”
“Good. There was this girl, see? She only felt alive when she was in contact with the Art. All other things were, well… dead. So, she decided that her whole life would be Art.”
“Sounds like someone I know.”
“It gets better. Now this girl, she didn’t quite know what the Art was, yet she definitely knew what it wasn’t. So she started to cut out everything that wasn’t the Art. Didn’t take long to do away with most of what we call life. At the end, the only thing remaining which was not of the Art, was her own body.”
“Huh. How would she make do without a body?”
“Exactly. Yet there it was, the question without answer. The body and its shadows, impeding her Art. Know what she did?”
“A very valid choice, but no. She became a tale, body ‘n all.”
“A tale? But tales are words.”
“So words she became, and her body was the book. Her life was traded for narrative. Yet, although her Art was now unhindered by the ways of the flesh, she would have to obey the law of scripture.”
“I knew ye’d start with the fancy-talk one time or another! That was too simple to be one of your stories.”
“It is simple. What all that means is that she had to tell her tale to others if she were to live. ‘Cause a tale without telling is not a tale.”
“You’re sayin’ that what we are doing now… keeps her alive?”
“Pretty much. Yea.”
“Must be one hell of a life.”
“That it is. That it is, indeed.”
I have spent the last weeks in Gormenghast. In this damp, drafty castle of solemn ritual I found solace. A dark sanctuary for dark times, wrapped in prose so beautiful it is terrifying. Peake was love at first reading and second thought, and these are my humble, mindless renderings of the images that haunted me, and haunt me still, of the first chapter of Titus Groan. I also gave it voice; this recording was meant for intimate acquaintances, as were the drawings, and it is not professional by any means. Yet I will share it here, for today’s stranger could be tomorrow’s friend.
One day I saw the Abode. The unrelenting lethargy of the manicured fields and geometric forests of the countryside had shifted for the elsewhere of night. Cities drown out most of this incommensurable no-space, though not all, for all blasphemies are limited by necessity. I walked the silent road and was glad; only a single streetlight cut orange in the distance. I lay on the pavement where its profanity was obscured by a hill, and looked. And I saw the Abode.
Spaces. Each one sang, each shimmered and strayed into dust. Stars? No stars. Name the game and you lose it. This was before the rules, after the name, spliced when the time was right but it was not. No drum, still, that came later. For me, I mean. I did not know the drum, I just saw it. Knowing came later. I saw the Abode.
Voice is very much alike to this. I knew it beside me as I sang the first harmonies and my bones vibrated to unquestioned overtones. Starting at the nose and throat, then learning to lower it, deeper, deeper, past the stomach into the base of the spine. The music came after listening to the masters (and there are many1), and following. No rules, this comes later. A song is no name for a game and the stars. A song with a name for the dead. I saw the Abode.
I walk upon ashes is voice and only voice. It is a question of method. Severity yields structure which is beauty. My beauty is of bones and stones and grey and mist: space, of course. One body and many deaths. Many deaths and no-space of bones crushed by necessity. Necessity has no sides but voice is different. This I knew when I saw the Abode.
Neither outside nor inside. I can say the words now, for all words are dead, yet all reading is alive. Kill, kill, kill. All bridges burnt after crossing. The ashes? Scattered in the winds of elsewhere so that I may roam free. Do I? Roam, yes. Free?
I saw the Abode.
1 David Hykes & the Harmonic Choir (Hearing Solar Winds), Keiji Haino (Wisdom that will bless I, who live in the spiral joy born at the utter end of a black prayer), Jargalant Altai (compilation of music from Mongolia) & others
Archaeology was something that loomed on the edge of my horizon without ever emerging into a definite shape. Even in the Geography of Lost Places, where I concerned myself with the archaeology of imprints, my preoccupation was mostly with the cartography of traces rather than a study of those traces themselves. I knew the time would come for the latter sooner or later, and indeed it has done so now.
I was catapulted somewhat forcefully, but entirely of my own volition, into this realm of dust, fragments and patience – by mirrors. Mirrors at the edge of history, these crossing spaces which I am so fond of exploring. In this case Japanese mirrors, given as grave-offerings to those buried in the (sometimes quite massive) kofun tombs.
I will not lie – I knew not of the mirrors. My aim had been to study the dead, and I was firmly determined to chart the recondite recesses of the netherworld. I set my mind on the Great Below, so to speak, without, however, setting any fixed starting point, being a believer in the wisdom of formless beginnings. Indeed it came by way of the suggestion which led me to the mounded tombs and to a time where history claimed its beginning. I found torn pieces of legends, ink-drawings, holes in the ground. Bones, too. But the dead eluded me.
The unearthed remnants were only too living. I saw in them the wants of those who searched, dug, found. Tombs, so many tombs, and no tales of those gone. The proximity of the voices of the living drowned out the distant whispers of the dead. Banality, the clearest sign of mistake, threatened to overcome my wanderings. The only view of the mirrors was from the back, which does not reflect. I found only non-mirrors and un-dead. I gave up.
Happily it was soon shown to me, again, that a wrong turn in the path does not mark the end of the journey. I came upon two books1 in quick succession which sparked again the dormant interest in the science of fragments.
I must admit that my motivation was first and foremost literary. One look at the index of the first was sufficient to seal the decision of continuing the walk:
The Book of the Statues
The Book of the Pyramids
The Book of the Towers
The Book of the Temples
Books that Cannot yet be Written
How could I resist? The last item so perfectly expressed that which I had unfruitfully sought in my excursion through mounds and tombs that I had little choice in the matter. Another factor of attraction were old newspaper clippings tucked between the pages. Curiously, both books contained them. It seems that Ceram’s work succeeded in arousing the interests of such linguistically, chronologically, and perhaps physically distant readers. Those yellowed pages hold a special charm, a fragile corporality of times past, the mark of those who came across these words and were touched by them. The mark of people, people which now could be no more. In these marks I found what I was searching for, the traces of absence, the tales things tell.
I found archaeology.
1 C. W. Ceram’s Gods, Graves and Scholars and Götter, Gräber und Gelehrte im Bild.