White sand, burnt pines, and the scent of pine needles drying in the sun: I found the end of the island and turned around. One side looks the same as the other. The unlooted beach is striped with tourist trap quality seashells, and I like to crunch them. They sound like snow. They are every bit as exquisite and temporal as snowflakes. I am watching the water stir the sand. The ocean, and all of its smaller parts are very serious. They say the same important things over and over again. The tent and fire go up without a quarrel, and I wonder who I am meeting at the water.
Calypso is squatting in the waves, hands extended, her arms balanced at the elbows on her knees. The receding waters are tugging at her lengthy black dreadlocks. Her dress is a wet network of discarded fabric flotsam pieced together. It is a pompeian mosaic. Her pupils, lost in the natural darkness of her eyes, are fixed on something between the worlds. This is who I am meeting. The daughter of Atlas, an ocean nymph.
The earth turns away from the sun. Calypso is making sculptures from sand: castles, turtles, and mermaids. The waves rise and the foam covers her sculptures. As they are covered in the tide they become alive. The mermaids posture and thrash with pain as they are called into existence. They drag themselves screaming into the water to cool themselves from the gateway friction. The stoic turtles propel themselves with calculated strokes; while the castles simply fall and their place knows them no more.
The ocean ebbs with an osmotic effort to maintain equilibrium. Each new creature flowing into the ocean sends up an equivalent amount of water into the atmosphere. The water then becomes those clouds who look like mermaids, turtles, and castles. They look this way because that is what they represent.
“Everything in this physical world is a representation of something that truly is real in the real worlds.” Calypso’s voice is a grotto echo. I am watching the wind rip wave tips and flip them skyward. The campfire is a dervish. The wind is strong enough to create buoyant flame. Flame that consumes nearby slash pines. “My myth is a representation of how men desire strong independent women in their minds, but they prefer to live out their lives with the manageable domestic women. The domestic feminine, which is more manageable, trumps the wild uncontrollably of real femininity in the end. And this, in turn, represents how men prefer to maintain their relationship with God.”
I have to think about that for a minute, “They like the idea of a wild rugged god, but they reject him as soon as they realize he is not an omnipotent version of their own personality.”
Another shrieking, clawing mermaid hurls herself toward the waves. Calypso, burns her eyes into my face, “Why do you think that the ancients say, “the fear of man lays a snare?”
“I am not sure, but they also say that the ‘Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’”
A burning turtle sizzles into the water, “It is because men fear the rejection of that which they love. Fear is a mirror. When a man looks in that mirror he sees what it is he truly wants. He may be afraid of heights and truly wish to soar. He may be afraid of war, but truly wishes to be a hero. He may be afraid to talk to beautiful women, but he truly wants to hold beauty. Women always have potential to reject men and be assured God always rejects man in his natural state. But to be afraid of God shows that you want him. You fear his rejection. And the parts of you that he rejects are the parts of you that destroy you. This is the only real healthy fear. Fear of physical death is not healthy. Fear of soul death is healthy.”
Shadows are inking out from the forest roots. “Is the fear of death a shadow representation of the real danger of spiritual death,” I ask.
“Yes. And so is the fear of darkness.”
A very small ghost crab tweaks my toe and waggles his goofy eye stalks at me,
“Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth forever. I called upon the Lord in my distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
The crab flings itself to the sea like a yoyo to a hand.That was the most ridiculous, squeaky voice I had ever heard.
Calypso is smiling at the space where the crab was like a proud preschool mother, “That should concisely answer your question. I love crabs. They are always scooting around dropping bombs on the beach. Aggressive too. One time, I saw a ghost crab pull a Least Tern down into its hole.”
“Is that the reason why religions based on fear, like Islam, keep their women covered, and certain fundamentalist christian groups have weird church dress codes?”
“Yes. It is because of pure terror. Terrorist are people who live in terror. Terror from everything from free speech to their own wives and daughters. The only way to temporarily assuage their crippling fear -to gain a sense of power- is to spread it to a new victim.”
“So it is not complicated – just typical bullying.”
“Yes, it is the school yard bully with IEDs and the coming apocalypse.”
“So, what else do you know about the relationship between fear and rejection.”
“God has the potential to reject us too, but his rejection, unlike human rejection, is purifying. Women will reject the man in his entirety. God will reject the parts of the man that are destructive to the man. Namely, that which does not glorify God, which is everything that glorifies the self.”
“Is that why men fear God, because they are afraid that he will destroy the selfish parts?”
“Partially but instead of the word ‘fear’ you should use the word ‘reject.’ Men are not usually afraid of God because he holds the balance of their destiny. They are under the illusion that they are self-determining. Usually, the reason they fear God is because he is a consuming fire. They know that if God starts to burn in one part of the body he will likely spread to his entire organ system. A full grown woman is like a goddess in that she is also a consuming fire, completely uncontrollable.”
I am wiggling my feet into the place between land and sea that is soft,sandy pudding, “So, what you are saying is that they are afraid that if they give God control of some of their life, he will want control of the whole thing.”
Calypso takes the cue and starts wiggling her feets too, “Yes, but that is not a good thing to fear. Do you remember the burning bush?”
“Yes. God spoke to Moses out of a bush that looked like it was on fire but it was not consumed by the fire.”
“Some of the bush was consumed.”
“What do you mean?”
“The thorns on the bush were consumed.” Calypso’s eyes twinkle. That gives me the shivers.
“Why the thorns,” I ask.
“Because everything in the world is a representation of something more real in the worlds.”
“So, the thorns were consumed because they were a representation of the Fall.”
“Yes. Thorns, like malignant bacteria and viruses, did not enter the world until after the fall. Do you remember the first animal sacrifice?”
“Do you mean when God killed the nameless animal to give Adam and Eve their leather clothes?”
“Yes. That was the first blood sacrifice, and those animals are completely lost to our modern gene pool now.” Calypso walks out into the water. “Moses had to remove his leather shoes because they, like the thorns on the bush, represented the fall,” she is shouting over the many waters.
“Women are a fire that burns and does not consume?”
“The feminine is that. The more feminine the woman, the more uncontrollable the woman. The feminine represents that burning uncontrollable part of God. God is neither male nor female. He is I Am. When God refuses to be boxed in by our theology he is displaying his femininity.”
“What does that make masculinity? The bush itself?”
“Yes. The masculine is the thing inside the fire that is burning, but is not consumed by the flame.”
“The masculine is amplified, brightened, and strengthened by the feminine. Two parts, both alike in power, a symbiotic union.”
“So why is it that men and women cannot get along? Why do we destroy each other.”
“Because the woman uses her fire to consume, and the man refuses to allow himself to be surrounded by the fire.”
“So the woman’s fire eventual burns out, and the man’s heart eventually grows cold.”
I have to look away. Calypso is back to her creation activities. It is painful to watch these miserable burning mermaids flop their way to the water, I am thinking about my favorite author, “C.S. Lewis wrote about how male and female are not simply gender, but all of creation is either male or female. Men and women are representations of the broad universal concept of male and female, and advanced romantic languages express this by adding a male or female determiner before their nouns.”
Calypso’s words are separated with each breath as she inhale to shout over the waves, “The more feminine a woman is the less controllable she is, but as her femininity increases her fire becomes less destructive, more illuminating more warming.”
I do not think she heard me. It is time to get down to business. I came out to this island to finish crying. I think that if I cry deeply enough I will be able to find the bottom of the sadness and uproot it as like a bitter root. Crying is the vehicle of descent. This is what I found at the bottom: the universe is full of good things for me but I am so full of my own personal inferior universe that I have no room for all the better things that I could be having. In other words, I am so full of myself, that there is no room for God. In other words, I have made my Self god. This is my true sadness. It cannot be uprooted because it is not a root. It is as pervasive in my body as my blood.
When I turn around there are two men standing on a sand dune. They were watching me cry. I turn my back and wait. Eventually, they leave. “Calypso! Why didn’t you tell me there were people watching me.”
“Because I am your imagination. I sprang fully formed from your headache into life like Athena from Zeus. I don’t know anything you don’t know.”
“You don’t know very good grammar. That sounds like the creation of the Ainur from Eru in The Silmarillion.”
“I don’t know, I did not read that book, and neither did you.”
“Well, I read the first couple of chapters. Tolkien got kinda loopy in his later stuff. If you don’t know anything I don’t know then why are you here.”
Calypso is resolute, “I am fishing.”
“I am fishing for thoughts in your subconscious. I wrestle them to the surface so you can examine them, keep them, or throw them back.”
“”Oh, I see. That is very helpful.”
“And even if you did know they were there why would you let that change your behavior?”
“Because I drove three hours, chartered a boat to an island, and then hiked seven miles out into nowhere. I expected privacy.”
“The fear of man lays a snare,” Calypso recites.
“But I can’t cry in public.” I am at a loss. “Everyone tries to help me and there is nothing anyone can do. Everyone has their own pain to deal with, mine is not more special than someone else’s pain.”
“That is true, you are right no one can help you, and the more you try to unload your burdens on others the fewer friends you will have, but that is different than what I am suggesting.”
“What are you suggesting?” I am totally exasperated.
“You know better than to unload on people, but there are other more beneficial methods of communication. You are an artist, you know that expressing sadness in such a way that communicates a deeper hope underneath the sadness – a hope that utilizes the sadness to give it strength – is what separates good art from bad art.”
“I hate stories like No Country for Old Men or Scream. It drains me to see evil win. Stories have to mesh with the true fabric of the universe to resonate with our hearts. In the real worlds, good triumphs over evil in the end, and stories that end with evil winning leave our souls shaken, not stirred.”
“Ha!” Calypso laughs, “James Bond. Great pun! So. Tell a story. Express deep sorrow and the deeper hope that accompanies it. Puncture holes in the distortion that the enemy has shrouding this dying planet and let light come in from the other side. Who knows, maybe other artists will grab hold of the hole you made, pull it open wider, and let even more light in.”
I am watching a tree grow. It twists violently up from the sand and flings its branches out wide. It suffers, starves, and dies. A new tree explodes up out of the ground in its place. The moon is chasing the sun across space at a dervish pace. The sky inks closed, and the stars blink to life. They rotate across the expanse before the fiery sun blows them away again. I am watching the waves roll, roll, and roll the sand up into castles then drag them off as prisoners again into the sea. The rain rolls over the sun, and the sun peels back the rain. Everything is spinning. I am falling. I have no blood. I am moving through the waterless, dry places. Light solidifies, solid shadows shrink into marbles that roll away getting smaller and smaller as they go. The faces of the dead are lined up like cobblestones down the burning beach. I am stepping on their faces as I run and they each scream in wild intonations with every foot fall. Somewhere here there must be meaning and not just meanness.
Calypso tackles me as I am running down the beached face path. We are wrestling. I think she may be winning. I am waking up from dehydrated, sun poisoning.
“You don’t really believe what Homer wrote about me. Do you,” Calypso asks.
“He said that you kept Odysseus prisoner for 7 years until the Zeus made you send him out on a raft to find his home with Penelope. Did you miss Odysseus when he left your Island?”
“Good gracious no! I know when I’ve dodged the bullet.” Calypso laughs. She laughs alot. “I am already a queen. I do not need a king. I have all the joy and generosity of the universe at my disposal. The universe can love me through Odysseus, or it can love me all on its own.”
“That’s not how Homer tells the story.”
Calypso laughs in a way that is not completely sardonic. “And Apollodorus said I kept him for five years, and Hyginus says one. Why do you think that no one can keep the story straight. I did not keep him prisoner. Those Greeks had a bros before hoes mentality. They were just covering for him.” Calypso is back to building castles that fall, not one grain of sand left on top of another. “Men do not understand women any more than women want to understand men: They don’t.” Calypso heaves a sigh and when she does her sigh sends a shockwave through the water. This is manifested as a frighteningly large wave traveling backward out to sea. “He was so desperate to have me when he floated ashore that I let him have what he wanted. But after a month he wanted to go home. His wife was not more sexual or beautiful, but she was more predictable and controllable. I was trying to talk him into leaving long before we ever had a disagreement. I knew he was not happy.”
“How could he not be happy with you? You are amazing! You are so strong and smart. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”
“That is exactly why he was not happy, but I must reiterate that, I do not know how men think. I do not want to. When someone wants to know how someone thinks it is because they want to control them. I do not want to have control over men.”
“So, when men complain that they do not know what women want, they are actually complaining that they do not know how to control women?”
“Yes. They do not know what to offer as a reward for obtaining the behavior that they desire.”
I have to roll my eyes, “You can’t control fire with behavioral modification techniques. You can either let it burn or put it out”
“Yes dear. And to answer your original question, no. I did not miss him particularly but I did feel the pain from his attempts to quench my fire.”
“What do you do about pain?”
“The trick to dealing with pain is to always be in pain. There are two ways to feel pain: as constructive or destructive. A constructive pain is a stretching pain, a hunger pain, or a lifting pain. A destructive pain is a pain that is unwelcome and out of control like a heart attack or a broken bone. The pain of romantic loss can potentially fall into either of these categories.”
“I suppose your are going to tell me that I have a choice as to where I put my pain.”
“I would tell you that you have the privilege of deciding where to put your pain. You are who you choose to be. Buddha, however self-righteously, is widely attributed as saying ‘Pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional.’”
“Hmmm, so what you are saying is that the goodness in the pain of hunger is positive weightloss, the goodness of the pain of stretching is flexibility, and the goodness of the pain of lifting more than you can bear is strength. What is the goodness of the pain of lost love?”
“Forgiveness. The more you forgive great offences, the easier it is to forgive minor offences. And don’t be fooled. Forgiveness, like love, joy, and even physical strength is an energy current, it is not an event. You must place the hull of your ship on that path a follow it in doldrum and antagonizing wind current.”
I have always wondered about that, “Can you actually sail into the wind,” I ask.
“No. I did not say sail. I said antagonizing wind current. Moving into the wind is possible. It has everything to do with the angle of the sail in relation to the keel of the boat. The sail must be angled slightly more forward than the angel of the sail force. The keel will work in the water as the sail normally works in the wind. It is like reversing engines only there is no engine. The force of the keel is proportional to the force of the sail and the water itself moves the boat forward. This is how forgiveness works. You cannot forgive with the force of your own sail you must realign your sail so that it harnesses the power of the energy in the water around you.”
“I had always been so frustrated with myself because I want to forgive but I had assumed that forgiveness is a single solitary event or a reached milestone,” I reply.
Calypso scoffs, “Certainly not. You will be forgiving as long as you are fighting the fallacy that you are a god. For this is where unforgiveness stems from, the desire to be like god. Anyone who does not treat you as you whimsically demand to be treated has assaulted your sense of deity. To forgive is to say I am not God and ironically you become more like God because He is a forgiver. The very first forgiver. Forgiveness is his character and his design.”
The sun is setting. My fire is roaring. Calypso is fading away. She is a phosphorescent shadow. The stars are moving at their appointed rate. Sirius, the bright dog star, is ablaze in the pines. I will pack out in the morning. The gods have returned to Olympus, and the wind is driving away the biting insects. I have two apples and a package of instant coffee. These are very small things. These very small things, are the very best things.
“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor.” -St. Vincent de Paul