I grew up as a variant of soft right-winger. I started reading Time magazine when I was ten and went on subscribe for decades. To a greater or lesser degree its world view was mine - Vietnam was lost because of the protest movement; Palestinians were wicked troublemakers; WWII was a good war; coloured people couldn't organise a shitfight in a brewery and were responsible for their own woes; white people were good and made the world a better place, etc etc.
But I've come a long way since then. As have we all. If you are here, you have travelled this path. This was not by some random series of footfalls. You were drawn. Once we were weary, beset by confusion, and wishing merely for some honesty. It's this honesty that drew us. That it exists at all comes as something of a surprise. As we slough off the crust and filth of the lies we've been told for our whole lives, we find new energy. We find ourselves anew. And we do this by means of nothing more than the written word.
Forget me and this blog. I am merely a body drawn by a gravity. The gravity belongs to Les Visible. But I don't want to talk about Les. I, like most of us, have never met him. Were I to jabber away I'd be giving voice to my imagination as much as anything. And I ain't much given to hagiography regardless. (Hey Les, how you doing?) For the purpose of this exercise let's view Les' blogs, and those circling it (like this one) as a collective, a meeting of minds, a thing comprised of all who participate in it.
In addressing this we must acknowledge the medium in which it takes place. There has never been a thing quite like it, this internet thing. It's so singular, one struggles for metaphors to describe it. Words like 'web', or 'net' are the merest of thumbnails barely hinting at the possibilities of what it means. But regardless of its potential, it is a cacophony, a white noise, an everything all at once.
But mayhem aside, it is a place in which one may seek. In my own attempts at this, I participated in various forums having 'discussions' with people who lied like they blinked. It was not uncommon to find single individuals who would pretend to be a dozen people. A given individual would attack someone 'en masse' each voice in agreement. Invariably they'd compliment each other on what great thinkers they were. What the hell is that? What sort of a sick freak would do that? Why should I participate in such idiocy? These were not discussions, they were the opposite. And I'm not here to play a part in some self-obsessed individual's bullshit charade. I just want to know where the grown-ups were at.
This thing we have comprises that place for grown-ups. It's for people who are seeking, and wish to do so honestly. It is a place to cast off confusion. If this involves stepping beyond the artificial boundaries on what constitutes acceptable thought then so be it. We wish to view the world clearly. Sure enough, we do this with the written word. If this is not served by the usual style-less newspaper prose, then we will embrace metaphor, poetry, the metaphysical, whatever. With the aforementioned newspapers having failed us so abysmally, why not?
We are all of us in the gutter,
But some of us aren't distracted by the movie stars.
(excellent base line follows, and apologies to the Pretenders)
Leaping now - We are all of us in the labyrinth. But some of us have grasped that the labyrinth is also the library of Alexandria. We are the scenario of a movie. We're a band of the curious, separately wandering through the library pursuing lines of enquiry. We meet and swap tales, we wonder, we posit. We are men and women, young and old, rich and poor, the beset and the free, possessed of belief and not, and all here in the same spirit. We are here for the same purpose, with the same attitude of honest inquiry, and with a desire to truthfully describe this world and its possibilities.
This is the ideal in this gathering, or perhaps an idealised default position. Frequently the thing that exists here is riled with discord. These eddies in the stream can be stirred up, people baited, arguments started and egged on (I've done it myself, sure) but ultimately the stream we are in, is flowing in a direction we all agree upon. None of us knows, or can say definitively, what the precise destination of the stream is. It is enough that it leads away from confusion and towards clarity, truth, mindfulness and compassion. (We could call this 'love' but since it's me writing, I have to say I don't much care for that word. It carries too much soppy baggage. But some people really like that word and if you're one of them, don't let me stop you.)
If a place, or a meeting of people, is devoted to the truth, harmony will be that place's equilibrium, the state towards which it will naturally tend. It's my opinion that humans when not in a state of confusion will naturally seek harmony with each other. Forget Hollywood's fights for no reason. The real world is invariably much duller. And much friendlier.
Thinking about that stream - what if we were to expand the metaphor? Are other people not in the stream? Are there lots of streams? Where do they go? Is this metaphor falling apart? Maybe not. Clearly the majority of people are floundering in an ugly cross-grained ocean beset by the elements and struggling to keep their heads above water.
The stream of before is a metaphor of the micro. What is this water in the macro? Perhaps we could call it chi, or existence, or the zeitgeist, or the collective mind, or the spirit of the times - whatever suits really. You may call it anything you like. And that's the thing. You can call it. Others will attempt to call it too. They will bring wind and rain and every confusion they can think of. But here, we attempt to cast off the distractions; to know them for what they are; to name the riddle rather than dwell in its complications. We decide that we are flowing in a stream and we decide where it is flowing to.
Each of us on our own might qualify as a rivulet, a pool, a billabong, a creek, a cascade, but together we will make something bigger than ourselves, something that will flow and cannot be stopped. Think of the name of a great river. Consider the regard in which each is held and why. Let's declare, that none of us at Smoking Mirrors seek this regard. A river does not seek its worthiness. It merely is.
And truth be known, we are not a great river. We're just a stream. But for mine, we're a stream possessed of an irresistible nature. Those waking up to their confusion and grasping at each piece of truth, continue to find their way here. The frank discussions they find come as solace, a freedom, a cleansing. Where we are going and the way we're going there is a trip any right-thinking person would choose. Only those who have black holes for hearts, who would walk upon the bodies of the drowning would choose not to join. We are not them.
So, this place, these minds, this style of thought, this quest - Is it nothing? Is it something? Certainly between us and the bullshit media, it is the smallest thing imaginable. So let's think small. Perhaps we are a 19th century coffee klatsch transported in time. But just like then, it was less about the venue than it was about the conversation. Here we are geographically unbound, our societies disparate, and very few of us will ever meet. But it doesn't matter. Our conversation is not less real.
Nor does it matter that this thing is evanescent and will change and cease to be. The thing we are an alternative to is subject to the same realities. Meanwhile we are an alternative. We are not driven by ambition, desire, or fear. We shed these things as prisoners might shed their fetters. We seek truth, clarity and compassion. Nothing is simple, clear or obvious. But never mind. Each of us provides small inspirations for the others. Together we create - we create who we are. We are not owned. We are for ourselves. We are for each other. We are for all.
In this world of darkness where even the stars have been digitally blacked out, we make a flickering light, a sparkling scintilla of possibility and hope. We hold to this thing and we cherish it. It's not nothing. It's something. It's this thing that we share.