Excerpt from “Birding in the Face of Terror” — Prologue

My name, you ask?

You are dying to know, I can tell.

For I have watched you. I have seen you warring against yourself since the beginning of time, spilling your own blood for the right to call me by the names of your choosing.

Part of you has imagined me as legion, and built a pantheon made of aspects of me, while another part of you insists and swears by the blade of your sword that I am one, and only one. And yet, by that same sword you are divided over which name to call this one-and-only. Either you envision me as lunatic or, in crafting this crazed visage, reveal yourself as so. Neither seems fitting for a species endowed with reason.

So indeed, I am called by many names, and assigned a multitude of numbers.

None of them are true.

Impossible, you say? There are records from other ages that show that I have spoken and given you my true name? And you believe these records based on the authority of…yourself? Really now. Let us dispense with such infantile notions. You have grown too big for the swaddle of your own beliefs.

Oh, but in a universe of infinite possibilities, you say, surely someone has uttered my true name, even if just by accident. But no, not once. And I am neither one in number nor any multiple thereof.

Indeed, you name-callers dwell in infinite, unfathomable space, and that space dwells within you. There has been no time when this wasn’t so, nor will there ever be. The potential and possibilities of your universe are indeed limitless. But when you open your mouth to describe me or count my appearances, you confine yourself to a small box. I am present in this boxy world of names and numbers too, but I cannot be contained by them. Nothing you are capable of saying approaches the infinite.

Consider the number of beings that are alive right now in your world. This number may be staggeringly large on the human scale, but still it is a number. To know me, you must forget all numbers.

Picture the grains of sand on all of Gaia’s beaches, or drops of water in her oceans. These numbers added together are not a single step in the direction of infinity. It is equally futile to give me a name.

Ever since human beings began measuring time (which, incidentally, is when it began), you have wondered about my true name, and asked me to reveal my face. I have said many times in different ways: you will see my face when you merely open your eyes. But all of these names you babble, like grains of sand and drops of water before a numberless space, are towers built to reach the heavens –they all fall short of me.

I am beyond all measurements of time and space. I am before anything was, and beyond when anything will be. I am above up, and below down. I am farther than the farthest conceivable edge of the known universe. I am closer than your heartbeat.

You may imagine that I created you and your world. That is true in a sense, but not in the way you imagine. You cannot push me beyond your boundaries nor contain me in your boxes, and you cannot separate me from what I am. I do not create you like a potter creates a pot. I create you by becoming you, like the ocean creates waves, like a dancer creates a dance. Let go of this crackpot idea that you are spun from a wheel you have never seen.  If there were such a wheel, it would be the same substance as you, and you are nothing other than me. What you are is what I am. I spin my own essence into beings of incomprehensible diversity and complexity. I create these beings from myself. I become them and return into my essence in a cycle with neither beginning nor end. Beings come and beings vanish; they never leave my midst. They all remain Whole within me. I am that. You are that too.

But indeed, if you should see this world as a stage, and feel yourself as a single actor in a cast of innumerable others, reciting lines both familiar and new, acting out your role as assigned and apportioned, you pot of clay filled with the emptiness of me –this is no accident; I have made it so. Be this small person with a name, and a number of one among many, and be not alarmed by it. Step into the disguise that makes your character the unique being it is. Grace the stage with your singular presence. Feel the contours of your person –the particular mask you wear, all the concepts and thoughts and emotions that comprise your own personal costume. Be at ease, comfortable in your character and its role –at least for the moment. There are no bad parts in the whole production, and you were cast for yours with a sense of purpose.

And in this great drama I too must become like a character, an image you will recognize. It will at once make you mindful of me and yet forgetful of my true imageless nature. I must hide behind this image that fills your sight, like the boundless sky disappears behind the fog, like the whole world behind your closed eyelids.

This image of me will appear to you time and time again throughout the drama, in many different forms. It will stir something deep within you, from a dimension of your being that you shut down and forgot in order to focus on your role. Then the play takes a serious turn. Your comfort will evaporate, for the image of me will bring fear and trembling. You will believe that every actor eventually leaves the stage and never returns, and that I await you behind the curtain to condemn you for your poor performance. Terrorstruck, you will twist and sweat under your mask and scream silently as you search in a desperate rage for ways to affix yourself to the stage.

But no, my appearance has a different purpose. For I will be there on the stage, in the form of your image of me, always challenging you to choose a different path to immortality: to put aside names and numbers, open your eyes, and feel my infinite presence. What seems like two different things at first, the image and the presence, you will learn to see as one, but the former must first lead you to the latter. You will either shun me because you love your miniscule role to distraction, or follow me because of an inkling that you were once something much greater, and that I know the way back to you.

So, for this moment, lose all concept of names and numbers. Stop searching for me, and feel my presence within your being, in the space around you, in the plentitude of things your senses are bringing to you right now and all your thoughts about them. Feel the ecstatic nature of my being within you, within all of creation, because I love to be what I am, and I am to be what I love. For I so love you that I have given you the chance to lose me in your own mind, and feel the exhilarating joy of rediscovering what you never really lost.

But you cannot know this yet, not with any certainty. Therefore, for the sake of the drama, forget this moment of illumination, but do not lose it. Obscure it behind the translucent veil around your mind, but let it be a dim beacon in your heart, and carry this inner light always.

When you see me –that is, when you open your eyes– forget my true identity. But not completely. When you give me a name, call me as the Rastafarians do. Call me I and I. This will remind you of that faint inkling, and provide a clue as to why, when you look out at that vast multitude of beings and things with their own names, you cannot help but feel something of that greater self that you truly are within every one of them. It is all I and I.

Excerpt of Act I

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Published by Waldo Noesta

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