A deserted crossroads, stretching into infinity, tableaued upon a broad and dusky plain, uninterrupted by terrain variablity. Flat, expressionless, the crossroad forms a cross of infinite length, within the center of which lies a core of eternity. An old, black man, skin dark, smoking a cigar and hoisting an expensive bottle of rum sits there, waiting for you. And me. He is Papa Legba. The Guardian of the Crossroads.
Transitions are represented by the Crossroads, in many spiritual traditions. In Vodun, the Crossroads are the domain of the Lwa, Papa Legba, or Elegua are western representatives of the African Orisha, Eshu. This diety’s domain is the doorway between the mortal and the spiritual world, the revelation of the veiled sight called prophecy and is the first and last to be invoked in ceremonies dealing with communications between this and the Other Side.
Many different types of transitions can occur simultaneously in life. The ending of a semester, the evolution of relationships. The growth of children and the continuous cycling of world affairs. We all experience transitions differently. My past as an air force brat has affected the way that I experience transitions in a fundamental manner; a manner which I’m not sure is totally positive.
Transitions were always an exciting time, growing up. From birth until my sophomore year in HS, my family moved every two years like clockwork. From my birthplace in Paducah, Tejas, to Bangor, Maine, and Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire by the time I was 3. From there to Wichita Falls, back in Texas, then out to Cali at Nevado, then outside of Vallejo, at Travis AFB to 5 years of age (first UFO sightings here). From there, back to Tejas, Paducah, grandparents, aunts uncles and cousins until we moved to Biloxi, Mississippi in preparation for our 2 year sojourn on the island of Crete, Greece, where we stayed until I was 10. Del City, Oklahoma and Tinker AFB and Scott AFB in Illinois, where we lived in both O’Fallon and also on the AFB – went to school off-base at Mascoutah HS – brought me into the HS years, and then we moved to Washington State and Fairchild AFB, not far to the west of Spokane. We stayed there for 3 years. My father extended his tour there by a year so I could graduate from HS in the same school.
Moving so much made it easy for me to let people go. The excitement of the move, the thrill of new places, new spaces, new friends, the possibility of being whoever you wanted to be and not having to worry about your past catching up with you were unconscious benefits of a life lived moving forward, hardly ever looking back. The first time I felt real remorse at leaving a place, and people, wasn’t until after we moved from Oklahoma, at which point I missed a close friend whom I still look for sometimes on the Net, hoping to see his name in lights, because he was a magnificent artist, at such a tender age, and taught me much that girds my artistic endeavors to this day.
Military brats didn’t write each other often, to my knowledge. We just moved on. Sometimes we saw others that we knew before in new places, most times not. The ability to live fully in the present and the future, to some extent, is either a gift or curse that arises from this kind of lifestyle. And I realize that there are many other people out there who have lived in such a transitory manner, moving as often or more often, for different reasons. I believe that the military lifestyle is singular though, in that sense, because you are moving within a very formal and self-contained structure, so there is a similarity of outlook and experience amongst those who grow up in that lifestyle: there are commisaries and BX’s on every base, a bowling alley, gym, recreational facilities (lakes, rivers, ski resorts, parks, golf courses, trips, tours, clubs) and excellent educational opportunities available to us that really aren’t available to people of a similar economic and social status in other walks of life.
I remember every few years, the Air Force would send my father home with a comparative chart, and we would sit around the table exclaiming at the benefits that we had access to, and the comparison to civilian equivalents always left us at least 10 to 20 thousand dollars higher on the economic ladder than the actual amount of money my father was making. Being an enlisted man (Non-commissioned officer, lower ranking) for half his career, then finishing school and going to OCS for the second half of his career allowed us, his children, to experience ‘both sides’ of the military hierarchy, the lower and upper, and to transition effortlessly between different types of people, of different experiences and economic backgrounds outside of the military fold.
So, transitions have always seemed to come easily to me. And yet, my nature is fixed, according to the Zodiac, and I tend to hold on to things inside. Not necessarily physical things, or places, but the memories of people, of events, which is something that we all do. It seems to be all that we truly have sometimes, as the vagaries of life send us tossed and turning, flailing helpless in the winds of change to then be dropped into the ocean of despair, then borne atop the frothing crests of all-consuming waves of experience that leave nothing but emotional and spiritual detritus in their corpse-strewn wakes.
A traveler crosses the horizon, a distant speck on the consciousness of a Diety. Papa Legba’s cigar fizzles out and he produces another from a pocket of the old, formless grey and dust-covered jacket he wears. He snips it with weathered teeth and it lights, magically, as his black, black eyes watch the small speck grow larger. Timeless, his patience is eternal, his station as Gatekeeper the Be All End All of Creation itself, at least as far as us mortals are concerned. Without him, we cannot move forward. We cannot experience the presence, without his intervention on our behalf with the greater hierarchies and regiments of the Divine. As I draw near him, Papa Legba’s face breaks out in a cracked and weathered grin, his voice is raspy and deep as the rivers as he says, ‘Welcome back, boi. What’chu got ta say fuh yo’sef this time.’
Since the only experience I can speak on authoritatively is my own, the conclusions that I come to in blogs such as these apply to me only. If, by some extraordinary coincidence someone else’s experience is of a similar sort, perhaps the nature of my conclusion might bear some relevancy to their lives as well. If so, such statistical improbabilities are probably meaningless curiosities in an otherwise logical and rationally-oriented universe, the aforementioned stated with tongue firmly in cheek.
Every transition we make is a Crossroad, and involves spiritual/psychic/psychological communication between our rational/irrational, conscious/unconcious and spiritual/material sides, and so every transition we make is a communication between Self and Diety, whether we realize it consciously or not. In order to move forward in health and vigor, all aspects of the past must be reconciled with the future or else they remain suppressed in compartmentalized voids within our personality/ego structures. There, they fester like old wounds and draw energy to them, taking it from our Present and creating justifications and intentions that befoul our highest aspirations, that twist our good will into something selfish and perverse, proving the truism that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Within the highest of all spiritual aspirants, there remains a mortal seed. Yin and Yang each contain a seed of thier opposition, representing the true equality of dark and light, the manifestation of a perfect relationship, a necessary realization of the total aspect of Creation. One without the other, cannot exist. I, without you, in this world, cannot be whole. We are One, dark and light, black and white. Opposition challenged, fought and resisted, is strengthened. As in the final chapter of the Matrix Trilogy, when Neo realized that he could not fight Mr. Smith, but must instead realize his inherent duality – represented Arujuna on the battlefield with Krishna, Jesus in the desert with Satan, Buddha in the forest with Mara – we each must integrate and accept our inherent duality, thereby mirroring this universal battle within ourselves, as in the expression, “As Above, So Below.”
Transitions are the flow of life, the necessary condition of existence that makes experience possible, that takes us from one state of consciousness to another. So often, they pass unremarked upon, although, at the moment of their occurence, we each experience an extraordinary clarity, where we know that something momentous has just happened, where we realize something, before allowing it to fade from our conscious mind and permitting the mental chatter and egoistic formation of past/future existence to return to its predominant function of running our lives.
My own transitions leading up to the present were marked by turmoil, mental and spiritual, and, often, material. Through them, I realized that the core disfunction of my personality construct was on the run, and, baby, when your Ego is on the run, guess what it does, it turns around and attacks you, the best defense being a good offense. And who knows you better than your Ego? It will present your most alluring temptations to you, offered up like a spring pig on a platter (or a fig leaf-encrusted soy platter, for the vegetarians), your greatest material or sensual desires will suddenly appear out of nowhere and your deepest, darkest passions will arise like a bat out of the pits of Hell to confront you in the midst of your devotional practices, distracting you, pulling you back down into the Ego’s grasp.
The servant has become the Master. Instead of being an event that frees you from the past, transitions become occasions for the Ego to tighten its grip upon your consciousness, upon your true Self, which lies beneath, forever observing, emotionless and steady, the core expression of who you are in this incarnation and those beyond. Only by cultivating the Now through the many, many specific practices available (meditation upon the breath, visualization, mantras, prayers, quiet time), going within to find out who you really are, can we overcome the habit of allowing our Ego to remain in control, our thoughts to remain unstructured and typified by useless, banal chatter.
The lives we have created around ourselves act as a barrier most times to truly getting to know ourselves, and this is an intentional device that the Ego uses to strengthen it’s grip upon us. Death to the Ego is really acceptance of the Ego as a tool of the Self. Not giving the Ego power, not listening to the worries and fears, not allowing them to settle and take root or to grow tendrils of intention that reach out into all aspects of our lives, perverting our present by creating more negative kharma that will only end up repeating the same old cycle, over and over again, if we allow it to. The way out of this trap has been known since the beginning of time, but it is only by going within, that we can change what goes on without.
Papa Legba awaits each of us and we all, in our own way, seek him out. Whether it be at the bottom of a bottle of rum, or the highest mountain in the Himalayas. Whether we be Buddhist or Pentacostal Christian, Hindu or Sunni Muslim, Animist or Philosophical Diest, the power that Papa Lega represents is real and transcends culture and spiritual affiliation. Whether we acknowledge this particular belief system or not, we cannot trick ourselves. The alien formation of Ego structure can and often will attempt to downplay the reality of the spiritual, our responsibility to the collective human family and the greater trends of positivity that might awaken the selflessness of our peculiar human nature. But beneath the Ego’s selfish rationalizations, our true voices whisper constantly, reminding us that there is more to our lives than that which we want, or desire. That our purpose is greater, that we are called to Glory, no matter our personal situations, or what we can or cannot do, according to our own interpretations and understandings of what we, as individuals, are capable of in life.
Nobody holds you back but yourself. Only I hold myself back. Only you do too.
As I stand there at the crossroads, Papa Legba grows ferocious in aspect, his black, black eyes all-encompassing, growing in my awareness, drawing me in, further and further, becoming swirling black whirlpools of intention and destiny, and I am sucked into a void of eternal light, within which total consciousness exists. Around me I hear voices, of loved ones and strangers, an echoing chorus of laughter and light, of pain and suffering, of life and love, of experience and desire realized. My soul opens, my secrets exposed, I cry out to the multiverse surrendering myself to All That Is and Ever Shall Be, knowing now that my life was never my own in the first place, that I am but a part of the Whole, a singular thought in the Mind of God, an echo of a shadow of a reflection of an infinite collectivity that is One.
Abruptly, I am returned to myself, standing alone at the Crossroads, the litter of ashes and cigar butts, and three, empty bottles of rum accompanied only by the echo of Papa Legba’s laughter, born on the desolate, whispering wind of encroaching night. Freed of all encumberances, I laugh out loud, listening to the sound of my life lived Now, and Forevermore.