Thursday, August 7, 2008

Random Acts of Silence

I’m going to take a break from sigils for awhile to regroup my perspective on the topic.

For the past little while, I have been doing a study on Pisces. One of the characteristics of Pisces that caught my attention and which I later turned into a magickal routine is the indecisiveness of Pisces. As the last of the signs of the Zodiac, Pisces is the follower, the sidekick (as represented by Ron Weasley in Harry Potter). Pisces is known for its servile disposition, its inability to make decisions, and its tendency for getting lost and confused.

While all of the above may seem like weaknesses, the ability of Pisces to get lost so easily also allows it its mutable, free-flowing, artistic abilities and social nature. Much of the subconscious is raw imagination without any structure and to anal retentive control freak Cancers like myself, Pisces is a hell that I need to visit to break down my own dogmatic way of life.

Part of my inspiration for this blog was from an article titled “Beneath the Pavement, the Beast” by Stephen Grasso, published in the book Generation Hex.

In Grasso’s article, he focuses primarily on Drifting, aka, dérive. In short, Drifting involves taking long walks about the city looking for inspiration in the city landscape and textures. It is similar to magickal consciousness or the paranoiac-critical method in which random details are re-interpreted as meaningful directions, for example, graffiti, billboards, newspaper headlines, overheard conversations, radio announcements, neon signs, etc, are actually messages from the universe (151).

Drifting can be included into any type of activity. I was in a Quick Check and a liquor store today and Drifted through both, looking for snacks in the Quick Check while waiting for my sandwich and looking at the different types of beer in the liquor store. Drifting should involve a quest for new information or re-discovering old information – as I was looking through the brands of beer, I kept thinking, I remember this from college…I increased my beer repertoire along with my knowledge of snacks. Useless information, right? Not really. What are the chances of you someday getting hungry for a snack or asked what type of beer you like…?

Places of power can also be investigated. Grasso indicates that the best areas to begin a Drift are crossroads, the crossroads symbolizing an in-between area (150). Other places might include standing stones, woodlands, rivers, hospitals or other public areas, abandoned buildings, etc (154). He also uses the subways as symbols of a descent into the Underworld (153). For me, all of these are appropriate as are any new area beyond one’s familiarity.

Shamans (yes, the plural of Shaman is Shamans, not shamen) use hallucinatory drugs and visualization techniques to explore the astral realms, but Grasso differentiates Drifting from the typical Shamanic journey: “It is essentially a shamanic journey that takes places physically in real time, as opposed to an internal journey” (150). The magician wanders geographically (rather than psychically) out his or her normal sphere of comfort, awareness, and experience. For example, I once took a three hour drive up to the Catskills and at some point realized that the highway system was no longer familiar to me. In this unknown territory beyond the familiar, the magician enters an Other world.

The Australian Aborigines use a tradition similar to Drifting called the walkabout. Around the age of thirteen, an Aborigine teenager will simply leave and walk about usually for a period of around six months. During this time period, the teenager learns the lay of the land, in particularly the songlines or places of power established by their heroic ancestors and gods. The teenagers uses this time to learn or create a folklore for the land, find his totem or power animals, and develop customs to interact with his people and folklore. An Aborigine learns his or her land to the point of being able to walk it blindly.

Grasso recommends a similar ritual. The magician learns the layout of his surrounding area, learns its culture, its traditions, its power places, and its history (154). The better one knows his or her surroundings, the better one is able to communicate with the power of an area, like knowing a lover so well as to be able to almost read his or her mind. (As a side note, mindreading isn’t always about familiarity but about personality attunement – I’ve had boyfriends who I could send out on a mission to get me something from the vending machine and they’d always come back with the perfect snack because they were in tune with my personality while I’ve known guys who could never get it right no matter how much they thought they knew me).

When Drifting or doing any type of traveling (like just driving) start paying attention to the pathways. If you are walking, notice the stores around town: each of these are exits off the path. If driving, notice the exits, take some of them, get lost so you can find yourself again. What happens to me quite often is I get lost in a familiar area, off the beaten highway; I get back on track by Drifting until I find a familiar highway. The Drift inevitably helps me in the future because I always re-enter the same territory where I got lost. Actually by getting lost somewhere, I return there because I am now familiar with the area. Getting lost helps me find myself.

Knowing the lay of a land helps but the purpose of learning the land should not be about knowing the land in itself but for better improvisation. By learning the land one can create more random behavior. I once played a txt-message scavenger hunt with one of my boyfriends to plan our future dates, giving him idea by idea and asking him to write down where we could find X,Y, and Z. By knowing where to go or where to get it, improvising was easier. We knew right where to go; we knew what was out there. Otherwise reality becomes a blank canvas with nowhere to start. The magician must have options and materials; Drifting is a way of gathering these materials from the environment.

(However, the opposite can also happen: familiarity breeds contempt. Places of power can lose their power like soil that has grown too much fruit. Drifting should start in one area, expand, and develop into new areas, or add new areas while a Drift is being learned.)

Impotence comes from ignorance and inhibition which rely upon each other. If you ask me to spontaneously dance, I would respond with a simple “Fuck you.” I couldn’t improvise a dance routine because I’m not familiar with any type of dance choreography. I could make random moves and look like an idiot but I’m too uptight sometimes to do that. Creativity studies, for example, those done by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, show that creativity does not come from nowhere (was that a double negative?) but rather familiarity with a subject is first required before creative development of an idea can occur. Drifting starts out random to procure new ideas but some purpose must be set: the Drifter must learn and collect and give the Drift better form. Random does not mean without purpose.

Immersing myself in the Pisces personality, I found myself really confused. I would be sitting in the front seat of my boyfriend’s car ready for foreplay and not know what to do. I’d stand in front of a vending machine and not know what I want. I’d be ready for a night on the town and not know what I wanted to do. Indecision is the ultimate out-of-tunement, but I think that indecision comes from too much of an emphasis on logical flow and thought whereby the brain becomes paralyzed by a lack of options rather than moving with the flow. Once the mind releases and the body moves, the answers come more easily. The mind needs to get lost to escape the trap of logos and inhibition.

While drifting, the magician should interact with the environment, asking questions and looking for responses in the landscape, from a neon sign or billboard, for example. Grasso’s article focuses mainly upon divination and communing with spirits but I’m not sure if that is the direction I want to go into. The problem is, what is the difference between the internal and the external shamanic journey? I was driving when I did an experiment; I asked the universe what to do about my psycho ex-boyfriend. The first sign (literally) I saw said “No turns.” WTF does that mean? I was in FYE when I heard a song that was my song with an ex-boyfriend. Notice the ex? So then why aren’t we together anymore? Does the song mean I should be with him or shouldn’t be with him or that I should be careful of obsessively thinking about past relationships…?

I need a freaking pop tart before I write anything more. Y’see, a mind with a definitive goal that believes this goal is definitely attainable acts differently than a mind in doubt. (Pandora is playing one of my favorite songs “Train in Vain” by the Clash). While on my walkabout to find my Pop Tart, I was at ease, calm, meditative, walking in a slow meander. While I took notice of my surrounding, I paid them no attention. Looking for synchronicities and divination almost ensures that none will come. Coming to the vending machine, surprise, the pop tarts were S’mores! I hate S’mores. Suddenly the confusion comes over me: if I can’t get pop tarts, then what? My goal was reset to find out other vending machines, one near the cafeteria where I could possibly pick up something else to eat. Naturally, the cafeteria was closed and the second vending machine had some other type of chocolate pop tart. A new mission to find another vending machine, wandering the hallways down to the lower level. The vending machine found me in a Zen fashion tucked away in the basement. I had no idea that it was there, but no pop tarts. Finally, I said “fuck it, I’ll order pizza and have them deliver it to me at the college.” Of course, no pizza delivery for maybe 20 miles. Finally, I remembered I had a leftover package of Butterfingers several months old melting in my car. Mm, you ever try melted Butterfingers?

A mind in assured pursuit relaxes and strolls while a mind thwarted turns to panic, the indecisive stand at the vending machines not knowing what to do, paralyzed. In the various stages of my walkabout, I was put in paralysis but with each state shock my ability to improvise improved. The end result was no pop tarts but Butterfingers, a hunger for pizza and pop tarts, new desires to fulfill later on and a greater understanding of how to fulfill those desires. I also felt brand new like I just had an enema.

Looking for synchronicities is the surest way of NOT finding them. Messages from the universe tend to pop up sporadically and unexpectedly; that’s what makes them so interesting and scary. I don’t recommend active pareidolia. Instead I recommend white noise while engaged in other activities. For example, when I want to Drift, I usually do it while driving. I have an incredible MP3 collection that consists of roughly 6000 songs. An average MP3 disc can hold about 200 songs. I put together a disc from 200 random songs and then play the disc on shuffle while driving. Instead of driving my normal route when going somewhere, I might take a different route that I know will get me to the same location but which will bring me into new territory. Then I drive. I’m not looking for anything and often synchronicities come unexpectedly. I was Driftin n’ Drivin’ a couple days ago when I noticed a pattern in the songs. “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles finished playing followed by “Fire” by the Ohio Players. Since I’m part fire sign (Leo), I took notice. What does it mean, who knows? The random white noise of the MP3 disc was a conduit for the synchronicity. Normal radio doesn’t work for me because commercial breaks are a statebreak. Satellite radio doesn’t work because it isn’t in tune with my personality – even though my songs were random, they were chosen from MY collection. Pandora plays horrible music most of the time unless you’re into obscure B-sides. I’ve found though that PA systems in supermarkets or malls are the truest ways to receive messages from God.

Grasso recommends certain rituals before and after Drifting. Before Drifting, the magician should ask permission to enter places of power (151). Hmmn, that sounds kind of gay to me. I’m gonna have to think about that one. I understand the notions but I have woodlands areas around one of my properties and I’ve never asked permission from the nature spirits to meditate in the woods. This land is your land and this land is my land. But Grasso also recommends leaving payment behind while Drifting, for example, giving money to panhandlers while in the subway (153). I agree there (but I’ve learned not to give money to beggars while in Amsterdam): appreciation should be shown. What I often do is take spare pennies that I get from change and scatter them into a parking lot.

A gris-gris/hoodoo bag can also be made, using a small pouch to hold interesting items that you find. I’d prefer to also have a hoodoo bag of random behavior, literally pulling ideas out of a bag. To end this blog, here are some ideas that I’ve collected from random websites.

  1. Rent and watch a funny movie.
  2. Go to the store and read all of the humorous greeting cards.
  3. Make greeting cards.
  4. Write in your journal.
  5. Read.
  6. Make a list of 100 random things about yourself. (Books you like, clothes you wear)
  7. Write a letter.
  8. Write a poem.
  9. Take a walk.
  10. Go for a drive.
  11. Bake cupcakes.
  12. Do yoga.
  13. Read the newspaper.
  14. Write down 25 things that make you happy.
  15. Paint.
  16. Draw.
  17. Work on a puzzle.
  18. Make a things to do list.
  19. Write down some goals.
  20. Go somewhere busy and people-watch.
  21. Write down some things you would like to save money for.
  22. Crossword puzzles.
  23. Word Searches.
  24. Write about your dream home.
  25. Find things to sell on e-Bay.
  26. Answers.Yahoo.Com
  27. Make a list of things to google.
  28. Cook.
  30. Write graffiti
  31. Stack things
  32. Make up or think up words that start with a random letter
  33. Paint your windows
  34. Tie-dye your sheets
  35. Fold your earlobes
  36. Read tea leaves
  37. Find interesting pebbles
  38. Blow bubbles
  39. Set up your Christmas tree in April
  40. Watch a game show...take notes
  41. Make a fire
  42. Sing the ABC song backwards
  43. String up a room
  44. Shred a newspaper
  45. Sniff
  46. Spell
  47. Tie bows in everything
  48. Skip
  49. Memorize the periodic table
  50. Write a book about your previous life
  51. Carve you and your significant other's initials in something
  52. Take apart a major appliances
  53. Solve the population problem
  54. Draw Venn diagrams
  55. Visit the Architecture building...loudly criticize its design
  56. Wallpaper without using wallpaper
  57. Take bets on which character in a movie will die first.
  58. Shadow puppets
  59. Take shopping carts for the express purpose of filling them with odd items
  60. Ride those little electronic cars at the front of department stores.
  61. Re-dress mannequins as you see fit.
  62. Ride a display bicycle through a store
  63. Play soccer with a group of friends in a store.
  64. Set up a tent in the camping department
  65. Test the fishing rods and see what you can catch from other aisles.
  66. Two words: Marco Polo.
  67. "Re-alphabetize" the CD's.
  68. Drag a lounge chair over to the magazines and relax. Go to the food court, buy a drink, and explain that you don't get out much and ask if they can put a little umbrella in it.
  69. Name things!
  70. The thumb game!
  71. Rate passers by
  72. Play useless games
  73. Open houses
  74. Color Easter eggs
  75. Gambling
  76. Spelunking
  77. Wine-tasting
  78. Rifle range
  79. Frisbee golf
  80. Carnival
  81. Swing swords at a medieval faire
  82. Rock, Paper, Scissors
  83. Odd or Even
  84. Thumb Wrestling
  85. Finger Baseball
  86. Matching pennies
  87. Go to a CD store and listen to new music (or really old music)
  88. Make new Muppets
  89. Collect restaurant menus and order a dollar menu smörgåsbord
  90. Picture booths

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