May, 2010

 

Mythic Prelude:

Hospitality

Hello, and welcome to the Universal Festival Calendar for the lusty month of May in 2010. In the southern hemisphere, this is the late autumnal month when leaves fall, birds fly north and pious people observe the somber rites of death and regeneration that mark the passing of the physical body and the homeward flight of the soul.
In the northern hemisphere, though, this is the month of the Green Man and trees leafing out in the time when lambs gambol, bullocks sing baritone, and everything in this Venus-ruled month proclaims the primacy of love's fire and desire's dream, the urgencies of sex and the frequencies of love. The range of expressions is immense. At one end are the feasts and comedies of Beltaine, American Mothers' Day, the ceremonies of Floralia and the Bona Dea -- among countless days of homage to the sacred feminine -- and the now more popular and ever more needed Global Love Day, observed on May 1 for the seventh consecutive year.
At the other end, given the weirdness of Piscean duality as this Great Age ends and the Age of Aquarius begins, and growing turbulence as we now come within two months of the Crosses of 2010, outrages against the sacred feminine abound too, and get increasingly bizarre. In late April, it was reported that senior officials of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, some of them earning salaries as high as $222,000, were visiting online pornography websites. One official was found to be putting American tax dollars to wank -- uhhh, work -- for eight hours a day.
This does much to explain the US financial crisis, as many men, I too, find Jenna Jameson's metrics easier to look at than Ben Bernanke's. This latest little SEC scandal gives whole new meanings to terms like flash drive, hard disk and others, and arrives right on time amid a crescendo of embarrassing stories that continue to crack our trust in authorities of all kinds, public and private. The likeliest forecast for summer? Yes, there may be some explosive outcomes, as fear-sickened persons can get violently crazy when too much change comes too fast. But the principal sound effect of the summer is not a deafening boom, but a subtle whoosh as the air of full faith and credit hisses from the balloon of public loyalty and trust. When it gets flat enough that we can stand on instead of under it, then we will have the opportunity -- there is little choice, really -- to replace toxic, brittle hierarchies with synarchies that empower us. And then we shall be getting somewhere, in ways that Jiddu Krishnamurti envisioned a century ago, and Osho taught too.
How best to play the summer's bump and bubble? Mythically, of course. One does not need to be Carolyn Myss to see that the mythic realm is one of the few that still makes sense, remains internally consistent, and is still a useful source of wondrous meaning and coherent resonance at a time when many of the old harmonics we thought we knew well are going startlingly awry, and new myths form and flood in on us as never before.
"Deep in our intuitive gut," she wrote in 'Living in a Time of Mythic Change' (Sentient Times, March 2010), "we sense a dismantling of our most familiar myths -- the myths of our religions, the myths of our nations, and even the myths of the inevitability of the future of the planet. . . . New myths are under construction, so to speak. What will those be?"
The Lord of Strangers
We can infer them, from the universal themes of dispersal and reunion, the journey and the return home, the flight and the refuge that must come when great, undeniable forces tear many from their roots of home and belief, and compel wanderers to learn the skills of silence, exile and cunning, as James Joyce called them, and to seek on the way home the gift of our mythic theme for this month, Hospitality. In ancient times, when a man had to be strong and lucky to travel twenty miles a day, European peoples felt morally if not legally compelled to offer a traveler shelter from the wind and the wolves. Hospitality is one of the nine noble virtues in the Asatru tradition (along with honor, fidelity, courage, truth, self-reliance, discipline, perseverance and industriousness), and Odin was known to wander as a Cloaked Man not only to find out what was happening in his realm, but to see who might be kind enough to offer hospitality.
The ancient Greeks made a science of it. It was their custom to wash the feet of a traveler and feed him before asking his name. When Telemachus goes to seek the counsel of Nestor of Pylos, the king gives him hospitality even though he has no idea yet that his visitor is the son of his old friend Odysseus. Nestor assigns one of his sons to guard Telemachus as he sleeps, and another to drive him to Sparta in his chariot, thereby showing how, to the patron deity of travelers, Xenios Zeus (Zeus the stranger), hospitality consisted of the three main elements of shelter, protection and guidance. Zeus was another divine figure who was often on the road, as in the famous story of Baucis and Philemon, the poor country folk who extend a welcome to Zeus and Hermes, even giving all the food they have, leaving none for themselves, so their guests will not go hungry.
This mythic theme, of deities or other spirit beings in disguise testing a human being's worth by asking his hospitality or protection, is truly universal. One trial that the Lord sends Abraham, on the way to the Big One of asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac, is to send two angels incognito to knock on the future patriarch's kindness, as shown here by Andrei Rublev. One of Lot's last acts before he flees Gomorrah is to shelter two uncommonly beautiful angels from a mob of would-be rapists. And even today in Hawaii, the lady Pele is said to appear as a hitchhiker who is at the roadside to see whether any of the people driving by will be gracious enough to give a ride to a stranger.
So sacred was the bond between guest and host that those who practiced it most courteously were honored in the folklore of their cultures, while those who violated it are as deathless in their infamy as Achilles is in his glory.
Dante reserved the lake of Cocytus at the bottom of Hell not only for traitors to country and kin, but for those who were treacherous to guests and hosts. The Macbeths are somewhere in the ice here. So are those whose crimes as guests were no mere matter of rough or even murderous etiquette, but were sins so horrific in their consequences that they could set in motion events that it would bring doom to nations, even to divine order itself.
To the Greeks, what made the Trojan prince Paris lower than lice was not his cowardly preference for the bow rather than the spear. It was his chaotic act of violating the hospitality of King Menelaos of Sparta by seducing the Queen and taking her off to be Helen of Troy. Yes, Menelaos was probably brutish enough to be played in a recent movie by a bushy, bloated Brendan Gleeson. And a glance at a map of the ancient world shows that Troy's prime location at the lip of the Bosporus enabled the city to control sea trade between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and likely to levy tolls so heavy that sooner or later the Greeks would have to cut their costs by sacking the middleman. But there is little myth and less romance in cargo ships and oafish husbands. The mythic charge and the ethical weight are in the sacred law that restrains a guest from injuring a host, no matter how vile, by taking his wife, no matter how fair.
Dire events in the Song of the Niebelungs unfold in the same way. Sieglinde kindly offers the fugitive Siegmund shelter from a storm in the home of her absent husband, a man so coarse and canine that he literally bears the name Hunding. Soon the handsome couple are off in a cave passionately creating the hero Siegfried, whose heroic deeds and death will be the nexus of fateful doings that bring the fall of Valhalla and the Twilight of the Gods. It is no wonder that so many cultures have found their ways of saying Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. The consequences can be disastrous when the play is mythic in scale, the stakes cosmically high.
Epic stuff. But what does it have to do with us today, when hospitality refers to an industry of hotels and casinos, and the hospitality my father taught us now looks as quaint as a sepia print? He was an only child whose boyhood home never sheltered an overnight guest, and he was determined when he had a family of his own that travelers would be welcome in his home. When my friends from Columbia passed through Kansas City on their way from New York to the West coast, my father made sure to give them bed and beer, and so much food that Wolfgang Voss of Bochum said, "Please, Herr Furst, if I eat one more thing I vill exshplode!" Is the personal, non-commercial hospitality that my father gave, and I emulate, really a thing of the past now? Hardly. Welcome to the shape of hospitality in the Age of Aquarius.
I'd Like to Surf Your Couch!
Carrie Holmes turned me on to a great idea when I met her in Pisac, Peru, and told her I wasn't quite sure how I was going to cover accommodations on my Living by the Moon tour, in places where I had no family or friends who could shelter me. Her solution? An astonishing communal experiment that started in 2006, and has grown exponentially since then into a worldwide network that will hit before long the milestone of a million members in more than a hundred countries.
CouchSurfing has members of every size, age, trade and talent, though most of them are in their twenties. What they have in common is a longing to see the world, and to help others who are in town for a few days by giving them a bed or a couch, meeting them for coffee or a drink, or showing them the local sights and hot spots. Membership is free, though CouchSurfing does ask for a one-time optional $25 donation to keep their database current and growing strong. The way it works is simple, yet ingenious.
If I want to find a place to stay in your city, I open it in the CS directory, then go to another page that lists brief profiles all the CouchSurfers in the area. Each listing is linked to a full profile page that helps me find the possible matches. Then I send you an "I'd Like to Surf Your Couch" message, with my CS name, so you can go to my profile and see not only the pictures and words I've posted about myself, but also -- and far more important for making sure you don't welcome into your home an ax murderer, a Republican or worse -- the comments of people who've hosted and vouched for me. And there's one more clever kicker. When I open up my profile, the only comments I see are the positive ones. But when you open it, you'll see the negative ones too.
So far I've CouchSurfed in six cities on my tour, and will go to two more this month as I go on retreat, then back to Peru in June. Each stop has been such an extraordinary experience that books could be written about the people who've hosted me.
Take Andrew Trump, 26. He bills himself as a student of literature and philosophy. When he replied that he and C. L. would host me in Greensboro NC, I thought C. L. must be the woman in Andrew's life, until C. L. Hickerson picked me up. He's my age, in his sixties, works at a state medical facility, and owns a farm that has been in his family for generations, but must pass into other hands by and by because C. L. is the last of his line, and is looking for the new owners who will run the Locust Grove Farm with the right mix of skill, devotion, ecological responsibility and communal service. The first thing I noticed when we got home was the Tibetan prayer flags strung across the front of the wooden house that C. L. had built himself, and the thangkas hanging inside. He took me on a tour of the ceremonial space that he and Andrew were building nearby, complete with a monument to C. L.'s parents, a standing stone circle, fire circle and art installations in wood, ceramic and stone, all designed to make the farm a sacred ritual space for all who want to come and celebrate there, as they will at Beltane on May 1.
My days with C. L. and Andrew were far more than a chance to save a little money by staying for free in a quiet green place. They told meaningful stories, like the one about how C. L. asked Andrew if he was interested in becoming the new custodian of Locust Grove, and Andrew answered that the best time to have that discussion would be when he knew the name of every tree on the farm. C. L. was also the only one of my hosts to pull a new tour event out of the air, when he improvised a book signing for me at Santosha Yoga Studio in the nearby town of Asheboro. Rarely have I had such an unexpected lesson in original action and abundant creativity as I did from these two men. In every word, every move, it seemed, they delivered an education in conscious living, moment-to-moment awareness, and impeccable stewardship of Earth and soul. It is truly amazing what riches can be hidden under one man's modest description of himself.
A week later, I met "Acupuncturist Fred" Wolfson and his wife and colleague Jessica Feltz, who hosted me in Frederick MD. They are the founders of The Turning Point, one of a network of community acupuncture centers that are pioneering a quiet but still revolutionary way to deliver holistic health care. Unlike the places where you and I first experienced acupuncture, in the isolation of a small room with a single massage table or reclining chair, The Turning Point has a large room with ten recliners, where many people can be treated simultaneously as they listen to a fountain and soothing music. This enables Jessica and Fred to cut their fees to a sliding scale of $15 - $35, and attract people who've never had acupuncture, but feel its benefits at once and keep coming back. So the practice grows, the clients are happy, and we see yet again how resourceful people can be when inventive minds are driven by a spirit of communal service.
As this kind of creativity spreads in an atmosphere that also encourages the growth of CouchSurfing and other genius moves in community building, it is not surprising that the recent World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth drew to Cochabamba, Bolivia some 35,000 people from 142 countries, almost all of them determined to address across a broad synarchic base of people's power the questions that cannot be solved, even usefully broached, at embarrassingly unproductive meetings like the Climate Conference held in Copenhagen last December. Why are such events, with heads and ministers of state posed in tiers like Japanese dolls, ever more pointless now? Because hierarchic powers are unable to hoist aboard and act upon Einstein's axiom that a problem can't be solved at the level of consciousness that created it, especially when China in particular pursues relentlessly the most suicidal policies in the name of rapid development.
The ultimate question, as reported in The Real News story "Bolivia's resource dilemma", may be the one posed by Bolivian president Evo Morales: "How will we organize and empower ourselves in society, in the workplace, all over the world, to force the developed countries to respect the conclusions of the world's social movements?" How indeed, when 2010 will compel us, whether we are ready or not, like it or not, to organize and empower ourselves in ways that we can't yet see, but will have no choice but to discover.
We might even discover that a part of the solution has been hidden in our myths of hospitality all along. As we seem not to be making the progress we want within the mindset that Earth Is Our Home, what if we see her instead as the Big Green Inn where we are but transient guests? What if, in the same way that we would not dream of fouling our hostess's home, harming her family and stealing her possessions, we also see that we are here as guests of Mother Earth, grateful for the bounty of her table and the hospitality that is called gracious because she offers it in a Grace that welcomes and forgives all, and waits patiently for those who learn slowly how guests behave?
What if Earth were the ultimate youth hostel, where we arrive in a grand spiritual adventure that brings us into friendship with beings of all nations and cultures, into conversations in new languages and music in new keys as we learn one another's songs and sing them into the night? We will hear new melodies in the months to come, and it will be wise to tune up for them now. Make ready, and Keep Holding That Frequency.

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Dan Furst's Living by the Moon Tour, November 2009 - May 2010
The Chiron - Neptune Conjunction of 2009 - 2012:
Prelude (Nov. 2008) and Acts 1 - 3 (April 2009 - Feb. 2010): see UFC Index
Act 4: Crisis and Climax: The Crosses of Summer, 2010
Act 5: Denouement: Near Chiron-Neptune Conjunction of Nov. 2 - 3, 2010
2012: The End of . . . What?
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.