The Forest and Narcissus

Narcissus, holding Echo close
looked into her eyes;
saw his own reflection in them;
it was twisted, globular,

so he left her.

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There goes Narcissus; His heart broken; His gut in disarray.

Wandering with the fitful gait of feverish delirium. Through my outer bounds he staggers, towards my own heart, seeking oblivion.

He is young, even by human measure, and his flame has burnt so very bright that it has burnt out his core integrity. He is all but empty, but not empty enough by a sliver to see the truth of his own nature. A slight fire of self still burns within him, the ember hidden in the ashes of the conflagration that was his ego. This ember pollutes and obscures the path towards his final emancipation.

Many like him I have swallowed over the eons, eaten and digested them. The paths though my body are myriad and labyrinthine, and I ably influence their way until it leads them to their undoing.

I am the forest, and I will guide Narcissus down one last adventure and light within him such a fire that it will snuff his flame out completely, and he will finally be free from his affliction.

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We sing him a lullaby, the half moon and I, a little song for the end of the world. We tell him: don’t be afraid of the dark
you have so much worse to look forward to!

There goes Narcissus—heart perfectly broken, jaw and eyes still just ordinary. We tell him:
spend the night, there is no shame in being wrong,
sink into our murky floor—young bright things shouldn’t drift and drain their own blood. Spend the night.

His surrender is a quiet one.

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There is an experience associated with being a tree. It is a feeling of being young and in growth and following the breath. Every day is a breath, opening up to life in the sun, basking in it, and settling down and closing in, vibrating with the night breeze. Every day is 365 breaths, in, out, growing and engaging in endless lively conversations with others through the mycelial channels that interpenetrates the whole forest. Every day there is a burst of sexual energy that erupts in seeds that are let go for life to propagate forward. Some trees get to live just a twigful of days, others live as many as there are needles on a pine branch. There are instant changes as quick ones, animals, flicker and fly around the tree, sometimes pecking and digging and tearing off limbs, sometimes offering feces or bodies for nutrients to be shared along the mycelial channels. It all happens at a pace too fast to fathom, though sometimes there is a brief connection, when one of them stays long enough.

There is also an experience to being a forest. It is a feeling of being old with experience carried forward by billions of short-lived plant forms and supported by all other life. It is also vast and deep in scope and wisdom, a mind generated from countless interrelations between all the organisms within the nebulous bounds of its body, which is at times razed to the ground by fires, but is reborn as its primary body lives in the ground, its memory made consistent and proliferated in its mycelial structures and the epigenetics of their forms. Time is measured in centuries and millennia of tree years. Most forests are slow, but sometimes with really old forests untouched by humanity, their collossal consciousness give birth to a self-understanding that allows them to operate at the pace of animal life. Some perceptive humans look at these as spooky and haunted, and they would not be wrong. They are sensing the observing presence of something that to them would be so vast and godlike they would not see but a piece, a tiny branch. But because they only see that sliver of its true form, it can appear unexpectedly familiar.

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Quercus robur stands, stock still.

Only the wind can move him, his arms thrown up to the breeze.

Exasperated by his lack of defence he stands, eyes tight shut.

Resigned to his world. Impregnable. His army is underneath him.

The great Underground.

They are lovers.

He twists around her, embracing her trunk and snaking around her every limb.

She loves him as he drains the life from her, and she gives it willingly.

Eventually she will not be able to stand anymore, and when she breaks and falls, they will both perish,

Returning to the humus that is their true body.

There is an experience associated with being Narcissus. It is not at a foundational level different from that of being a tree or a forest.

On the surface of his mind, there is an experience of being Narcissus in the world. But that experience is akin to the surface ripples on a deep forest lake. It is all he can consciously access, but like the forest, the visible part is only superficial phenomena. His true body lies beneath what his consciousness can access. It is a conversation happening across a network that interlinks all the beings in the world, internal as well as external to him.

The visible part of the forest is the limbic structure basking in the sun, the plants and animals and mushrooms. They support its true body, the mycelial network that runs through the Underland. The conversations between all the many beings are mediated through nutrients and matter sent across the fungal web. Rather than saying that the forest is the trees or the network between it, it is more true to say that the conversations really are the forest. What happens above is of consequence to the health of what happens below, and vice versa.

So it is with Narcissus. The self-destructive maelstrom that is his mind is a visible phenomenon arising from a war that is happening underneath the surface, a mass of conversations turned ugly, shaping and shaped by what he thinks of himself.

The central theme of this conflict is the disconnect between
the karmic seeds planted in him by most experiences he’s had have grown into constant fear that he is not loved. He seeks to be loved by everyone he meets, craves it, and his actions make them think that Narcissus only loves himself.

But he doesn’t love himself at all. Because he’s completely wrong about what Narcissus really is.

Sleep, dear Narcissus. Dream that you are loved. Be at peace in our embrace, just for a while, as your self consciousness fades into the nocturnal landscape of your true mind.

And when day comes and war re-enters your spirit, we will guide you to the deep lake in our heart.

Narcissus, Narcissus, where in the forest will you find your mirror? The bark of the looming trees is too rough, brown and silver sand frozen in tectonic growth. The leaves cannot be polished. If there is stone, it is inaccessible beneath the bed of moss.

He wonders if he can catch a bird, and see himself in its marble eye. He shouts his name in the cavern-like clearing, but no reverberations sound out. Echo has abandoned him. There is a sword buried in the ground, and he would pull it out to watch his face in the blade, but it is too deep and heavy.

Just as well, he is not one for weaponry – he remembers the heat of the soldier’s camp, the scars of the men’s faces and their twisted, rugged hands, like the knotty roots of the forest, and he remembers his own desertion.

Now it seems as though he is back in the claws of the generals, oppressed by shadows and branches, surrounded by quiet mockery. From the center of the woods, the lake rings out.

The great Underground is always ready.

The army that can mobilize with unexpected pace, passion and unity.

Their root connectivity binding their worlds in an inexplicable labyrinth of complexity.

Quercus robur feels the shift.

His eyes flicker underneath the canopy of his foliage.

The shift is almost palpable above the sound of the war. The great Underground.

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“You are a great oak, and you are my progenator many days ago. Your continued patronage and wisdom supports me greatly in bringing forth our line. Deep is our history, rich is the soil that we share. For a day I have witnessed my sister decline in health. She has not been talking to me for fear that the disease that is killing her would. My soul mourns her passing but she is ready to let go her body and recommit to the humus we must all return to.”

“You are my progeny and it is my joy to grow and breathe with you for many days in the past and many days to come. We bask in the sun and barely throw shadow upon one another and grow stronger for sharing each other’s wisdom. I will offer you the wisdom of my days and nourish your bark so that you may withstand the trials of the quick ones, and offer them the fruit of our sex that they may carry them far and continue our line.”

“You are sepa.”

Narcissus wakes. His face is sticky. He wipes the green off with his handkerchief. Well, Echo’s handkerchief.

“rated from yourself.”

He sits up in his moss pile. His clothes are damp but not wet, and the summer breeze cools his body such that his confusion is suppressed. The moss releases his shoulders easily and begins to regenerate its form. The crowns whisper plans to each other. He doesn’t notice any of this.

“Where are?”, a raspy voice intones.

“Who speaks?” shouts Narcissus. He doesn’t see the speaker. Looks around in the morning light.

“the rest of you?” It’s coming from below. It’s some kind of plant, red and white. Ok no. It’s a talking mushroom. That’s just perfect… That’s just Perfect!

“You have to come with me!” shouts Narcissus again. “People will go ape shit over this! A talking fucking mushroom, have you ever!”

“I am not going to separate”

“Separate what? What are you talking about?”

“from myselves such as you have.”

“Separated myself… No you old poop! I’m not separated from my people, I’m just out on an adventure! And talk faster please, it’s harsh to speak so slow.”

“I speak quite fast. You should listen more quickly, it would hasten this conversation. Your business in the forest is at the lake.”

“Mate, I just came in here because I was having a drag day. I heard there was a bunch of cool stuff in here… Why can’t you come with me back… Oh. You don’t have legs.”

“I don’t have legs and you don’t have a very green mind. It is time for you to proceed.”

“Alright ye stinking mushroom. I’ll find someone better to play with me. Yer missing out!”

And Narcissus passes deeper into my body.

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Narcissus is still broken. His gut still in disarray. His posture is upright as he strides forward, but the slight lean into his step glosses over the fact that he’s actually posturing, puffing himself up unnaturally, attempting to prove to someone, probably himself, that everything’s fine; he’s out on an adventure and won’t everyone see him in a new light when he returns, even those fools who canceled him out of spite and envy, too caught up in their own shit to see him for the great provider of value he is! But some being deep inside him knows he’s broken, dead already, just waiting for the rest of reality to catch up to that fact.

Destiny does not arise out of the laws of a determinate universe. The mechanical laws of reality do not predestine objects and beings to play out their world lines except at the cosmic scales, and even there there is volition as the beings who consist of the interaction between cosmic filaments and galactic clusters play out their unfathomable games across fields with forces never sensed at the mesoscale.

The Universe play games of dice at the lowest scale of being. The way they fall propagate up chaotically through the many multi-branched choirs of experience associated with atoms, molecules, organelles, cells, organs, organisms, species, ecosystems, planetary biospheres. No unfoldings of these existences could be accurately predicted to any significant lengths of time, and yet Destiny is real. Because while the wheels an spokes of the mechanical universe does its chaotic turnings, existence is dominated by the prevalence of habits, not mechanics.

When a being performs an action, any action, it plants the seed for that action to repeat, loads the dice ever so slightly in favor of it happening again. And between the chaotic swirlings of mechanism and the habit-seeking tendencies of volitional activity, the universe unfolds, simultaneously unpredictable and certain to act consistently with the nature of its characters.

And so his destination inevitably finds Narcissus. Inevitably does what all are expecting of him. Walks out of the thickness of trees along the path that many beings have trodden before; walks to the still mirror surface of the lake, to drink at first, but as the rings spread like they must and the mirror surface returns to quiet grace, Narcissus sees his image, for the first time in weeks. He thinks nothing of it. Gets up and walks away. Stops, turns around. Walks back to the stone cropping where he drank. Looks again. Catches his own eye. Stares. He sits and stares. His throat constricts. A tear forms at the corner of his eye. Drops into the mirror surface, perturbing it.

He gets up. Walks away, his face distorted with anguish. Stops again, turns back, gets on all four and looks again. His mind is tormented at what he sees. It isn’t what he wants to see. It is a still image and yet it bulges and distends, shifts and juts.

“Who the Hell ARE you?!?!”

And his fist goes in the water. And he loses his balance, and falls in.

The whisper ran down the valley
like an incessant, never ending, relentless wildfire
through lungs of the fungus that dragged it’s own life from sucking on others
it ran

It ran through the rhizomes of the grass
darted through the root networks with an invisible quiet and determination
steely and unending it ran

Something was happening
something uncontrollable
something unstoppable

Something that would not be quieted
the network was too strong and it would never quit.

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As the lifespan of a forest is measured in eons and my moments measured in days, Narcissus’ passage through me is a blur of activity, unfolding much faster than rhizomes and mycelial networks can react in real time. But just as the passage of time differs so drastically, so does is the scope of contemplation that drives me and Narcissus.

The weight of a million minds can affect worlds that are as far from those minds as the Earth and the Moon. A virus, removed from humans by scale and number, can nevertheless be curtailed and somewhat controlled by careful study and the meticulous application of medical interventions. In the same way, I have seen many beings like Narcissus pass through my environs, and through careful examination of behavior and sometimes dissection, I’ve come to understand their nature much better than they themselves do.

Narcissus has put a barrier around his identity. As all the facts of his life that he depends on as invariable have crumbled around him, he maintains this barrier as a last ditch defense against the chaos of the world that threatens to destroy him. What he fails to see is that there is nothing that can be destroyed. Narcissus protects himself against all the phenomena that in concert becomes his experience of self, and thereby renders it insufferable. This, and not accident, is why he becomes transfixed at his reflection, whether it be in the lake or in others.

Narcissus doesn’t love himself too much. He doesn’t love himself at all.

The problem of animals in general, and humans specifically, is moving too fast. It may sometimes appear that the universe works mechanically, cause and effect preceding each other. Manifest a cause, gain an effect. Manifest more causes, gain more effects. Especially young humans tend to think this way, flapping their waxy wings of cause, trying to escalate themselves to the very sky, only to have the wax come undone and tumble to their doom.

Narcissus’ is such a story. Having grand intentions, looking skyward to do great things for all humans, himself especially, he does too much, misses too many insignificant-seeming details that upon revisiting him turns out to have been crucial, and as they return they bombard him with anger and hatred and trauma, any one of which he would be able to deal with, but altogether spelling out the unraveling of his dependency network that is his true being.

No, it is not right to say that the Universe works by mechanics. The fundamental pattern of reality is habit. Cause and effect create circles of time, and that time circularity settles into rhythm. Working out a way to work with such rhythms is what all natural beings must learn to find their place. But many human beings, full of concepts and busyness and brilliance, send out too many causes, and cannot fathom their effects when they return in a bundle of dissonance.