It maybe looks a little different for each of us, that scene you most wish to manifest upon opening your eyes, as you pulse your breath into the realization that you had been dreaming, for better or worse. Some of us, take our waking slow and look for a series of small comforts: a lover’s touch, the smell of fresh coffee, an extra moment or two of luxuriating between bed sheets. Some of us are more demanding of life, waking with sore bodies, our eyes darting to windows from the sun to skyline to ground, envisioning it happen little by little: the coming of the kingdom of god, feeling each burning and rebirth in each of our cells, tears welling up for the fact that we haven’t yet convinced that new light to hit our retinas.
For me, it’s a scene from Paris 1968, theatre doors burst open, costuming distributed to the newly dubbed starlets of the streets, each corner a concert, a dramatic recitation of a holy text, a circle of friends and lovers gazing into one another’s eyes, sharing in infinity, remembering what heaven looks like, chests heaving, Yes, yes, it’s in there. There you are. I remember now. Situationist slogans and lines from surrealists and saints are painted over billboards, new chants, new hymns, new spells, new prayers being composed on brick walls and broken plasterboard. We hold onto one another’s shoulders, leap, and sing them to the sky, both old and new: “Redemption Song,” “Amazing Grace,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “All We Need is Love,” “Let It Be,” anything by any of us, by all of us. We’ll know all the right words, because we remember now that we wrote all of this. Every single line, every single point.
The sky cracks open. Thunder. Lightning. We’re dancing in the rain. We’re watching the old world wash away. We kneel in front of one another and sob with joy. We beg forgiveness from ourselves for each moment we did not see this beauty. We thank one another for the gift of feeling, for the gift of pain, for the mad and unreal forming rivers out of our bodies. This heat. This creation. Unmanned torches set old buildings to flame. The embers rise up to the skies and we do not sleep, but make sure each item as it burns leaves space also in our spines, our throats, our skulls. Some of us place our hands in the fire to be sure. Some of us laugh maniacally. Some of us dance until we collapse from exhaustion. Some of us sit silently and stare. Some of us vomit. Some of us fuck. Some of us fly. All of us do all of this, the new body, the organs, the cells, the stars.
I spent three months asking complete strangers to describe heaven for me. I pulled their visions of paradise from their heads and watched them leak water, salt, and sulfur as they did so. I didn’t feel guilty until now. Until I thought about revolutions. About the chaos in our bellies that must become the dancing stars of Nietzsche. About the destruction that primes the canvas for the creation of Bakunin. I’ve been ready to launch the first stone, pulling back the band on the sling shot. Yet more and more must hold it the further back we step. More and more must hone that vision, as we look off to distant Eden, setting our sites. I tricked these kind strangers into helping me. Squinting their eyes, arms shaking, they told me of bonfires, of mandolins, of great walls, of singing, of silence, of gardens, and great trees, and log cabins, of children, of games, of ripe fruit, an end of work, of joyous creation, of peace, of lover’s embrace. And each wept and each also said, “I can’t be sure,” spoke of the unknown, the infinity, the fate that terrifies them.
It’s somehow easier to be fed the certainty of well-structured screens, of a colorful spectacle which appears to do the work of gaining paradise for us. They use empathy, our greatest human gift, to stunt us, to convince us to procrastinate the embodiment of our creative nature. But we must share the work in building the vision, recognize that it needs honed not only in ourselves, but in one another. Because our true desires, the real ones that we were born with, not the ones programmed into us out of fear, not the ones that are ten steps separated from that which they pretend to represent–but the full ones, the ones that you taste, hear, feel, see, smell–the ones that are self-illuminated are all the same, are in fact the same moment, the same place–the absolute center.
We don’t need a big house, we need to be at peace in the world again. We don’t need a pool, we need rivers and lakes with pure water. We don’t need a fast car, we need right where we’re standing to be solid ground, to be home. We don’t need hot youngsters to swoon over us, we need to feel confident in our own skins, worthy of our own affection and admiration, and therefore the care of our community and peers.
We’re been aching for truth, justice, connection, beauty and it’s been there for us to take, but we’re terrified of it. We’ve been taught to be ashamed of it, critical of it, scornful of it. It seeps into our nightmares: standing nude in a roomful of peers being mocked; being swept away by rushing waters, holding onto rooftops; trapped alone in a dark cave where anything could appear. We wake up in a sweat, happy to be in a room, in a bed, with a blanket that if we’re lucky belongs to us, at least for now. Maybe we take refuge in our bed. Maybe we take refuge in our lover. Maybe we take refuge in consuming something beautiful. But we’re taking our waking too slow.
We don’t want to accept that we are who we are. That we’re our own entire worlds, that nothing belongs to us. That we belong to one another. That we are responsible for one another. That each person who suffers is a piece of ourselves suffering. That everyone oppressing us is a part of ourselves of whom we’ve begged oppression. We have a choice, but we don’t want to make it. We’re too comfortable in our suffering to be released from it.
Walk away. Take your power. Give your tired neighbor a place to rest. Give your loveless neighbor a shoulder to cry on. Makes beautiful moments. Make strange moments. Make bold moments. Take risks. Stand on the table and scream a poem. If you want to cry do it. Let people see your tears. Don’t hide them away. This is what makes you human. Laugh hysterically. Show your joy. Share in someone else’s joy. These are your brothers and sisters. Recognize them as such. Refuse to let these screens between us keep us from looking at one another.
I have eyes. You have eyes. Let’s bring them together more often. This will be revolutionary. Break out of the script. I bet you can think of something more honest, more beautiful to say than “have a good one” to your clerk. Write your life like the most beautiful story you’ve ever read. Make it yours. Make it new. Make it revolutionary. Make it look like heaven. The closer you get, the closer I’ll get. Remind me. Is that me in there?
Even by entertaining these thoughts, you’re pulling that sling shot back a little further. It can hurt, when you step out of the script. You lose the ground your feet have been nailed down to, for years and years. Those holes through your bone will have to grow anew. You’ll need new places for them to set down on, and you’ll have to build that ground yourself. But just think how beautiful. How real it could be, even if precious few others agree it exists. It’s your job to convince. To bring them with you so far that you don’t have to ask them to help you hold that sling launching the first stone of our new world.
For months I vowed to live amongst strangers trusting they would all treat me as family, that they would see heaven in my eyes and help me built it. Every person whose door I knocked on and asked to sleep on their lawn would recognize me. I forced that to be my reality, and it hurt. I was alone and terrified up until the moment of proof. Slowly it revealed itself. And I’ve never known anything so beautiful as when I saw my faith take material form before my eyes. And it always did. Always.
Here I reaffirm that vow and ask you all to take it. I ask you all to be brothers, sisters, mothers, lovers, caretakers, caregivers, mirrors, feet, hands, but most importantly voice washing over all of us when it hurts, when it seems confusing, to speak I know, I know meaning you know, you know. You know this is real. This is absolute. We can make this everything. The unreal mad world will flare up, and we’ll always be there to rub balm over it, look us in the eyes and show us what power we have together…the power to explode stars, tiny ones within our retinas, the palms of our hands, tree trunks, helicopter engines, arches of black ink, steel beams, our tightened thighs, whole worlds gone white and gold. Believe that every single person you meet will save you and they will. Believe that every door you step through can take you to heaven, and it can. It worked for me because I needed it to. Please know that we need this now. Please. We need this. We need to remember where home is, what is looks like. Please let me help pull it out of you. All you have to do is look at me! All you have to do is walk up to me, anywhere, see me as human and say, hello, I am another you. And the revolution’s been won.
The graffiti on the plasterboard has turned to dust, and there are great willows where perhaps they once stood. The street corners where we sang and discovered infinity are overgrown with morning glories, and sun flowers have exploded the concrete sidewalks. There is a bonfire raging in the center of the street. Everyone knows how to play the mandolin beautifully, and we’re all adept at flight. It’s getting closer. It’s coming faster. Can you feel it buzzing in your fingertips. It’s right there. Now open your eyes.