“The function of memory is not only to preserve, but also to throw away. If you remembered everything from your entire life, you would be sick.” Umberto Eco.
“The bull of the herd had stepped into the white foaming brook, and went forward slowly, now striving against, now giving way to his tempestuous course; thus, no doubt, he took his sort of fierce pleasure. Two dark brown beings, of Bergamasque origin, tended the herd, the girl dressed almost like a boy.” Nietzsche, Human All Too Human, Second Sequel, The Wanderer And His Shadow, Aphorism §295, ed. Darryl Marks, trans. H. Zimmern, P. Cohn, Everlasting Flames, 2010.
The naming of Moons of course connects them to what we’re doing down here. Inverting European and North American names or leaving names behind completely in the Northern Hemisphere might do for some, and continuing such traditions as Yule and Easter in their opposite seasons doesn’t seem to have disturbed capitalism or hurt anybody, but the entertaining possibility exists that seasons and customs merely refine what we’re doing and feeling, and we’re actually all doing more or less the same thing. It might at least be said that we are all subject to universal influences on our mental health, which fall into cyclical patterns we all engage with in similar ways, if at different times. Two distinctive things we all have in common with the Vagabond are the balancing of the desire to forget and the inability to remember, and the experience of being utterly alone.
The best moments of your life are the hardest to remember, because your language did not impose you on them, but rather from the bottom up, your spirit was dissolving into a belonging in something beyond, something almost magical, a connectedness which drew its miraculous energy from you, which could only last an instant and might never emerge again from the objective definition of your existence, but which in a flash of awareness revealed the reality of being alive instead of dead. Ceremony is of course your best method of putting your memory back in that transcendent self you own abstractly as yours. But what of the wooden hands of the cellist, the traffic vibrations and the halitosis of the singer behind you, and your own, for that matter? Is solitary meditation the only way to engage in a ceremony of connection? Must we wash our hands of others lest we forget who we are? Would such uncleanliness truly be the opposite of authenticity? Is there an important lesson in equanimity to be gained from the Vagabond’s stoical existence?
The danger we sense is real: the most vividly lived moments of our past are most challenging to relive, because they include the best, which we can seldom recall in all their complexity, and the worst, which can traumatically reconstruct themselves viscerally in the most unwelcome way. We even judge the good in the context of the meaning of the bad, and we think to free our good selves from shame by working on our shadow, but the judgment our insight passes on the self-as-other is so vivid in its remorseless negativity that compulsively as we might train ourselves to disbelieve, we are built to forget, and it is easier to disbelieve what is forgotten. The shadow of the Vagabond in sidereal Taurus falls across the June Solstice and the river of Hades he approaches in the Bardo, the River of Forgetting.
If you have the good fortune to withdraw from the everyday, just for one night at the right time of the year, and in your nearest dark sky, you can realize the connection of above and below, as it was known by the prehistoric people who lived under the Milky Way, as it was once known under rural skies by the swagman, and as it has now been forgotten in urban lanes by everyone: when the Milky Way arcs overhead from horizon to horizon in either of the two configurations which are so formed, its bearings link all Warriors or Wanderers camped on their river, Acheron or Lethe. My Acheron crosses Eastern Australia to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, but my Lethe arcs over Central Australia to the Kimberley and beyond through Timor Leste and Western China to Siberian Omsk. I am proud when I am on the Lethe to project over the horizon the kin of my spiritual sisters of Wurdi Youang. Detroit’s Lethe arcs over the Caribbean to Brazil, and a shout-out wells up in my heart to all countrywomen, and tonight, fellow Vagabonds!
Not everyone is summoned by a divine voice to sacrifice his son, as was the Patriarch of all of the religions of The Book, and of socialism and humanism, in all their woeful, forgetting folly. If the nearest you can now approach to such grief, mysterious atavistic Vagabond of our cosmic loneliness, as you stare over the Atacama Desert, is not quite being able to erase the memory of rejection, the clinical name healers give the extinction of a divine voice and the reduction to dust of every monolithic monument to human immortality since the dawn of civilization, you are as blessed as you seem to believe yourself, blessed to have heard the voice, blessed to have been spared its demand. Charismatic though our inner voices may be, the gods are bent on the narcissistic autonomy they enjoy in our submission to their resentful, perfectionist control.
The Vagabond is the avatar of all who throughout history and before it have gratefully accepted country as more real than landscape and real estate: the ancestral, the migratory, the rejected, the enslaved, the dispossessed of everything but kinship and the meaning of ceremony and song. He and they enact the memory we share eternally of what remains of creation to be forgotten. What more could there ever possibly be, than broken, throbbing hearts crying, “Please don’t climb my rock,” and protected by them in a world of liars, charlatans, scammers, hostage-takers, people-smugglers, bullies, creeps and bogeymen, the laughter and tears of children?