Mapping the Terrain

An acid-head friend of mine, his eyes unfocused on infinity, came by one day for a month or two, talking of highways and freeways, and how he’s locked in America, since our north and south neighbors’ border guards gate the tourists but fence the longhairs out.

Alterly he thumbs and sits, ranging America in my little room, but trying to cross at my kitchen door into Canada, he’s scissored off: the Mounted Police, Stan Laurel style, like body-political practical nurses, jockey their jodhpurs, and judge him a germ, so he hitches south to my easychair— and a second cut-short border halt for an Oliver Hardy Federale.

Yet as he tours the Fifty States, the stops and goes of his travels are all somehow the same, as if his stasis were a kind of motion, his motion some strange stand, like water running the river still, or the whirlpool turning in its rest; but how can someone rest as he moves, or be in action as he is still?

And his eyes! Though he sees, he seems to look at nothing, as though the world were so much windowglass, and he more giving the light than taking in. This Keystone Kops matter of keys to lock him in and out and up bars and borders him not at all: plainly he could live in this one room, less my vast frontier of kitchen, and think himself unbounded Lord and King. Such ease! Is it the etch of the acid has razed the nerve-noise in the head and incandesced his brain, or was the easy, day-light man scripted in his primitive cell, never to suffer a tape-loop of the mind?

Melville, if Hawthorne saw it right, had no rest from Mind: on open beach, he so amazed beach sand with his brooding toward and from, you would have thought him cabined there, yet his only bulkheads were the north and south.

Moses broke water out of a rock, and Jacob fought the white shadow of God: had Melville that staff or that angel, he might have drunk and lost to faith, rather than shift dry sand, a thirty-years thirsting man along the salt. Instead fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute were like the Mojave sun: he, in a heat-stroke of these themes, cracked his brain like desert mud, and to learn what? that desert thought could only shine black the man’s shadow in which the Pequod and Moby Dick went down.

World-sailor Melville, landlocked in thought, and my everywhere sunshine friend between them have split the unit sun: heat, salt heat, for the sailor, for my friend all light, all delight, but I both sweat and see, and I both thirst and drink.

To hitchhike lightly through highway U.S.A., all-unthinking, and as birds of the air, is not enough man; it brackets us: it’s too much God and too much animal; but to pace in the sun and syllogize fixed fate is to look for your own eyes: fixed fate is a riverbed, free will an abundant water, foreknowledge absolute the river-land: old Aristotle and his logic box, unless you walk, swim, and wade this terrain, are the organ-grinder and organ of the mind, and a man, that metaphysical mud, who maps, and thinks the map the terrain, is terrain-mocked as he cranks the Ergo tune: as the riverbed shapes the river, the river recuts the bed; what are our maps, if each alter the other?

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