In the garden
Amid the whispering bamboo and
He sits and enters the samadhi
Called “nothing happens”
I’ve become an object of study in an anthropological research program. Seriously, two earnest doctoral professors and one obsessive video documentarian came to my home to spend an afternoon interviewing me and examining my treasure trove of Notebooks of Von Meier. Professor Kurt von Meier (1934-2011) was a most remarkable man and my most remarkable friend of forty years. When he died, I alone volunteered to store his Notebooks: daily jottings spanning four decades, reel-to-reel tapes, press clippings, and photographs.
Rumors of the existence of the Notebooks, as well as the unfinished draft of a book entitled “The Omasters” apparently have spread among a group of academics fascinated by the counter-culture and arts movements of the sixties and seventies. Among Kurt’s Notebooks are correspondence with M.C. Escher and Timothy Leary, reel-to-reel tapes of conversations with the likes of Hopi elders, Alan Watts and John Lilly; counter-culturally, Kurt was right in the middle of things.
Remarkably, the documentarian with the “always on” video camera knew John Lilly, perhaps best remembered for his research about and dedication to dolphins, and had come to possess one of Lilly’s famed “sensory deprivation tanks”. The tanks use a salt-water solution to provide a sense of weightlessness, are soundproof and completely dark when closed. It was, and I guess still is (as we used to say), “a real head trip.” A friend told me he’d tried one once, but didn’t like it. “Too smelly.”
But I digress; my topic is about growing old enough to be studied. It felt odd, a bit like, “Wow, we really think you old guys all were really interesting back then and we totally support what you were doing.” Yeah, like….Cool.
“Tell us what it was like,” they said, “anything at all.” “You have no idea,” I said. “I can’t actually describe it. You’re thinking’s too linear; to understand what happened you need to use concentric thought, go into 3-D mode.” They smiled and blinked. “Tell us about that!” they enthused. I went on.
“Well, what do you know about a Mandala? Do you know what a Mandala is?” They nodded, “Tell us about that!” they said again. I continued, “A classic Mandala is 2-D representation of a 3-D universe; every point in that 3-D space contains information, and there are an infinite number of points. The symbols within a Mandala each represent universes of their own, each also infinite containing infinite information.” I stopped. They stopped.
Without realizing it they had entered the otherworldly realm of the Notebooks of von Meier, an information experience akin to using the Large Hadron Collider. Like people crossing the event horizon of a black hole, there is no escape from von Meier’s force field. I shared certain documents and reel-to-reel tapes with them, which they promised to digitize and return. At some point I expect a footnote will appear in an obscure academic journal attributing this or that to Kurt von Meier, or perchance, myself.
Being examined like a museum specimen was strange. I suspect I could have shown them my jockey shorts and they would have asked me to “tell us about that!”