I live in a scar on the face of North America. Two continents crashed into one another, half a billion years ago we think, causing an upsurge in the Earth's crust, in effect welding back together two continental pieces of the original solitary puzzle geologists call Pangaea. We call the scar the Appalachian Mountains. Rippling at various altitudes from Quebec to Alabama, these are the ancient oxygen forests 'trail rats' find so magnetic. Spring smells like honey laurel and waterfall. Summer like ragweed and DEET. In Autumn, burning bituminous and rotting crab apple. Winter, like everywhere, smells like virginity.
The word scar seems a little strong for such breathtaking scenery. Why is that? We use the word scar to indicate something that's permanent. We ask 'Will it leave a scar?' when we need to get something stitched back together. We even emphasize the 'permanence' of psychological trauma by thinking we're 'scarred for life' by certain experiences.
But a scar is healing in process. Two things that used to be one thing are being reintroduced, becoming one thing again. So the surface of the planet is being healed. But let's look just under the surface. The contrast in Appalachia is palpable. There are heavy threads of poverty woven into the fabric of the region since the time of the robber barons during the industrial revolution. So much sucked from the skull of human cultural and natural resources, and injected into the Euromerican aristocracy. And so little returned environmentally. Or culturally. Emotionally. Economically. Appalachia is widely considered to be America's poorest of the poor. But it's hidden up the steepest slopes and deep in the narrow valley folds. Tired shotgun shacks gaze out over the swollen brush and from under the drooping pine boughs. And the spirit of once-teeming coal-company towns sucked down the spent mineshafts, leaving sidewalks barren, and storefronts empty.
Yet, look again. There's an abundance of life! A slow and steady stream of cars move in procession, on roads too narrow to accommodate the population somehow, not just at rush hour, but any point in the day. It's like life spills out into the roads from the adjacent wilderness, where the sheer breadth of vitality blows the mind wide open, letting it settle into its original patterns of interdependency and stillness. Even the most wicked scar is only temporary, and the mountains can teach us this.
Early in their formation, the Appalachians reached even higher than the present-day kingdom of the Himalayas. Over hundreds of millions of years, they've eroded into more rounded peaks and rolling parabolas that are more hospitable to common life than the craggy days of their adolescence. Little by little, Earth lets go her scar tissue, and lets it roll down her back, into the river basins. Someday the mountains will have become smooth flatlands. And apart from having the slightest bit of faith in it, there's nothing we need do to help the process along. In fact, it happens whether we have faith or not. But the faith is what enables us to see it.
That's the natural order of things: Invariably, all scars eventually fade as a function of the 'weather,' beyond our control; beyond even our noticing. It's a relief.
Between the Allegheny wrinkles and the Blue Ridge, all within the greater fold of the Appalachians, there's a valley, naturally, and it holds a county called Floyd in its heart. Quaint and rural Floyd County, Virginia holds literally one stoplight for the whole commonwealth. On Saturday nights, the county seat's General Store clears its aisles to make room for the Bluegrass pickers and cloggers and flatfooters. They call it the "jamboree," and people come from all over. Young, old.
When cropland values here approached nadir in the seventies and early eighties, people who wanted to live a different kind of life began coming here, too. Coming from all over, they began buying land parcels, which were pretty inexpensive by this time. And they began building their communities atop foundations of principled living: Simplicity; Natural harmony; Conservation; Spiritual compulsion. The seed of one such community was compelled to sow itself here through the spirit of the Essenes; the wilderness community at QumrGn, and authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. St. John the Baptist was likely from QumrGn, an Essene. Some say they were actually Jesus' primary teachers. Anyway, their singular purpose was to pave the road for the dawn of Christ, and this they did with perfection.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
As for the "compelled community" in Floyd County: They call themselves the "Associations of the Light Morning" (or A.L.M.). Assembled, in part, from a group of Edgar Cayce's students, they were internally guided to a place called Copper Hill; not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The voices that guided them here described the area as 'remote, but accessible'. The voices, they say, are none other than those of the Essenes, and the primary directive given them is to pave the way for the re-emergence of the Christ. Yes, love your brother. Yes, live in harmony with nature. But first and foremost, pave the way for the best within each one to shine outward. In other words 'Heal your mind'. But how? By losing it. Forgetting it. By simply letting it erode. But if I let my mind erode, I won't have anything left. Just low-lying flatlands, right? You're left with a clear field of vision, where you have continuous access to all the horizons. You have a vector along which the comfortable orange sunlight glides from the cusp of the horizon to the back of your eyes at both sunrise and sunset. The sunrise is nourishing. The sunsets are gorgeous.
To illustrate: As a journalist for The Wisdom Channel, I was blessed with coming to know a courageous man, known as the 'Peace Troubadour', who travels to the most bitter, hostile, polarized, fragmented regions on the planet, like Baghdad following the Gulf War, Northern Ireland before the 'Good Friday Agreement', Macedonia during NATO's assault on Yugoslavia, Indonesia and East Timor more recently; the places really falling apart at the seams. He goes there, joyfully, and he sings the peace out of them. Literally.
Several years back, James Twyman -- a guitarist and a big fan of St. Francis of Assisi -- found himself setting the peace prayers of the twelve major religions of the world to music. Not long thereafter, he found himself in the fragile Balkan countries of Bosnia and Croatia, where he says he was led up into the mountains to find a secret community of ancient mystics, who called themselves the Emissaries of Light. The Emissaries told Jimmy that their job was to invoke peace for those who could not do it for themselves, like people in the midst of war. And they had been doing it, they said, throughout time. They were undetectable to most people where they anchored simply because of the mechanics of perception, especially in war zones, where the senses are finely-tuned to, and flooded with, fear. You know, fight or flight are the only two possibilities to the mind.
The Emissaries come from, and with, nothing but love, for which fear-laden eyes hold no contingency. Hence, to the fearful, love doesn't exist. But it's just temporarily undetectable. Except to someone who knows love in the present. Think of a time when you were fresh in love with someone. Remember how the funniest, even strangest, things seemed to be happening? It's surreal, like a happy dream. It's like that.
But the big secret is... it's not a dream. It's awake. And it's Reality. During his time with the Emissaries, they taught Jimmy their meditations, which lasted twelve hours each night, and were so powerful, he says, they lifted him off the ground. They would form a circle of twelve, with the leader in the center. As they settled into their peace, each would allow thoughts to come into mind, and sort of let them erode, dissolve. What's left is the pure energy the thought was engineered to hide and 'protect'. Of course, hiding and protecting are functions of fear. So the form of the thoughts, whether they're 'good' or 'bad' is merely fear wrapped around the necessary content, love, binding it to useless stagnation, when the natural dynamic of love is to freely flow.
- Next >>