I’ve been there. Where the fool offers you a glass of water for your unslaked thirst. It’s called beauty. But a kind of sensual beauty, a maddening passion for the world as it is. Precisely as it is, not perfected, not bettered, but exactly as it is, with its stinks, horrors and uglinesses. This is to emerge from the Wasteland. When King Arthur finally emerged from the Wasteland, it is said he no longer knew anything, not even himself. And it was the Fool asked him, what is it you want? And the only thing he could think of was to say, I am thirsty. And the Fool chuckled, offered him water and said well then, drink.
It’s a deceptively stupid end to the Wasteland, but this is indeed what it is to emerge. A fantastic, raw, explosive awakening full of hideous sensual violent dolor. The great thing about the Wasteland is while you are in it, as you suffer the pressures of building your life, you are so close to losing your mind and slashing your nerves, you have little energy for the sensual dangers of life. The door to self-forgetting of the erotic, dionysian, intoxicating kinds remains harshly but protectively closed while you are in the Wasteland. You forget entirely what happiness feels like, you forget beauty, love, sensual pleasure, you become still and inert as a piece of dead wood in obeisance to the roaring thrash of the struggle that hurtles and drowns out everything else, everything you thought you were. In the Wasteland, you know only freedom. You know fatigue. You know the superlative bottomlessness of your own resistance. The cold proud burn of the solitary crags is what keeps you alive, its power and strength feed your flagging spirit. You become invincible but your spirit is as hard and impenetrable as a rock.
Then one day, you feel it. The tiniest click. The smallest subtlest shift. Nothing external has altered. You have no money, no sudden successes, no great and flaming hero here to rescue you. You have forgotten yourself, your old life, your name, your identity, your old loves, flames, pains and raptures. You are empty, like a dervish that has spun around once too many. Suddenly, you turn and you see only the Fool, an idiot who chuckles as he asks you a simple, idiotic question, that you are unable to answer. And you murmur the first thing that enters your dried out mind and you say Thirst. It is an anti-climactic response after all the wild dreams of paradise you have spun for yourself in the dark caverns of loss and doom. Thirst is mere crumbs and pebbles against the golden promises of endless light that have kept you alive all this time. But the Fool signals a return to the body. And so to the body you return, but not as before, not in fear, doubt and spiritual penury. You return to the body as the seat of your own power, the throne of your kingdom to rule over as you please, this is the body you took, that you love, that you reclaim as the source of all you know as pleasure, enjoyment, the grandeur of all that the universe has to offer as LIFE.
I had forgotten what it was, this feeling of being torn open. What the Sufis call ‘dard,’ the heart-rending pain of rapturous beauty. This is ecstasy as the mystics describe it. It is not part of the daylight world of prayer and hymn-singing that is a communal and poorer aspect of collective, handicapped religion, this is the height of spirit as it rules in the dark corners where pleasure is suffused with pain, rapture with torture, ugliness always with beauty. People think the awakening of the inner spirit brings you to some sort of heaven realm, where suffering ends, where death is non-existent, where there is only a sort of angelic beauty, devoid of the heaviness of gravity or the graceless pallor of early mornings, when the filth and disease of life and mortality sink in after night-times of eternity spent in the arms of self-forgetting. This is not so. The awakening of the spirit is magnificent, furious and full of blood. You begin to dig it all. You begin to see death not as an exception but as the core, you see that sadness, that all suffering are a tearing away of stillness, a stillness that is unbearable to the constantly moving, rushing, hurtling nature of raw spirit. In the Monotheist tradition, God is stillness, good and reason. The Hindu word for the non-dual, unnamable substrate of all things is Brahman, from the root Brh, to gurgle, to burst forth. It is as formless as it is benevolent, as munificent as it is full of childlike playful laughter. It is the premise of suffering that changes, the threat of death that is no longer a threat but a willed release, of the end of all sadness, not because you negate it, but because you begin to see that to feel purely, richly, dolorously IS the goal of being, not its off-putting side-effect. Thus it all becomes densely, exquisitely, eye-scorchingly beautiful. The nature of life is beauty, not an esthetic or perfect geometry, but the magnificence of a world transformed by love. When love is everything, it all becomes beautiful in a way that cannot be described. And this is what awaits you at the end of the Wasteland.
All that remains for you then, is to enjoy it!