Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Alchemist

Over coffee on a quiet Easter sunday morning in the hostel, I chatted with an alchemist.  An old Italian named Fabian, he had a face that looked immediately familiar, as if he was someone I knew in either this life or a previous one.  He had a salt-and-pepper white beard, and long hair tied up in a small rubberband behind his head.  His eyes were luminous and eternal.

He explained to me that alchemy was not merely the transformation of worthless metals into gold, but rather the transmutation of all things- the transfer of all energy, of qi.  He spoke of his quest to unlock the alchemist's riddle, and find immortality. Not immortality of the body, as that is transient and worthless like base metals the alchemist uses, but the immortality of the soul.  The ability to remember the lessons learned from life to life, so that we are liberated from the constant efforts at re-learning all that we had once known.

Perhaps the Hindu sages would term this moksha- liberation.

He spoke of The Red Lion, which I must find.

We ate matza that a Canadian woman offered.  This was the first piece I had this Passover week, and it came to me from a Christian woman.  On an Easter sunday. I laughed at this irony.

I spoke of Borges, whom he did not know.  Of panta rhei- the notion of that everything flows.  I spoke of alephs at the intersection of infinity and eternity.  I spoke of Maurits Cornelis Escher' work in vertigo and mobius curves.

We agreed that nothing in this world happens by chance- that we are bound by an inexplicable thread that ties all of our destinies together.  I left, my head swimming in thought.  To complete the thought from yesterday: the words of the prophets are written on the Hawthorne walls. And hostel halls.  And whispered in the sounds of silence.

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