“The English novelist Samuel Butler once remarked that the question, “Is life worth living?” is a question for an embryo, not for a man. The Budding Hermit embryo would heartily agree. Why, indeed, should one leave the womb? Why submit to the degradation of diapers, pacifiers, vomity blankets, and fireproof pajamas with little yellow ducky heads on the collars? Can any earthly reward be worth all the trouble? The answer, of course, is No. A Budding Hermit always makes the decision to stay put. He crosses his embryonic arms, thinking, ‘There’s still plenty of room for growth in here. I’ll just push this spleen to one side and shoot straight up the middle.’
Imagine the Budding Hermit’s chagrin when he’s yanked out by the ankles through a Caesarian section.”
—Crash Gordon, The Sensuous Hermit (1987)
That’s totally true, that stuff about not wanting to leave the womb. I mean, it’s so awesome in there, just hanging out, with nothing to do but kick back while your little cells run through the whole history of evolution. First you’re a zygote, then you’re some kind of thumb-sucking tadpole (with gills!), pretty soon you’ve got yourself a reptilian brain (Feed me! Fight me! Fuck me!) layered over with a mammalian brain (Hey! I can grow hair!) which is finally topped off with whatever gives us a specifically human brain (mostly junk). To be honest, sometimes I wish I could stop the whole process while I was still just a bug’s arm or a rat’s liver. I’m like the Budding Hermit that way. There are times when becoming a man hardly seems worth it.
Another great thing about being in the womb is that you remember everything. Or at least I do. I remember life on the Other Side, and how cool it is there. No hassles whatsoever. But it’s always the same temperature, the suns never stop shining, and everything is way too easy. You wanna live in a palace on a mountaintop? Fine—just think it and you’re there. You wanna try dating a mermaid? Suddenly, a mermaid shows up on your couch, and you can just hug and hug that fishy babe for aeons, if that’s how you want to spend eternity. But there’s no sex. I mean, there are things that are like a million times better than sex—stuff that makes a blow job look like a steaming dog turd with wings on it, practically—but I missed sex, anyway. I guess I missed the grunginess of it. I’m the kind of guy who likes to get down and dirty. So when the time came for me to incarnate in an earthly body again, I was ready. Usually entities on the Other Side are shitting their pants about going another round in a human suit. (Not that anyone over there actually has an asshole. Or pants, even.) They look at being born in the same way that we look at death over here. But for me, it’s just like a trip to Disneyland—kind of corny and weird, but fun. Hell, I’ve already done it about a kajillion times, anyway. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I die? Oh, like that hasn’t happened before…. Big deal.
So here I am. Derek Calvin Swannson Embryo, Esq., safe and sound inside my designated womb for now, but knowing that a shitstorm of trouble is headed my way just as soon as I bail out of the birth canal (again). Inter Urinas Et Faeces Nascimur—“We are born between piss and shit.” Freud was always bringing that up. And it will be a shitstorm, believe me. I picked a very bad start for myself in life this time. An angry, pill-popping mom, a dad who’s not going to be around, a hick town to grow up in. It all sucks the big one. The only reason I did it was for the sake of my pal, Gordon.
We’ve been brothers before, Gordon and me. More than once, actually. We’re like a tag team. The last time was on a farm in late-19th-century France. I was the good brother who stayed at home and grew hay and milked cows, while Gordon ran off to Paris to get loaded on absinthe and spend all his money on hookers. Cute hookers, too. Some of them were flat-out gorgeous. He made drawings of them, which he sent to me in letters. He thought he was an artist. Gordon ended up having a much better time than I did in that last life, even though it was short. (He died at 33, broke and alone on a bench in a public park. Asthma attack. I died at 58 after eating some bad cheese, which was just way too typical.) This time, though, the tables are turned and it’s me that’ll be getting drunk and fucked. Whoo-hoo! I can’t wait to grow up!
Gordon has incarnated even more times than me, so he really knows the ropes. That’s why he was able to read at such a young age and do stuff like astral traveling (which is really just shifting your focus within the Dark Sea Of Awareness or the collective unconscious or whatever you want to call it—but we’ll get into that later…). By the time you’re born you’re supposed to just forget all about the Other Side and your previous incarnations (it’s safer that way, I guess), but Gordon tends to remember things. He just gets the details screwed up. Like, I don’t know where he got that idea about his French parents being elegant and rich. Our parents in our past life were just piss-poor farmers—peasants, really—and they weren’t all that nice. Maybe he was thinking about the Rothschilds up the street (although it’s not like they hired us to rake their leaves). Or maybe he managed to squeeze in another incarnation somewhere between his asthma attack and my stinky cheese episode (I almost farted myself senseless before I finally croaked). But if Gordon had another life, I should’ve heard about it. On the Other Side I was supposed to be all-knowing—or at least that’s what I thought.
The big attraction with Gordon—and the reason I’m tagging along with him on what is bound to be yet another crappy human adventure—is that he has a powerful daimon looking out for him. One of the very top guys. If you’ve never heard of them, daimons aren’t demons or devils—let’s get that straight right off. A daimon is sort of a spiritual mentor, a guide from the Other Side, who is there with you from birth onward to coax and shape your soul during your earthly life.
They’re invisible, of course. And they don’t always tell you what you want to hear. But believe me, having a daimon is a really big deal. It means you’re on the path to someplace better. As in closer to God, if you get my drift. Provided you don’t screw up.
Socrates had one. Just about every famous or near-famous person throughout human history had one (whether they knew it or not). But otherwise daimons are pretty rare. Most people just end up with run-of-the-mill guardian angels—other spirits who protect and watch out for them. Guardian angels would be like your dead grandmother, your dead second cousin, your dead Aunt Judy… and like most of your living relatives, they’re pretty useless. They’re always bitching about something. They can be petty and judgmental. And they’re so touchy that in most cases it’s not even worth trying to be friends with them. But occasionally one of them will get their act together long enough to find you a job or pull you out of the way of a speeding bus. And the especially nice ones can make you feel like you’re on a winning streak (sometimes they’ll even give you good stock tips, or pick winning lottery numbers). But on the whole, a daimon is a much better entity to have watching your back. What’s cool about daimons is that they’ll make your life a lot more interesting. Without one, you’re likely to end up as dull-normal: a polyester-clad realtor, an old church lady, a paunchy Rotarian. You won’t find lasting fame with that kind of destiny unless someone like T.S. Eliot decides to write a poem about you. But with a daimon, anything’s possible. You could wind up being President.
The downside to daimons is that they have absolutely no pity, and they’ll put you through all kinds of hell if they think that in the long run it’ll be good for you. A daimon will land your sorry ass in bed with a life-threatening illness just to give you more than the usual exposure to ideas about religion, or the arts and literature. For instance, look at what happened to Gordon, always wheezing and getting his legs broken by his pals. You think that Easter Bunny ass-kicking was an accident? That was just his daimon’s way of giving him a unique perspective on life. A way of saying, “Christ may have been resurrected on this day, but Easter was originally a day for pagan celebration and there’s more to it than cute little bunnies. So you’re going down, Junior. Look deeper.” Humans are easily distracted, and a daimon has a much easier time communicating with them when they’re sick or dreaming. Meditation also works. In fact, if Gordon would sit down and learn to meditate the right way, he might stop getting his ass kicked.
Another thing that daimons love to do is hand you a crummy childhood in a nowhere little town with lousy parents. The theory here is that you’ll try harder to make something of yourself because you’re so desperate to get away from it all. Which, of course, explains the whole Mal and Cynthia Show in Kingsburg. I can’t believe I signed on for that. I only did it because Gordon’s daimon promised to look after me a little, too, if I said I’d be Gordon’s brother for this particular ride on the Earth merry-go-round. I’ve never had a daimon before—not even a part-time one—and like I said, Gordon’s is one of the best. It’s like having an Indy 500 racecar mechanic working on your engine, instead of trying to keep it running yourself. So I said, “Sure. Let’s do it.”
What it all comes down to is spiritual awareness, or the soul’s progress. A daimon’s awareness is so far beyond what any human being can conceive of that it can’t even be communicated in words. A daimon works in images and events. Gordon—a fairly knowledgeable guy on the Other Side—has deliberately narrowed the focus of his awareness so he could inhabit a human body again. Don’t ask me why. It has something to do with karma, I guess. As for me, I have a foot in both worlds—at least while I’m still in Cynthia’s womb. I can remember the Other Side, where time doesn’t exist, which allows my consciousness to skip around in earth-bound time. In other words, I can see Gordon’s past and future (and my own) from this vantage point. I can even provide a running commentary, which I’ll be doing from here on out.
I know this is all very confusing. If it’s totally outside the scope of your own religious experience, you might try thinking about it in Christian terms. See if this helps: Not to be blasphemous or anything, but on a small scale you could think of Gordon’s daimon as his spiritual Father. That makes Gordon the Son.
Consider me the Holy Ghost.
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