Notes from a burned out time-traveler V (the last) — the Keog and the children

I have been receiving fewer serious questions
About my journeys to the future
So this will be my last sharing What about
The giant things on the horizon? What are they?
I have been avoiding this question

Because my answer only makes sense
As a footnote to Quat’s description of the children
The giant things are like permanent mirages
The horse people have never reached them
They keep receding to a further horizon

They do change Sometimes they move a little
Some part of them will shift or rotate
Almost imperceptibly like an hour-hand
Only 6 out of ten horse people see them at all
Quat said that they are shadows

Of the preEvent dreamtime Talking about them
Made me uneasy Quat said they have a name
For these giant mirages — the Keog
I asked if I could meet with the children again
He said he didn’t think I should

Because meeting them would make me want to stay
They live mostly in dreams He said
Once you meet them they will pull you into their dreaming
I asked why he thought this and he said
They are beautiful like flowers

So it is hard to part from them
The longer you are with them
The more they reveal their nature I asked him
To tell me more He said: They have a fragrance
That makes you dream awake

I realized that what he was saying was
Being around them was like a powerful drug
He says that educating them
Is like waking them up
To each other

Why don’t the children have this effect on you?
Quat said They do on our young ones
We keep our young ones away from them
As we age our own dreaming becomes much stronger
Our dream is the dream of the forest and the mountain

And the rivers and the ground we run on
Our dreaming is more powerful than the children
But we do not want to wake them up too fast
Their dreaming is important
They dream the Keog

We are worried about what would happen
If they stop dreaming all at once He said
We don’t know how much of the world
Depends on their dreaming So we educate them very slowly
We teach them games

And how to feed and clothe themselves
And even how to run
And make beautiful things
And how to take care of each other
They keep the memories of their race

Memories of a lost time That’s what he said
Now I will share one last thing: This happened the last time
I met Quat He looked at me for a long time
Then he asked me: Do you know why you came?
I said no

He said because the Children sent for you
I said But you warned me to stay away from them
That’s right You must not meet them again
You are like our young Your dreaming is weak
He said I can help you with that

I said Why? He said: because we are friends
I told him about the horses of our time
He was very interested in them
I said They are a lot like you
I said They are just like you

Notes from a burned-out time-traveler IV

I want to tell you about Quat.
Quat is more horse than man.
He is about 125 years old. His DNA
Somehow repairs itself.
There seem to be no “bad germs” in the future,
No disease as we know it.

Quat carries enormous responsibility.
His people are responsible for the stories.
And for the education of the children.
By his “people” I mean the other horse-people.
And by “the children” I mean human-kind.
He has taught at the Brain Museum for a long time.

He believes in the human race
Which, it appears, is being given a second chance.
It is literally in its second infancy.
The “children”, as I have explained before,
Are not really children as we would define them,
They are very old by our standards.

More on them later.
Many of you have asked me how I came
To possess the time-traveling app.
Also you have asked how The Brain Museum got its name.
Another common question is, Is there anything
That we can do to try to avoid The Event?

First question: I upgraded my phone to an iPhone in 2019.
I had been using a much older phone just for work.
When Covid hit, my job in the community ended
And I decided that I needed a new phone.
I left my old phone on my dresser where it sat for over a year.
One morning, last January, on my birthday,

At about 3:00 it started making a funny sound.
My wife is a very light sleeper. She nudged me awake
And asked me to deal with it.
I brought the phone to the basement
And looked at the window. There was a funny icon
In the lower corner, a spiral with an arrow at both ends.

I touched the spiral and was immediately transported
To the future outside The Brain Museum.
Second question: The Brain Museum was originally a laboratory
Where brains of a group of Event survivors were preserved.
But nothing remains of these specimens.
The legend persisted that there were preEvent human brains here

And that legendary history survived the actual building.
The place became a shrine of sorts
And, more recently, relative to the future time-line,
The horse people decided to honor the memory of the brains
By building a school called the Brain Museum.
Where human-people would be educated by the horse people

Who have since dedicated themselves
To preserving the fragile remnants of the human species.
Third question: There is nothing that we can do to avoid The Event.
If there was a way to bring Quat back to our time
He might be able to convince us that the Event is coming
But I doubt that even knowing about The Event would change our ways.

Quat has listened to my descriptions of my time
And he thinks that his time could be regarded
As a fresh start. By my estimation, Quat’s time is 10 – 7,000 years from now.
I have learned a lot from Quat about his Earth.
The horse people have traveled extensively and
According to Quat there are forests growing around all the rivers.

The rivers he is referring to are new, massive springs
That issued after The Event from deep within the planet.
The ocean is sterile, but the up-welling rivers are all fresh and clean.
He has promised to show me one of these river springs
Nobody believes any of this, so I am not motivated
To answer any more questions right now.

From what I gather, the Atlantic Ocean is indeed sterile
And I assume that all the other oceans and seas are too.
Once I started staying in the future for longer conversations with Quat
My full brain functioning returned and even improved.
Time travel seems to have the effect of rinsing my brain.
It’s like hitting a reset. I find that the longer I stay

The cleaner I feel. I think there is a lot more oxygen in the air.
Of course there is no pollution, but I think it is more than that.
And it’s not just my brain but my whole being that feels refreshed.
I asked Quat where the rest of the horse people are.
He said they live near the river forests.
They decided to school the children far from the forests

Because there are animals in the forest who could kill them.
I asked Quat if anyone else
Has visited from my time.
He said No. I’m
The only
One.

Notes from a burned-out time-traveler III : Quat

Time travel was growing on me
I wrote out new instructions for my brain
Because it is useless in the future
I wanted to try to meet up with the horse-man
I touched the spiral icon

There I was in the same weird place
I was outside the brain museum
I took out my handwritten instructions:
1 – Do not go in the brain museum
2 – Walk away from the brain museum

3 – Walk and look for the horseman
I walked and walked
I came to a low hill and walked up it
At the top I looked around
But there was nothing to see

Except for giant things on the horizon
The hill shook I fell down When I stood up
I looked at my instructions I was still on 3
I started to keep walking and then
I saw the horseman galloping up the hill

He stopped within a few feet of me
We looked at each other
He had very large eyes
He looked old I could
See the shape of his skull

His ears were horse ears
They were always turning
He had arms and horse legs
He said Quat! I said What?
He pointed to himself and said Quat!

I looked at my instructions
4 – Take lots of pictures
I took one of Quat
I took one of me and Quat
Then he took my instructions from me

He looked at the paper and frowned
He said The new 4 is — Climb on my back
I did as he said as if it was 4
We galloped back to the brain museum
I climbed down from Quat’s back

Quat said to go inside the brain museum
I said 2 said not to go in the brain museum
Quat said I can’t change 2
But he said You should go in there
Then he galloped away

My phone started beeping Now I am back
And my brain is working again
I posted the photo of me and Quat
On Facebook I decided that next time
I will go into the brain museum

But only if Quat says it will be safe
I trust Quat I don’t know why
I think it is because he is a horse
And because I can see the shape of his skull
He must be very old and wise

In subsequent trips to the future
I learned that Quat is well educated
He speaks a form of antiquated English (American)
And 7 dialects of a futuristic tongue
That is spoken in the Broken Glass colony

The Brain Museum is not what it sounds like
It is a school for the old
Who do not look old
But resemble our children That is because
The Event slowed the aging process way down

Quat is a teacher at the Brain Museum
Many things changed after The Event
When I saw the children throwing the pigeon up
To try to get it to fly They were gambling
But these old children are very smart

When they turn 100 they marry
Each couple adopts a guardian
The guardian can be a horse-man
Or a snake-dog or a pig
They need a guardian

Because humans of the future
Have no instincts When they asked about my time
And I started to tell a few stories
They stopped me and changed the subject
Not because they didn’t believe me

But because they were bored
Their attention span is very short
Anyways I always enjoy my visits to the future
And Quat and I have become friends
If I could bring him back to my time I would

It says there is an upgrade coming

Asparagus followed by brief reflection

I grow asparagus
While remote Arctic bases
Sprout in the far north

The conning towers
Of their submarines break through
The ice like black plants

They say We don’t want
War but we will defend our
(you fill in the blank)

Keep your eye on them
Keep your eye on yourself too
Cross yourself We are

In the presence of
Evil with a human face
This is not a movie

This is not Russia
Or the United States folks
This is our story

We know exactly
What is going to happen
We planted each row

………….

Reflection:

I really think it is time that we assumed responsibility for the evil that we planted in the world that is beginning to sprout and may very well destroy the planet. It was the image of a series of Russian subs breaking through the Arctic ice pack that shook me awake this time. They looked just like a row of innocent plants erupting through concrete. It was supposedly an orchestrated show of strength . . . Maybe the generals saw it as a kind of ballet, a “nutcracker suite” cracking the balls of the United States. But I saw through that. This wasn’t Russian military theater. It could just as well have been American subs. It’s just evil. It’s how the beginning of the end looks. It’s still good theater, I suppose, but, more than that, it’s pure evil. War is not theater. But what’s happening, that will almost certainly end in war, is all home grown just like my asparagus. We planted this evil. So what do we do now? I genuinely don’t have a clue. But taking responsibility is a start.

Notes of a burned-out time traveler II followed by reflection

My phone has a time traveling app
I think some other people must have the app
(I can’t be the only one
But that is neither here nor there)
Anyway yesterday I used it

I went back to that place
That place in the future
With the big hand in the woods
The place where the children
Were trying to get the pigeon to fly

The place with the giant rusty spiral-things
That hang from the sky and the brain museum
To see if the future would let me think this time
(On my last trip to the future
It all felt like a giant brain freeze)

But I couldn’t get my brain to work
But I didn’t give up
I took a piece of paper out of my pocket
Where I had jotted instructions to myself
Just in case my brain shut down

It said 1 – walk
I walked I looked at the piece of paper again
It said 2 – Look around What do you see?
I looked around and I saw a man
Or maybe it was a horse

I couldn’t tell I was confused
3 – If you see something take a picture
I took a picture of the horse-man
4 – locate the spiral arrow icon on your screen
5 – Touch the spiral icon I did

I was returned to my time
I couldn’t wait to see the photo I took in the future
Now my brain was working normally
I stared at the horseman
I posted the photo on Facebook

With the caption: Horseman of the future
After that I scanned all my messages
And recent posts of my friends
Then I went down and worked in the garden
I was happy to see the asparagus

………

Reflection:

These burned-out time traveler poems are my way of coping with my sense that the world is running down. If we picture it as a giant wind-up gizmo (like my mechanical door-mouse that I sometimes wind up and release on the floor to entertain the cats) it would be doing whatever it does by fits and starts as the shadow of night moves around the globe. (The door mouse moves forward a few inches, then turns and heads in a different direction for a few inches etc, until it stops.) When I travel into the future I am visiting a place that has stopped. It is all wound down. There is a brain museum and birds in the future have all forgotten how to fly and there is a giant hand in the woods. This is a parable of course. The point is, when I return with my photo of the horse-man of the future, it is just another Facebook post that will attract 80 or 100 likes, but little or no curiosity, because the world, although it seems to be humming along, is really about to run out of juice. Until then, there is always the surprise of seeing that the asparagus has sprouted!

Many trees are blossoming followed by reflection

Many trees are blossoming
Across the road.
Some of them are white.
Some are a dark shade of pink.
On this side of the road
A small predatory animal
Types a short poem
At a little metal table
Outside a bagel café.
He is thinking about the world of humans.
I am that predatory animal.
I wish I wasn’t a predator.
I wish I did not sanction the violence
That has passed for civilization
I wish I was more like a horse
Or a sparrow
Or a blossoming tree.
I wish I would hear a voice saying,
“If you want to renounce violence
Cross the road.”
I wish it was that simple,
Hearing a voice like that.
If it was so simple
Then surely
I would cross the road.
But I can’t.
I can’t hear that voice
And I am afraid.
I don’t know what the world would be like
On the other side of the road.
I don’t know if anyone else would be there.
But I know that I would not cross back.
………
Reflection:
I have a friend who would suggest that the crossing of the road in this poem is death, but I would disagree. I think my quandary about whether to cross to the blossoming trees, that are as close as the other side of the street, is about my struggle with how to authentically live in the Zen mind or the heart-mind. The trouble is, I am not interested in a spiritual practice that separates me from all the suffering in the world. I am not really seeking transcendence at all. In fact, my heart wants me to be more in the world, not less! But I do want to stop sanctioning violence (which is everywhere), to be less tolerant of it in all of its forms, less accepting of it. If I see myself as a peaceful person, which I do, and always have, how then do I sanction violence? How am I “predatory”? By simply paying my taxes I am sanctioning violence, paying for war! By watching and being entertained by violent dramas on TV . . ., even by cutting down a tree without communicating with it first, I am saying I am on friendly terms with the violent (shadow) side of human nature. I may not be broadcasting my violence, but I am a closet predator,(a wolf in sheeps clothing) I support the culture of violence that claims to be civilized (i.e.,”we” are never the terrorists!) but, it is clear that any kind of violence is much closer to serving chaos. If civilization is the process by which a society reaches an advanced stage of social and cultural development and organization, then violence is the undoing of that. It is uncivilized and uncivilizing.

Spring snapshots

The sun is pleased
To see the lilacs in bloom again
But I, who love them as well
Hardly ever notice them
Until their perfume
Fills my nostrils.

What is wrong with you?
Spring is finally here
And all you can do is bitch
About the black flies
And the mud in your boot treads.

In the winter I feed the birds
Because I feel sorry for them
But in the late spring
I am still feeding them
Because I am sorry for myself.

The forest is just beginning to leaf.
Plum blossoms cover my car.
Birch trees are swaying
Like skeletons dancing
In the warm sunlight.

When I look closely
Into a violet
I see a group of delicate veins
That resembles a stand
Of young trees in a glade.

The UPS man is honking.
He honks as he approaches
He honks after he leaves the package
And he honks as he drives away.
I imagine that he is happy
But I wish he would be quiet.

The potted flowers on the sill
Were so special
When they were blossoming
In February.
Now they look like tired children
On a schoolbus, tolerating
The long ride home.

The algae eaters followed by a reflection

After the Mars mission of 2027,
They wanted to start colonizing the Red planet
ASAP, a logical (to some) outcome
Of utterly failing to halt climate warming.

But, they needed to see how people would handle
Being away from Earth and living on algae,
The easiest food to grow on Mars.
So they hand-picked some volunteers,

From the thousands who stepped up,
To spend three years in a giant dome
That simulated the climate of Mars,
While they prepared to send off the first 25 pioneers.

So, first, the dome-group was subjected to
A mock-up of the voyage to Mars
Including a rough landing. Then they were left alone
In their dome for three years.

They ate nothing but algae
With virtually no contact from the outside world.
When they emerged they were thin and greenish
And their pupils were strangely dilated

But all of them were very healthy and pleasant to be around.
But they didn’t like talking very much and
They didn’t seem to want to be with anyone
Except each other.

And they were allergic
To any kind of food but algae.
Also they wanted to be around plants all the time.
The experiment was considered a complete failure.

But that didn’t matter very much because next
There was a pandemic that swept the planet,
Killing off the entire human race
Within a few months

Except for the algae eaters
Who were immune
To the ravages of the pandemic.
The end.

………..

Reflection:

Do we have to become aliens to our own culture to survive (or to step out of) the bad karma of our self-destructive ways? This poem is a parable. You are what you eat.

It was amidst the turmoil of the German revolution in 1848 that the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach used his famous phrase, “We are what we eat.” This poem takes that wisdom literally and weaves a little moral tale out of an imaginary possibility that if we were to narrow down our bizarre over-the-top consumption to algae, we would become more plantlike and everything about our civilization that was going wrong, which is almost all of it, would simply implode and vanish like a bad dream.

White Rocks followed by a reflection

The vultures are always circling low over White Rocks, 

Or at least every time I climb the switchback to the lookout

They are there slowly gyring.

And higher up, above the old avalanche site

The ravens are courting this time of year.

Sometimes the high sun shines off the rocks

Below the ridge, turning them white,

As white as the exposed marble

In the Omya quarry in Danby far to the south.

But my favorite time to be up there

Is at the end of the day

Watching the shadows deepen on the mountain

Knowing that the forest will save just enough daylight

For me to find my way back down.

…………

Reflection:

This is the second poem I have written under the influence of Chinese poetry that I am reading in a little anthology, The White Pony, edited by Robert Payne. What impresses me about some of the poems (by Li Po and Ts’en Ts’an), whether they are poems of memory, love poems or poems of mourning, and what makes me want to emulate them, is how intimately and lovingly the landscape comes up. The land is more than a setting. It is animated and co-creative, as in the Dreamtime. “I tremble in the thick forest — oh, the overhanging rocks fall. / Blue, blue are the clouds threatening rain, / And the waters pour down and smoke pours from them.” (Li Po)

Your questions make me nervous

Your questions make me nervous.

They show me 

How much you are willing to trade

To live in a dream that has no future.

I don’t know how to help you get

From where you are standing

To a place where

The blossoms have not all fallen.

I am sorry that I all I have to offer

Is this thermos of warm tea,

But at least I brought two mugs.

Let us sip our tea together by this tree 

That was born a hundred wars ago.