I have a little story to share, a story I tend to share with close friends around campfires, in quiet social moments where the mood is settled and inhibitions are loosened up, or on a walking parlance. It is a story that I have shared on several occasions over the years – usually evocated as my contribution to a scar-story. So there may be some of you who have heard this story before, if so I do ask your patience and reconsideration to give it another *listen*,,, I feel that this time around my story may have a significantly different flavour to it; and I might even stray to say that it has a distinct sharp flavourless boldness to it – a keen to the first experience of tasting one’s own blood. In light and dark of the nature of this blog, the story I am about to share may not bear the initial impression of magick, contemplation, or other modes of deeper knowledge and wisdom, but I can assure you that it does have a pedagogical bearing, if ears are open to see it and skin is receptive to taste it. So be it.
I will keep this brief, this story may be upsetting to some. It will probably be graphic, so if you feel that your constitution is not ready for troublesome information, then, please discontinue your reading now. The picture I added is of myself and my father as we ONCE were, not as we are NOW. So I kindly ask that you note your judgment before reacting impulsively. This picture is as an autoethnographic record expressing a moment in my life, that also holds a relatable context for generations that have found themselves in similar circumstances. I will further make the statement that there are many who claim that they have respect and consideration for others but will be hard pressed when secretly confessing the closeness of their own deceptive and malicious experiences. You may always come back to this article if you feel more up to it. As a point, this article is not intended to cause dissonance, I rather set it as a means to provide insight and perspective. It is my own narrative born from a reflection on a subjective experience I had as a child, now, evocated as an aspiration to benefit others where I believe necessary and useful. May it be so.
About twenty-two years ago, I took holiday with my family at a game lodge situated near the banks of the Limpopo River, my memory around the actual destination is a bit vague, I guess the closest town may have been Musina (now part of Limpopo Province). Our family would spend every Spring vacation with another family (friends / family-friends) based at the lodge campsite. I generally have fond recollections of wandering around the bushveld equipped with my pocket knife and .224 hunting rifle (or pellet gun, depending on the occassion). The other family had a son (*have – I guess he is still around) who was around my age, the two of us spent our time adventuring as far as was allowed, marveling at magnificent Baobab trees, sucking on marula fruits, resting under the shade of knob-thorn trees and fashioning accessories from its thorns. We were naughty by conventional standards, we laid traps for sport, demolished ant and termite hills, taunted vervet monkeys with make shift slingshots, and killed more birds and tiny animals than one would care to hear about. We had no fear, and no judgment for the life of others, just naive bravado – the type of pretentious courage one has with a hunting rifle hanging off the shoulder as though it were a sash of self-imposed authority.
Boys, in the bush, with instruments of killing. We were so full of ‘it’ that we felt we could impose our wills on almost anything, all things living were but objects for our [dis]pleasure… of course, they had to be a fair bit smaller than us, bigger objects needed bigger guns, and these were usually the game of bigger boys who seemed to look more serious and stern but were equally as adolescent when stories were shared at the campfire after inhibitions were loosened with brandy – this I recall well enough. So the other lad and I left ourselves mostly to the sport of killing small animals, we managed to trap a warthog and proceed to torture it by cutting its balls off and then cutting its throat. We made a fire and char-grilled the scrotum for consumption – it wasn’t at all pleasant, tough, chewy, and sometimes squishy. The warthog was but a passing memory… its life didn’t matter to us, it merely existed for us to exert our nightmarish imaginations on.
Shooting my first buck was a bit more staged and initiatory, it required prowess and stamina, long walks through the bush, tracking spoor, tacit investigation of fresh dung, and keeping close to shade as best we could as the sun would constantly remind us of our soft skin. My dad, the tracker, and I made our way up a hill and perched near a cliff edge. From here we scoured the bush for animal movement and found a herd of Impala. I was instructed to aim the crosshair of my .224 rifle scope near the neck or heart of the buck I settled on. Once I found my victim, I was instructed to pull the trigger on an exhalation. In that moment of concentration, I exhaled, and pulled the trigger, “PAH!”. The Impala were several hundred meters away, hardly visible with the naked eye (especially midst the camouflage of the bush), so I could not determine whether I had killed the buck or not. The tracker said I had, and proceeded to guide us down the hill to where my kill lay. The tracker walked ahead, my father behind him, and I trailed behind, making our way through thick thorny bush. The air was quiet, and then we came to a stand still, the tracker stood behind the now dead buck, it was a heart shot. I lend in on it, quivering as I lay my hand on its still warm body, eyes glossed over, tongue protruding… I do not recall smiling or feeling at all good, but I was praised for a job well done and had to follow the rite of passage in cutting the throat, drinking the blood, smearing it over my face, and lifting the buck into a Fireman’s Carry, carrying it as far as I could before buckling at the knees as I foolishly navigated the bush, with blood and shit running down my back. The tracker did the rest of the hard labor. We made back to the campsite and proceeded to slaughter the buck in the abattoir – seeing its insides made ‘it all’ different – less “life-like”. Yeah… and that became the trend.
So, this is what we had done before and a few times after, my youth as a hunter, spent exploring the bush, which wasn’t always on a murderous trajectory – even though it has its prominent place – there was also plenty of curiosity and learning,,, fairly innocent I would risk adding. But something happened during this specific trip that changed the season entirely for me, something happened that would curb my trajectory not just away from the world of hunting, but into the nature of my mind. This is where my story takes a turn of impact.
One evening my father and his friend swept us (the children) up to join them for an evening of rabbit hunting – African Savanah hares to be specific – on the farmer’s tomato crop-lands. The wives remained behind at the campsite to keep the fire kindled, my father and his friend equipped the open canopy Landrover, and the children got their jackets. My father seated in the passenger seat, his friend behind the steering wheel, my sister sat next to me (we sat in the passenger seats behind my father and his friend), and the other kids were perched at the back of the Landrover, holding onto the support bars.
We raced through the croplands, my father spotlighting anything that moved, any indication of *red-eye* would be frozen on, and someone would take a turn shooting and killing it. I recollect the other lad indicating his readiness to shoot a hare that was spotlighted, the hare didn’t budge because the spotlight had blinded it, we were hardly 5 meters from it when the shot was taken, but even with this relative crosshair closeness, the shot wasn’t fatal, so the lad had to finish the job at gunpoint. This image is now cemented in my memory, the hare gasping for life after being wounded and now awaiting an outright execution. There was a bit of hesitation from the other lad, and after some protestation, his father irked him on to finish what he started, so, at a moment’s breath, a shot was sound and the hare was gruesomely executed – its eyes popped out of its skull. Instead of dismaying the executioner he was left with a trigger happy blood lust, amped for the next victim, he hopped back onto the Landrover and scoured the croplands.
We bashed through the bundus a bit further, personally, I wasn’t interested in shooting anything, in fact, I was getting cold and ready to head back to the campsite, but the rest were keen for a few more headshots (so to speak). As we coursed up and down the ploughed fields, we came to a halt, and a sudden moment of quiet struck us. We paused the Landrover, ignition off, and sat motionless waiting for life to cross by. I sat still looking ahead of me, not expecting much. Serene evening quiet, covered by the cold of the night, and the strange murmurings of the Limpopo bushveld,,, and not disregarding a distinct smell of veld, I cannot describe it as other than a familiar “wild”.
In a slow moment, the side of my eye caught the movement of an elongated extension from my slight above-right. The other lad was leaning his rifle over the support bar. To my knowledge, it seemed as though he was only using the scope to look for hares, but I had not gathered that he was possessed by a deeper craving to pull the trigger – none of us did (except him). In the flash of an unwarned millisecond, I saw everything, deeply, clearly, intimately. He pulled the trigger of his .224 rifle, and a bullet sped through the barrel. The bullet coursed forward, and at the same time my father sitting in front of me raised his rifle onto his lap, perpendicular to his upper thigh, resting the stock on his leg. A sudden “PAH!”, the bullet burst against the barrel of my father’s rifle and ricocheted back into my head.
— — —
It was instant. There aren’t a great many things that I can remember about that holiday (and other moments in my youth), but this “accident” left a solid impression on me (a statement I allow as a make a literal claim – I still have particles of shrapnel lodged in my skull). But it is not the after-effect that I wish to discuss here, rather, I wish to tell you what I saw in the timeless moments of that sudden impact and how this changed my mind.
I cannot recollect how long everything took to transpire, but my recollection of that experience was perceived in hyper-real clarity (as though it purposefully slowed for viewing). The first part of the experience was not at all a tangible or even intangible experience, in fact, it was such a bright moment that I can hardly remember what it was like – brilliance comes to mind, other than that there are few words that can express it. I recollect a flash of brilliant light, then a quick sharp sound-spike, followed by a ringing buzz which tapered down to an absolute dead silence. It was as though that flash of light and the consequent sound was a consuming/encompassing explosion and implosion that had no point of direction and no point of origin. It eliminated all designation.
Following this was an extended suspension in pitch black darkness, a space of pure quiet, no thoughts were heard and no “Andries” to hear them (this was before I changed my name). There was no discomfort, and I was not unconscious; my awareness was merely resting in that space of darkness, it had no distinction, as though awareness was dissolved in suspension.
Then a feeling of nurturing warmth followed, the darkness gradually grew into a reddish hue, like staring at the sun with eyelids closed. The process seemed to be interrupted by the feeling of hands on my face, wiping something away, and a voice calling my name (it seemed as though the voice was calling me from a far off distance, “Andriesss! Andriesss…!”). I attempted to open my eyes, initially thinking that I was blind, but it was the blood from my head wounds that welled up in my eyes. The first visible figure I could discern was that of my father and then his friend next to him. They had a moon-like radiance around them. I was muted throughout this process, there few thoughts I had, and hardly anything to communicate at this moment. Not a word from me, but the first words I audited came from my father’s friend who addressed my father with a “______, I don’t think he will want to hunt again” (go figure!). Even though this was hardly a thought I entertained at that moment, the experience would be a silent catalyst in redirecting my life.
I sat up for a moment, not moving much, except my head as I looked around into the night, the stars were so bright, it seemed as though they were animated, swirling figures and flickering shapes, like a midsummer’s night dance display. I distinctly remember that it felt as though this dancing display came from the back of my eyes, not from in front of me, but also as though the stars themselves were meeting me like a celestial host. I wasn’t too sure what to make of it and only had murmurings and mumblings to express my status.
At this point, I was thoroughly dazed and confused, as though I had some type of jet lag after a long journey, everything seemed strange and different (or new-ish). I kept quiet while listening to everyone squabble about what they should do now, gods forbid, what would they tell the wives!? “They can’t know what just happened!” a voice urged. What transpired was an obvious act of cowardice and confusion. I was told to jump off the Landrover as though we had taken a sharp turn whilst driving and I logically fell into the bush; so I proceeded to get onto the ground and roll around in the thorny dirst to give a false impression that I took a tumble.
We drove back to the campsite, I sidetracked the fireside completely and walked straight to my room, washed my face clean of dirt and blood, and had a thorough look at myself. I looked older, dirtier… I had seen a different version of myself, more silent and tentatively contemplative. The wounds weren’t deep enough to be outwardly visible, they sealed up fairly quickly, so the ‘wives’ never discovered what had happened to me that night (and the roll around in the dirt was in vain). Naturally, my holiday was not the same after that experience… the rifle was left behind, and I ventured into the bush unarmed, just being in the bush. That said, in times to come I would still go on hunting expeditions, but gradually I moved away from any innate and exterior forms of violence. Eventually, I grew tired of hunting altogether and would look to means to rediscover that silent awareness I found that night.
Having seen that deep quiet and spacious stillness I started looking at life differently. I am not saying that I had a radical turn in my person (not yet), but there was a deep surge within me that wasn’t always easy to communicate – a means of expression I continue to pursue to this day. Throughout my adolescence, teens, and twenties I would dance between the weirdness and wondersome-ness that I had now identified with by circumstance. Many times being unguided in that search for the quiet dark mind would play out in self-misguided interpretations and excessive expressions. This leads me to the following section, elucidating how I came to learn that my seeking and delving into the depths of the mind could be advantageous but also potentially dangerous.
One may argue that the title of this article could rather state something more inclined to “Mind as Weapon”, but this would be far too generic. The reason I highlight the position of “meditation” as being dangerous is in its misguided utility, i.e. Meditation without a sincere grounding is still a sharpening of the blade, and a sharp mind can be a tool for cutting, what is being cut may present a dilemma.
After my head wound, and seeing into a true peace of a genuinely still mind, one may be excused to think that young Andries/Andreas would consequently take a radical turn toward a life of peace and harmony. On the contrary, nowhere and hardly anyone along my teenage years provided me with that sense of quiet space that I was looking for, so I was left to my own devices. Long story short, I was eventually ousted from high school (or as it is stated, I left school out of my own accord), I rejected the church, I had found interest in my own paths of education, and other means to fuel my discontents and strange curiosities, these included pursuits in the occult – between Crowley, and Blood Magick, and then some,,, to paranormal activity – “astral travel” was all the rage during the 90’s and early 2000’s, death and black metal, self-harm (I had gathered a nifty little kit for cutting, piercing, and burning), vandalism, incendiarism, torment, depravity, dark art, and poetry.
**These topics are intended to have their own stand-alone articles – in line with the intention of offering insight and perspective through my recollected memory and current narrative.
As soon as I learned about using my mind to alter realities, I found means to shape and shift outcomes to suited ‘me’. This was long before I stumbled upon the guided instruction and purpose of meditation as espoused in the Buddhist tradition. Nah, the meditation I practiced as a youth was cut-and-paste from my personal interpretations of occult texts and self-induced trance-like meanderings – which in retrospect as an interesting reflection, there was hardly any internet back then, so concealed information was rather tough to find, and much of it was intuited, hear-say, and out of creative desperation to find something “other” than the bland and boring context offered by society at the time. Instead of joining others on regular booze and drug trips I would spend my developmental youth delving into my mind and recognizing weak-spots in the Other (from individual to social…). It took some time but I eventually realized that my solipsistic approach was gravely mistaken, my weapon began to turn on me – I had consequently manipulated myself into a corner. A favorite philosopher at the time so poignantly expressed in his Beyond Good and Evil:
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
Manipulating others and insanely disregarding the world around me had only caused me anxiety, confusion, and depression. Many reading this (who know me somewhat) may not necessarily think of me in that vein, but the extent of middle youth, teens, and early twenties were meanderings into the abyss, and I kept myself reserved and observant (brooding on bigger things). I will admit that I never quite left the abyss, but I have since found guidance through the abyss, and a means to recollect the unprovoked darkness, its luminosity, and brilliant light of the mind,,, sure, still a muchness of muchness to go, but there is much to say and respect to offer for the role of good guidance… a story for another time. The hermit-pedagogue that wanders in the vast hollows of my mind and heart, bears a torch of certainty. The weapon is now intended and betrothed to cutting through my ignorance, and further equipped to butter the toast of others.
The difference I have now found in retelling the story of my hunting accident is that I have since learned about the stages in which the mind goes during the dying process. I cannot say for certain that this is exactly the standard experience, but it sure as heck seems close enough! Besides that, since I have started engaging in ‘nature of mind’ meditations, I am finding that my memory of prior experiences is being reevaluated, and what they mean in the formation of the person that I am today; not only in understanding the mysteries of life and the mind, but in the simple appreciations of everyday life, and the precious lives of others. I have not touched on the subtleties of interactions with others, and how the little acts we perform have deepening effects on our subtle selves and the subtle fabrics of the world around us,,, so I will leave that for a different article.
Here I rather aim to point out that we often neglect to take into consideration how much impact we can have, on ourselves, on others, through ourselves, through others. If anything, it is an imperative to find sound counsel before delving into the darkest reaches of the mind,,, and it certainly does not help flashing a spotlight around if you do not know what you are looking for – in fact, you may find things quite unexpected that reveal themselves as potentially frightening, tempting, and exhilarating (ah but mostly illusions!). Misinterpreting and misguiding such experiences can be detrimental, costly at most; supposed life-altering events/experiences do not always present the expected turning points in our lives that we often desperately seek after or avoid – I often ask where the “wisdom” is in our seeking? This said, a good crisis potentially has a way of showing us what is important in our lives, our attachments, aversions, what we prioritize or neglect, and how we approach this rare moment of existence, the proverbial ME. This is not a directive moral compass… rather an openness and willingness to see and hear this existential experience as it is (beyond the self-cherishing ‘me’). Relatively it may seem as though our world goes through major transitions or torturous blandness, but beyond all the conventional change nothing really happens – nothing that we can be deeply okay with. Ultimately life continues (regardless of ‘us’), and relatively we may remain the boring old drolls we always have been or suddenly decide to take up interpretive dance if that is the fancy for the moment – the only real difference may come about when we allow that innate awareness to fill our persons’ with presence, making this ‘person’ a natural meditation whatever he or she is going through.
You may notice that I have not discussed the issue of “hunting” or “delinquency/miscreancy” or the esoteric variants of the mind experience as I reflect on it. Rather, I am taking a position that points to the precious life available to us now, that is shared between each other, inter-influencing each other. My statement, “meditation as weapon”, may be misinterpreted or misleading, but think rather of the many occasions that our guards are casually dropped for ignorant moments to slip by, and letting those self/other-deception floats into an occurrence or event (perspirations gathering into storm clouds). The idea of a weapon may create the impression of forceful influence, or malicious directedness, whether we know it or not, we are already meditating all the time, but we may not have the insight to know what exactly it is that we are cultivating in our existential meditation, example, if were to get up every morning and listen to a news reel that tends to fixate on negative feeds, and I soften my mind to the negativities of the world, I am inadvertently meditating on bad news – now, without a foundation in discriminating wisdom, I would probably cultivate myself into a bitter bad news type of dude; a counterexample may be seen in affirming the beauty of roses and sun light, which may be met with disappointment if crisis strikes,,, as is life. So, once again I ask, where is the ‘wisdom’? with the addition of, what and where is your balance? … (why do you think it is necessary? and how will you go about it?). 😉
I have since moved my meditation into a natural extension of myself, of the clarity that rests in a womb-like spacious darkness of the mind,,, further noticing that from it *compassion* (as an organic interconnectedness and not merely as an affection) swells. I continue to aspire in this way, in a creative embodiment and release into wisdom, and wish that I may further share these experiences with you, for what it may count (or not, it doesn’t matter that much anyway).
—- —- —-
The bullet and I, met as a mirror meets the sky, a secret kiss, ‘pAH!’ what difference?
I wish you all well, see you soon in the next article, take care of yourselves, and each other.