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Climb from the Pit

Dreamed 1996/11/9 by Chris Wayan

I'm in a vast stone pit, a well too deep to see the bottom--if it has one. I'm walking up the spiral stair out. Miles of it. My calves hurt.

Is this Hell? Well, sort of. This is the Levant--the Mideast. Not in it, this IS it. Each floor is another land--Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel-Palestine, the Sinai, the Nile Delta, Sudan. Millions of people live on these stairs! Squabbling over borders--which stairs are theirs.

I hate it. I'm walking out.

I'm not alone: I'm leading a man who opposes a warlord on an abyssal stair. He has many factional enemies; I keep expecting a bullet in the back. The well is perfect for that--brilliantly built. Any nut on any side can always snipe at those ascending, that's the nature of this vast round well. Offense is always easy; defense, next to impossible. And that was deliberate. I climb up a spiral stair out of Hell, and find myself in San Francisco.

I always blamed the desert's poverty, and Islam's conservatism, and American weapons sales, and the sheer age and accumulated grudges of these civilizations--but now I see the Mideast tragedy is structural, built in the helix! By whom? God? Was there a need for such an arena, a place for souls to build character and courage in the fires of hate and obsession and vengeance? It's like an echo chamber, amplifying and bringing back to you all you emit... teaching you self-control, I guess. Over lifetimes. Lots of them. Most of them short.

Checkpoints at each floor, of course. They always ask "Why have you come here? What is the purpose of your visit?" Underneath that is the unspoken but real curiosity "We live here. We're trapped here. But why would anyone CHOOSE to come visit Hell?"

I enthuse about ancient Egypt, or Palmyra, or Tyre; every land has something safely old and famous. The guards, to my surprise, always let me through. In fact, they trust me enough to often ask me to carry messages, letters, even passports to the next level... I'm becoming a sort of inadvertent mailman.

To my amazement, nothing goes wrong--the guards all do let us through. A slow endless climb, dark, exhausting, numb... but feasible. If you're stubborn. Just one more step up. No reward. Just one more. No reward...

Sky widens. A stony lip. And then... a clean sea-wind, and we find ourselves in a steep back alley, on a hill in San Francisco!

The City is attainable. Even for those in the Pit!

Yet nothing profound led me out of the abyss. I have no magic formula to recommend. Just persistence.

Persistence... and hold your fire.


The spiral stair = the DNA helix! I've been reading about Watson and Crick finding DNA's structure. "War is hell", but if war's genetic, aren't we trapped in our helical hell?

The pit isn't only DNA. Or the Judeo-Christian-Moslem hell of the Mideast. That vast well with the spiral stair is straight out of Zelazny's Lord of Light, his book about a second Buddha: it's the pit where the Rakasha are trapped. Hindu hell! And now that I think of it... echoes of Dante haunt me too. But Dante's circles embodied confinement, isolation, and personal sins--the private circle, not the public one. This spiral hell-pit sabotages social interactions, fostering conflict by making offense dangerously easy but defense impossible.

Is this really just about Mideastern politics? A structural conflict, with sects jammed in without privacy, able to lash out, but never secure... it seems true about much of the modern world. But isn't this a model, too, of my own angry heart? I think the dream warns my that my internal wars aren't really values-driven, or even emotion-driven, but due to forced confrontations--fights my disagreeing sides may actually want to avoid!

If I just quit self-questioning, and leave my mind alone... might I find myself at peace?

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