In recent years, this town seems very trifling in life force and spirit. Its heart has weakened and its tongue has lapsed lazily into routine complaints and canned rhetoric. More and more of its once pristine property is “developed,” meaning that cookie cutter adobe pretenders dot the landscape from the mountains to the gorge. Taos once drew attention because it was earthy, instinctive somewhat dangerous, in the manner a wild animal is dangerous and just as beautiful. It still nursed from the tits of the ultimate cougar, Mother Nature. Taos was a Third World Country surrounded by but unfettered to mainstream America. Perhaps a romantic wish as much as a reality.
A long time ago, I spent several nights a week at the Taos Inn, which I once referred to as the Living Room of Taos, a nickname that now appears on travel brochures and online ads for the Inn. All the local characters, their kids and dogs congregated there in the afternoons and into the evening. It was the place to unite in spirit, meet one’s fellow fallouts from the outer dimensions, and rejoice in our escape from toxic life depleting environments. After the Taos Inn, the hard-core drinkers made their way to El Patio, now known as the Alley Cantina. If they wanted to dance, they migrated south to the Sagebrush Inn. If for some reason a regular member misbehaved too pugnaciously to the point of being 86st, this person could be found the next night and however many ensuing nights at El Patio or Ogilvie’s bar (now The Gorge), until the sin was forgiven.
On non-working days there was the Taos Coffee Shop and before that Café Tazza. There was a community in each of these spots and often people stayed there all day. Someone would be writing a book, or sketching other clientele. In the evenings, there were poetry readings, belly dancers and plays. There were also more bookstores in this pre amazon and smartphone world. It seems that people must now arrange to get together. We used to expect our friends to be at the coffee shops like a kitchen in the house of an intimate friend.
It’s possible that I’ve simply outgrown the Taos I just described. People still move here and have a great time in this tri cultural town with a tinge of sophistication in trendy contrast to its small town intimacy. It still has many Art Galleries, several fine museums, great restaurants and proximity to the Taos Ski Valley. The ancient Pueblo is still at the base of New Mexico’s tallest, possibly handsomest mountain turning its nose up at its own popularity just as it always has. Yet even there much of the life force has gone underground.
At some point, the balance shifted and the page turned. It just might be that I’m the one that changed. No, we’ve both changed. A long time ago I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker (they have great cartoons) of a chick that had just broken out of its shell. The caption said, “whew! I’m glad that’s over, but in the larger picture, which the poor chick couldn’t see was a bigger shell and then another and another.
For a long time I’ve been aware that there are people dwelling in various sizes of shell--but sometimes I forget. It seems that it usually requires a shock of some kind to break our shell and send us to the next lifecycle. Perhaps like the chick some people feel the need to break through but more often, the shell is broken due to some external blow. Maybe there is also a time in between developmental eggshells when everything is calm and we are gathering strength, or maybe we are just living in a false sense of well-being.
All of us live encased in layers of shells, and enlightenment seems to be the recognition that we just broke through one of them. If we have done this before, we often look back on the now broken shell once vexing our development and feel either vulnerable or proud. We can look down on other little eggs with smaller shells still lost in the illusion that their shell encompasses the only reality there is.
Some individuals panic and try desperately to put the only home they have ever known back together. If that doesn’t work, they live in denial. Sometimes they connect with others in a similar state of panic and make a belief system out of denial.
When the shell has obviously shattered, one may be floating in space without any orientation, at least so it seems for a while. If a person has enough faith or even curiosity, the fear will subside and exploration begins. I notice that baby animals have curiosity and not fear on finding themselves outside the shell or the womb. Fear isn’t really about the unknown but about what we believe we know about the unknown—thus, dangerous expectations. For this reason, it is common for first time spiritual hatchlings to attempt to bring old beliefs into the new condition. This happens too often with spiritual experiences. You can’t successfully mend a broken shell and crawl back inside.
The things we can see are the same things that exist within us. There is no reality except the one contained inside. This is why many people live in delusion. They take images outside as sole reality, never realizing that they are linked to internal causes.Hermann Hesse
If a person is able to surrender to the shock of creation in action, another level of awareness reveals itself. Finally, (but never the final finally) the accidental space traveler notices that he/she is in another shell even though a much larger one.
We hope the person is now getting the recognition that breaking through shells is the essence of creation. This journey progresses not via talent, education or personal charm, but by breaking through shell after shell after shell and thus participating in the surge of progress. Oh yes, I have never believed there was one creation and that’s the end. Creation is endless like the expanding universe. “As above, so below.”
A few years ago, I might have explored all this in a coffee shop but I’m even more curious than nostalgic so I’ll leave the outcome to cosmic powers. Taos like all of its inhabitants exists in the expanding universe. One of these days, it may wake up and break through its current shell. I will probably discover that it is even better than it was before--or, is it me changing. Maybe we are both ready to pop through another shell. “We are all related.”