[Issue #2, Spring & Summer 1998]
Jellystone: An Introduction to The Tenting Cantos
By R. Virgil Ellis
The central metaphor in The Tenting Cantos is the tent. What is a
tent? Much more than rudimentary shelter. It's consciousness, separation,
the flimsy boundary between what I perceive and what I might perceive. Oscillating
in the winds of solar and cosmic rays (doesn't the sun drive the world's
wind patterns?), this tent in a patch of Wisconsin woods is my mind. It's
a Western design, pitched and staked in pentatonic planes and Aristotelian
angles, but it sags and curves like a sitar, it bellies like Buddha.
Swelling in one breeze, contracting in another, the tent is my breath, calm
at one time, unruly another, just like my mind. What I can see or sense
is limited by that cloth boundary, which is the wavering outer limit of
my senses and my instruments.
The evidence in such variable focus must be taken on faith as truth revealed
but changeable, must be interpreted by one of the cloth. This cloth, through
which comes secular revelation, is also a sieve whose functioning is always
ambiguous: do I keep what is filtered, or what is filtered out? It's a semi-permeable
membrane, a cell wall sheltering organelles of consciousness, coated with
receptors which let in nourishment but which can be tricked by a virus,
a disease of ego.
The tent is that shimmering thin fabric of atmosphere through which starlight
wavers, through which, as I lie on my sleeping bag farting greenhouse gas,
I punch holes which let in truth I can't bear.
Or I sit watching the play of shadows, branches and leaves criss-crossing
and undulating in the wind, shadows on the wall of this wavering cave, jellystone.
Or I weave cantos of words and throw them like old movies on this rubbery
Yet as I progress in meditation I am not so sure there's anything in the
tent, or that it's there, or that there's anything needing separation or
Canto 8 | Canto
13 | Canto 21 | Canto
59 | Canto 60
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