November 20th, 2009

Akasa and Irony

“Like any Romantic,” Paul Bowles once said, “I had always been vaguely certain that sometime during my life I should come into a magic place which, in disclosing its secrets, would give me wisdom and ecstasy—perhaps even death.”

That last phrase is typical literary hyperbole, which I most earnestly brush aside. I came to Ischia not to die, but to begin a new life, to dig deep into the ancient secrets of this Island, and, if I can gather up the courage, all that I have been hiding from myself over the decades.

Bowles also said that a typical fictional character of his “slips through life, if possible without touching anything, without touching other people.”

A reporter from the New York Times asked him if that was how he lived his own life. He said, “I’ve tried. It’s hard. If you discover you’re affecting other people, you have to stop doing whatever you’re doing.”

I like to think he came to understand the ancient concept of Akasa, which says we are held accountable for every single action we take, good or ill, and that the pain we inflict on others comes back to us three-fold. When I was young I laughed at these ideas. Ignorant superstition, that’s all. But now that I’m getting OLD I know, through long, painful experience, that it’s true. Which is why I am in exile, determined to stop hurting others—“touching” them, in Bowles euphemism.

No, I don't aspire to sainthood. I’ve just had enough of that awful three-fold payback.

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