Disappointed Eyes: Currents of Light & the Ocean.
I turned the corner into his rage.
In the gleam of festive fairy lights garlanded around windows and the glow of street lamps, it burned. Eyes wide and wild, the whites a filmy, vein latticed color of storm tossed ocean foam, the hue of roiling ferment swelling from the deep. His skin covered in a sheen, from the mist or his own feverish brow, beaded on a waxy, wan pallor.
His screaming was foggily enveloped in the night, enclosing us in a seething bower.
I was on a run, my heart already clamoring in my chest began to beat faster. The city was wrapped in a pre-holiday hush, a spray of seasonal gold light made the bridge glitter in the flecks of dew-bejeweled night air.
I felt enclosed in a jewel-box of fevered anger, caged in a beatifically brilliant snare of madness.
I had been flying through the night as if on winged feet, and as I turned towards Nob Hill across the Broadway Tunnel bridge, I was whipped out of my flight.
I was transfixed, frozen and staring, mouth agape as his frothing, spuming face fixed on me. He stood directly in my path, I was in his irate glare as he mouthed words that I could not discern. The air had become infused with the thudding of my own heart, filling my ears with insistent beats, a warning that I seemed unable to heed.
His ire was directed at me, yet he did not perceive me, not as an individual, a person. His eyes swept around the axis of his gyrating body and a jet of words washed over everything in his path, I was just another object in his torrent of fury, at first.
I saw him when I pounced onto the bridge, raging at the streetlights, or the bridge itself. A searing ray of aggression that had found me, an aspect of environment-given kinetic immediacy, I moved. I had been flushed, warm and sanguine in my happy flight, now a coldness seeped into me, a dread.
The lights shimmered rapturously around us in perverse excitement, a glittering assemblage of beauty and winking joviality, like a fairy court tittering in the shadows at “what fools these mortals be”.
Time seemed to slow as as he approached, the lights swirled, coalesced like frenzied spheres dancing a cosmic jig around us in dizzying, dazzling gaiety, almost audible, raucous and harmonic at once, it was brilliant and baleful.
I could see him clearly now in the otherworldly light, he was near my age, but somehow both older and so much younger. Weathered skin, blemished and rough from the world’s embrace of him, wrought into haggard form by the unyielding forces that most faces in this part of the city are shielded from. Hair trailing around his face, dirty blond, the aureate shine subdued by damp and grime.
Yet even in this moment I saw a lostness, a soft, sad, hopefulness, or hopefulness just lost. Perhaps the anger that brims just after hope is gone, betrayed and swelling up, heated and unbidden.
The broken hope, seemingly so recently crushed, unrealistically recent, as if some childlike optimism burgeoned daily despite circumstance, to be buffeted back and crushed like flotsam and jetsam in the cruel tide, devoured and disappeared within the consuming ocean. Leaving only cold blue-green and sooty foam, the hungry, eternal colors of the ocean, of his eyes as he drew near.
He was quiet now, I had nothing to give him.
His face was framed in the converging mantle of incandescence, halo-like it wrapped the windows behind him, windows that were wide and rimmed with fluorescence and blank. Unseeing eyes set in houses whose occupants were safely, warmly ensconced and oblivious to all drenched, dark dealings in the night.
His long, grease-slicked hair caught the gold of the light as I moved, amplified in sheeny contrast to the vaporous darkness and my adrenaline-soaked perception. My strange reverie lit him up like a saint, gold-edged and glazed like a Byzantine icon.
San Francisco was once a haven for those who saw the world differently, who tasted other worlds and traveled in other states of awareness. For the outlandish, the inspired, the prophetic, and the divinely mad. Before a new intensity drove those on the fringe to the brink and plunged those who connected to the ether into chaos.
These people were called to San Francisco in her previous incarnation, when visions were of transcendent and not material realms. They were summoned here and brought forth visions of freedom, unbound by societal restriction, they could create.
They made works infused with the esoteric like Yermah the Dorado: The Story of a Lost Race. It transposed an Atlantean city over San Francisco, and placed temples sacred to the planets on her seven hills. Frona Wait Colburn was prophetic in her own right, like a Delphic Pythia, she described a cataclysmic earthquake in her work before the Great Earthquake of 1906.
It’s this energy, which astrologers would call Neptunian, a visionary, shamanic pull, that this city evoked. A siren-song that invited the dreamers to delve into their own unconscious, and the Collective Unconscious, revealing new creations imbued with the universal myths of the past.
“It’s going to fall,” he said softly.
I was snapped out of my trance, from all empathic resonance, from his ocean-colored eyes and the play of light.
I was on a wet bridge with someone who had been screaming at me.
What was “it”?
An overarching view of culture? The City? Me, dehumanized in his vision, just as he had been in mine at first glance?
We’re told that self-defensiveness is not spiritual, that only empathy is found on the spiritual path. Ultimately, that may be true, as we yield our mortal life and cede our incarnation to all that is.
But here, now, we live as unique beings, unique tones that we are custodians of.
I believe that we are the divine conservers of our own sacred vibrations, with the holy task of preserving our own vital spark.
As often as I’m given to consuming empathy, and can become entranced by it, I am self-protective. I have at various points in my life needed to be to save my life.
This felt like a moment when I needed to define myself and Other, carve out a space and encircle myself clearly.
To defend oneself against threat, against annihilation, is spiritual in my view. It is the protection of a divine creation. Just as conserving the collective myths of the past is a sacred undertaking, so too is preserving our own journey and the experiences it contains.
My voice rang out, my hand raised and open-palmed before me. The space we had been enrobed in seemed broken by clear sound, the space between us felt vast.
A lifting, clarifying feeling broke through the thinning fog.
The bridge above the Broadway Tunnel is subject to ocean weather, protean, it shifts moment to moment.
It seemed in the time since I’d first beheld him the fog had mostly abated, and we were standing in clear, starkly lit air. Headlights of cars threw their beams with distinction from below, the Christmas lights around us glinted as though reprimanded back into form.
The air no longer held the Neptunian spell of merging, of blending, of fog and tidal dissolution to my eyes.
Two people on a bridge and a boundary, a threshold, a line of definition between them.
His face wasn’t startled, but a flicker in his watery eyes seemed to show sudden sadness, eyes that had been disappointed in life, that had been left out, were again.
I turned and ran, no longer afraid but warm again and stinging from my own swerve from compassion. I had chosen myself over empathy, my safety over caring, as I’ve done before. I turned into the cool press of night, alert and whole and selfish perhaps, but electric and alive.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.