Close your eyes. Are they closed? No, good point, I guess you’ll need to keep them open to read the Powerpoint. Okay, close them when you can, and otherwise close your inner eye, or eyes. The number of inner eyes may depend on the species of your spirit animal—mine, for instance, is the spider (or, as he is properly known, He the Spider). Right, first things first—close your eyes and find your spirit animal. See it? No, you’ve probably started in your memory palace. I want you to leave your memory palace and walk to the stable. If the serfs catch sight of you, dismiss them with a wave of your hand. Most are unfaithful to their wives; ignore them, and continue on your way. By now you should have reached the stable. Now tell me which animal you’ve found in the stable. What do you see there? In mine I have found He the Spider. I gently stroke the hairs on one of his legs (he is a big guy). Think of how your spirit animal must feel—how he feels to you, and how you feel to him. Then ask him to close his eyes. He the Spider closes his eyes, his eyes innumerable, and listens to my words.

Has your animal closed his eyes? He has. We’re going to tell your animal—your animus, we’re going to walk your animus through a landscape, and I’d like you to ask him—or her—to visualize it as clearly and concretely as possible. (Our method, incidentally, is inspired by the meditative practices of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus and a Spaniard. I’ve printed off some other Powerpoint slides for anyone who would like to learn more about his life and works.) Now, are your spirit animal’s eyes closed? Good. I’d like him—or her—to visualize a long, winding, rocky path. This path leads, or winds, this path winds its way up a hill to a kind of castle, a, uh, hutch—it winds its way towards an outcropping of rock that provides shelter against the driving rain. It’s raining. Your spirit animal has scented the rain, and the shelter, and it is preparing to make the long journey towards the outcropping and cave. If it helps, think of Alaska. Alaska is our northernmost state.

We’ve now begun to walk towards the mountaintop. The path is steep, but the air is good. Breathe the air into your nostrils, or snout, and reflect on just how ‘air’, you know, feels. What’s this? You’ve encountered another animal. Turn to your neighbor and ask him what his animal is like—you, for instance (look at me), you’ve encountered He the Spider. He (the Spider) is a foot in diameter. His blood is green, which I know because he is bleeding. He has been wounded on our journey. I’d like you to lay your—what is your?—your paw on his wound and feel the heat of his life, radiating out of the gaping hole into the cold. Also, it’s raining. Now each of you, reach out and touch the spirit animal across from you, as well as the person whose spirit animal you’ve found, and feel his wounds—his or her—both spiritual and physical. Please limit your feeling to their hands please.

I see that our brother nearest to the door has stood up, so I’m going to speed this up. The door is locked, brother, so you’re advised to return to your seat and your spirit animus. We are now at the top of the mountain, above the tree line. If you’ll look before you, you’ll see a sunset. No, _two sunsets_. The atmospheric effect is particular to this region of Alaska. This is known as the northern lights, plural. Look at the sunsets. Consider the beauty of a sunset, and the power. Consider it for ten to thirty seconds. (During this time those of you who’ve registered your i-Clickers may reach beneath your seat, press the power button and choose one of the four adjectives projected onto the screen that best describes your own individual sunset. For this you may open your eyes as necessary.)

But what have we come here for? The licensed physical therapists? The mailing lists which you can skim for women’s names? I kid. I’m joking. I didn’t mean that. The cave! We came to reach the cave, which we have reached, ahead of schedule. We didn’t even have time to construct a memory camp. Now, if you’ll turn around, see how the light spills into the cave, revealingly and, in what it fails to illuminate, invitingly. Take a step closer, and step over the carcass, which is sinister and foreboding. You’ll notice the cave drawings that have been drawn on the cave. Lean in close and see what has been drawn there. Do you see what has been drawn there? I see my spirit animal, He the Spider, and yours, and yours, and all of them gathered before a single, radiant—_RAM! I speak the word I found!_

Spooky, right? The moment you touched your finger to the red ochre sketch of the Ram a chord rang out from deeper within the cave, and after the chord a phrase. (And beneath the chord, the bass really kicked.) It returns once you touch your finger again to the—_RAM! I speak the word I found!_—and then a silence—_but only a grunt_—well then it—_sounds_—fuck—_and a gust_—which button—_of wind blows_—there. Once again, an eerie silence falls. You are powerlessly drawn deeper into the cave, and the darkness, and the silence. _Listen_ . . . did you hear that? _The very quiet is alive and pumping / pulsing pounce in the cooling umbra thumping_ . . . what could it be? _The muffled throbs measure beats of an unseen rigaudon_ . . . You must continue. You must see the unseen rigaudon of which this angel sings.

The cave has narrowed considerably, and now you may only enter the inner chamber in groups of three or less. Ah, normally you would only be able to enter the inner chamber in groups of three or less, but the small group section of the program has been cut today. Each of you enters individually, alone—each of you follows the notes pumping through the narrow chute of rock. Pull yourself—or I guess your spirit animal, feel how your spirit animus slides its body through the rock. You were once born into this world, and once you opened your eyes—it is this we mean to undo today. Climb into the womb of rock and shut your eyes. Feel the womb of rock around you. Feel its safety. Listen to the measured beats of the unseen rigaudon, and understand to what you have come. You have returned to the womb, and the sounds you hear are the beats of your mother’s heart—your mother, and my mother—our mother, our sky mother.

Now open your eyes. I’m sorry, evidently that was unclear: open your literal, human eyes. No, please, stop applauding—but yes, you may gasp. Your days do not deceive you. Ladies and gentlemen, Rich Shapero. Do you have anything you’d like to say to these good people, Rich?

“Good afternoon. It’s wonderful to be here, only days after the winter solstice—I hope you all enjoyed Soyalangwul. I don’t have much advice to give you on your spiritual journeys, as you are in good hands here. I have had a long journey, and a fruitful one. When I embarked on it, so many years ago, my singular hope was to turn the spoils of my time on Earth, on this most tangible and lower of the whole ladder of Earths, to turn my spoils into a harvest, a bounty, for others, like you. I suppose my speaking before you today is proof that I am well on my way, and I suppose that makes me fulfilled.

“Yet, with all my success, my thoughts have remained with those who have yet to set out on their journey. To these people, who have no interest in my words and music and wisdom, I can only give my example. And I believe, or I hope, that that example may be for the good—that there is a young boy out there, alone in his bedroom—boy or girl—who feels a voice inside with no way out. And to that boy I can only say: look to me. Your voice will be heard. Somehow, by some means, you will be heard. We live in a time of great possibility and opportunity, and I believe my story represents proof that anyone, any art, can be seen and heard across the world. Your art can saturate each corner of this world. All it takes is a devotion to your own truth—your helpers will follow. Each copy of my book in a home, each CD in a car, each of these represents proof that art finds a way.

“Thank you. If any of you has felt my words and music aided in your journey today, I’ve hired some students to stand outside and distribute copies to the interested. Thank you, and may you find places of rest along your path.”

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