By TONY EVANS
How do certain books, and certain people, find their way into our heads and start living there rent-free? I took a few of the books on the road last week, thinking I might get to the bottom of things regarding religion and history, both personal and nebulous. I went to some favorite places from my past, hoping I would discover the next indicated things in the clutter of my life. William James and "The Lost Amazon" were my companions.
The first few days out of town everyone looks familiar and then you become a stranger once again in the world. I found my way to the canyon country of Utah and buried myself in wonderful ideas and fantastic tales. In the evenings I explored rivers marked by designs of the Anasazi or the Ancient Ones. This artwork from before written language holds a particular fascination for me. Some of the glyphs are clearly maps through the canyons. Others are completely abstract symbols. There are human figures without feet or legs, figures giving birth, and the ubiquitous spiral design, centering manadalas, which can be found from Alaska to South America. Many of the shaman figures have wings protruding from their heads and arms: "Transcendence," I thought, pure and simple. If only it were that simple.
I spent some time watching the birds and listening to the echoes of laughter from above the falls, where kids go to jump off cliffs down into a large pool. It seemed unlikely that notions of past and future, right and wrong, this or that, could ever resolve themselves in a brief life span such as mine, much less in an afternoon. Yet the beauty and serenity of some places take over the mind and become a kind of text all their own. I decided to go to the falls.
At the cliff's edge I found a young boy who was the last to jump. He wanted me to go first, but I waited, urging him to follow his companions down into the pool below. "The first step is the hardest," I joked. "You are going to feel so much better if you do this."
As he stammered and fidgeted, I looked down, remembering a similar cliff of my own years ago, and saw there on the sandstone ledge, small letters written in black ink ... "Don't Stop Loving."
The boy took his leap and I soon followed, saying the words to myself as I fell 30 feet to the water below, "Don't stop. Don't Stop," smiling and yelling as I fell. Only one thing could have stopped me from this as I headed for the water and that thing was fear.