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The Gate of Paradox

The young ones have grown and left; it is time now, the Shaman says, for me to get on with my life, and finally go through either the Gate of Dreams, or the Gate of Paradox. If I refuse, I will lose my soul.

If I lose my way, I will be mad. Some say I must go through madness anyway, on those paths. I am not afraid of madness, only of people who are afraid of madness.

What is beyond the Gate of Paradox? It is the stranger of the two, to me: so the more fascinating. Dreams have been allowed me more than paradox; I have often wandered in their country when I was frustrated or bored, and so I think I know them somewhat already. Is that false pride? Maybe that means it is there I should now submit myself: candidate for all of their truth, not just what I have chosen already.

But drawn as I always have been to Dream, at this age I am drawn more to Paradox. It is the Other. In its alienness I smell more danger than in the old familiar scent of Dream. The scent of danger, the scent of Mystery: it excites me.

What is beyond the Gate of Paradox? I must see. It is more difficult, this path, than the one through Dream. I do not know the direction to set out on. It is more a twisting of the mind out of her accustomed habit or shape, refusing to let her lie back in the comfortable chair, but sit erect, stand even: look more awarely, WAKE UP and listen to everything that is there.

Because if I truly admit everything into awareness, it conflicts with what I have been perceiving all these years. And behind every name, every opinion, I begin to see the additional evidence I have ignored. There is no new name to utter, there is no new opinion to arrive at: only the state of namelessness, which is not the same as confusion. Ah, but the mind shies from it the same: into distraction, into dullness, into passion.

What is beyond the Gate of Paradox? The shamans say one learns there that one has no self. This terrifies me—and that it does, confounds me: why do I feel drawn to this path if I am determined to reject the travelers’ reports? I imagine I will find a new path, invent a new name; I will be famous for my exploration. I am convinced that the old reports are in archaic language; I will translate. Large numbers of people like me will find their way through the Gate of Paradox because I tell of my journey, people who before were in danger of losing their souls.

This baggage is heavy. But heavier is the temptation to self-contempt it rouses. When I open my mind’s eyes attentively, I see it is equally possible that the hope of the new path will prevent me from getting through the gate, and that it will lead me through it. I must hold the whole of the paradox carefully in mind, like some precious fragile egg cradled in my hands, an egg which may hatch into a phoenix if I can stand the fire.

© Copyright 1992 Catherine Holmes Clark