An unexpected Lichtenbergian encounter

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This past weekend I was asked to go as part of our Georgia burn leadership to the Burning–Man-sponsored Southeastern Roundtable, a weekend-long workshop that brings together the hippies who lead the burns in the southeast for discussion, networking, and training. It was both fun and challenging.

After Saturday’s sessions, we scooted over to East Atlanta Village for drinks, dinner, and socializing. Since I had heeded the organizers’ request to carpool by taking MARTA, I had no car and so called an Uber to get me back to the nearest station.

That station, I realized as the Uber drove away, was closed for renovation.

MARTA was prepared, though: there was a small bus to whisk me to the next station.

As I boarded, there was what appeared to be a street person earnestly explaining to the patient driver that it was complete bull**** that the cop who arrested him pocketed his weed and lost his wallet, etc. Most earnest he was, and as we took off, he turned his attention to me.

“Psycho,” for that was his name, dear reader, was on second glance not necessarily a street person. His teeth were rotten (meth?), and he was carrying a takeout soup container of something that may been beer or a fine Chardonnay or urine, but his clothes were clean and his conversation was pretty lucid.

Sure, like most petty lawbreakers, his story kept shifting and revealing more lurid details: could I believe the police broke into his house in College Park where there wasn’t anybody there but his mother? (Plus, it develops, the cannabis he was breeding in the closet…) And I didn’t even ask what he spent three years in prison for.

But as I practiced my active listening skills that the hippies insisted I use all day, Psycho held forth on a number of topics that were both abstract and focused. When he opined on people needing a purpose in life, I asked him what he did in that regard.

Oh, he drew, although not recently. He had a sketch that was dear to him and maybe he should get back to working on it. He pulled out his phone and showed me a sketch—I wish I had taken a photo of it—which was decidedly amateurish, but it was meaningful to him: a rose in full boom atop a heart-shaped diamond. He showed me a photo of heart-shaped diamonds from which he had developed the facets on his sketch.

I told him that I had actually written a book on doing this kind of thing, and I had two things to share with him:

First, GESTALT: he had gotten stuck before starting to shade his outlines, so I talked him through the idea of not trying to plunge in and do it all “right” the first time. Start with the rose, which was bound to be easier—we can all see flowers, but the refractions/reflections in any jewel are elusive to all but the most gifted artists.

Second, since he obviously had stalled out, RITUAL: find a time and a place to work on this piece, and then protect that space. Based on his previous level of conversation, I felt comfortable actually using the abstruse language that I use in the book of INVOCATION/OPENING THE CIRCLE/TAKING THE PATH/BREAKING THE CIRCLE/BENEDICTION.

Finally we arrived at our destination, College Park, and disembarked. Psycho asked which bus I was taking; I think he would have liked to keep talking. I explained that, alas, I was driving home to Newnan, and we parted ways.

And that, dear reader, was how I brought Lichtenbergianism to the masses late at night on a subway train.