THE ADVENTURES of IRON MAN, by Jay Zahrt, July 1, 1962/Jan 9, 2005

  • BIG IT U.
  • AMERICAN DREAM RANCH
  • MOUNTAIN TWO BEAR
  • MATT TERIAL
  • BRUSH WITH RAT
  • ANN GREE & FRANK LEE
  • THE MORONS
  • MEDITATION
  • IRON MAN AT THE AMOREY TREE

BIG IT U. written Aug 1994

After making coffee, Iron man set out on his journey to Big It U. He had overslept again and was slighty behind schedule. Somehow the rigorous training in early rising that he had received in boot camp had faded after he had left the service. He hopped on his bicycle of childhood expectations and sped off to class. The old bike, paint peeling, creaked and wobbled as it move along. Iron mans mind left the present moment and drifted back to Chicago where a "We shall build the earth" session was in progress. He reflected on the fact that the notion was not quite as easy as it had seemed back then in the dawn of a new era.

He was brought back to the 'Now' by the sound of a large diesel engine and the screech of rubber on black top, and looked up to see the Garbage truck of reality bearing down upon him.

Iron man awoke in the grass amid a tangle of the spectators of eternal sensation, and lay on his back for several moments. As the shock of reality confrontation faded slightly, he found that his body seemed to be undamaged. Iron man suddenly remembered his precious bicycle and looked around to see where it was. Unfortunately, the bicycle of childhood expectations lay mangled beneath the garbage truck of reality. For a moment Iron man thought he could salvage the wreck, but he quickly realized that it was hopeless. The bike had been nearly worthless before the wreck, literally held together with the baleing wire of denial and the duct tape of forced hope.

All in all, Iron man considered himself lucky to be alive. He was never sure how he had survived the impact. Perhaps it had been his overweight back pack, crammed with mind numbing amounts of information, that had thrown him free of the wreckage. He got up and brushed off the dust of despair and picked up his pack. It had peanut butter an jelly oozing from one pocket, but otherwise seemed O.K. Iron man wiped up the mess with some napkins he had inkinded at Burger King and strode off to his philosopy class. He'd be late, but he'd already had more than enough philosophy for one lifetime...

AMERICAN DREAM RANCH written Sep 1994

After making coffee, Iron Man set out on his journey to American Dream Ranch. He had assumed a temporary job manicuring the grounds to maintain cash flow, while seeking a more permanent and hopefully lucrative job. He work required a bit more physical effort than he was used to, but there was something good about giving his body a workout every day. He used to suck up this kind of work, and he could tell that he was not quite as young as he used to be. In any case it had been awhile since his muscles had ached to this degree, and it seemed to be just as hot up here as it had been down on the floor of the Sonoran Desert.

As Iron Man trimmed dead limbs from a large pine, he thought about the recent "Conversations” he had recently received. There was a certain sense of deja vu he thought with sardonic amusement; the Whitney brothers were being picked on again: But of course they always asked for it, didn't they? It was interesting how there was an element of people and group dynamics that remained the same. It could be seen in the letters sent in.

On one hand, Iron Man could not see that the Order had a damn thing to do with anything. He was sure that he would be in just as deep shit in any case. He was human, and humans suffered, period. There was no element of the Order that was not found in the outer world, at least in Western society. The blatant hypocrisy was astounding, drug addiction was rampant, child abuse was epidemic, and American bullshit was just as great as any Order bullshit Iron Man had ever encountered. What society said it was doing and intending was often quite different than what it was actually doing and intending, and it worked on an individual level as well.

Sometimes Iron Man wished he could blame a small foreign country or two for his problems, like his country did. But Iron Man knew that it was not the way out. It was not the Order's fault that he could not, he would have stumbled upon the inanity of the concept in any case.

It was also clear to Iron Man that on another level intellectual reasoning did not make the slightest difference to his feelings. There’s an arms race of sorts going on within Iron Man. The ever-escalating rationality/feeling race. His intellect was massive, as if to fight off the feelings that ballooned from below threatening to topple his very self. For every measure of intellect installed, feelings intensified.

It didn’t matter to feelings that the chances of a healthy childhood were virtually nil given the time and place of his birth. What mattered is that he and his friends had been hurt. It mattered that innocent children; helpless beings of all kinds had to experience such a cruel existence.

The large branch he had been sawing on finally fell and Iron Man paused to catch his breath and rest his arms. He smiled for a second and shook his head: The plight of humans and their desires. They wanted to make a dent on the landscape, a pruned pine grove here, a lawn there. He did not mind pruning the dead limbs too much; it did not seem to be overly destructive. But he did not like the planting of lawns. Nevada was a desert! Couldn't people get that through their heads?

His intellect said that it did not matter. The planet would most likely recover eventually. After all, the Earth was a ball of rock. It had seen many dominant species come and go. After all, there were a zillion other worlds too, so what? Iron Man tried not to care, but he failed miserably.

It mattered to his feelings. This was his pIanet. And his species was responsible for it like no other known species had been before. Iron Man wished for some kind of escape—wished for some kind of cause to fulfill his life. The futility of trying to "save the world" was hammered home in his childhood, what else was there?

Iron Man thought of an old story he had heard as a child called "Iron Men Only Weep For Others." He felt that there was something really wrong with that. It was not just an old Order story, either. It was found in his family and others untouched by the Order. It had something to do with Christianity, or some screwed up version of it, he thought. Something stoic that denied human feelings. It was a story that went something like "Don't talk about it, grin and bear it, grind through the depression and the war." It seemed to Iron Man that the maxim itself led to the misery that developed the misery—a vicious cycle.

"Not whining" and "Picking up the pieces and marching into the future" was perfectly O.K. with Iron Man, as long as the pieces were really picked up and not just swept under the rug. Iron Man knew that there were a few chunks of shit under his rug and he was about as sensitive as the princess in the old story about the pea.

Iron Man believed that true forgiveness and compassion were possible, but it had to be developed for the self first. The possibility of really letting go of the past was possible, but only if one really Owned his past.

MOUNTAIN TWO BEAR written Sep 1994

After making coffee, Iron Man set out on his journey to the top of Mountain Two Bear. He had been on and off about this particular task for years. It was slow going at times; at times he felt like he was under the damn thing, not on it. As a child Iron Man mistakenly believed that it was Mountain-To-Bear! He still laughed about that one, although there remained a bit of resentful suspicion that he was set up to believe such a thing. Martyr-ism was a popular concept during his youth. No one pointed out directly that it took five, maybe six elephants down there to hold the world up. Iron Man got a sore back (butt) and at least one broken toe before he let go. The amazing thing was that the earth remained suspended, and in motion, without Iron Man’s support!

After a time, the initial resistance to the climb subsided. Iron Man's body finally figured out that he wasn't going to stop, so it "broke out" and gave itself a shot of go-juice. Iron Man rounded a bend and approached a good resting area. He knew the place well, having spent many a "road-side warrior" weekend evening there. As he approached the stop, he noticed that it contained several figures, one doing a familiar pacing motion, and another that appeared to have two heads. Iron Man took a deep breath and let it go. He knew who they were. It was none other than Anxiety- Man and Nick Fitt, with his ever-present pet monkey.

"Oh, Hey, Hey Iron Man," the two-headed one said, "gotta smoke?" "Er, well, no, I don't gotta," replied Iron Man

"Oh come on Man, you know what I mean." "Yeah, yeah, I know, but no, sorry."

"Oh damn," exclaimed Nick. Nick's pet monkey, who had been riding on his back, whimpered and increased his hold on his neck. "You ought to do something about that monkey of yours there, Nick, he is getting old and grouchy."

"He is just hungry." "Oh Man, he is always hungry," chimed Anxiety-Man. "He is never satisfied for long; the more he gets the more he wants!" "I've got a hunch that if you simply stop feeding him, he will eventually lose strength and drop off," offered Iron Man.

The Monkey snarled and took a nasty swipe at Iron Man, sending a filthy paw arching through the empty space Iron Man kept between himself and the Nick Monkey. "Whoa, that monkey doesn't like that idea does he?”

"No he doesn't, and he hasn't let go yet, I've tried to starve him off before." "Well just keep trying, it is possible to get rid of that extra load."

"That's what they say but Man, it's such a bitch! It is too hard.” "It is hard, but not too hard. Keep practicing.”

"Hey, come on, let's go," pleaded Anxiety-Man. "We have to get down before it gets dark, and I wanna get a good seat too, I bet the bar is filling up fast, I just bet… ”Oh just chill dude, there'll be a seat for you..." "Yeah well maybe, but-it will be dark soon and it might rain or there might be a rabid raccoon or something, and snakes, snakes come out. . ." "Yeah might" sighed Nick.

"You wanna come along with us Iron Man?" asked Anxiety-Man. "There is a special event tonight at the Hotel of Lost Companions, the Tree of Sorrows is ready! And the drinks are just a buck."

Iron Man grunted, as the Bar at the Hotel of Lost Companions bunted his mind. He recalled most vividly the Mirrors of Present Reflection that lined the walls behind the bar. The Mirrors were world famous for their size and clarity. The reflected images of the patrons, however, grew darker and more ugly as the night wore on, tempting them to guzzle even more booze. It was another trick that had not taken Iron Man long to figure out. If one simply stops guzzling the booze, it becomes clear what is going on. And the Tree!

" . . . Man, everyone is gonna be there. It is free too. I dunno why, but it is." Iron Man snapped back to the present. "I think not," he replied.

"But don't you want to hang up your sorrows?" queried Nick. "I want to hang up my childhood for sure," stated Anxiety Man. "I think a nice childhood in suburbia would be better than mine. It would have been so much more relaxed and easy, and with more toys to play with too, and Frosted Flakes and Whole Milk!"

"Well I think I want one where Mom and Dad were not off saving the world," stated Nick, "then they would have had time for me like they did on The Brady Bunch, and then I wouldn't be so neurotic: life would be great!"

"Don't you want to trade in that yucky childhood of yours Iron Man?" asked Anxiety-Man. "You told me that one of your first memories is watching the Ghetto burn, and black boys taking your 'Now-or-Laters.' Man, how scary!"

"And you had to get up at 5:30 to go to Daily Office, too," reminded Nick. "That did some irreparable damage for sure!" Iron Man had to smile. "Oh I managed to survive somehow, and so did you guys. I don't desire to swap my childhood or my present sorrows with anyone else. I've heard about the tree before and rumor has it that everyone ends up taking their own familiar woes back."

"No way Man!"` "Way!" "Well we are going any ways," huffed Nick. "At least we can look at the tree first, besides, I wanna see if anyone I know shows up." "Well good luck," granted Iron Man.

Iron Man watched Anxiety-Man start down the trail to The Hotel of Lost Companions. Nick followed, staggering slightly as he tried to shift The Monkey into a more comfortable position. Iron Man frowned; under the weight of The Monkey, Nick always remained a little off balance.

Iron Man stood still for a long time. The lure of greener pastures had never had much appeal for Iron Man. He wondered if it were disturbed thinking in some ways, never wishing to be anyone else. It could get stoic, but on the other hand Iron Man simply preferred to make the best of his own side of the fence. He feared that swapping lives would be like trading one used car for another: Known misery was better than unknown misery, if misery was a given.

He watched as two small figures passed by on a patch of trail visible far below, on their way to The Hotel of Lost Companions. One staggering along and the other proceeding cautiously on tip toes.

MATT TERIAL written Sep 1994

Knock, Knock, Knock! "Praise the Lord Christ Has Risen!" Knock, Knock, Knock! "Praise the Lord Christ Has Risen! You're on Witness! Come on let's go! If you weren't going to do it you should have told us last night. Come on; lets go! Everyone is waiting!" Knock, Knock, Knock!

Iron Man groaned and rolled over. The morning sun streamed through his eyelashes and he became aware of the cool mountain air. He rubbed his eyes and looked up above himself to see a Red Crested Reminder* working away at an old Ponderosa pine tree, and breathed a sigh of relief. Wow, what a nightmare. He got up, kicked the fire together and set an old one pound “MJB” coffee can of water on the new blaze. He went to the car and dug a pre-owned “Circle K Koffee Klub Kup” out of the gear in the back. Iron Man would not drink convenience store coffee himself—or correction—what they called coffee. But he liked the rigged double walled mug with its handy snap-on lid. Besides, it had not cost him a dime. He found a Red Delicious apple and a chunk of mild cheddar cheese in the cooler and broke fast as he waited for the water to boil. When the water began to boil, he threw in a hand full of ground coffee. He waited a moment to let the floating grounds roll over in the boiling water, slipped a stick through the coat hanger handle of the bot, and removed it from the fire. He settled the grounds with the old centrifuge trick. He brought he can out of the spin and to a halt without spilling one drop. He poured a mug full and sat back to enjoy. The coffee was good, he thought, as the tendrils of caffeine spread outward through his body; there was nothing like cowboy coffee on a mountain morning! He stuffed a bar of soap in his pocket and set out for the stream to wash up.

When he had almost reach the stream Iron Man came across Matt Terrial, a co-worker from his old shop. Matt had a huge gut but an exceedingly small mouth and neck that made satisfying his enormous appetite nearly impossible. “Poor Bastard,” Iron Man said to himself. But out loud he said, “Well Hello Matt, what brings you out here?”

“Oh, I’m prospecting for gold in the creeks near the old mine complex, and I hope to find enough for a down payment on a new truck.”

“I thought you just got a new truck last year.” Said Iron Man.

“Well I did.” Replied Matt, “But the new model has a real cool dashboard and with the latest ‘ShurFire Starzapper Laser ignition system’, it actually produces 3.14159 more horsepower than mine does.” “Oh wow.” Said Iron Man, feigning interest.”

“Are you still driving that ’86 Subaru?” asked Matt. “Yes I am.” Replied Iron Man.

“How can you drive something so old?” asked Matt with amazement. “Well I usually start by getting in, turning the key and…”

“No, no!” said Matt in exasperation, “I mean don’t you want a new vehicle?” Well actually I intend to drive the ol’ SueBe until she blows up.” Countered Iron Man. “So how is the family?” asked Iron Man trying to change the subject.

“Oh just fine. They are in the camper watching TV. I was just on my way to get another bowl of ‘Kaptian Munch-SugarKoated GreaseBall’ Cereal. Why don’t you come and say ‘Hi’?”

Iron Man followed Matt through a cluster of boulders to a campground where Matt’s truck was parked. The annoying hum of a Honda generator disrupted the silence of the clearing. A large vehicle stood gleaming in the morning sun, bristling with antennas and sporting a satellite dish on the roof. “Nice truck.” Said Iron Man.

“Yeah thanks, but just look what the sands of time did to my new slim-line mags!” exclaimed Matt. “They really should pave that old road down here!” Iron Man wanted to say something about the old road keeping num-nuts like Matt away but restrained himself.

Just then the door of the camper opened and Matt’s wife Donna Vanity Cosa stepped out. “Oh Hie Ion Man!” she exclaimed. “Where have you been?” “Oh, around I guess.” Replied Iron Man. “How are you and the kids?”

“We are doing OK.” She replied as she turned and yelled to the truck, “Boys get out here and say hello to Iron Man.” The twins came out and joined the three outside. “Binow and Paylader.” Said Iron Man. “Gee you guys are getting big!”

“Hi, Iron Man.” They replied together. “Can we go now mom?” asked Binow. “Kunfgoo the Next Generation is just starting.”

“Oh OK,” agreed Donna, “go on.” “They are good boys really,” confided Donna. “But they are so different for twins. Binow is so sweet but Paylader is a real pain sometimes.” “Honey,” she said to Matt, “Can I order some more Bavarian Winkel Kreem? They are having a special case sale on Channel 8 and we can get a whole case for 23 easy payments of $17.69 if we order now, and oh the Amurikan InfoMercial Network said that lime green is definitely out this year, so we will have to replace our appliances. They say that the new color trend is metallic pasta mauve, and that it is really catching on in New York.”

“Yes, of course dear,” said Matt reassuringly. “You can use the ‘Havit Now’ card. I think there is still some credit left on it.”

Just then there was a commotion from the camper. “No way you cheater!” screamed Binow. “You got the last ‘KaptianMunch’ prize.” “And I get the next one too,” declared Paylader. “Remember we agreed that if I did the dishes for you I got the prize, you bonehead.” “I am not either a bonehead.” “OK, ice cube head.” “Am not.” “Are too.” “Not either. M-O-M, Paylader is messing with me again”, “You guys cut it out for Chrissake!” screamed Donna. “I’ll make both of you watch NOVA if you don’t behave.”

In the moment of silence that followed Iron Man decided to make his escape. “Well, it has been nice seeing you guys, but I really must be going. Bye Binow, see you Lader. (Iron Man could not resist the horrible pun)

* The Red Crested Reminder is a common woodpecker with the annoying habit of waiting until the forest is quiet before pecking away. Ornithologists say that the bird is simply shy, but common folk swear that the bird deliberately disrupts the peace and quiet of hapless campers.

BRUSH WITH RAT _written Sep 1994-

After his escape from Mat & his gang, Iron Man continued on his journey to wash up in a near by creek. Materialism was another "ism" that he had been unable to embrace, and he often wondered how much the Order of his childhood had to do with that. His childhood of relative poverty in the Order, with its notion of asceticism to the point of neurosis, had trained him to get by with next to nothing. Yet he was convinced that he would have been somewhat anti-material anyway, given his family history—a history of family farming and concern for the environment. Nothing was wasted, thrown out or unnecessarily consumed. His uncle had told him once, while watching a young cousin play with a pile of toys: "We were lucky to have a pair of socks to play with when I was Ii kid." ("Hey, boy stop playing with your socks and put them on your feet!") While there were some tapes exalting the virtues of asceticism that still played in his mind Iron Man had for the most part thrown off the pious asceticism of his childhood. He still thought, however, that there was something wrong with a society based on the possession of objects. It was not just the environmental instability of the concept given the current tech, it just seemed that object obsession did something to the mind. Some people got the idea that they could possess other people or event the planet. In any case non-materialism made life easier for Iron Man and he took it as a gift. His history contained as many blessings as curses.

He found a quiet spot and relished the cool water as he washed his hands and face. It was a beautiful morning and it felt good to wash the grime of the past away. He put the soap away in a plastic baggie and dried his hands and face on his bandanna and sat back on a sunny rock. It was so nice being there that Iron Man drifted off into a doze. After a spell he was awakened by the sound of heavy boot steps approaching along the trail. Iron Man came out of his doze and waited for the intruder, who was sure to pass by his spot within a few minutes.

The intruder turned out to be none other than Rationality Man, lugging a heavy backpack of maps and computer gear. Iron Man waved a hand and said "Hey Rationality Man what's up?" Rationality Man looked up and waved in reply "Oh, Hi Iron Man, do you mind if I stop here for a minute and rest?"

"Be my guest," replied Iron Man, "so what are you doing so far from your laboratories anyway?" he asked.

"I am on my way to the Quagmire of Limited Thinking that is just around the bend of this ravine."

"I know the place," said Iron Man, "so what are you going to do there?"

"WeIl, I really want to find the Spring of Unlimited Knowledge but I haven't been able to get past the Quagmire. The maps become vague at that point and my computer analysis comes up with zip!' exclaimed Rationality Man, obviously perturbed.

Iron Man and Rationality Man had met at the Student House in Chicago and had become good friends. Rationality Man was good at devising food and cash acquirement schemes and explaining away things that discomforted Iron Man. Like things that Complainer-Man and If-Only-Man pointed out (a couple of nerds who were ridiculed by the officers and viciously picked on by the elite SS Storm Trooper Youth).—things like the fact that while Iron Man's parents loved him, they were 12,000 miles away on the other side of the globe, having stolen away his beloved sister. (DAMN IT, there’s no way to say enough, THAT HURT ME and it still hurts). Rationality Man had been Iron Man's best buddy for years, but recently had had a kind of falling out. Iron Man had become increasingly weary of Rats' insistence on logical progression and rational explanations for everything. If Rat did not have the facts to work with he would stop and refuse to go on, making him a dull hiking companion.

Iron Man still called Rationality Man when it was time for things like auto maintenance, or to help him understand music theory, but he did not like to have Rat hanging around all the time anymore. Iron Man had discovered that there were things that defied rationality. There were some areas where rationality did not apply, like places where feelings were concerned. There were some choices that Iron Man had to make that could not be determined on the basis of rationality alone and some that could not be determined on the basis of rationality at all. In fact, it was becoming increasingly clear to Iron Man that, when one got right down to it, it was feelings that matters most to Homo Sapiens. Rationality, in the end did not add up to nada (and that was a mind blower!).

"So, what do you know about the Quagmire? Have you ever crossed it?" Asked Rat. "Yes, I have done it, but I can't tell you exactly how."

"What do you mean you don't remember something so important?" "Well actually I have not done it in this body, but I have done it and I know that it is possible."

"What the hell do you mean 'not in this body?" "I mean that I have done it in 'dream time', and also with the help of 'Orange sunshine' Bliss Berry."

"That is ridiculous, how can you go somewhere in 'Dream Time' or on a stupid Bliss Berry?" "I simply have, you can't understand it, I'm afraid it just won’t fit within your concepts of time and space”.

“There you go again challenging my theories with a bunch of unprovable nonsense!" "0 K Rat listen up and I'll give you a hint," said Iron Man, "There are a slew of trails leading across the quagmire, I've never bothered to count them all and I recommend that you don't even try. You will have to trust your instincts and pick one without thinking about it and just go on and don't look back till you get across. Oh, and you'll have to leave your maps and PC behind.”

“What!" exclaimed Rat, "trust instincts! For Gods sake man I am not an animal!” "That's' what I said." replied Iron Man flatly.

"Okay, okay" said Rat, "suppose I get across, what can I do without my computer and my maps, how do I get to The Spring?" "Well, for one thing you can try asking If-Only-Man for assistance" offered Iron Man.

"You must be joking! Me, ask If-Only-Man for assistance, what the hell would If-Only-Man know about the Spring of Unlimited Knowledge anyway?" "If-Only-Man has been around a lot longer than you have," replied Iron Man evenly, "and he knows the territory better than anyone. You see," continued Iron Man, "If-Only-Man has no use for the Spring, but he knows where it is and if you develop a rapport with him he might just show you to it."

Rat rolled his eyes and said "O.K. Iron Man, thanks anyway, but I think I'll just study this problem a bit longer. There just has to be a way around this. You really should get your brain scanned or something Iron Man, I swear you are getting Kookier all the time—rapport with If-Only-Man come on!"

Rat pulled an old manuscript from his pack and began to study the Sanskrit text, muttering "it must be here somewhere."

Iron Man walked slowly away.

ANN GREE & FRANK LEE written Oct 1994

As he left the creek, he heard a familiar voice farther down the creek at the old cow tank collection pool. "Goddamn it, the water is cold!" It was his old high school sweetheart, Ann Gree, a powerful woman who with proper direction could literally pull tree stumps from the ground. Without direction, however, she would fly about in a tizzy, smashing things and increasing her own rage in the process. "First I could not sleep because you forgot the air mattress, then that bloody bird had to come around and wake me up and then I found the whipped butter had popped open in the cooler. Oh, just thinking about that makes me mad.”

"Oh shut up bitch, you are not happy unless you have something to bitch about! What did you expect, a hot spring?" Frank Lee responded.

Iron Man knew that the other voice belonged to Frank Lee. Frank had a way of putting things that was, well, rather blunt to say the least. Iron Man found it amusing that Ann stayed with Frank, as if she really did need someone to piss her off, as if she actually looked for things to be mad about. Iron Man certainly knew how to be blunt, but he found that saying things indirectly was often more effective than being blunt. With Ann Gree, bluntness fed right into her trip, and whether or not it really helped her was a matter of opinion. Frank was the kind of guy who went around pushing people’s buttons without realizing why people got so irritated.

Iron Man, reluctant to discount anything, nurtured the remote possibility that Frank was in fact a superb actor who pretended to be ignorant and got his kicks by messing with people’s minds. At first Iron Man had hated Frank’s guts, but he soon came to the conclusion that Frank was a wonderful opportunity for learning. Through Frank, Iron Man got to find out where some of his own buttons were, and what it took to push them. Remaining aware that Frank was a ‘button pusher’ became an amusing Zen game for Iron Man. And he could even laugh at himself when Frank occasionally got through and really pissed him off.

As soon as Iron Man had decided to use Frank’s manner to uncover his own bullshit, a wonderful transformation occurred; the level of animosity between Frank and Iron Man was reduced to nearly nil. And Frank rarely irritated him anymore. Frank even began to look up to Iron Man as if his ideas—quite contrary to Frank’s mainstream mind, as they were—were not so crazy after all.

Iron Man was not really so sure. People often seemed to think that he was well thought through and sure of himself, strong and wise, but inside he felt lost and insecure. The whole outer face he put on seemed to be just an act to him. Iron Man did not really know if he was doing Frank a favor or not by making subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, hints that Frank’s obsession with objects and the whole western racist mindset was full of crap. Frank had seemed happy with the whole trip after all. And Iron Man wondered if he should not just let him be.

It was a common dilemma for Iron Man. Wherever he went he seemed to wind up with people trapped in small cozy worlds; as if it were some cosmic assignment of his to "expand" their perspectives. Iron Man often wondered how constrained his own world was; wondered if he even knew what he was doing to these people, but he could not resist messing with their trips when it seemed necessary.

Iron Man was not sure of much in a direct intellectual sense. There was simply not enough information to work it all out rationally. But nevertheless he had to act. Interestingly, the people most opposed to him at first, and the ones he messed with most were the first to say, "Hey wait, don't go," when it was time for Iron Man to move on.

Wherever it was he was moving on to was still a mystery. The long odyssey he was on had no end in sight. Sometimes the utter absurdity of it all seemed about to blast him into another dimension, but something held him back. He was unwilling to let go of it still; clinging to the only life he could remember. Whatever it was that lay beyond the trip he was on now was unknown, and his animal fear of the unfamiliar was still strong enough to keep him in the safe territory of the known. Like the early explorers, the fear of falling over the edge of the earth and or being devoured by monsters kept him from venturing far enough to discover a new world, however unpleasant the old one had become.

Iron Man bypassed the commotion and walked into the clearing of an old ghost town where all that remained was an old road and flat areas where shacks had once stood. It was an old story involving a mother lode that was never found, and Mother Earth giving up just enough gold to drive men mad for a spell.

The sun shone in the clearing and Iron Man sat own to soak some up. It was not long before his peace was interrupted by two smartly dressed young Moron sunglass salesmen who wandered into the clearing.

"Excuse me sir." began the older one "Can we have a moment of your time? We have these sunglasses here that are the world’s best," continued the younger man.

"Actually they are the only true sunglasses" said the older one, squatting awkwardly beside Iron Man.

“ls that so?" queried Iron Man.

“Yes sir, these here sunglasses will protect the wearer from the damaging rays of the sun and allow them to see the way through this world clearly."

"That sure is interesting” replied Iron Man. “That is exactly what the other guys swear too".

"Oh no," interjected the younger Moron, "They are all wrong, only these glasses are real. Their design is inscribed on gold plates that were found by the founder of our corporation."

"Have you seen the plates yourself?" asked Iron Man.

"Er, well no, nobody is allowed to see them" explained the older one. "Only our leader has the power to read them anyway so that proves that these sun glasses are the only real ones. Besides, we are not supposed to question our leader’s infinite wisdom. Any way, everyone knows that."

"Gosh," replied Iron Man. "It must be nice having it all figured out for you like that; don't think, just follow like sheep! Actually, I think that there are many kind of sun-glasses that can be used to see clearly" continued Iron Man, "and I intend to develop my own."

"You are lost!" exclaimed the stunned Morons incredulously backing cautiously away.

"Help me I'm lost! Bahahah! Har Har!” exclaimed Frank who had walked up behind the two Morons while they were busy trying to sell their wares.

Iron Man winced. "Hey, O.K. Frank, let them be, they have had enough!”

“Oh Man, can't I torture them some? You are lost! Ha Ha!"

Iron Man got up off the ground and brushed off his jeans. "Actually Frank," said Iron Man, meeting Frank’s gaze, "they are correct on that point. The only thing is that I know I'm lost. Many people are lost but don't know it. Maybe they just think they are 'found' or perhaps they have never considered the concept” continued Iron Man turning to Ann Gree who had appeared at Frank’s side.

“Are you trying to sell us somethin', Iron Man?" asked Frank suspiciously

“Who me?" said Iron Man with a smile. "Wadda' you think Frank? See you around mates. I've gotta’ take a hike." Iron Man turned and started up the old road to the ridge, leaving the pair behind in the dust of the old town.

THE MORONS written Oct 1994

After leaving the Morons behind, Iron Man continued up the trail, climbing higher and higher. Iron Man had no hesitation about helping others, but there was only so much he could do for some people. Some people were simply beyond his capacity to help; he could admit that and let go—or at least try. Maybe he would get through to half of a dozen people before he bit the dust. That was all he wanted to do. His life was not going to be a crusade to save the universe. Oh no, he was just out to save himself and maybe take that half dozen people with him.

The experiences in Iron Man’s history had rammed the lunacy of trying to save the planet home. Well, there was actually nothing wrong with trying to save the planet. The wrong was when “saving the planet” became the prime directive. The only sane prime directive, he was convinced, was to “love one’s women and children and love one’s self”. This directive meant loving others too; it was a matter of being selfish wisely. To provide a pleasant world for one’s woman, kids, and self meant taking care of the planet, loving thy neighbor and doing him one better. It meant loving thirty-year-old kids and sixty-year-old kids…with love as the prime directive everything would take care of itself. It was the only directive that made it even possible to save the planet.

Iron Man paused beside the trail to rest and look down on the little valley where the town had once stood. He looked up and swept his gaze across a face of mountainside riddled with holes where men once dug with passion and lust. The old roads were crumbling and impassible now. And brush had taken root in the tailing piles that spilled down from the holes. Iron Man smiled. The earth was taking it all back; recovering. The planet was fine. It was the humans that were in danger.

A female voice brought Iron Man back to the present moment. “Hi, Iron Man!” Iron Man turned to see a young woman standing beside the trail with a basket in her hand. “My name is Elle; Elle Mentario. I am just a simple girl out looking for pretty rocks to make beads for necklaces and bracelets. You look tired Iron Man, why don’t you sit and rest here for a moment with me? I have some manzanita berries that I just picked and they are real good. Why don’t you try some?”

Iron Man agreed and sat down. He was tired after all and the girl was right; the berries were good. “I want you to have this bracelet Iron Man”, said the girl, producing a beautiful bracelet of silver, agate and lapis. “I have been looking for years for someone to give this bracelet to, and it is just perfect for you. The blue stone bear in the center is way strong; just like you.” Iron Man had to agree, somewhat reluctantly, that there was something in the bracelet that fit him. “Here, let me put it on for you”, said Elle. “The clasp is designed to require another to put it on and off so you will have to ask someone for help whenever you need to put it on or take it off.”

Iron Man’s head began to spin slightly. The high air seemed to be extra thin today, or something—he thought as a strange but vaguely familiar sensation crept through his body. He felt himself begin to drift away and clutched wildly inside of himself to remain grounded on the mountainside. He turned to look for Elle, and found himself staring into dark green eyes as cool and deep as the pools of a desert oasis. Iron Man gasped. Waves of fear and fascination rolled in and crashed upon the reefs surrounding the core of his being. This was not a simple girl at all, but a sister to Miss Teri, the most dreaded witch goddess of all realms. He realized took that the berries were not of the manzinita at all, but none other than the fruit of the Amorey tree. The much sought after and coveted berries could not be purchased. Only Miss Teri knew where to find them.

“Oh Iron Man, I adore you!” said the not-so-simple girl. “But how will it be? I live two days journey from your beloved mountainside,” “Oh, it will probably be pain and agony”, said Iron Man, already realizing, semi-subconsciously that he would be leaving this particular place soon.

“Well, I have to go back to my family now”, said the woman, collecting her things. “I’ll keep in touch with you.”

“Hey, wait a second”, cried Iron Man. “What is your name anyway, and what is this bracelet; some kind of charm?”

“You can call me Trish. And yes, the bracelet is a charm. You are under my spell now!” Iron Man had to laugh. “You know that there is one thing about spells though Trish. How do you know that it is not you under my spell?”

“Oh, but I am Iron Man”, she said with a giggle. “See ya Iron Man”, said the strange creature with a smile, waving and disappearing into the thick brush that covered the mountain.

Iron Man remained where he was, breathing deeply and regaining his composure. He was also preparing to deal with the monsters that were always attracted by the scent of the fruit of the Amorey tree. Even now Iron Man could hear them rustling about in the nearby shrubbery. Iron Man knew that he might be lost, and he might be crazy, but he was certainly no fool. He got up and stretched, looking around for a big solid stick to take on his way to Kalamazoo.

MEDITATION written Oct 1994

After yogi exercises, Iron Man sat down on an old backpacker’s sleeping mat, closed his eyes, and focused his mind on his breath. He had managed to get himself to ‘sit’ today! It seemed rather amazing in some respects, considering the amount of resistance he gave himself to the activity.

Iron Man’s mind spun like the fruit cylinders in a slot machine down at the LaundryLand Laundromat in Carson City. The payoff margin seemed to be about the same; an 80% win rate at most, which in reality meant a steady loss of 20%. It seemed to be just enough to keep one interested in playing, as if maybe the next spin would really hit big! Whatever part of Iron Man that was in charge was little better than one of the local gambling zombies at avoiding the lure of the game.

Iron Man returned his mind to his breathing: Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale…”And the front bearings are quite massive. ‘Course we’ll need a puller to remove the axle…and that jerk,” Frank said…”Man that chick is strange, but then all of the people down there are weird. Wow, the wind sure is blowing!”

Iron Man caught himself and returned his mind again to his breathing. He liked the puppy training analogy: the puppy requires patience and commitment to get it to sit and stay; it must be returned to the spot over and over again until it catches on to what one wants it to do.

“Oh ooh,” began Complainer-Man, “I think I’ve pinched my sciatic nerve again. I just know my legs are going to fall asleep.”

“Yeah really,” added If-Only-Man. “If we were not sitting here we could go find something to eat…”

“Oh-MI-God,” continued Complainer-Man, “there is a small spider crawling up my arm. Ackk”

“A-h-h yes, the arachnid” offered the Philosopher. “Most are quite harmless. And with the spider it is just between you and him, unlike colonial insects; large numbers of creatures controlled by forces unknown.”

Iron Man listened for a moment and returned to his breath again. He caught an urge to chastise himself and refrained. There was no point in chastising himself for slipping off; there were years of training to overcome and self chastisement was another thing that he had been trained to do. Screaming abuse at a puppy was not Iron Man’s idea of how to train a puppy (You are a real bad dog!).

Iron Man’s nose began to itch. It was the outer edge of the left nostril to be exact, and the urge to scratch it was building up. Since Iron Man refused to move, he took the opportunity to examine the rise and fall of the itch, and the associated urge to scratch. What was this about anyway? How did he know that this sensation required the associated action? This was the interesting part of meditation for Iron Man; just watching what was going on.

‘What is going on’ seemed to be the whole point of Buddha’s message, if one stripped away the fantastic jungle of mythology that had developed in the two thousand five hundred years since the alleged life of the Buddha. Iron Man would certainly not call himself a Buddhist. To do that seemed to be the antithesis of the idea. Iron Man imagined a man meeting the Buddha and saying excitedly, “Oh, I am so glad to meet you, I am a Buddhist!” Iron Man could see the Buddha smiling at the man and asking, “Say what now, you what?” (So okay, it was not Siddhartha, but a jive talking inner city Buddha from Chicago. After all they come in all guises) to which the man could only reply, “I, A-h-h, Er…”

Iron Man opened his eyes and gazed at the Jesus candle he had found at the Ninety-eight-cent-store. It was one of those shrine candles that burned for a long, long time, and a good deal at $.98. It was also amusing to Iron Man; a Spanish-looking Jesus with placid eyes and the inscription: “Sagrado corazon de Jesus Que. dijiste ‘pidan y recibiran’… Jesus was another cat that Iron Man admired and whose message he felt had been obscured. If Jesus and Buddha came back they would certainly be appalled by their so-called followers. But that was not up to Iron Man to decide. He found truth in Buddha’s law of cause and effect, or as Jesus put it, “Ask and you shall receive.” Iron Man believed that people pretty much got what they asked for one way or another; it was a law as simple as gravity that did not require any kind of superior being to enforce.

Iron Man could not go for any kind of ‘Ism’. Buddhism, Taoism, Zuluism, Protestantism, Catholicism…they all seemed to be lacking. Their validity and solidity had been dissolved in the Sea-of-Arbitrariness on which he had been cast adrift as a small child. Waves of conflicting and confusing mythology had battered his raft until they finally ran through it like pasta water through a colander, occasionally leaving a tasty noodle caught in the grill.

On the one hand it gave tremendous freedom, but on the other hand it was a tough life without the cozy ‘horsey blinders’ of some ‘Ism’ to block out the frightening sights in one’s peripheral zones, where terrifying monsters loomed and an infinite number of intriguing trails intersected the path. For years Iron Man had been lost in the Sea of Arbitrariness, but he felt as if he were on his way to an ‘Ism’ of his very own. Strange, but vaguely familiar, currents seemed to carry him along to some unknown destination. Iron Man had become convinced that there was a way to move without fighting the flow of the waters, and it required allowing the ‘co-pilot of sub-intellect’ to operate without undue hindrance from above. Iron Man wiggled a finger. He was very relaxed. He had managed to slightly subdue the zoo in his mind. The simple act of stilling the body did still the mind.

It was really that simple for Iron Man; he was not concerned with concepts like reincarnation, enlightenment, or heaven. He was concerned with the reduction of suffering in this life only. Everything else, as far as he was concerned, could take care of itself. For the moment Iron Man was closer than usual to the moment—the Now—where time and mind stood still. With practice he might actually get to remain there for longer periods with ease. In any case it was amusing, and Iron Man certainly loved amusement!

Iron Man stretched his legs and let the numbness pass. Complainer-Man was right about the pinched nerve, and it emphasized the point for Iron Man of listening to and interpreting all of the voices inside. He made a note to work with Complainer-Man and find a more comfortable position. And damn, If-Only-Man was right too; Iron Man needed something to eat!

IRON MAN AT THE AMOREY TREE written 3/13/95

The powerful scent of the Amorey tree was overwhelming at times. Iron Man began to feel dizzy. He wondered if he was forgetting some part of himself. The Doubt monster was hanging around the tree all the time, pounding Iron Man with questions.

"What's up with you. Iron Man?" he demanded, "You aren't acting like yourself. Are you hooked on something?" "I'm the same person I've always been. Doubt monster. And I can handle being by the Amorey tree."

"Oh, but can you. Iron Man?" Doubt queried. "Are you sure you should be here? The Amorey tree is mostly superficial, you know—just enticing smells and beautiful fruit. If you cut open one of the fruit, you will see that it is hollow inside. As is the tree itself: no real substance. And look at the mistletoe up there: a parasite. It's not it's own plant. It relies on the Amorey to survive. But you know what? The mistletoe also uses other plants, like that Casual Encounter tree."

"You can't fool me. Doubt," replied Iron Man. "I know the Amorey tree is something special. Most people just don't know how to appreciate all that it offers. The hollowness is there, yes, but it has a purpose: to give people space to fill it with their own wealth of thoughts and feelings. And different people share the space, creating a wonderful mix."

"You're thinking of you and Trish, huh. Iron Man?" Doubt was not deterred. "Do you think that is really something special? You really don't know each other yet. Didn't it all happen kind of fast? I can't believe you would fall for something, someone so quickly. What a way to set yourself up for Disappointment and Loneliness."

"Hey, did somebody say my name?" Disappointment monster joined the two under the tree. "I'm getting awfully tired of people calling me and then when I show up they say they didn't want me after all. And what are you doing here Iron Man? I haven't seen you around the Amorey tree for a while. I thought you said you'd stay away."

Loneliness monster had backed off to the edge of the tree covering, but she called to Iron Man, "Oh, Iron Man, why don't you come over here. It's safer. Those fruit can hurt when they fall. Here you can lie back and feel the sunshine sink into you. It's rather nice, actually." She lay down and stretched out her arms, but then quickly folded them over her chest and looked over toward the group under the tree, who had returned to their discussions.

Iron Man listened to the monsters as they tried to discourage him. Then he felt a strange warmth on his wrist. He reached for it with his other hand as he looked down and saw the bracelet on his wrist: the bracelet that Elle, or Trish, had given him. The warmth emanating from it spread up his arms and through his body. He felt at peace.

"What you got there. Iron Man?" asked Disappointment. Again he didn't wait for an answer before saying, "Ah, man, that stuff is going to get crappy quick. I bet the silver is already starting to tarnish. You should take it back and exchange it for a good watch or something. But by now they probably won't even take it back. Looks like you're out of luck."

Iron Man didn't care to be around the monsters of the Amorey tree, but he liked being under the tree. He had always left it before when the monsters started bugging him. This time he was determined not to let them chase him away. The strange bracelet helped, made it easier for him to hear the monsters without being affected by them. And the thoughts of Trish that accompanied the awareness of the bracelet also warmed him. He took out a paper and pencil and began composing a letter to her.

Doubt quickly noticed Iron Man's actions. "You're writing a letter? Do you think that's going to help? Maybe she'll misunderstand something you say, or take offense at something."

Disappointment readily chimed in, "She probably has forgotten you by now. Now that she's met her 'fantasy guy' she's probably moving on to someone who lives closer and can be with her.

" Doubt spoke again, "Iron Man, get real. Do you think a woman like that is going to wait around for you? Do you think your best letters will keep her interested?"

Loneliness joined in now: "Oh, Iron Man, don't you realize that the more you put into this, the harder you're going to fall later? I've seen millions of people try to fill the hollowness of the Amorey tree, but stuff always leaks out from the holes that Doubt and Disappointment and their buddies make. It's easier to just let it go now."

Iron Man was having a hard time writing his letter with the monsters around. He was increasingly tempted to leave the tree, just for a while. He looked around to see where he might be able to write better. The tree of Casual Encounters seemed safe, but he didn't care to go there. The rock of Basic Living would be perfect, with a good hard surface to write on. But he could see no Inspiration there. The plains of Quiet Peace beckoned, but he knew it was a rare and wise person who could get to an Amorey tree from there.

Suddenly he felt a tap at his shoulder. He turned to see a child there, no more than four years old. Iron Man could not place the child, though he felt he knew him well. The child seemed to be a boy, and crawled into Iron Man's lap. Iron Man felt strangely comforted by the boy, and thought that this must be Miss Teri's doing as well.

With the boy's appearance, the monsters disappeared, and Iron Man was able to write. The boy did not disturb him, and wasn't even in the way. He turned his face to Iron Man's and smiled when he liked what Iron Man wrote. It puzzled Iron Man since the child didn't even speak: how could he read.

When the letter was complete. Iron Man felt a wonderful mixture of relief and satisfaction and love. He played with the boy under the Amorey Tree. After a while they both fell down in exhaustion. After lying there a while, the boy crawled over and examined Iron Man's bracelet. He looked at Iron Man with a request in his eyes, and Iron Man said, "Go ahead, take it off," even though he worried about losing the protection and meaning of the bracelet.

The boy removed the bracelet, then tried to put it on his own wrist. Iron Man laughed, saying, "It was made only to fit me " but he helped the boy put it on. Iron Man was amazed that it fit the boy's small wrist perfectly. The boy smiled up at Iron Man even as lron Man began to recognize his own face in the boy’s.

Just then a fruit of the Amory fell from the tree and landed in the boy’s hands. He deftly opened it and it was not hollow at all. Iron Man shared the juicy fruit with his child-self, and marveled at the surprises Miss Teri could cook up. He felt confident that he could survive (and live happily) under the Amorey tree.
Topic revision: r3 - 05 Jan 2009, DavidZahrt
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