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Return to La Paz

A novel by Thomas Reissmann

Chapter 1: Taking the Red Pill

Everyone around me was murmuring in prayer. I assumed it to be the Lords Prayer, but really I had no idea because they were speaking Portuguese. But even if they had been speaking German or English, I would not have known the words. Where I grew up I had always been told that religion is opiate for the people, thus I had not been given my doses like most other people. Did I believe in god, though? Well, I believed Allanis Morisette, who incidentally played god in the movie Dogma, when she sang that life is ironic. Because wasnt it ironic that I was now here, in Northern Bolivia, with a group of Christians, about to take their own sacred opiate, which supposedly would open the door to the kingdom of god?

They stopped praying, passed Santa Maria, neatly packed into a joint, and began serving the reddish liquid from a corked wine bottle, in total silence. The surrounding jungle was anything but silent. Nevertheless, an array of noises poured into the open windows of the small wooden church, only slightly lit by several candles on the table in front of us.

Like someone playing a synthesiser in the jungle, Andreas the German, whom I had met just two weeks ago, had said. He was the one who had first told me about the Santo Daime.

It is Jesus Christ liquefied, he had said. I was about to find out what that meant. One by one the twelve women and men were given the sacrament. It was my turn now. This was my last chance to bail out. My heart was pounding as I traced the cross over my chest, holding a cup full of liquid, red Jesus.

This is the point of no return; theres no going back after that, I thought and poured the sour-tasting liquid down my throat. I could almost hear the eerie metallic sound of my liquefied mirror image disappearing inside, just like in one of the scenes of The Matrix, as Neo was beginning to feel the effect of the red pill. The voice of Morpheus was ringing in my ear: Have you ever had a dream that was so real, that you could not tell the difference to the real world? What if you were unable to wake from that dream?

I walked back to the table and they began singing. Someone had lit a stick of Palo Santo, and the sweet-smelling scent gave the atmosphere an almost holy air. Once we were all served, we sat down again woman on one side of the table and men on the other. Someone pointed to the book in front of me, indicating the verse they were about to sing.

Dai-me forna e Dai-me amor para eu poder trabalhar.

As I became engaged in the lyrics I somehow lost my grasp of time. The concept suddenly appeared strange, because it presupposed change, while I had the distinct feeling that nothing was actually changing. I looked at my body and to my surprise I could not fully identify with it; in fact, it felt rather alien. A thought entered my mind: Thats not me, but then who or what am I? That was a bit of a nutcracker and required my fullest attention, I could not concentrate on the lyrics anymore and my head became heavy, so I just lay it down on the table in front of me, while my arms were dangling loosely. Thoughts were running ambush in my mind. What was I doing here with this crazy sect? What would my father say? He completely lost it now, something along those lines probably. I remembered the words of my girlfriend: I have learned so much from you already. You have given me so much optimism. That thought made me smile. Someone tapped me on my shoulder.

You have to do some more work my friend, the voice said to me in Spanish. At that very instant a fluorescent green grasshopper landed on the table right next to me, and someone started playing the flute. The sound of the flute wandered up my spine and I was suddenly filled with energy again. I managed to stand up, along with everyone else. I heard the American vomiting out the window and knew I was not alone in my weakness. I began formulating the words I read in the book I held in my hands, after my eyes had slowly adjusted to the letters.

Eu canto aqui na terra. Oh amor que Deus nos da.

Para sempre. Para Sempre

Ah minha ma que vem com migo

Para sempre. Para sempre.

I closed my eyes and let the sound of sempre reverberate within me. It found its way into my head first and then began moving down my spine, somehow filling my body with the vibration of eternity and then I lost every last bit of sense. That reminded me of time, indeed of any familiar concept. Every sensation, touch, smell, balance, taste and vision melted into one: a bright white light of eternal bliss. An immense electric current of peace and joy overcame me and I knew without thinking that this is where we came from and where we will return to. Eventually.

 

Published by Frog Books, Mumbai, India

Pages: 210; Price US$ 15

For copies contact:

RAHA/16/September/2004

 

 

 

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