JOURNEY TO IXTLAN

 Introduction

 part one Stopping the World

4. DEATH IS AN ADVISER

Wednesday, 25 January 1961

Carlos' question "Would you teach me someday about peyote?" is met as before with a gesture of despair and disbelief from don Juan.

From don Juan's house southerly into the desert chaparral. Don Juan reminds Carlos that he has to be aware of his uselessness, self-importance and personal history. '"Your friends, those who have known you for a long time, you must leave them quickly."

Don Juan asks Carlos to talk to the plants once more then comes to a sudden decision and says that Carlos should not try to talk to the plants until he felt easy and natural about it.

Carlos contemplates his attraction for don Juan and concludes that his idea that self importance was such an obstacle had really made an impression but all that was apparently only an intellectual exercise, the moment he was confronted with don Juan's odd behaviour he began to experience apprehension and wanted to leave. Carlos says that they are so different that there is no possibility of them getting along. 

Don Juan: One of has to change and you know who.

Don Juan gives a fierce and burning look and asks if this reminds him of a bird, a very funny bird. The look reminds Carlos of a falcon. Don Juan presses Carlos on this insisting that he remember. Carlos is thrown by don Juan appearing to know something which Carlos feels he cannot. 

Don Juan: Don't fight me fight your sluggishness. 

Carlos recalls the mysterious white falcon that he hunted in his youth. Once he had this bird in his sights but let it go free. 

Don Juan: A bird like that is an omen and not shooting it was the only right thing to do. Your death gave you a little warning. It always comes with a chill. Death is our eternal companion. It is always to our left, at an arms length. It was watching you when you were watching the white falcon. It whispered in your ear and you felt it's chill. It has always been watching you and it always will until the day it taps you.

"The thing to do when your impatient, is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you."

Don Juan tell Carlos that if he turns to his left he will see his death on the boulder. Carlos says he believes him and that he does not need to press the issue any further because he is terrified. Don Juan belly laughs and says that the issue of our deaths is never pressed far enough. 

Carlos: It would be meaningless to dwell upon my death, since such a thought would only bring discomfort and fear. 

Don Juan: You're full of crap. Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you are about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you are wrong; that nothing really matters outside it's touch. Your death will always tell you "I haven't touched you yet."

Carlos feels that the pettiness of being annoyed with him was monstrous in the light of his death and this changes his mood. They are silent for an hour. They meander in the chaparral somehow Carlos has recaptured an old feeling, the sheer joy of moving around without any intellectual purpose to it.

Carlos eventually asks if he can see his death again. Don Juan says he is now too solid. 

Carlos: Let me talk to the plants then.

Don Juan laughs: You go from one extreme to the other. Be still. There is no need to talk to the plants unless you want to know their secrets, and for that you need unbending intent. So save your good wishes. There is no need for you to see your death either. It is sufficient that you feel it's presence around you.