part one Stopping the World


Thursday, 22 December 1960

They meet outside don Juan's house talk about the cold desert nights, Carlos asks if he is disturbing his normal routine. Don Juan says he has no routines and that Carlos can stay all afternoon if he wishes.

Carlos wants a family tree. Don Juan mucks about a bit before saying softly and seriously "Don't waste your time with that crap." with an indescribable look which was not arrogance, defiance, hatred or contempt.

"I don't have any personal history. One day I found that personal history was no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped it.".

Carlos: how can one drop one's personal history ?

Don Juan: One must first have the desire to drop it. And then one must proceed harmoniously to chop it off little by little.

Carlos: But you are a Yaqui indian, I can't know that with certainty but you know it an that's' what makes it personal history. 

Don Juan: The fact that I know whether I am a Yaqui indian does not make it personal history. Only when someone else knows that does it become personal history. Everybody that knows you has an idea about you and you keep feeding that idea with everything you do, on the other hand, if you have no personal history, no explanations are needed, nobody is angry or disolusioned with your acts. And above all nobody pins you down with their thoughts.

It is best to erase all personal history because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.

"Right now you don't know whether you are coming or going. And that is so because I have erased my personal history. I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do. Not even I. How can I know who I am, when I am all this?" He said sweeping the surroundings with a gesture of his head.

Little by little you must create a fog around yourself; you must erase everything around you until nothing can be taken for granted, until nothing is any longer for sure, or real. Your problem now is that you are too real. Your endeavours are too real; your moods are too real. Don't take things for granted. You must begin to erase yourself.

Carlos argues that he doesn't like to deliberately mystify people or mislead them. 

Don Juan's reply was that he misleads everybody anyway.

"When one does not have any personal history, nothing that one says can be taken for a lie. Your trouble is that you have to explain everything to everybody, compulsively, and at the same time you want to keep the freshness the newness of what you do. Well, since you can't be excited after explaining everything you have done, you lie in order to keep going. From now on you must simply show people whatever you care to show them, but without explaining exactly how you have done it."

Carlos: But I can't keep secrets. 

Don Juan: Then change. You see, we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for sure and real, or we don't. If we follow the first, we end up bored to death with ourselves and with the world. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which nobody knows where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves. When nothing is for sure, we remain alert, perennially on our toes. It is more exciting not to know which bush the rabbit is hiding behind than to behave as if we know everything.

They sit for an hour in silence before driving toward town. The conversation has drained Carlos. Don Juan makes him stop, climb to the flat top of a small hill and lie down on his stomach with his head facing east. Carlos is refreshed after a couple of minutes sleep.

In town getting out of the car don Juan says, "Come back. Be sure to come back.".