JOURNEY TO IXTLAN
part one Stopping the World
3. LOSING SELF-IMPORTANCE
Carlos's friend who put him in with don Juan touch thinks he is wasting his time and that the old Indian was just nuts, but Carlos thinks don Juan's criticisms were apropos, sharp and true and is compelled to pay another visit.
Wednesday, 28 December 1960
On a long walk in the desert Carlos is taught 'an appropriate form of walking'. "I had to curl my fingers gently as I walked so I would keep my attention on the trail and the surroundings. Don Juan claimed that my ordinary way of walking was debilitating and that one should never carry anything in the hands. If things had to be carried one should use a knapsack or shoulder bag. His idea was that by forcing the hands to a specific position one was capable of greater stamina and greater awareness.
Carlos thinks the way does not affect his awareness of stamina. Nor do some leaves given to chew make his thirst vanish. Don Juan says he does not feel the benefits because is was young and strong and his body did not notice anything because it was a bit stupid. He amends this by saying that his body is not really stupid but somehow dormant.
Carlos takes an enormous cawing crow to be an agreement from the world. Don Juan sternly and ominously tells him that is rather an omen, - a very important indication about you. A wind blowing a dry branch is then taken as an agreement and Carlos gets peeved thinking that don Juan is making up the rules of his own game. He threatens to leave and head back for L.A. Don Juan tells him to sit down because he is not through. He then sings an idiotic folk song imitating a popular Mexican singer. This make Carlos laugh and don Juan says that he (Carlos) is like the singer and the people who liked his songs, conceited and deadly serious about some nonsense that no one in his right mind should give a damn about.
Don Juan says that if Carlos really wants to learn, he has to remodel most of his behaviour. "You take yourself too seriously. You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed!. You are so goddamn important that you feel justified in being annoyed with everything. You're so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don't go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That's nonsense you are weak and conceited." He pointed out that in the course of his (Carlos's) life he had never finished anything because of the disproportionate importance that he attached to himself. "Self-importance is another thing that must be dropped, just like personal history".
Don Juan then stops, sniffs the air, shakes his head slightly, turns and stares at Carlos with look of bewilderment and curiosity. He seems very alert, sweeping his eyes up and down Carlos' body as if looking for something specific.
Standing up quickly they walk/run for an hour to a rocky hill and the shade of a bush. Carlos is no longer angry. "this is really weird but I feel much better. A crow caws. Don Juan: "That was an omen". A rock tumbles. "And that was an agreement."
Carlos: I can't understand what is happening to me. I got angry and now I do not know why I am angry any more.
Don Juan: The world around us is very mysterious it does not yield it's secrets easily.
Carlos likes don Juan's statements he finds them challenging and mysterious even though he cannot determine whether they are filled with hidden meaning or just plain nonsense.
Don Juan: If you ever come back to the desert here, stay away from that rocky hill where we stopped today. Avoid it like the plague. This is not the time to explain it. Now we are concerned with losing self-importance. As long as you feel you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you.
Don Juan talks to a plant: "It does not matter what you say to a plant, what's important is the feeling of liking it, and treating it as an equal." He explains that a man who gathers plants must apologise for taking them and assure them that one day his body will serve as food.
Carlos cannot bring himself to do this but at least contains his temper.
Don Juan: Talk to the plants until you lose your self importance, until you can do it in front of others. You must talk to them in a loud and clear voice if you want them to answer you.
Don Juan: This little plant has told me that she is good to eat. A handful of them will keep a man healthy, and there are some growing over there.
The world around us is a mystery. And men are no better than anything else. If a little plant is generous with us we must thank her, or perhaps she will not let us go.
On walking back to don Juan's house Carlos cannot keep up.
Don Juan: I can't be waiting for you as if you were a child.
Castaneda say that this statement sunk him to the depths of embarrassment and bewilderment. How could it be possible that such an old man could walk so much better than I? I thought I was athletic and strong, yet he actually had to wait for me to catch up with him. I curled my fingers and strangely enough I was able to keep his tremendous pace without any effort. In fact, at times I felt that my hands were actually pulling me forward. I felt elated. I was quite happy walking with the strange old Indian. I began to talk and asked repeatedly if he would show me some peyote plants. He looked at me but did not say a word.