A Jack Swift episode, in which Jack is humbled and gives away his trident
Written by Tom Hirons on Sunday the 16th of January 2011
"I have surfed the stars and ridden the wind. I have walked between the worlds, been eaten by a bear and swallowed by the turquoise wolf that steps between the molecules of the sky. I have died and been born a thousand times and I know the secret name of the sycamore, the oak and the elderberry. Mine is the hunger of the sacred hermits and the dance of the Eternal Beloved. I AM NOW AND FOREVER; MY NAME IS JACK SWIFT..."
I thought my CV was looking pretty good.
I had attached one of my favourite sparkling OM stickers to the front page, just below where it said 'I AM GOD; WHO ARE YOU?' and arranged my employment history in such a way that the first letters formed an acrostic that read 'THE ONLY WORK IS LOVE' if you looked carefully. Upon reflection, I highlighted the acrostic with glitter glue in case it was missed in an employer's hurry to get to the really good bits, then began shading in my picture of how I viewed the nature of employment in relation to the impending earth changes of 2012. That was on page 8, of 13, to reflect the sacredness of the number in the 13-day cycle of the Mayans and I was agonising over whether to include a short guide to the sacred calendar as an appendix, or if that would render the 13-page symmetry of the thing unstable.
Writing a CV is a tricky thing. How far do you bend the facts of your life to fit the mould of potential employment? How much of the nature of yourself do you include or leave out? I was unclear about such a thing - I'd never had to apply for a job, as they tended to fall on me from a great height, leaving me gasping for air, but now it seemed to be unavoidable. I had read a guide to writing a CV, but it had left me perplexed. It seemed to have been written by aliens, for other aliens, to help them submit their souls to work in the crystal mines of some dark planet, and I wasn't sure I wanted that kind of job. Still believing that I was destined for greater things, I had taken it upon myself to write the Truth About Jack. I was having difficulty with parts. Date of Birth: 'today and every day' seemed honest enough, but I wasn't sure that it was clear enough. Writing 'I AM ETERNAL and UNLIMITED by SPACE AND TIME' beneath it certainly got the point across, but I felt it might be seen as somewhat arrogant and adding 'Though I am Not Yet Fully Grounded in my Omnipotence, only having received the 1st attunement of Usui Reiki' was making it cluttered. I considered erasing all the text and filling in each category simply with I AM, but last vestiges of my mortal common sense nudged the suggestion towards me that, though true, God is also in the details. Besides, I AM, yes, but also, in truth, I AM NOT. I was going to have to start adding footnotes, and that was really going to screw with the Mayan symmetries of the thing... Ach - I couldn't believe that none of this was mentioned in the guidebook. I thumbed through it again, hoping for rescue from having to explain the truth in apparent paradoxes of AM-ness and AM-NOT-ness, but there was nothing there. I was on my own.
I didn't even want the job. I'd thought I'd wanted it, but writing the CV was taking its toll on my enthusiasm. On the telephone, I'd suggested that I drop by and show them my slide show, but they said they'd only accept a written CV. The 'I AM JACK' puppet-show didn't tickle their fancy either, and I probably should have given up there. Who wants a job, after all, where you can't perform your history and character to an ambient psychedelic trance soundtrack with shadow-puppets? Well, I did, or had thought I did. Holding the CV in my hands, I wasn't so sure.Not everyone wants to work at the crematorium, of course. I figured that the competition would be thin on the ground, perhaps a few goths and the odd thin stranger who had drifted into grave-digging at an early age and was now looking to diversify his portfolio. I wanted to work with fire and ashes and meditate in the charnel grounds, but when I'd asked about them, there had been a silence on the phone.
Charnel grounds, Mr. Swift?
Charnel grounds. Body parts and prowling dogs. The initiatory grounds of saddhus, yes.
No, saddhus. H. U. Two Ds. Saints.
I don't think we have saints in Mortonhall, Mr. Swift.
You're wrong, I said. You're so wrong.
But she remained unconvinced, even when I explained that Jo-Ab, a genuine bodhisattva, lived just around the corner and could pop in at any time to demonstrate any miracle she liked, so long as it involved dreadlocks and turning water into cider. The conversation had wilted somewhat after that and I wished, briefly, that I hadn't given my name.
When I'd seen the advert in the paper, I had known it was the job for me. Now... Now I was unsure.
I've had jobs. I've done work, some of it honest and a little of it paid in the shiny tokens of joy that seem so popular here on Earth. I've done things I didn't want to do and I understand that you've got to balance the element of earth in the circle of things, but ever since I sawed the caravan in half I haven't been able to take it as seriously as other people want me to. At the job centre, they're becoming impatient.
No, Mr. Swift, there have been no vacancies for Holy Men this week. I think you should widen your jobsearch.
Well, I think I shouldn't. And it's a trainee position I'm after. If I was already a holy man, I'd hardly be here wasting my time and yours, would I?
Petulance does not help a jobsearch, I'm told. I'll show them petulance... Well, actually I won't, because they'll stop my giro. Once you're in the system, your balls are theirs, friends. I envied Gola in his treehouse in the woods, and Jo-Ab in his van, following the leylines towards the rainbow's end.
I resisted the urge to write I WILL NOT BE CHAINED on the CV. I have an attitude problem, I know. The best and worst of us surely do. I flicked through the photographs I was going to attach. Jack lighting a fire; Jack skilfully holding an urn. Jack comforting a bereaved relative. I was pleased with that one, though you could just about tell that the relative was made out of balloons if you looked carefully. Then, Jack covered in ash, sitting amongst the bones of the ancestors... I hadn't seen anyone doing that at Mortonhall, but figured they probably kept the saddhus in a private area so as not to scare the children. A photo of my special saddhu blanket that I'd got from IKEA; a photo of my trident. My spirits were sinking; they all seemed empty now. I wished I'd taken a photo of Sri doing fire puja - that would have shown them I was serious. The pictures seemed pathetic, truth be told, and I understood then that the CV wasn't about the job. It wasn't about showing them how qualified I was or wasn't to push a rosewood box along a conveyor belt and it wasn't about trying to explain why I didn't have any A levels and hadn't been to school. It was all about the saddhu. Of course they weren't going to talk about saddhus over the phone. That was the whole point. If I was really a saddhu, would I be trying to convince them that I was one. No. I saw the truth of it now. I took a blank piece of paper and wrote only these words on it:
I AM JACK.
I AM NOT A SADDHU.
BUT I AM KEEN.
I posted the revised CV the next morning, having peeled the stamp off a postcard from Jo-Ab that he had sent from Calanish.
I never heard from Mortonhall crematorium and I wasn't surprised. I peeked over the wall every so often, and broke in once on the full moon to try and find the saddhus, but they weren't there. Probably at some big Mela festival down by the mouth of the Forth that no one had told me about, bathing themselves in the sewage outflow and praising MacShiva's ginger dreads. I sat for a while in the garden of remembrance and tried to remember what I was doing. The question came to me there and then and changed my life:
If I am not a saddhu, who am I?
The answer, of course, was Jack. I had told the truth on my final CV. I am Jack.
I gave the special saddhu blanket to a homeless man, but he gave it back to me because he was allergic to rayon.
I gave away my trident. I don't think Shiva minded too much - it was made of plastic and briefly delighted a small child in Portobello as her parents gathered her away from me. Shiva's got enough tridents and the children have few. I want the children to have more tridents. I am Jack. I am not a saddhu.
I got a job in an Italian deli in Newington - I just went in and asked them and they gave it to me and didn't ask for my CV, which was good, because I fed it to the swans in Holyrood Park. One of them came up to me and said his name was Shiva, but I didn't believe him, because you never know where you are with a swan. He tried to tell me something about the Himalayas, but I blocked my ears. I'm not going there; I'm just not doing that kind of shit.
I am not a saddhu.
I am Jack.