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Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

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Thread A: Paths to the Other Side of Reality

This post is a continuation of Thread A and is pretty much what I have been working up to in that thread.  My goal is to shed further light on the Andean Cosmovision by viewing it within the larger context of various other paths that lead into the other side of reality.  I usually don’t step out of my path to compare it to others as I know them less well.  I would like to apologize ahead of time if I do not adequately or accurately portray the path you are on.  In any event I hope that you find this post interesting or useful or both.

In the post The Other Side of Reality I developed the idea that we do not consciously experience reality itself, we experience instead a neuronal representation of reality created by our mind, brain and sensory organs. This representation can be thought of as a map of reality, and like all maps it corresponds to the territory being mapped yet at the same time it is fundamentally different than, and much less than, the territory. The territory, reality itself, exists beyond all of our thoughts and concepts and perceptions. I refer to this essential “suchness” of reality as “the other side of reality”.

Our consciousness is the observer who experiences our representation of reality.  It is possible to turn off our mind/brain’s process of representing reality and when we do our consciousness becomes directly aware of reality itself. When we do this we turn our eyes away from the shadows cast by puppets on the wall (ala Plato’s Cave) and walk out into the ineffable, sacred, beauty of the Cosmos. Over the millenia many paths have been developed in many cultures for reaching that state.

In the post The Guardian of the Threshold I defined our “ego” as all of the thoughts, concepts, and beliefs we have about ourselves. Our ego is not who we are, it is our map or representation of who we are. We exist as Beings, however, beyond all of the thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. Just as the essential suchness of reality is ineffable, beyond all thought, and ultimately mysterious, the essential suchness of who we are is ineffable, beyond all thought, and ultimately mysterious.

A major challenge we face when we seek to experience the other side of reality is that when we endeavor to turn off our map of reality we are also turning off our ego. Our ego tends to respond to this as if it were facing death. In mystical approaches this is known as the little death, the (temporary) death of the ego, as compared to the big death (our actual physical death). Like the computer HAL in the movie 2001, the ego does not take the prospect of being turned off very well. The ego responds with everything it can think of to stop us. Its main weapon is fear. In this way the ego, in mythological terms, serves as the guardian at the threshold to the other side of reality.

In this post I would like to take these two ideas–the nature of the other side of reality and the nature of the ego–and use them to differentiate three paths that lead to the other side of reality; the Path of Knowledge, the Path of Power, and the Path of Heart. While the Andean Cosmovision cannot be encompassed with words or understood through thought, my intellect (yachay) likes to have some idea of where that-which-is-beyond-thoughts might fit into the scheme of things.  It is with that in mind that I would like to share the following reflections.

1) Mystics and the Path of Knowledge. The goal of the mystic is to turn off the brain/mind’s interpretation (map) of reality. When this happens our consciousness gets to know (in a purely experiential, not intellectual, way) the other side of reality. The other side of reality cannot be put into words. “The Tao that can be talked about is not the Tao” (Tao Te Ching). When mystics do attempt to describe the mystical experience their words point at that which is beyond words. The concepts of time, and of the universe being made up of separate objects, are concepts, part of our brain/mind’s map of reality, rather than being a part of the essential suchness of reality that exits beyond our thoughts. Thus when mystics attempt to describe the mystical experience they speak of entering Eternity (a state outside of time) and they speak of being One with the Cosmos (of no longer being a separate entity). They also speak of experiencing the Sacred (which exists beyond any belief system).

Many mystical paths use meditation to achieve this special way of knowing reality. When I first entered the field of psychology there was a great deal of interest in the psychology of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, and meditation. The following was proposed as a way of understanding meditation. I am not sure it quite does meditation justice, but I have found it to be interesting at least.

Meditations generally fall into one of two categories; those that call for us to “focus in” and those call for us to “open up”. Focussing-in meditations involve attending to an unchanging stimulus, such as a mantra, or our breathing, or a flower. Opening-up meditations involve paying attention to all of the every-changing stimuli reaching our senses in the moment. In order to work properly our mental processes that create our representation (map) of reality rely upon a certain rate of information flowing into our minds. Focussing-in meditations (attending to an unchanging stimulus) underwhelm our map-making processes causing them to collapse, rather like a wind sock with no wind. Opening-up meditations (paying attention to everything at once), on the other hand, bring in so much information that they overwhelm our map making processes, also causing them to shut down. With either type of meditation, and extensive practice, we can learn to stop our process of creating a representation of reality and when that happens we become conscious of what is left, the essential, unprocessed suchness of reality itself. This is what I believe is pointed at by such terms as enlightenment, satori, buddhahood, etc.

It may take many years of dedicated practice to collapse our representation of reality. But along the way benefits arise. Our maps of reality tend to be self-reinforcing. Our map largely determines what we pay attention to and what meaning we assign to what we perceive, which then tends to reinforce our map, which then determines our experience of reality, and so on. My relatively limited experience on the path of the mystic is that when I am meditating, cracks (metaphorically) appear in my map of reality, light from the essential nature of the Cosmos leaks through, and my map of reality begins to change in ways that open me up to new ways of Being.

To touch the other side of reality requires that we temporarily put aside our ego. It is a challenge to put aside our concepts of reality and our concepts of ourselves when moving through our social world. Everyone we meet reinforces our concept of the world and our concept of self.  For this reason mystics often seek isolation, by going to meditation retreats, or even by becoming hermits. It is much easier to shed our society’s view of reality and of ourselves when we are outside of our society. The archetype of the wise old person living in a cave in the mountains comes from this path.

2) Shamans and the Path of Power. The term “shaman” comes from the indigenous culture of Siberia where it refers to people who have special powers that fall outside of our normal map of reality. The term has since been adopted by our Western culture and applied to people with similar powers in cultures across the globe. I am simply using the term here to refer to individuals who walk the path of power. The power might be used to gain information on the origins of a person’s health problems, or to retrieve lost pieces of a person’s soul, or to alter the energy of a person or a situation, or for other purposes that lie outside of our culture’s view of reality.

An important characteristic of power is that it is not inherently good or bad. Technology, for example, is a path of power and technology can be used to heal someone (e.g. medicine) or to kill them (e.g. nuclear weapons). How power is wielded, for good or bad, depends not upon an inherent characteristic of power but upon the values of the person wielding it. Shamanism is a path of power. Some people become shamans in order to have the power to heal others, to do good, to serve humanity. Other people become shamans to boost their ego, to feed their own self-importance, and to manipulate the world to their own advantage. In observing people who follow this path I note that some are loving and humble, some are creepy and have huge egos, and others are somewhere in between. Power is power, it doesn’t care.

How is it possible for someone to enter into the other side of reality and at the same time maintain a big ego? How is it possible to have the mystical experience of immersion in the essential suchness of reality and still maintain a materialistic and selfish approach to reality? The answer is that it is not possible. The path of power is not a path into the essential nature of reality that lies beyond all maps of reality. It is, instead, the development of a different map of reality, one that includes aspects of reality that fall outside of the map provided by Western culture. It is still a map of reality, just a different map, one that opens up new abilities and power.

My understanding of this has been shaped by don Juan Matus (a Yaqui spiritual guide) in the writings of Carlos Castaneda. Don Juan used the term “sorcerer” to refer to people who are on the path of power. To gain power a sorcerer needs to experience a completely different way of perceiving, being in, and interacting with reality. This is no easy task, and to survive the challenges that arise a person needs to have the impeccability of a warrior. Much of the earlier work of don Juan with Carlos was to help Carlos develop a sorcerer’s map of reality.

In don Juan’s worldview there is also a step beyond becoming a sorcerer, and that is to become a “man of knowledge”. Having two completely different maps of reality (our every-day map and the sorcerer’s map) makes it possible, for a sorcerer who so wishes, to transcend all maps and know the ineffable suchness of reality itself. Thus the path of power can eventually become a path of knowledge. For this to happen the ego would need to be dropped to get past the guardian at the threshold of the other side of reality.  According to don Juan, relatively few sorcerers choose to move on to become people of knowledge.  Those who take the path of power to feed their ego and sense of self-importance, or to gain advantage in the material world, would be actively moving away from what it would take to reach the other side of reality.

I often see references to the Andean Cosmovision as a path of power. Peru is a land of many paths and some are paths of power. I have heard don Americo refer to shamans/sorcerers in Peru as “brujas” (witches) but without the negative connotation the word carries in English. On several occasions he has arranged for brujas he respects to work on my energy. I have noticed that he hangs around as they do, I assume that he is monitoring the work to make sure it is beneficial, and I have indeed benefited from their beautiful work. I have also heard many stories of shaman/sorcerers (in Peru and in the West) who do great harm, either on purpose or through ignorance. Power doesn’t care whether it is used for good or harm, only the people on the path of power care (and some do not).

Another term I have heard applied to people on the path of power in the Andes is “layqa”. I believe layqas are the people that don Americo refers to as brujas and brujos. I have searched the anthropological literature to see if this is a correct use of the term layqa, particularly when compared to “paq’os” (described below). I view the academic literature with ambivalence. On the one hand it seems more reliable to me than second-hand information coming through Westerners, particularly as that information is often translated from Quechua to Spanish and then to English. On the other hand, academicians can be completely ensconced in the Western worldview and utterly and stubbornly oblivious to how the Andean Cosmovision may differ from the Western worldview. The bottom line of my research is that it seems layqa is more connected with power, power over nature and power over people, while paq’o has a different, more beneficent, connotation. We will consider paq’os next.

3) Paq’os and the Path of Heart. “Paq’o” is a quechua term that is usually translated into English as either “mystic” or “shaman”. Both terms apply a little and neither exactly fits (see the post Paq’os:  Shamans or Mystics). “Paq’os” and a “path of heart” go together and the latter defines the former, and so I will hold off on a definition of paq’o and develop instead the essential nature of the path of heart.

There are undoubtedly many paths of heart on the planet. I want to focus on the path of heart as I have experienced it during my twenty plus years of working with don Americo Yabar, don Gayle Yabar, and the paq’os of Peru. To what degree my experiences on this path correspond to other paths of heart I know not, but I suspect there are many similarities.

The Andean path of heart is the path of the munay. The munay is one of our three centers of being. It is located in the area of our heart and is the center of love. The love associated with the munay, however, is not an emotion. It has nothing to do with romance or sex or sentimentality or jealousy. It is, instead, the feeling that arises from experiencing our interconnectedness with the rest of the Cosmos, and this feeling is labelled with the closest word in English, which is “love”.

The path of heart is a path of interconnectedness, not as an ideal or a concept but as a process. As for how exactly to proceed along this path, well, I have written this blog and a whole book about it, and that is only part of what I could have said. I would, however, like to give a brief overview here, and perhaps that will be of interest even to those who have read my blog or book or both.

The main image or metaphor that comes to my mind for describing the path of heart is that it involves a certain way of dancing with the Cosmos. Dancing is an active process, something we do, and we are doing it in response to the Cosmos, which in turn is responding to our dance. The dance is, in other words, an active relationship with the Cosmos where we influence each other.

This dance with the Cosmos is made possible through a non-Western map of reality, the Andean Cosmovision. Within this way of experiencing reality the whole Cosmos is conscious. This includes, specifically and especially, the Pachamama (the great Being who is the planet Earth), Mama Tuta (the void, the night, who holds the stars in her embrace), the stars themselves, Tai Tai Inti (the sun), Mama Killa (the moon), the Apus (the Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks), the rivers that cascade down the mountains, Mama Cocha (the ocean), the trees, the stones, everything, including the Cosmos itself. They are all conscious, we can interact with them, we can dance with them, and if we make our dance with the Cosmos a work of art then our life begins to unfold in beauty.

Our steps in the dance are the “meditations” I have shared in this blog and in my book. They are not like the meditations of the path of the mystics, and I only call them meditations because I have no better term. These meditations provide a means for experientially exploring new and profound aspects of ourselves and of the Cosmos. While the meditations have value in themselves there are also beautiful effects that slowly emerge as we continue down this path. These effects arise naturally from the way the meditations allow us to connect to the consciousness of Nature and the Cosmos. This is beautifully stated in a quote from Eckhart Tolle (while not from an Andean perspective it fits nicely).

“There is a higher order, a higher purpose, a universal intelligence. We can never understand this higher order through thinking about it because whatever we think about is content while the higher order emanates from the formless realm of consciousness. But we can glimpse it, and more than that, align ourselves with it, which means be conscious participants in the unfolding of that higher purpose. In a forest, not a man-made garden, let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain. Only then can you be aware of the sacredness of the forest. And soon as you sense that hidden harmony, that sacredness, you realize you are not separate from it, and when you realize that, you become a conscious participant in it. In this way, nature can help you become realigned with the wholeness of life.” Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, pp 194-195.

The Andean meditations change our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. When a relationship changes the relata (the entities in relationship) change as well. My experience is that as I have learned to dance with the Cosmos in this new way that subtle and beautiful changes have arisen within me unplanned and unexpected. Don Americo calls these “kamaskas”, small initiations into a new way of being that arise when we align ourselves with the Cosmos. This unfolding of a new way of experiencing reality takes us closer to the other side of reality which begins to inform our experience of who we are.

The theme of the paq’os relationship with the Cosmos is service and the operating principle is ayni. To be a paq’o is to be of service, service to the community, service to the Pachamama, service to the Apus, service to the Cosmos. Ayni (the Andean principle of reciprocity…see the post Ayni) insures that the service is service and is neither servitude nor mastery. We neither dissolve and surrender ourselves to the Cosmos (the path of the mystic), nor do we attempt to coerce and manipulate the Cosmos (the path of power). We dance with the Cosmos and as we do we become realigned with the wholeness of life, and we find our salka.


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Hampi Taki: A Salka Project

From a traditional song sung by the women of Peru.

I walk without shoes in the mountains.
My bare feet touch the mountainside.
The mountain takes pleasure in knowing my body.

Before I describe the hampi taki project I would like to touch again briefly two concepts I have covered in earlier posts, salka and ayni.

Salka is quechua (the language of the Andes) for undomesticated energy.  The wolf is salka while the dog is domesticated, the condor is salka while the chicken is domesticated, the deer is salka while the sheep is domesticated.  Salka is essential life energy, so it may not be quite accurate to say that some beings are more salka than others. It might be better to say that some beings are more domesticated than others.  In domesticated beings our domestication is like a veneer through which the light of salka must shine. The Andean meditations that I have shared in this blog and in my book help us get in touch with our salka, which in turn, brings into our awareness the mystery and beauty of our existence as living beings.  The Peruvian mystics Américo Yábar and Gayle Yábar are founders of the Poetic Salka Movement on the Planet, and they have been my mentors in my exploration of the Andean Cosmovision.  For more information on salka please visit this post.

Ayni is a quechua term for reciprocity. Ayni is the guiding principle of relationships within the traditional Andean culture. When you give you receive, and when you receive you give. Completing the circle of ayni elevates both parties, it is like a spiral, where every time the circle is completed the relationship moves to a higher level. The traditional Andean people live in ayni with each other, with their domesticated animals, with their land, and with the Cosmos.  Ayni is not a social obligation, it is a dance that enlivens both party’s sacred energy.  For more information on ayni please visit this post.

When I earn money from teaching the Andean Cosmovision–e.g. in my workshops or my classes or my book–I like to give half of the money to the people of Peru as ayni. This completes the circle of ayni between the Andean people (who have so open heartedly shared their Cosmovision with the West), and the people who have taken my classes or have purchased my book or have donated on my Salka Wind web page.  I don’t mean to come across as saintly in mentioning this.  Other people are doing things like this as well, and I am ridiculously pleased to be part of it.  In my mind’s eye I see great circles of ayni being formed across the continents, connecting the munays of many beings (organic and inorganic) on the planet.  From these circles of ayni the future may blossom in greater beauty.

I use some of this money to help fund the  “hampi taki project”.  Hampi taki is quechua for singing medicine. Over the years the beautiful, traditional, songs that have linked the Andean women to the Cosmos (e.g. the barefoot in the mountain song at the beginning of this post) have been slowly replaced by laments about how hard life is in the post Spanish conquest society. In the hampi taki project Américo has revived the traditional songs, and  teaches the women how to create a flow of healing energy as they sing.   He pays the women for learning this way of signing.  After they master it, he then pays them to teach other women.  In this way the singing medicine is spreading from village to village, and now has a strong presence as far away as the jungle and Bolivia.

To me this is such a beautiful way to use money to nourish salka. Western society is sweeping through the high Andes like a tsunami. The associated material benefits are available for those who have money, which usually involves them having to step away from their traditional culture.  In the hampi taki project the women have a way to earn money by stepping more deeply into their traditions.  They are also receiving a clear but implicit message that their traditional culture has things worth holding on to…plus there is healing involved…and salka.

I have included below some photographs (compiled from various visits) of women who have sung to me and my friends as ayni for our support of the project.  I particularly love seeing the children there, knowing that they are watching their mothers being valued for the beauty of what they are offering to the West.

Photos by Karen Cottingham and Barbara Mahan © 2013 by the photographers, all rights reserved.

Text and all other photos in this post © at time of posting, Oakley Gordon , licensed under a Creative Commons License — some rights reserved.

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Hi everyone. I haven’t been posting here a lot recently. My energy is going out to a rather diffuse number of outlets. I am presenting a three day workshop on the Andean Cosmovision in Grand Junction, Colorado this coming weekend. My web site has served as the hub of my internet efforts but had gotten of date and so I have rewritten it. I have created a Facebook page for my book, The Andean Cosmovision, and I have been posting there recently to see if I can get the word out on my book to more people.

I have been waiting for something to come to me that I would like to share on this blog. And today it arrived. I would like to share some thoughts and energy about ‘impeccability’.

I first ran into the idea of walking through life with impeccability in the earlier books of Carlos Castaneda. My favorite way of expressing it is through the following story that don Juan told Carlos, which I paraphrase below

One day you will be walking down an arroyo and you will stop to tie your shoe. When you do, a huge boulder will crash to the ground right where you would have been if you hadn’t stopped to tie your shoe. Another day you will be walking down the arroyo and you will stop to tie your shoe and a boulder will land right on top of you and kill you because you stopped to tie your shoe. Given a world like this, the only thing you have control over is tying your shoelace with impeccability.

Acting with impeccability adds a great deal to life, exactly what I have a hard time putting into words. It can also be, in my experience, too stern a task master. The resolution I have arrived at is that my being impeccable includes not having to be impeccable all the time. I would like to share a story about that.

One time when I was in Peru by myself with don Americo he told me that the president of the Q’ero people was also in town and would like to meet me. He added that this was purely optional and I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to. When I paused, wondering why the president would possibly want to meet me, Americo added softly that it would be rather rude to say no. Of course I said yes.

When I went to meet him I didn’t know what to do or say, so I decided to just open my heart and interact with him. I ended up showing him a photo of my sons on my cell phone and asking him about his family. Afterwards Americo chuckled and said that was an interesting and rather refreshing way for me to act. He also said that he had watched me slip into my ‘impeccable mode’ right before I entered the room, and that he has seem me do this other times as well, he complicated me on my ability to be impeccable. I replied that in all honesty it was much easier for me to be impeccable after a couple of cups of coffee in the morning. Americo laughed and said that Carlos Castaneda might not approve, but that it was very salka of me.

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All the World’s a Stage

All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players. But who is our intended audience, our society, or the vast mystery of the Cosmos? (Paraphrase of don Americo Yabar and William Shakespeare). 

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Salka is like a wind that blows through consensus reality from beyond, bringing us into contact with the great mystery and beauty of existence.

‘Salka’ is a Quechua word (the language of the Andes) for ‘natural’ or ‘not domesticated’ energy. The wolf, for example, is more salka than the dog, the condor is more salka than the chicken, and the deer is more salka than the sheep. Salka is the natural energy of all life, it is not quite accurate to say that some beings are more salka than others, it might be better to say that some are more domesticated than others. Domestication is like a veneer through which the light of salka shines through.

People in my culture, including myself, are very domesticated. Much of our attention, energy, and activities are shaped by the social/industrial/technological environment that our society has created. What time I get up, what clothes I put on, how I make a living, what I do for entertainment, are all organized around the rules and options provided by our society. Even more important than the domestication of our time and energy, however, is the domestication of our understanding of who we are as beings in this Cosmos.

The very concept of ‘who we are as beings in this Cosmos’ may seem strange as many of us think about ourselves in terms of our roles in our society, or in our family, or in our place of work. Our ideas of ‘self’ tend to be very domesticated. My society has ideas about what it means to be human (drawn largely from science or religion), what it means to be male (drawn largely from Madison Avenue), what it means to be a professor, a father, a husband, and so on. There are some options supported within those roles, and there is always the possibility for rebellion, but even then my thoughts about myself are largely in relationship to what my society proscribes.

Being a domesticated human is great, it opens the door to all of the comforts and opportunities that our society can provide. There are, however, two major drawbacks to this domestication. One drawback is that our society has created an environment where what it takes to survive in a city or thrive in a business involves behaviors that are killing our planet, and this is accompanied by incentives to downplay or hide this consequence. The second drawback to domestication within our society is that it only recognizes and supports part of the totality of who we are. In modern society who we are is mainly a ‘consumer’ and we (at least in the U.S.) are bombarded with thousands of messages a day designed to reinforce that aspect of our existence. The good news is that we are vastly more mysterious beings than our society would have us believe.

Salka is also part of our heritage as beings on this planet. There are people in the high Andes who are very salka. Imagine being a young child living at 15,000 feet in a tiny settlement in the Andes. You live in your family’s small stone house, built of the material of the Pachamama, such a house is known as a ‘wasi-tira’ (literally a ‘house of the Earth’). The heart of the house is the q’uncha, an oven made of earth, a hardened hollow dome of adobe that has a opening on the side for feeding wood into the fire and a few openings on top that are just the right size to sit the pots. You awake in the morning to the warmth of the q’uncha and the aroma of the soup that your mother is cooking for the family. Climbing out from under the llama skins you prepare to take your family’s alpacas up the mountain to feed. You take along your warak’a, a woven sling that you use to throw rocks to the side of the herd to direct them where you want them to go and as protection from the pumas, the condors, and the foxes of the high Andes.  As the sun licks the frost off the ground you slowly lead the herd up the mountain, to perhaps 16,000 feet, where there is ichu grass upon which they can feed. You find a comfortable place to sit. A thousand feet below is your home, a little smoke coming out of the hole in the roof. But up here it is all wild. Despite your being at 16,000 feet the Andean peaks tower high above you. All you hear is the soft steps of the alpacas as they graze, and the wind coming down from the mountains. The air is clear and the towering peaks, although they are miles away, seem almost close enough to touch. Below you a condor glides down the valley, barely moving its wing tips to control its flight. You notice clouds gathering around the Apus, perhaps the Apus will send rain in your direction, or even the deadly thunder and lightening. And you know that the Apus are as aware of you as you sit there as you are of them. This is salka, you are surrounded by salka, and you are salka too.

As much as it can be defined in words salka is the essence of who we are, our domesticated self is built on top of that as we mature in our culture. To reach the full expression of being human we need to know both, it just happens to be that in our culture the emphasis is overwhelmingly toward our domesticated self. The Andean meditations help us get in touch with the salka aspect of our being.

Salka is beyond definition, beyond comprehension, it is vastly mysterious, and tied somehow to innate beauty. As we are, in essence, salka the same can be said of us. I suspect that the nature of great art is that it provides a path for salka to emerge into our domesticated life. We don’t need to be skilled at drawing, or music, or poetry to express salka. “My suggestion is that you make your life a work of art.” (Americo Yabar)

Epilog One: Some friends and I were bumping along a dirt road through the Andes in a minivan. The Beatles are rather big in Peru and the driver had put on a cd that could be described as ‘101 Pan Pipes do the Beatles’. We were all singing ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ as we passed through a small village in the mountains. What struck me suddenly, very deeply, was that the Beatles were an expression of something, some way of being in the world, of some way the world could be, and that somehow, despite its surface appearance and its poverty, the village I was looking at was the world the Beatles were singing about.

Later I read a story about the anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1904-1980). A student asked him what the purpose of art was. He replied that the purpose of art was to make life seem worth living. The student then asked him if he knew of any contemporary artists who had actually pulled that off. After a long pause, he replied ‘The Beatles’.

Epilog Two: On one of my trips to Peru we traveled to a very salka village high in the Andes. To get there we had to drive for six hours on a dirt road from Cusco and then get on horses and travel for two days through the mountains, going over two 17,000 passes. The village itself was at 15,000 feet. We set up camp on the other side of a hill from the village. The next morning I got up and had a cup of coffee and sat on a stone watching the sun rise. I began to write in my journal. Looking up I was surprised to see a small girl staring at me from a few feet away. She was very salka, and she had come from the village to check us out. There began one of the most touching moments of my life, and my friend just happened to lean out of her tent and take our picture.

Oakley meeting a young Q'ero girl.

I didn’t speak Quechua and she of course didn’t speak English. But I have been the father of young children and I know how to communicate without the necessity that the words be understood. I touched her necklace and told her how pretty it was, I said other nice things to her with an open heart, and then she settled down with me and together we watched the day slowly begin to unfold.

Oakley and girl watching the morning.

Sharing a Salka Moment

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