At Play in the Fields of the Lord - by Peter Matthiessen

So long as he kept moving he would be all right. For men like himself the ends of the earth had this great allure: that one was never asked about a past or future but could live as freely as an animal, close to the gut, and day by day by day.

Had Hazel been reared far away from the Protestant heartland of the Great Plains, she would have made a redoubtable Catholic or even Communist; it was the dogma that attracted her, the security of righteousness, for she felt no need to understand her faith.

Moon walked on, his enlarged pupils drawing in the faintest light; every sound and every smell enlivened him. In the nostrils of a lunatic, he thought, the night air is just as strong … In this moment he could scent, hunt out, run down and kill the swiftest creature on earth. Stalking the plane, he knew every sinew and muscle in his body, how each coiled and moved; in the darkness of the jungle night, he played cat, nerves taut, listening. He heard a small night animal and sprang for it, and was astonished when he missed it.

He was at a beginning and at an end. He had thrown away his bearings, like a man who treks at night into a wilderness and hurls his map into the wind and drops his compass to the bottom of an unknown river.

Boronai spoke sadly, in simplicity. It was this enviable simplicity which in those bright green early days he had thought within his grasp that Moon felt himself on the point of losing. Even the sense of the universe he had glimpsed under ayahuasca had slipped away from him; was that because he had not really earned it? He was sick to death of thinking, of words. One knew the jungle best when one no longer struggled, when one flowed with its rains and wind, breathed with its creatures, drank from its rivers out of green-leaf cups, took shelter from it in the common warmth of the night fires.

"Our Christian--that is, Western--outlook is rather lugubrious, do you not think? We have persuaded ourselves that abnegation"--and he touched his cassock, not without irony--"and self-sacrifice are superior to joyous self-expression, to the emotions--to simple being? Now … if we could just take time from our teaching of our poor Indians, we might learn something from them. After all, the Indians come out of Asia, theirs is essentially an Eastern culture; they do not seek for meaning: they are. They are not heavy the way we are, they are light as the air; their being is a mere particle of the universe, like a leaf or wing of dragonfly or wisp of cloud. Unlike ourselves, they are eternal."

Boronai himself had given up the struggle and accepted death, and this quiet resignation of the flesh was instantly apparent to his fellows; from that moment on, the headman was no longer sick but dead, and was so referred to. "He is dead" meant "he is finished, he has given up." By this criterion, Moon reflected, half the people he had known in life could be regarded as defunct.

"You see … a man like me, a cautious man, has his life all figured out according to a pattern, and then the pattern flies apart. You run around for quite a while trying to repair it, until one day you straighten up again with an armful of broken pieces, and you see that the world has gone on without you and you can never catch up with your old life, and you must begin all over again."

"I'm not really afraid of anything that may happen." Quarrier raised his eyebrows, as if surprised by this realization. "I've made such a disaster of my life that I'm not afraid of anything--that is, any change is welcome. Maybe you've never reached that point." "I've been there, all right. My trouble is, I never left it. I even like it."