Journal Entry #127
Written by Thaddeus Green in an otherwise-damaged and unreadable journal found at the foot of the fabric on February 23rd, 1997.
Early this morning our group awoke in the pitch black of the Tilyitsu caves, just a quarter mile from the core. After breakfast we will take the short pass through Himmi’s Choke and then down the Long Squeeze to our destination. That’s where the fabric hangs and the puncture will be made. After the puncturing, we will make our long journey back out of the caves and be out before midnight. Right now, the nervousness is thick in the air, but the excitement is starting to brew, just like it always is at this point. Personally I feel a sense of stillness...
Seven miles from the surface into the cavern is the core, where massive sheets of an irreproducible and mysterious fabric hang higher than the eye can see or light can reach. The depths of Tilyitsu have ceilings hundreds of feet high and are carved, like Swiss cheese, by ancient lava tubes. The draping fabric is immeasurably long and wide, seemingly attached to no roof, wall or stone. Rather, it is hung out of massive winding shafts which have not been, and possibly never will be, scaled. The elaborate crags and spindling rocks holding the cavern together are impossible to climb and mostly obscured by the fabric. The fabric is covering something—I’m convinced there is something past the fabric. The way it is hung makes it impossible to see or walk beyond. No ends to the fabric are visible except for the only place it is immovably attached: the ground.
The fabric is stronger than steel, although lighter than silk. No man or team of men have been able to cut it, or rip it from its attachment to the bedrock. It’s impossible to climb because it is inexplicably slippery when grabbed. The fabric has never been passed through, only punctured.
When the fabric is punctured, as it so excitedly was by the brilliant Harmy Binhammer and his team in 1843, it temporarily releases a beam of light vastly more beautiful than a perfect sunset and more intoxicating than any drug known to man. It is a light so alluring, that everyone looking in its direction becomes wholly mesmerized and unable to comprehend anything but the mind-expanding experience of the light.
The self-healing fabric of the puncture closes in just seconds. As the hole quickly heals itself, the entirety of the endless fabric tightens simultaneously, letting out a clap of thunder through the caves. When Liam Pek--the speleologist-philosopher who wrote ‘The science of The Puncture’--was asked exactly how long it felt that the puncture was open for, he simply responded: ‘The experience must be measured in kairos, rather than Chronos’ (1). Lisa said it felt like a whole lifetime, but one she wouldn't want to live again.
Around the fabric is a system of tall structures and tools that have been built to create the puncture that releases the light. These are lovingly regarded as 'the scaffold'. The scaffold consists of various walkways, ladders, pipes and wires. They hold and give access to a complex mechanical device that has been constructed in order to study and, most importantly, puncture holes in the fabric. The modern devices have barely changed from Harmy Binhammer’s original designs.
The light itself is hard to describe. Impossible actually. That’s why people travel so far to experience it themselves. It doesn’t work to just talk about the light, or share pictures of it (it’s incredibly uninteresting to photograph). Much like the Brahman as described in the Kena Upanishads, it is immanent and ineffable (2).
The experience of viewing the puncture has regally been deemed, ‘The Real Art’. But the Real Art is not the light that comes out of the puncture. The Real Art is in the combination of the scaffold and the light. Most everyone who has seen the light can tell you, the moment the puncture is opened, the scaffold is what speaks to them.
Something as unremarkable as a fingerprint smudged on a beam becomes the seed of an entire life experience. The puncture lets you personally feel every last breath of anyone who left a single trace of a presence in this cavern. Their work, family, success, grief-- you experience it all, and indescribably it happens in mere seconds.
When the puncture is opened, the structures that fill the room with a simple mechanical presence transform into the most beautiful devices of love: the breast of a mother, the wrinkled hands of a grandparent, the firm embrace of a father, all pulling back a curtain inside of you. It’s the human touch that went into constructing the scaffold that allows us to see the light of the puncture for what it really is. It’s some kind of feeling of love. While it is often described as overwhelming, it is never regretted. This is the feeling of the Real Art that is so sought after.
When the puncture is closed, the structures of the scaffold themselves look no different than something you would see in a refinery or industrial building. Light aluminum members and thin steel beams uphold the complicated machinery. Materials are incredibly hard to get to the bottom of the Tilyitsu and the cost is high to make the trips.
The Binhammer device, held carefully by the scaffold, is a meticulously strange work of genius. It has no precedent. No modern engineer could quite tell you exactly how it works–sure they all have theories, but everyone just decided it’s best not to try and make any changes. We are all lucky for Binhammer’s beautiful mind for gracing us with this enlightening machine.
The Tilyitsu cave system is vast, complex, and filled with winding pools and rivers. It was used for over 1200 years, mostly by the indigenous Tillies, as a source of drinking water and a burial ground for the dead. It’s said to be one of the largest graveyards in the world.
The Tillies took their burials seriously. After lengthy embalming and funeral rites, they would push the dead bodies into the slow current of the cave streams, most of the bodies to never be seen again. If a body did return and emerge back out of the cavern, that meant that the soul failed to make it to the afterlife, kept trapped–suffering in limbo forever. It was most unfortunate to see a loved one’s body return and often a blight upon the lineage of whoever was related. The Tillies were a non-combatative and peaceful society (which is likely why they were conquered so many times) whose strongest belief was in sharing. It's said to be the selfish that are rejected from the sacred cave.
While the Tillies were busy worrying about their rituals and theories, their lack of actual sanitary knowledge meant that the combination of graveyard and water-source led to the Tillies drinking contaminated water for centuries. They often suffered stunted growth and mental disease because of it. Personally, I believe this explains why the Tillies never had the wherewithal to discover the fabrics themselves.
It takes two days and one night to get from the entrance to the fabric. Everyone goes with a local guide, who are both well-loved and well-paid individuals. Most guides won't take anyone over the age of 40 or those with even a minor disability. It’s simply too dangerous--and impossible for anyone to save you in a serious emergency. Most people don’t look forward to spending a night so deep in the caves, enveloped in total darkness, but I’ve grown to enjoy the dark.
Nearly everyone is satisfied with their first experience of the puncture that they never have the desire to see it again. After my wife saw the light, she said that another experience would be like trying to have your first kiss a second time. The guides themselves almost always look away, for they, too, feel content with their one--or maybe two--times seeing the light.
I, myself, have seen the puncture 63 times. The first time I saw it, it changed my life and I didn’t think I would ever see it again. I didn’t need to. It felt like a switch had been flipped and there was no going back to my old ways. I was finally happy. But over time, I began to get sudden flashbacks of my experience. In my visions I felt like I could just almost make out something–something that was nearly whole, nearly complete. I felt that I needed to see the puncture just one more time and I was sure I would be able to place this last mysterious piece of the puzzle.
6 years after my first visit, I finally gave in to my desire and flew to Tellym to see it again. Then it was just 6 months until my next visit. Eventually I moved me and my wife, Lisa, across the world to be close to Tellym. I said it was for work, but she always knew the real reason. She said all I could talk about was going back to the fabric. She said I’d end up spending our life savings on seeing the puncture... that I wasn’t the man she married.
I had bought Lisa a scarf in Pila Rey on our honeymoon 20 years ago. One night when we were arguing, she ripped it. Right in half. She was so mad at me that it seemed effortless for her to pull it in two--as I watched the threads come apart, all I could think of was the fabric being punctured.
she left me soon after and my life became all about the puncture. I've written books, articles and even a play on the subject. Many people believe that I am a passionate academic, but the truth is it's merely a means to an end for me. There's not much else I can do to afford these expensive trips. I spent every cent I’ve made to continue my journey time and time again.
The magic that so many people feel in ‘the scaffold’ is no longer a part of the experience for me. The 'Real Art' now rings hollow. The platforms and pipes have grown to be a blemish on the perfection of that pure light of the puncture. The light is all I desire anymore. No wonder Lisa left me. I would have left too. But it’s undeniable and all powerful--I can’t think of anything but the light and how close I am to having it all figured out. I think that’s probably why I don’t mind the darkness so much anymore. Even the sun pales in comparison to the puncture.
Today, I’m about to witness the puncturing once more. No one has seen the puncture as many times as I have. No one knows it like I do. People around the world know my name because of my journeys down here, but I don’t care about them. If the puncture was able to be opened more than once a week, I would be down here every day. Unfortunately, the Binhammer device doesn’t allow that.
Right now, I feel closer to the light than ever. I have been trying to place the final piece of a puzzle for so long, but it wasn't until recently that I realized that I was going about this whole thing the wrong way. These 'pieces of the puzzle'--these inspirations that the light has given me--they are precisely what stand between me and the light. These ideas I have had of what the light is, and who I might be, have all been illusions and blemishes upon the light--just like I feel about the scaffold. Finally, I feel like I am ready to remove the last piece and just maybe see what is beyond the fabric.
That is more than I usually write, as this is usually for no one but myself, but this time it feels like I am writing for someone. Maybe for Lisa. Though I don’t love her anymore. I love no one, only the light.
Verse 4 of the Kena Upanishad says, “ What speech does not enlighten, but what enlightens speech, know that alone to be the Brahman, not this which (people) here worship.”
Kairos in Greek refers to the right, or critical moment or "season", such as "harvest time", whereas chronos refers to a specific amount of time, such as a day or an hour. Kairos is used 86 times in the new testament. Chronos is used 54.