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What is Beyond Dirt?
When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other.
Through his experience,
the sage becomes aware that all things change,
and that he who seems to lead,
might also, in another situation, follow.
- Tao Te Ching
Beyond Dirt is about two different but closely connected subjects: prospecting for gold, and the search for enlightenment. It concerns the worlds of the past and the future, above and below, material & spiritual, how those worlds collide, and the strange fruit that comes of that encounter.
Representing the past: "Indian" Joe has spent his whole life living off the land, prospecting and mining gold in the mountains and rivers of British Columbia. He is a man out of time, living a way of life that has all but gone from the world. Standing in for the future, multimedia storyteller Jason Horsley has spent his life seeking a different kind of gold: the gold of "enlightenment." Beyond Dirt is an improvisatory documentary that brings these two unlikely characters together into a single, improbable, and wholly unpredictable narrative: the Quest for Go(1)d.
The idea of Beyond Dirt is simple: in order to find gold, you have to go into and beyond mere dirt. For the amateur prospector, all there is is dirt, because even gold looks like dirt without the eyes to see. The trick of finding gold is to be able to keep your attention on the gold even when you can’t see it. Developing the eyes (the wisdom) to discern gold from dirt is what prospecting is all about.
The spiritual quest is much the same. In place of gold, we have “God” or enlightenment. In place of dirt, we have “the world.” Enlightenment means to move beyond the world, not by transcending it but by getting all the way to the core of it, the nuclear heart of molten gold that is the living soul-center of existence. Only by going all the way into the blood and grime of our corporal selves can we source the "god atom" of our forgotten heritage and birthright, and tap the alchemical gold of the ancients.
The Cowboy & the Alien
As an outsider, vagabond, and all-round anomaly, Jason Horsley (a.k.a. Jake Horsley, Aeolus Kephas, Jason Kephas, & Jasun Horusly) has always identified with Aspergerian and extraterrestrial archetypes like Ziggy Stardust, David Byrne, Woody Allen, and Neo.
As a life-long prospector and mountain man, Indian Joe represents his opposite number: an "undergound man" archetype who evokes the Western loner figure played by actors like John Wayne, or by Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Joe was born to a British mother and Hungarian father in Manchester, England, in 1950, soon after which his father brought him to Canada, where he was fostered by a rural Quebecois family. As a teenager, Joe hopped freight trains with his friends and rode across the wide country. By age twenty, he had married the daughter of a Fraser River gold miner and apprenticed as a Free Miner at a hydraulic operation near Lytton, British Columbia.
Joe, circa 1970
Throughout his extensive career, Joe worked every kind of gold mining equipment: Hydro monitor; sluice; dredge; tumbler; Ross box; drill; explosives. He sunk shafts and punched drifts, worked river bars, hard rock and clay deposits all over Western Canada and the North West Territories. He specialized as a “front-end man.” His job was to find the gold deposits hidden in the dirt.
In those days, a licensed Free Miner could live legally off the land, and that was what Joe did. He lived out of a pack, hiked through the mountains and valleys and followed faults, looking for gold deposits in the summer months, retiring to a remote cabin in the Northern Cascade Range and trapping animals for the winter. He now has a wife and several grown children, but he still thinks of the wilderness as his home.
Indian Joe joined the community of Western Canadian Free Miners at its decline and was the youngest of them. Now, at 62, he’s one of the last survivors.
In stark contrast, Jason Horsley was born into wealthy liberal family in Yorkshire, England, the last of three children. He was a solitary child with a love of comic books and movies. In his early adolescence he began to write short fiction, film reviews and scripts, and tried his hand at Super-8 filmmaking. He left home at 17 and lived with his sister. At 18 he received a considerable family inheritance, traveled around Europe, and moved to New York at 20, ostensibly to pursue a career in filmmaking. This led to a period of aimless wandering and drug use.
Jasun in 1988
Shortly after he discovered the writings of Carlos Castaneda and his interest in film and literature exploded into occult realms of psychedelia, shamanism, and alchemy. He moved to Mexico in search of a man of knowledge, and at 24 disowned his inheritance and lived as a vagabond in Morocco, France, and Spain. He spent time with Benedictine monks and lived in a stone hut in the mountains of Navarra. During this period he began to uncover memories of apparent encounters with nonhuman beings, further exasperating his sense of alienation and otherworldiness. He wrote extensively about these experiences and spent several years in isolation, researching “extra-consensual perceptions.” The fruit of this period was an in-depth exploration that was eventually published (in 2003) as The Lucid View, under the pseudonym of Aeolus Kephas.
He published The Blood Poets, underwent an unorthodox shamanic initation in Guatemala, moved back to London and made a series of "surrealist documentaries" called The God Game (in 2002), wrote Matrix Warrior, The Secret Life of Movies, Homo Serpiens, and "Shooting the Ghost," an unpublished novel about the life of legendary Western filmmaker Sam Peckinpah.
Then, at the age of 40, he met an enlightenment teacher, Dave Oshana, and soon after got wind of Asperger's Syndrome and the idea of neurodiversity. All the elements began to cohere. His feeling of belonging to an alien species began to assume a new dimension of meaning.
It might seem that the quest for gold is very different from the search for God, but in fact the sacred and the profane are two sides of a single, long-buried coin. There is no gold without dirt, and no enlightenment without a world to be enlightened.
It might seem that the only thing Indian Joe and Jasun have in common is their place of origin (Northern England) and their current choice of habitation (British Columbia). Yet both are lifelong loners and wanderers, and both, in very different ways, have devoted their life to the search for hidden treasure (rather like Jason and his Argonauts). Somehow, their very different life-paths have led them to a single point in spacetime where the past and the future meet.
Beyond Dirt is about this meeting, the complementary nature of the sacred and the profane, and how "the high and the low support each other."
Opposites attract. Joe and Jasun on the "set" of Beyond Dirt.
At present, we are working with an HD Sony camcorder and a laptop with an Adobe Premiere free trial editing program. To do this project full justice requires better equipment - radio mikes especially. We have already started work on the pilot, however, and will finish it any way we can. Raising additional funds will allow us to create a richer and more satisfying movie. If possible, we would like to include stock footage and even animated sequences to illustrate Joe's wild stories and Jasun's alien perceptions.
Our team so far consists of Jasun, Indian Joe, designer/illustrater Lucinda Horan, several consultants, and music provided by the band Big Blood. We will be recruiting other team members (an animator, a publicist) as the project proceeds.
Since there is no foreseeable end to the stories, anecdotes, and practical knowledge which Indian Joe has to share, it's possible, with sufficient interest and support from the public, that Beyond Dirt could become an on-going web series (between 30 and 45 minutes per episode), for which this (tentatively titled "The Cowboy & the Alien") would be the pilot.
My position as a documentary filmmaker is that real stories are more magical and fantastic than made-up ones because they are real. For the same reason, real people are more remarkable and mysterious than fictional ones. But to see that, it’s necessary to look beyond the surface.
It’s like going to the dirt to find gold: you have to let the ground tell you what’s there. And the dirt has its stories to tell.
As a filmmaker, I don’t want to dictate my vision to my subject or my audience, but to use it to find what’s already there. These are usually the things other people aren’t aware of, and even that I am unaware of until I start to really look and listen. The camera doesn’t lie and it's a great listener. It brings uncovers hidden, magical depths of reality, and of people.
Filming isn’t simply recording stories because the act of recording influences what’s being recorded. A subject undergoes changes when it becomes the focus of a documentary film. There is also the story of the filming itself. This is probably why I usually end up including myself in the films I make: because I am already included, and I want the audience to be included too. I want to bring what is usually kept behind the scenes into the mise en scene, and abolish the illusion of the “4th wall.”
The line between fact and fiction is also an illusion. There’s only one story, the story that all of us are living, but only a few are telling.
Storytelling is the oldest art form of all. It is the essence of community. It is what connects us as members of a common species, a single experience with nearly infinite variables: the human story. What makes us unique is the stories we carry inside us, and each of us is made of our stories. They are part of an internal landscape. Yet, like snowballs made of snowflakes, there is no “us” without those stories.
To transmit our stories to others means to change and deepen our relationship to those stories. Animals carry genetic code over the generations, and humans pass on their stories. The guy at the bar who wants to pour his heart out over a beer. The old lady at the bus stop who wants to talk about the good old days. We may think it has nothing to do with us, but it’s by sharing our individual perspectives that we come to understand the nature of being human.
--Jason Horsley, November 2012
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There is gold beyond the dirt.
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