My Messed-Up Pronoia Testimony

by Kali Miroir

(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

Dear Beauty and Truth Lab:

I got my heart transplant over two years ago, on October 31. For exactly 333 minutes, half of that suspicious number 666, I was dead. Not talking metaphorical broken heart here. I don't mean that a cruel lover hurt my deepest feelings. I'm saying I really lost my heart.

I was lying on an altar in a sterile white temple. How do I know? Wasn't I under deep anesthesia?

I saw everything and remembered everything because I had one of those certifiable out-of-body Near-Death Experiences. My spirit was floating around the room the whole time, taking it all in.

Why didn't I leave for a while and go on a shamanic vision quest to the mists of Avalon or something? Why didn't I time-travel and pay a visit to my future incarnation as a Chinese doctor?

Because I was very interested in what was happening right there to my body. It was too riveting to leave.

The priests and priestesses wore white coats and brandished stainless steel knives. We were in a ritual space marked off by magic machines. The lead mumbo-jumbo technician murmured his nonsense incantations, then carved open my chest and stole my heart. Tore its arterial roots, yanked it free from my lungs, and lifted it out.

I had no love muscle. Had no central throb. Was stripped of my soul's gravity.

The ceremony lasted more than five hours, and I was "dead" the whole time. They hooked my corpse up to a gleaming electronic pump that hijacked my blood and bled it back into me. My chest was open to the white light. My liver felt the breeze of the priests' robes whooshing around me. My brain was in limbo, a useless appendage.

I watched it all from above.

Eventually they finished planting a foreign heart in the sick mess of my thorax. Sewed the stranger's love pump together with my flailing blood pipes. I was alive again. Not myself exactly any more, though. Sucked back out of the tomb through the intervention of a dead man. Resurrected backwards and inside-out.

They stole my heart and gave me a different one.

Weeks later, while recuperating in my old bedroom from childhood, back in my parents' house, I finally got around to reading Brezsny's book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

It pissed me off. It made me laugh. Some days I threw it against the wall and some nights I used it as a pillow. I pasted before-and-after photos of myself on the cover. (My skin color's completely different now, my breasts shrunk, and I've got a caduceus tattoo built around my 10-inch chest scar.)

And after working on, I think, every single one of the pronoia therapy exercises and assignments, I decided that what I needed to do was make a pilgrimage to the Beauty and Truth Lab. I emailed Rob Brezsny to ask him where it was, and could I come visit, but he wrote back some lovely cryptic note that alas didn't reveal the actual earthly location.

I didn't give up, though. I pledged that I'd find a way to hang out with the actual Beauty and Truth Lab, or at least one of its outlets.

Then I heard that a version of it was going to be at the Burning Man festival in late August. I decided to go.

After driving eight hours and pitching my tent there in the middle of the desert with tens of thousands of other maniacs, I went off to find the Lab.

When I got there, the first thing I saw was a giant green throne with a sign that read, "Ask the Queen of the Universe a Free Question." The person on the throne was a teenage girl, maybe 17 years old, though it was hard to tell. She was wearing red silk and a headdress that looked like an Egyptian crown.

I stopped before the throne, prostrated myself, and waved my arms up and down, paying homage to the goddamn Queen of the Universe.

She spoke first: "Do you have a free question, my darling?"

"I'd really like to believe in pronoia," I said. "I'd feel much better about being alive if I could. But it just seems impossible. I'm too angry. I'm too sad. The world's too messed up. I'm too messed up."

"So your question is?" said the Queen of the Universe.

"Is there an honest way for me to get to the point where I could actually believe that the world is conspiring to shower me with blessings?"

"Think back to before you died," she began. "Picture yourself lying in your hospital bed. Your old heart was sick. They'd found a new heart to give you, and it was on its way. Remember how scared you were?"

I couldn't imagine how she knew any of this. I had never seen her before in my life. Impossible! Supernatural! But I wanted to hear what she had to reveal, so I suspended my disbelief.

"I was so fucking dumbstruck terrorized I forgot who I was," I told her.

"Terror was a gift," the Queen of the Universe told me. "Forgetfulness was a gift. And your death was a gift. From Goddess to you. Treasure beyond measure. From She Who Loves You Insanely."

"I get how my new heart was a gift," I said. "Wouldn't be here if it weren't for that. But why the terror? Why the forgetfulness? Why being dead for all that time? Why were those gifts?"

"The bad news is, you've experienced the worst fear possible. The good news is, you've experienced the worst fear possible, and nothing will ever again be as bad. You've passed the extreme test. You've survived the extreme ordeal. The rest of your life you have a free pass. Full exemption. Maximum slack."

"You have a point."

"The other good news is that for the rest of your life you will be both dead and alive. You'll have one foot in this world and one on the other side of the veil."

"What's so good about that?"

"You'll be twice as smart."

"Four times as smart, I guess, if you count the fact that I'm actually two people now."

"You have your original body plus a brand new heart."

"The dead guy who gave me his heart was a Buddhist monk. So now I'm officially both a young woman and a wise old man."

"The ultimate transgendered freaky prodigy. A quadruple-level genius-in-the-making."

"Should I go on a TV game show and win a million dollars with my miraculous intelligence?"

"That, or start a school for Earth-Shaking, Taboo-Breaking, Love-Erecting, Truth-Correcting, Mind-Expanding, Justice-Demanding Connoisseurs of Sublime Mutation."

There was much, much more to my encounter with the Beauty and Truth Lab sanctuary at Burning Man. I guess the account of that adventure will require my own book-length report.

In the meantime, I just wanted you to know that I'm making great progress learning to "think with my heart and feel with my head," as you Beauty and Truth Lab people recommend. Since my new heart is a foreign body, its counsel is louder and clearer than my old one used to be. I can hear its thoughts better.