I was once electrocuted as a teenager.
It’s hard to tell what got me to that space. I was in the 8th grade, impatient to be of service to the revolution. If I only I were in another school, I could have joined one of the youth groups dedicated to organize teenagers to promote the cause, and to provide conscientization tools. If I had gone to a less privileged school, I could have been interacting more with the revolutionary youth. I could have been in rallies and meetings. I could have been on street demonstrations, and eventually help with the barricades, with the taking of radio stations, with the publishing of clandestine newspapers. I could have been helping the revolution, until it was time for me, too, to take up arms and help change the brutal regime of death and injustice.
But the Externado de San Jose had no such groups. What we had was an advanced academic program, mixed with the Jesuit mandate to create citizens with a social conscience and a spirit of service to others. We had the dedicated priests who tried hard to teach that Catholic theology was synonymous with social justice. We also had many teachers who were university students and, therefore, quite in touch with the times, with the revolutionary fervor and the need to produce a new human being who lived by rules different than the repressive and oppressive exploitation that history had given us. Of course, we also had very smart students, many of whom were from the richest families of El Salvador, families that were exactly what the repressive and oppressive exploitation salvadorean history had given us.
There were no youth groups in the Externado. No organized resistance. That was for the poor schools, the Instituto, the public schools, and the National University (the U, we called it). What I had in the Externado that connected me to the revolution were the books, the papers, and the discussions with other students and teachers. I had managed to write a play and organize a mural; it was a periodical with political cartoons, editorials, news, and social analysis that was not distributed, but rather pinned inside a glass frame on the wall of one of the hallways of our old building. Students and teachers could read it, stoping on their way to class or office hours. I got two friends to help, and collected articles and opinion pieces from other interested students. I wrote the editorial piece and drew the cartoon. We called it El Pulgarcito, after the story of a Thumbelina sized boy, the size of a thumb (pulgar). It was also the nickname of my country, the smallest of the continent, and one of the most insignificant in the world.
I was impatient for more, though. I wanted to participate and help in the larger process happening outside. There was a revolutionary movement touching every aspect of life: peasants, workers, students, teachers, priests, women, youth, farmers, and artists were all organizing. The movement was social, devotional, political, and armed as well. The people were insurrecting at all levels, and from all sectors there was a clamor for change and social justice. I wanted in. I wanted to serve. So, I talked to my father. He was connected and involved. I told him I had something to ask, that it was serious. We went to the back patio of the house, under the terrace. He sat with me and listened attentively, nodded pensively when I told him I wanted to join the movement. He asked me to wait a little, that he was going to connect me with the right people.
I was too impatient, though. Life was flowing strong and fast, and I didn’t want to stay in place while it all happened outside. I didn’t want to stay frozen in privilege while the land was being covered with revolutionary currents.
I went by myself to the National University. I’d heard that many revolutionary organizations met there in secret. I had explored the grounds before, at a time when the campus had been closed by the military, and the rooms and projects had been all abandoned to entropy and jungle. Now, it was teeming with activity. Men and women walking all over, with books and stethoscopes, beards and glasses. I walked guided by instinct. In that ocean of university students and professors, I saw my older brother walking towards me. We saw each other at the same time. Each surprised to see the other, because he didn’t go that university either. He was a senior in high school, but here he was with two friends I’ve never seen. We greeted each other, almost imperceptibly. “What are you doing here?”, he asked. “Just passing through, visiting friends,” I said. “What are you doing here?”, I asked. “Same,” he responded. “Just passing through.” Neither pushed the matter any further. We both knew. We silently agreed to pretend.
If found what I was looking for. It was a shack behind a mound of earth covered with overgrowth. There were four doors to the long shack, each one leading to a different student organization. They were not university groups. They were part of the high school and junior high student organizations. They met here, hidden from the authorities and spies in their own schools. This was a central hub where a youth organization could coordinate activities across many different schools. I didn’t hesitate, I knew where to go. It was not the largest and most popular MERS. I was instantly attracted to the student branch of the PRTC. There was no reason I could give for this. It was a knowing that came from having seen my life a few times in the past. I simply had seen myself walking through this door before. So, when the door was there in front of my, I walked in.
At the same time, in what seems like a different world, I was also following a mystical path. It was the 8th grade and my soul wanted a lot more than masses and confessions. I needed to experience in my own flesh that spirit and awakening others were content to read about. I wasn’t satisfied with the promise of heaven, nor was I scared of hell. Traditional religions no longer had an appeal to me, and the material world was not enough. I went on my own, to study and practice. In the 8th grade, I was studying western esotericism, hypnosis, parapsychology, and magick.
The spiritual fires were fanned within me. I couldn’t just remain placid and settled in the occurrences of life. I couldn’t follow the reasonable program: be a good student of a good school, choose a profession, get a family, make a living, follow a religion, and train good children to be good citizens.
I yearned for liberation, both in the historical world outside and in the innermost sanctum of the soul. The revolutionary fires were fanned outside and inside. Liberation and evolution were stirring the depths of my soul.
The many worlds I had to inhabit were for the most part kept from colliding, but one day they all seemed to lead to this specific moment, when the chamber where I was became solid, when I didn’t know how I had been caught in this current of time. I wasn’t sure what lead to this, but I was here now, being electrocuted. There was a minute instant, when the current begun to flow through me that I remembered having taking a misstep. I remembered this moment, right when the current is about to flow and trap me there, when I know I was free and flowing but now I am falling into an oh-so-solid reality of matter and life. I knew that this moment before the electro-magnetic current overflows my nervous system, was the exact same moment I experienced before I was born, before my essential self was fused with my human nervous system and life as an individual begun in this planet, in this particular historical moment in this particular country. I had been here before, and here I was again, and again. Sometimes I was experiencing this before reincarnating, sometimes with my hands extended as the Man in the Cross while high voltage is passed through by someone or something behind me I cannot see, attempting here to freeze hope, stop the flow of life, stunt liberty, and crush the seeds of love. But there was nothing I could do now to avoid being trapped in this current of bioelectricity, nothing to do to escape. The only option now was to ride out these currents of light and life.
When electricity begins to flow through the waters of my brain, everything else freezes. Every nerve in this body was created to conduct electricity, to conduct subtle currents of magnetic and psychic energy, to carry information from one part of the body to another.
This nervous system that was created with very subtle wires––with very small and delicate rivers of energy and light, was designed to carry through it the most beautiful impressions of light, depth, sound, touch; the loving caress of the Beloved; the brutal gentleness of the sunset; the wind coming down from the volcano; the smell of spring in a tropical land.
This nervous system, designed to carry beauty and pain is, in this moment of electrocution, only able to carry high voltage, freezing everything in place, not allowing a single thought to be transmitted to the body; not admitting even the movement of lips and tongue to ask for help. There is just the freezing energy, and the movement––the swaying back and forth of a body that is being cooked alive, immensely alive.