I’ve successfully set up shop in the city of sin—a top-floor apartment with a panorama of the metroscape. The streets hum with that ruddy electricity of BABALON, as infused to the bone as the Dutch veins to the sea. The streets are alive with challenges, as if the common sense option is a stubborn and well-reasoned argument of intense responsibility and self-interested initiative.
This pragmatic and mischievous mentality sees itself played out everywhere, and at every turn a gamble just to make things interesting. A city built around canals with no guard rails. A city built on piles and drains around a few artificial hills at the mouth of a river. A banking hub that keeps the creeping ocean at bay with locks. An entire community with rarely a curtain, traffic light, helmet, or free ride.
Alarm stalks the streets with a shitty smile. In this free space created by tolerance (or maybe loopholes) and social stricture, risk dances freely in the streets. A popular myth about the herald of Amsterdam is that the three St. Andrews crosses represent three major disasters in the city’s history: fire, flood and plague. The whole city is so old and so temporary, so precious and so doomed to eventual failure, that every day matures like it could last forever at the end of the world. Behind the smoke and mirrors, abandon traipses the glare-hidden side of the razor’s edge with hungry doom.
And yet the Dijkziel cries its story out from the streets every day, whether we recognize the soul’s speaking or not. The bow-tied bank bureaucrat who evenly rides his bike through traffic with a straight back shares the cobbles with the languorous bawd, and they both walk through clouds of contraband to get to work. Yes, even at 8:30 AM. They might even both frequent the same bread and cheese shop.
This is also one of the smallest large cities I’ve ever been to. Amsterdam is only 700,000 residents. Granted, the tourists probably boost those numbers significantly, but this is still not a very large city. In that sense, the small town mentality makes sense. Given enough time, you’ll see people you know everywhere when you’re going around the city. Most stores close by 6 PM, and only some groceries are open until 10. Most bars close by 1 or 2 AM at the latest, and there are only a select few clubs that admit people much later than that. Even the coffeeshops close by 1 AM.
These things are all peripheral, though. The Magic is infused into every cobble. Every single thing there is totally intentional, totally planned. Every tree, every plot of land, every structure has been planned and positioned. And in a city so fantastically liminal—in between the ocean and the plains, on the lip of disaster in a stone bowl—the currents erupt unbridled. The Metropolis a Chapel Perilous all its own; challenging and encouraging, responsible and wanton, at liberty and restrained, breaking down and building up, beautiful and temporary, startling and reassuring. Diabolical and divine.
This is the type of environment the Work perfects itself in.
Pax et Lux,
Leontocephaline | Ma. Lux א