Randonautica Journal: al-Khidr
A weird experience with retro-causality and a trickster spirit of Islam
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here and I’m starting to feel weird about it. I’m saving all the gold for the Current 128 book that I continue to diligently hack away at. Lacking anything new to write about here that has nothing to do with the book, I turned to Randonautica to take me on a little excursion that would hopefully expose me to a little inspirado and ended up having one of the first truly weird experiences since my very first adventure.
I’ve been working the 128 Current as I write the book and a big part of engaging with the landscape around us in the mode of the current is to engage in The Drift, as documented by Guy Debord of Situationist International. I use the Randonautica app because it’s a very handy tool to have when you don’t live in a terribly walkable area. Debord’s Drift took form in Paris, where you can walk all over the god damn place but I live out in the sticks and I’ve spent a good deal of time Drifting along very busy roads with only a dusty shoulder, perilously close to passing traffic which pays no mind to things like speed limits.
There’s not a whole lot to see on these roads. Having the app to give you a destination takes a lot of worry off my shoulders and as much as I enjoy walking, I usually have to pinch the radius to a single kilometer or I end up leaving the thicker “downtown” area and end up in these remote neighborhoods where the sidewalks don’t go. But today I went buck wild. I kept the search radius at the default 4km and decided to chain three pins together with the same intention for each, I wanted some insight into al-Khidr for a new article.
Khidr may seem random but the idea came to me while I was reading The Official Guide To Randonautica and a note in the text talked about the app’s creator, Joshua Langfelder going out on a jaunt in search of the same thing. The text calls him The Green Man and The Man From Another Place and this combination of Hellier and Twin Peaks was hard for me to ignore. There’s also something in there about him being related to UFOlogy
I’m fascinated by Islam but like most Americans it’s quite mysterious to me thanks to a propaganda effort that vilified Muslims harder than Cold Warriors vilified Soviet Russians. What I have read of the Quran, it’s loaded with all sorts of wild mysticism and I love the Sufi interpretation of it, which reads the Quran similar to how Gnostic Christians read the Bible. Khidr appears in the 18th chapter of the Quran where
Moses and Joshua encounter him while retracing their steps to find a lost fish that they intended to eat. When they come to the spot where they believed the fish to be, they instead find this dude hanging out.
Edit: I got this story so fucking wrong but I’ve since bought an actual physical annotated Quran. As the story goes, Musa (Moses, if you’re nasty) is giving a hell of sermon and when it concludes one of the students pipes up and asks him, “Musa, is there wiser man than you when it comes to knowing all about Allah?” to which Musa, feeling pretty good about himself, replies, “Nobody knows more about Allah than me. Believe me.”
Allah, then lets him know in no uncertain terms that he is not the head honcho and that there’s another out there. Then Musa is given a mandate to go find this person and Allah even tells him exactly where he’ll be. He’ll be at the place where two seas meet. So Musa and Yusha (Joshua, if you’re nasty), head out with a fish to eat and look for the spot. They reach the place where they’re supposed to find this wise man and decide to kick it and crash for the night. During the night, the fish cuts loose and bails, but Musa and Yusha don’t realize this and keep walking when morning comes. When they realize that the fish is gone, they retrace their steps to where they slept and it’s there that they find Khidr, kicking it.
The two men recognize him as an enlightened being and Musa asks to be taught by him. Khidr informs Musa that he’ll agree to this but only if he keeps his mouth shut and lets Khidr do his thing. They ride a boat, they encounter a young boy, and they ask for food and water from a family and in that order, Khidr intentionally damages the boat in order to sink it, he kills the kid, and when the family refuse to help Musa and Khidr, he spends some time rebuilding a wall on their property to which Musa replies, “Dude, what the fuck?” to each inexplicable action. Khidr stops Musa, explains that he’s about to dip and leave him behind, but not before explaining himself.
Khidr explains that the boat would eventually be confiscated by the local king, who would have killed the owners. The boy would grow up to be a real piece of shit so he did the kid’s parents a solid and they would have another kid who would eventually be awesome. As for the wall, there’s treasure under it and in time the poor children of the house would find it and be rescued from poverty.
“Because you, Musa, wouldn’t shut the fuck up like I told you to do, you can’t hang out with me any more. Salaam,” And then he left.
The implication here is that Khidr can see the future and put the pieces in place ahead of time that would work out later on, no matter how inexplicable or cruel they seemed in the moment. This encounter bears a lot in common with Jewish apocrypha like The Book of Enoch where a normal human dude is taken up to The Kingdom of Heaven where mysteries are revealed to him but in that story God and the Angels are way less cryptic. Khidr is also popularly depicted as a man dressed in green, riding a fish as well as holding one. In a lot of ways, he sounds like Oannes/Dagon of Mesopotamia/Sumer, who emerged from the sea to teach mankind. But again, to the best of my knowledge, Oannes wasn’t a dick who ran wild on strangers and expected his companion to keep his mouth shut the whole time. It’s a particularly mystical series of passages and Khidr has passed into Quranic canon as a contentious figure where
everyone but the Sufi Muslims seem to connect him to Dajjal, the Islamic anti-Christ (Nope. As pointed out in the comments, I’m wicked wrong on this point. Can’t remember where I dug up that bit), and I have to admit, he does have a rather chaotic, trickster spirit quality to him, even though he’s ultimately doing good.
What’s even wilder is that there are references to al-Khidr in the Quran which suggest that he’s an immortal being and the Sufis believe that he’s still out there somewhere, being weird to people and teaching them valuable lessons. In a lot of ways, he resembles Indrid Cold.
al-Khidr means Green Man in Arabic (actually it’s more like Verdant One or Green One), depending on who you ask, which connects him to a larger current of Green Man trickster spirits familiar to Crowley and Hellier fans as Pan. He’s also pretty well-known for being a spirit of rivers and oceans and first appears having to do with Moses’s search for a missing fish. So bear all this in mind as I run down the details of the Randonaut trip.
I stopped off at a spot that reminded me of green and conjured up the first of what I was planning to be three destinations. This was the first time I’d ever done more than just a single pin and I wanted to see if the Randonautica Guide’s tales of a flow state occurring in the middle of a multi-pin journey would happen. So I kept my Green Man in mind while I generated the coordinates, using the default four kilometer diametric area. It generated a point on the edge of the circle, an area that I knew but hadn’t spent much time at. This was several miles away and definitely not a distance that I wanted to walk, so I got in the car and drove out to the pin in silence, thinking about al-Khidr. The road eventually wound up into a hilly section of town in a very pleasant neighborhood. The Google Maps nav missed the pin by a mile and I ended up at the edge of the forest. When I consulted the map, I realized that I could get a lot closer if I drove over to a nearby horse farm and drove down a long driveway that may or may not have led to someone’s home. It did. But I was within the 100m area of the pin and the object that stood out to me most was a Big Green Egg smoker. I was, unfortunately, in someone’s driveway, so I turned around and beat it. Some ways up the driveway I generated a second point.
The second point took me up some roads that I’d never traveled before but had passed many times. Once again, the drive up was extremely pleasant and at a certain point I began to notice all sorts of details in the landscape relevant to what I was looking up. About halfway to the second point I was definitely in the flow state. Being that I was driving, I had to keep my eyes on the road and likely missed some details but upon landing at the second pin I found myself on an empty road which cut through some wetlands a town over from where I started. But the pin dropped on a spot that, curiously, afforded me a good place to pull over and park. Once out I spent some time looking around, trying to find anything that might have stood out to me but the area, as pretty as it was, didn’t have much going on in it. It was definitely an anomaly for me. But then I noticed that someone had laid some broken tree branches in such a way that it looked like they were marking something as a reminder. I approached the setup and looked down below the shoulder of the road. At the edge of the river was a canoe, lying on its side. Being that al-Khidr wrecked a boat on purpose, this struck me as pretty funny. I turned it over to see if there was any damage to it and also to see if anything had been stashed inside it. No dice.
Once back in the car I generated the third and final point and set off. But this time something weird happened. The third pin dropped near the first pin but the resulting coordinates that were sent to the navigation app didn’t match up. At a glance, they appeared to be a winding, long drive back toward my house, so in the spirit of Randonautica, I trusted the coordinates and set off. The destination ended up nowhere near the one in the Randonautica app.
The drive took me back the way I came, when I started out. Along the way I spotted a sign that struck me as exceptionally relevant and the thought occurred to me that I should take a picture of it but I didn’t stop. I kept going. The route took me almost all the way home before turning right the fuck around, getting back on the highway and back to the sign that I neglected to take a photo of. This was where the trip ended. The pin, according to Google Maps fell directly on the location of the sign.
This is the sign.
A green fish? Are you fucking kidding me, Randonautica? Absolutely hilarious. I love this app so much.
The strangeness of this journey is haunting me because the actual Randonautica-generated pin is a spot miles away from here. I did eventually drive over that way and it turned out to be in a spot off the road a ways near another creek but the surrounding 100m was pretty barren and devoid of anything interesting.
The glitch that took place between Randonautica and Google Maps ended up in a place that made me laugh my ass off. When I got to the place on the route that turned me around and sent me back the way I came, it occurred to me that I was likely being sent back to the sign that I thought to take a picture of but didn’t. When the route ended and I saw the sign, I just about lost my mind.
Let’s take a second to consider what happened here and how it compares to the story of Musa and Khidr. Musa knows where he’ll find Khidr and he actually stops there with Yusha and spends the night before moving on. But then they realize that the fish is missing. So they retrace their steps and find what they were looking for.
I passed the spot that I would end up at. It strikes me as significant as I’m traveling but I move on and am then led out and back to that very spot where a fucking green fish is staring me right in the face.
Randonauts occasionally talk about retro-causality, meaning that some force in the future arranged things in the past in order to engineer a meaningful outcome. Considering that al-Khidr in the presence of Moses was doing all this inexplicable crap that freaked Moses out, he was able to see the flow of events leading into the future. It’s almost as though al-Khidr was operating in different times, simultaneously. Some force in the future was able to determine the means to engineer a preferable outcome and had to send either itself or an agent back to the past to put those plans in motion. al-Khidr is a bonkers minor-league character in the Quran but as a westerner, removed as I am from applied study of Islam, he sounds an awful lot like the UFOnaut tricksters that appear here and there throughout modern UFOlogy and paranormal study.
Meanwhile, I told my wife about it and showed her the picture and she got a real kick out of it. She’d heard that the restaurant was pretty good from her friend so she called her and her husband up and we all popped over to that place for dinner. They weren’t kidding. It was great. In the spirit of Randonautica I ordered items from the menu that I would haven’t considered under ordinary circumstances, in the presence of a good piece of steak or a ridiculously over-stacked burger. I ordered pickled pineapple and fried chicken and pancakes. I wondered if they were too good for waffles but then it occurred to me that the kitchen likely didn’t have a waffle iron. Both were fucking amazing.