It felt like cultural night at a nursing home, full of white hair, wheel chairs, rolling oxygen tanks, and people who were dangerously radical back in the 60s, but who are now just residents of Santa Fe.
They'd come through the snow to hear Jeremy Sabloff, the president of the Santa Fe Institute, talk about the collapse of the Mayan civilization (conclusion: it didn't collapse; it dispersed), which was why I came, too.
He told us about systems thinking — war, trade, drought, smallpox, interdependence, and the Catholic bishop who burned thousands of Mayan books, leaving only four in existence today.
He presented the "latest thinking" on the collapse, which largely consisted of research published 40 years ago, and it seemed to me that many of these people were stuck in time, watching their foreheads wrinkle, their breasts go saggy, and their hips get brittle, while clutching the same progressive worldview they boldly forged in 1965, which now feels old and fragile, too.
A local energy healer was tagging along, and I gave him a ride in my car. He wore a pork pie hat, a wool sweater, and a broad mustache, which made him look like a new age Chuck Norris.
"We live in a society that's not about healing, but about fixing," he said.
He was telling me how he leads online meditations with thousands of people, and how he posts scanned images of his healing artworks into the chat rooms, so the participants can meditate to the sight of his JPEGs, and heal their short circuits.
"I'm very intuitive," he said, "and highly empathetic. I can tell when someone's in pain, or when they feel fear, or when there's a blockage." I wondered what he thought of me and what he could see, but he just kept saying how he loved the snow, and how beautiful it was out there.
He was in the back, talking about healing, and Shireen was in the front, talking about New York cocktail parties. She was saying how she does energy work too, and how she tries to get superficial colleagues to open up. "I don't make them feel bad," she said. "I make them go deep. I'm like, come on, I know there's more to you than your facade."
"You can just drop me off here," said the energy healer. "I have to go water my girlfriend's plants. She's away in Egypt."
"What's she doing in Egypt?" I asked.
"She's doing a journey with the Crimson Circle," he said.
"Sounds rather occult!" I said. "Tell us more."
He explained how it's a group that "receives channeled material." Their website describes "a global affiliation of New Energy humans, metaphysicians, and healers, who celebrate the journey of light."
It goes on to say: The Crimson Circle began in 1999 based on the inspired messages of Tobias. Tobias is best known for his lifetime over 2,500 years ago as portrayed in the apocryphal Book of Tobit. For ten years he brought his messages, wisdom and humor through Geoffrey Hoppe to assist those who are going through the process of in-body spiritual transformation, and those who choose to be New Energy teachers. Tobias returned to human form on July 19, 2009, and his place in the Crimson Circle has been assumed by Adamus Saint-Germain.
"So, are you part of the Crimson Circle, too?" I said.
"Well, let's just say I'm considerably beyond what they're doing," he said, tracing his finger along the window.
We all sat silently for a moment and thought about that.
Then we shook hands, and he stepped out into the night. Once he left the car and closed the door we couldn't see him anymore, because the windows were filled up with fog from the heat and the cold and the talk.
I went back to the Art Institute to find Eric and Pierre and Cécile drinking gin at the table. It was Eric's birthday, and he went outside to smoke with Cécile, while Pierre and I stayed behind, talking about songs and poems.
I told him how Bob Dylan used to say that a song was a poem with legs.
"A song is easy," said Pierre. "But a poem is like a diamond, and you don't wear a diamond every day."
Then I told him how Bob Dylan also used to say that poets drown in lakes, and we laughed about that together.
Then we stopped laughing and looked around the room until the smokers came back, smelling of smoke.