Chasing The Dragon

Let's get down to brass tacks. What's it like to chase the dragon?

I think I remember reading that somewhere, in some book, that chasing the dragon is the slang term for pursuing enlightenment and as soon as it came into use it was immediately co-opted by the cynical and irreverent to pull double-duty as a term for chasing a high. If I didn't read it I'm very proud of myself for thinking of it as I rode home on the bus this evening but I'm pretty sure it's from a book.


We have to assume that the raising of Essence involves a moment of satori, or, if you want to use Kindred of the East terminology, a moment of ling. A single moment of profound insight and one-ness with the Essence of the universe that gives you an extra dot on your character sheet and unlocks the next Charm tier. The thing about satori is that you can't describe it effectively (although there are probably some shockingly comprehensive manuals on how to pursue it effectively because the people writing those manuals put 21 dice into doing so).

Chasing the dragon is not like digging a ditch. When you dig a ditch and you want it to be three feet deep times three feet wide times twenty feet long, you always know how close you are to being done; it's difficult to get discouraged. Maybe you encounter some rocks and it slows you down, or one of the walls caves in and you have to shore it up, but in general you always have a sense of how far along you are. Chasing the dragon isn't like that — you never really know how close you are, because the state itself is entirely internal and unknowable until you've already reached it.

So you want to learn how to get to it. You ask people who know. They give you some advice. "Climb a mountain!" they say. "Bathe in naught but pure mountain springs until the moment of ling comes upon you! Eat only the purest of white rice, and meditate daily on your element, and divest yourself of impure thoughts and worldly concerns, and etc. etc.." "Oh," you say. "And if I do this it'll come to me. Right. I can do that. About how long does it usually take…?" "Enh," they say. "It varies. Half a year?"

"Well shit," you think. "I'd better start clearing my calendar."

When I say climb a mountain I don't literally mean climb a mountain, Sidmen. Of course it's going to fucking vary from character concept to character concept. If you want to go "Lololol my dude is an orgiastic fugitive so when I chase the dragon I chase the dragon, if you know what I mean and I think you do," that's fine, but it's still going to be a bunch of arduous crap. You'll need to woo the most skilled lovers and purchase the most expensive wine (ow my bank account) and the best drugs (ow my bank account! again!), all in pursuit of this elusive moment of ling.

For six fucking months. On average! It varies!

And you have to go into it in the right frame of mind. You have to do it at a time in your life when you are capable of finding satori.

What do you do when you've been up the mountain for seven months and you know, in the back of your mind, that the clear spot on your calendar is over with, and the dragon is nowhere to be found? Is this just not the right time in your life? Do you not have it in you? Is the fact that you've noticed your worldly responsibilities building up at home, that you have not completely lost yourself in your pursuit, a sign that you've done fucked up and it's best to pack it in and try again next year? Is is this crippling self-doubt or healthy modesty you feel?

Or will it come if you just persevere for one more day?

Okay, one more day again.

…one more?

Well shit.

AnubisXy, I concede your point; there's probably not a lot of benefit in asserting that some Exalts just can't get their Essence past X rating. But clearly many of them don't. (Not, don't have it in them, but just don't raise their Essence past X rating.) In character, some are going to think they don't have it in them. Some will think they do, but not right now. Some will think they do but it's not worth the trouble.

Some of them are going to go up that mountain for seven months, not find the dragon, pack it in, and then have trouble clearing their calendar again for another two decades. This is not digging a ditch.

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