Saturday, June 18, 2011

Heroes and Villains

Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico in the late 1940's and early 1950's had its good points and bad points. Roswell was a small town, made up primarily of military personnel and farmers and ranchers. It was mostly a quiet community with a conservative view in politics and morality. People were usually friendly and helpful. The community spirit helped in raising children, as well. People were not afraid to correct an errant neighborhood child. Perhaps Roswell is where I learned to be part of a community.

We lived on the southwest edge of town. For the first few years of my life, we had no neighbors to the south or the west. It was all farm land. My mother's best friend lived on a farm about a mile south of us. Then, more houses popped up on the block west of us. Then well before it was time for my brother to start school, Parkview Elementary rose out of the dust just one block west of our house.

By today's standards, perhaps my mother would be judged as negligent. She allowed me to spend my days alone in the desert, where I created my own world; a world with good and bad; a world where I had all the answers; a world in which I was very secure as long as no one else entered in to take away my control. This world became my refuge very literally. Even in high school, my friends would tell me I was a nice guy, but I was in a different world; I was out of contact with reality. That was true. When real life would step in and mess with my reality, I walked. I walked for miles; I walked for hours while I reconstructed my reality, trying to make sense of events that shook the foundations of my heart and soul, my psyche.

When I joined the Army, everything changed. I could no longer retreat. The Drill Instructors kept bringing me back to live in their world. My job in intelligence as a linguist showed no mercy to my childhood ideals. I could not get away to reconcile and reconfigure my world. I had to learn a new way to survive. My day dreams ceased. The notions of good and evil, the sense of control, all begrudgingly fell to the wayside. By the time I left the Army in 1969, I was fully integrated into a new world. Even so, I longed for that other world where I had control. It was gone; gone forever.

Unknown to me, part of that childhood world remained. While I had to develop the skills to survive in the world of real people, my self-concept had not changed. It would be that self-concept that would be the root of oh so many problems that plague me even now. In my mind, deep, deep down hidden so well, are all those notions of my perfection. I remain “the standard” by which I judge all of those around me. My childhood notions of goodness and rightness remain as the framework of my expectations, not only of others, but of myself. But when it comes to self, I am somehow blind to my own short comings, somehow not in touch with the things that I do so automatically.

Yet somewhere, I have come to realize that I don't meet my own standards, and I remain introspective, ever trying to reconcile, or somehow correct those errant parts of self. Now, at the age of sixty-five, I have grown weary of self. I have grown frustrated with the lack of fruit from never-ending introspection. I have become acutely aware of a growing list of double standards by which I judge all but myself. I have grown tired of looking in only to find a hopeless, twisted mess of humanity.

But in this twisted mass of contradictions, I still find hope as I come to a new realization. When I was a child, I was the hero; “they” were the villains. The new reality is this: I am the good. I am the bad. I am the ugly. I am the hero, and I am the villain. So are we all. That is what makes us who we are.

Maybe the words in the Beach Boys song “Heroes and Villains” playfully penned by Van Dyke Parks find a meaning for me: "I'm fit with the stuff to ride in the rough and sunny down snuff, I'm alright with the heroes and villains.”

Listen to the Beach Boys “Heroes and Villains.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Response to Critics

Most people probably would have anticipated that my last post would make some people angry; some people concerned; some very uncomfortable.

Comments and questions from the angry people are:

“Why didn't your spirit guides mention me. Am I not important to you?”

“Many people suffering more than you are struggling to hold on to life and you are looking for an exit. You coward!”

People that are concerned are afraid that I'm suicidal.

People that are uncomfortable are uncomfortable for various reasons:

Some don't buy into my view of spirit life.

Some don't subscribe to my theology.

Some think I'm crazy and wonder what they should do to get help.

I'd like to address most of these concerns, starting at the bottom of the list, working up to the top.

My view of spirit life and God is really not uncommon. It falls probably into the category of New Age thinking. I do believe that I have an immortal spirit, that I've lived in previous lives, and that I will most likely die and comeback at some other time. I am not privy to the mechanics of all of this, so I won't try to explain any of it. My philosophy and theology falls somewhere in the category of Buddhism and Kaballism. I do believe in a singular Divine Being that is behind all we know, that It cares for each and every sentient being, is intimately involved with every sentient being, and while giving us all absolute freedom of will, has ultimate control in all things. Don't ask me to justify any of what I say. I simply can't, and don't feel it is with in my intellectual power to do so, and otherwise a waste of time to try to do such a thing.

I could be “crazy,” whatever that means. If that is true, I'm not the only one, and this insanity falls into the category of a harmless alternate reality protected by the U.S. Constitution under the religious freedoms amendments.

Am I suicidal? Absolutely not. My understanding of my existence in this dimension is that I am in a classroom. Suicide is very strongly frowned upon in the spiritual realms. Spirits are not sent to hell—there is no hell. However, souls in this dimension that take suicide as an out, do go through some form of retraining in the spirit realms. It is considered a spiritual setback of huge significance. I already have logged enough events of spiritual stupidity. I don't need anything of that magnitude to add to the amount of training and karma I have to workout in this life or future lives.

Even so, whatever I suffer in this dimension is designed to teach me, to stretch me, and to grow me spiritually. Growth does not come without some pain in this life, especially when one is as immature as I am as a spirit. I am sure I have created some of my own pain by my lack of wisdom. The degree to which I accept or reject this pain has much to do with my spiritual maturity. I have no problem in confessing that I am quite the dunce, and I make more fuss over the pain than would a more mature spirit. So, allow that I am a spirit in training, and I'm whining. Allow that I am also self-centered and much of the suffering I experience is designed to make me more aware of those around me that suffer. It is working.

Finally, in the process of this training, when my spirit guides feel they have to intervene, it is an indication that I have gone way off course. That confirms my suspicions that I am a very immature spirit. It confirms that I have a huge deficit in wisdom. However, the spirit guides have enough respect that they are choosing to intervene through an “adjustment meeting” rather than taking me out of this life entirely. They are confident, perhaps, that if they just give me a hint, I am smart enough to make the necessary adjustments in this life to continue growing spiritually.

The meeting I described, I believe, was designed to give me a hint. The outcome of that meeting was that I did spend considerable time and energy re-evaluating my attitudes, and found it necessary to make some adjustments to those attitudes in light of a revelation that I do have some specific purposes or missions in this life. It was totally unnecessary for my guides to review every relationship I have in this life. All the needed to do is point at one very contemporary relationship and let me evaluate my own behaviors, attitudes, and actions in that relationship, because all that has gone on in that relationship has gone on in every other relationship. If I can figure out what is needed in the most immediate situation, I can make the same adjustment in all other relationships.

As far as asking to be removed from all of this pain when others are suffering more: I have to tell you, that is part of the shamefully selfish person I am. At the same time I whine about my discomfort, I understand even more about how others suffer more. And believe me, that is going a long way to developing a great deal of compassion. Perhaps, someday as I mature, my whining will be changed to acts of compassion. That is my hope, but ultimately, the timing of my transition out of this dimension is entirely at the discretion of my spirit guides.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not a Dream; New Meaning

Chest pains are nothing new to me. I have had them all of my life. I have complained about them to doctors and they just look at me like they had never heard of such a thing. Eventually, before I was even twenty years old, I stopped complaining about them. I could always control them by taking a deep breath and holding it until I could hold no longer. It might take several tries, but it never failed to stop the pain.

With in the last couple of years, the frequency, intensity, and the time the pain hangs around has increased notably. There have been a few times that it seemed the internal cramping and the pain was not going away. My arms would ache as well. This was something I had not experienced until recently. This last week there has been a general aching in the chest cavity. Not the cramping, not the sharp pains, just an aching like one may have after a lengthy coughing spree. I don't know what it is.

This morning, along with the never-ending leg pains, the chest pains came back. I sat in the big Lazy Boy chair wishing it would just go away. I felt my body sink, and slowly the pain started going away, as I felt my body sink more, and I felt my spirit rising out of the body. It felt so good to be pain free. I just hoped that I would continue in this state.

Cooper, my Lhasa Apso, sat on the floor near me. I heard him issue a guttural “woof” like he does when he wants my attention. I ignored it. He did it two more times. I ignored it and continued to go deeper into the pain-free state. Then suddenly Cooper jumped up from the floor and onto my chest. Of course, I immediately opened my eyes and came back to my surroundings and the pain. Cooper stayed on top of me, licking my face, and nibbling at the back of my ears, not willing to go.

Such behavior from Cooper is extremely rare. The last time he did such a thing was when I was crying uncontrollably over the recent death of our Tibetan Terrier. And he did it one time before that when I was on the edge of an out of body experience (OBE).

I have to conclude that Cooper has some sensitivity to spiritual movement. In the case of crying for my Tibetan Terrier, it was a deep, deep emotional experience arising from the depths of my spirit. In the case of the beginnings of my OBE, the spirit was leaving the body. Cooper sensed it and leaped into action to stop it. To an animal, perhaps when the spirit leaves the body, it means death. Cooper was not going to allow that to happen. And this morning, perhaps I was on the edge of another OBE, though the classical signs of the exit were not apparent to me. My personal sense of things is that I was dying and that was OK with me.

Dying is OK with me? Yes, more than OK. I am exhausted, tired, and I feel so, so old. My legs, especially my knees are in constant pain. I am exhausted by simply walking a block with my dogs. I can't seem to get enough sleep, and what I get is very broken by apnea and constant aggravation from restless leg syndrome.

On top of this there are stressors. Karen is my step-daughter. She has a very painful and debilitating genetic disorder. She is legally disabled, unable to work because of the pain, the pain drugs, and chronic illness. She has a thirteen-year-old son that is autistic. Karen also has Asperger's disorder. My wife has attention deficit disorder (ADD). I am mildly obsessive-compulsive. This combination of disorders makes for a less than pleasant experience. From the standpoint of an obsessive-compulsive person, indeed this situation can be absolutely exhausting.

I have been actively asking my spirit guides to let me leave this dimension. Last January, I received their response in a “dream” that I don't think was a dream at all.

The guides walked into the sterile white room one at a time. They sat across the wide, long white table from me. They wore dark brown hooded robes that hid their faces. Even so, I recognized them. I have been with them before. In fact, I had been in that room with them before. I was completely at ease.

“We understand that you no longer want to be on Earth.”

“Yes.” I answered without elaboration. There was no need to explain anything to them.

“What about...?” one of them asked, starting a string of inquiries about things that have been areas of concern to me in the past.

“I don't care.” I said without emotion.

They continued to ask me the “What about...” questions. I continued to answer without emotion, “I don't care.”

Then one asked, “What about Karen?”

I wasn't prepared for that question at all. I had been so focused on my own pain and on my exhaustion, I simply did not want any responsibilities. They not only exposed my selfishness, but more to my chagrin, the fact that I still care about something.

“I don't care.” I shouted.

“What about Benjamin?” they asked. (Benjamin is my autistic grandson living with me.)

Again, I responded in anger as I realized they had exposed my real feelings for him. “I don't care!”

The three guides looked at each other momentarily. Then the lead guide spoke.

“We will have to find another caretaker for Benjamin and Karen. You will have to wait until then.”

They rose from the table and filed out the opposite end from which they entered. I woke up from the sleep. I knew that what I had just experienced was not a dream.

I am compelled to suggest that life on this Earth, in this dimension cannot be separated from your spiritual life. We tend to think that we do “spiritual things” and we do “worldly things.” The reality is that whatever you do is inextricably entangled with your spiritual life. The purpose of this physical life is to promote spiritual growth. What you do in this life directly reflects your spiritual condition, and your spiritual maturity. The pain you create in this life goes toward helping one figure out what is right, what is wrong, and what is good. I dare add that what you do out of selfishness also pushes back or retards your spiritual growth,but only for the time it takes for you to realize the problem and correct it. Life in this dimension is sacred for that reason. It does not matter what life a person has been living, whether that life has made a contribution to society, or been destructive in this life, that life remains sacred because that spirit is still in training for the duration of that life. Spiritual growth without life in this dimension is extremely hard, if not impossible.

Since the meeting with my spirit guides, I have had a few attitude shifts; not profound epiphany type realizations, but gradual understanding of things I should have been learning all of my life. Primarily, I am acutely aware that I do have purpose in this life. I may not like it, but I have been presented with a situation about which I can do something. I have the opportunity to look beyond myself, look beyond my own pain, look beyond my own inadequacy, and do exactly what the situation calls for.

When one becomes self-centered, he eventually loses all sense of purpose. Life becomes a series of “entitlements.” That is, one starts thinking, “I deserve this; I deserve that. Why does that guy have that and I only have this.” The problem is that some of us die still thinking that were entitled to so much in the physical, never suspecting that we are starving our spirit. Our physical existence is always meaningful, because what we do in the physical realm will either help the spirit to grow, or will cause the spirit to stop growth. While we are tempted to tag the physical world as “meaningless,” the converse is true. It all has meaning. We need to be aware lest we trap ourselves by refusing to correctly and wisely use what is before us in the physical world.

This whole experience has caused me to re-evaluate once again what love is. I think I am beginning to get a handle on it, kind of, maybe. It is nothing like what I apparently learned as a child. Remember the Lone Ranger? He'd ride into town, fix the problem, and ride out before people could say, "Thank you." That was how I thought love worked. You see a problem, ride into town, fix the problem and ride out. There wasn't a real connection with those that benefited from the Lone Ranger. I don't understand it when things I do cause people to want to connect to me on some other level. In fact, it scares me. My thinking is "Just let me ride my horse outta town." And sometimes that is accompanied by an after thought, "let me ride out before you find out you really don't like me."

I think it is sinking in. I can let people connect. And I can also honor those feelings I have for others, as well. I don't have to ride the horse outta town, anymore. In fact, it might even be nice to hang around.

Today, I couldn't wait to greet Benjamin as he stepped off of the school bus.

"How was school, Kid?"

He answered in his typical insouciant manner, "I met Bill, the substitute bus driver. Where is Mommy?"

"In the house," I answered as I followed him in.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Walkin' In Memphis

I suppose I can't assume that everyone has heard the song by Marc Cohn, “Walkin' in Memphis.”

March, 1969, Memphis, Tennessee, I pulled my bag out of the overhead bin and walked off the jet liner. I scanned the corridor looking for a friend that was to meet me at the airport. I had never seen her in person. We had been pen pals while I served in the Army in Korea. I felt both excitement and insecurity as I continued down the corridor without seeing her. I didn't know what to think as I came to the end of the corridor. I knew something was wrong, but until Andy or one of her friends found me, there was not much I could do. She didn't have a phone. She couldn't afford one.

I studied the layout of the airport restaurant as I walked in. A waitress stood close to a series of tables and booths talking to the occupants. She stopped talking as we made eye contact. The people at the tables turned their heads to watch me walk in. I did not feel welcomed, and had no understanding why I felt that way. I quickly looked for an empty section. I did not feel comfortable finding a place near the crowd. An elderly gentleman sat alone at a counter on the other side of the foyer. I approached him, “May I sit here?”

The man bowed his head then looked directly ahead, refusing to make eye contact. “Humph! You can sit anywhere you want.”

'No, Man,” I answered, “I don't want to bother you.”

“Go ahead, have a seat.” He still had not made eye contact with me.

I placed my bag on the floor as I sat in the swivel chair. I waited for a waitress. I waited. And waited. Finally, I turned to look for the waitress I saw with the crowd of people as I walked in. She was still there, still staring at me, now, with a scowl. She said something to those around her. A few men turned in their seat to stare at me. They did not look happy.

“Gosh, I know the waitress sees me,” I said to the old man. He chuckled. This time we made eye contact. “Son, you are in the wrong section.”

I looked at him, I'm sure with a totally blank face, “What do you mean?”

“Over there is where the white folks sit.”

“You are shittin' me, man.” I was shocked. I thought segregation was something of the past.

The old man chuckled in his coffee cup as he lifted it to his lips. “No.”

I thought briefly, looked at the crowd of white people, their eyes now fixed on me like missile tracking radar . “Well, sir, if you don't mind, I'll just sit here until my friend comes.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Do what you want.”

That was my introduction to Memphis, but that was not the end of it. I spent the next two weeks in Ripley, Tennessee living with a black family in the Mississippi flats. Perhaps, someday I'll talk about that two weeks of walking with my friends, being shunned by the white folks of Ripley, living and learning first-hand about racism in America and coming to new understanding of the civil rights movement at a level that news papers never talked about.

At some point in that two weeks, my friends wanted to show me Memphis away from the airport. Like the bars in Ripley, bars in Memphis were “private” clubs. This was how these establishments continued racist practices in spite of the federal laws outlawing discrimination in public places. Even so, there was a strange air of mystery, of hope, of love, and of pain. I heard the music from the bars and the restaurants as we walked along the sidewalks. I felt the soul. I loved the soul. I felt a wonderful camaraderie with my friends. There were folks along the way that did not seem friendly. I felt fear. There were other folks laughing and enjoying the night out. We walked into a restaurant. I never saw the name. It was dark. It was crowded. The owner seated us right away.

Chopped Steak. I saw it on the menu. I had never heard of it. I thought of juicy bite-sized chunks of tender steak, sautéed in mushrooms. I ordered it.

As I finished the meal, the owner came to our table. “How was my chopped steak?”

“It was very good, Sir. Thank you. But you know, for some reason I thought it would be chunks of steak. This was like hamburger.” I absolutely meant no malice. I did not expect the explosion that came. He slammed his fist down on the table in front of me and screamed, “I have been in this business for thirty years. You don't come into my restaurant and tell me I'm a crook.” He went on with a rant for quite a while. I was totally embarrassed. I had no idea that what I said was in any way an insult or an assault on the man's integrity. I looked at my friends. They looked at the table, embarrassed for me. We eventually left, but we weren't talking anymore.

We went home in silence.