My first memories this life are of pain and love; the pain was getting my thumb caught in a cedar chest when I was three. The love was the memory of a young lady, the baby sitter, who periodically took good care of me. Being three I suppose, accounts for the fact that I’ve no conscious memory of face or voice, just a kind aura of love that enveloped me at that time, and which I associated with this kind caregiver. Back then, the grass in the front yard was amazingly tall, which should tell you something about my height at the time. This period taught me two meaningful facts about life: pain and love wake us up.
Zipping the time machine forward a few notches I see what I’m doing now. I collect seashells. Not just ones at the beach, but those along the roads. In Florida then, many of roads were paved with seashells and bits of related things dredged up from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Many shells get pushed to the side of the road rather than ground up in the traffic. The little boy is searching for something beautiful, a pattern, a color; the mystery of small forms used by tiny lives and discarded.
Now, I’ll show you the back door of my house. You see, there by the edge of the cement walk, I’ve collected an array of small bottles full of colored water. They fascinate me-red, and blue, and green. I am child chemist you see, and its obvious to anyone with eyes that I’m on the verge of discovering the secrets of life! My dog King, one of those creatures from which we humans learn about devotion, thinks he has already discovered it.
A river runs by my house, and it is part of my great adventure. We build a log raft out of heavy oak, and when you stand on, it floats four inches under the water. There are alligators in the river where we swim and big prehistoric looking fish with heavy scales and long snouts that look like a cross between a regular fish and an alligator. They suggest to us that all is not entirely well with planet Earth; there must be other worlds where such things are no longer necessary.
There is sunshine in my life, a lot of it. I have an embarrassment of riches, not of money, but of mother and father and brother. They were normal good people who did a fine job of raising the quiet introspective adventurer that was “I” of the time.
There were exceptions to my reticence. In the 4th grade I became famous. The boys dared me to kiss that girl and I accepted the challenge. Smacked her with a good kiss as she approached the schoolyard. Probably this same daring streak is part of what moves me to tell this momentous tale to strangers.
I’m 13. The library is seven blocks from my house. I walk there in the early evenings. Along the way, I whistle and sing; softly on the singing because I don’t know how and its strictly in-the-shower level vocalizations. I’ve never heard of meditation, or yoga, but I begin to do it anyway. I have no names or concepts for the inward seeking. I think during these meditative walks, but often the thinking stops, replaced by something else. The singing is breath and the sound is searching. Among the notes and thoughts of warm summer nights, my thoughts settle into a wonderful stillness. There are sacred words in the sounds of traffic and in the voices of people on the streets. I listen to these magical sounds; I attend to them with an inner stillness. I walk in the flow of something that I will much later call energy, or fire, or light. I read myself in the fire. But I do not call it by these names, for I have no name. I’m just a boy out for a walk. Decades later, I find the words in Edward Carpenter who writes:
What is this flood, overcoming body and sense?
I feel the walls of my skull crack, the barriers part,
The sun-flood enter–
Love, magnified, floating eternal seas of essence–
Before and behind births and deaths
Spiritual gravitation, the emergence evermore expanding.
Back to the first word of speech,
On to the last utterance of seers,
My soul catches the perfect song.
I am 16, and I fall in love for the first time, for real. I don’t know what such words might mean to you, but I can tell you that, in my case, it was revelation. Love can be a catalyst for spiritual revelation. At each stage of life we think we know what it means to be alive, but we do not know. At best, we know only a small veiled bit of what it means. My sense of everything changed, turned, spiraled up into mysterious vistas that I never had a clue about, never knew existed. Worlds within worlds opened, colors, and entities, deities, angels, realms of beauty, and the vast intricate net of fire that is part of the foundation of the world and of everything.
The time machine moves forward a very short way. It is night, a dark and windy night but lit by moon and stars and a fleet of fast moving dark clouds. I’m on my bed looking up. There is a giant oak outside my window, heavily bearded with Spanish moss. The wind whips the giant oak, and I watch and listen to this shadowy sentinel. I’ve never watched or listened quiet so closely as tonight. I am thinking seriously about death. There is an answer in the wind and in the dark. The tree is old, the wind older still. Through the ages trees and wind have been with us, just like this night. This dark is the same as I remember from other lives and other times. The time tunnel is full of shadows, but I remember. I know with absolute certainty that death is not what it seems, that we have all been here for ages and will be here ages hence.
In the school library I find a few books on parapsychology, and one on hypnosis. My friend Jerry and I save our money to pay for a course in hypnosis. We can only afford a single tuition, so we flip a coin to see who will go, with the agreement that the winner will teach the other what he learns. Jerry wins, and teaches me. Neither of us proves a good hypnotic subject. But I do learn how to put myself into a state of light self-hypnosis; this will prove useful in a way that I could not have imagined.
It is 1963. I graduate from high school, shelve plans to attend college, and join the US Navy. I have no idea why I do this. I am a sleepwalker. I am naïve wanderer, afloat in events beyond my kin. I sleepwalk through electronics training school. Suddenly, I am a radar operator…
My high school sweetheart sends me the proverbial “dear John” letter.
(I’m in a remote part of Hawaii in prisoner of war training camp. The marines dressed like Russian soldiers chase us through the jungle. We’ve not eaten in three days except for a bit of wild fruit from trees. The US Russian-marines capture us and we spend two days and nights huddled in a small man made cave surrounded by barbed wire fences and people with guns. We are “interrogated” roughly and realistically by a few pseudo-Russians who speak with realistic accents. You are to reveal certain things to them, and when you resists you are thrust into a wooden box the size of a piano bench. In it, scrunched down into a small ball, there is absolutely no room to move. I’m left in the box a while, how long I’m not sure, because I hypnotize myself and my residence there proves a relief from the surrounding chaos.)
…I spend a thousand hours in the air. I’m in the dimly lit cabin of a four-engine super-constellation looping between Midway Island and Alaska; the cold war is on and we are watching for the Russians. The mystical life is always with me, a ground of being undimmed by the clamor of external events. Sunrise from above
I spend three years on large floating metallic boxes known as aircraft carriers. I am still very naïve, but growing up a little. My tiny locker space is crammed with books on philosophy and metaphysics. It is the time of Vietnam; we spend much of it off the coast, close enough to see the flashes that look like a lightning storm on the dark horizon. I do not understand the flashes. They exist in an alien dream landscape. I support the electronics in the helicopters; we are there to rescue downed pilots. We save many, but in the worst period, half of our helicopters never return to the ship.
I am in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia.
In a deserted park in Hong Kong an old woman is asleep on a bench, her shoes neatly placed beside the walk. I insert money in her shoe and move quietly away. She will wake and wonder; at least today will be a good day for her.
In an elevator in Japan I meet a Buddhist from Ceylon. He thinks like I do and has a similar world view. We talk late into the night.
It is Thanksgiving in 1965. I am alone in Hong Kong, with no particular place to be. I’m sitting on the edge of a cement wall, overlooking the harbor. I didn’t get much sleep last night, and feeling drowsy, I close my eyes for a minute, enjoying the warm sun. I hear a small voice saying, “Are you OK?” I open my eyes and look down into the lovely face of a young girl. She is not a Hong Kong native, but a blond American, about 11 years old. She asks me a few more questions; I don’t recall them. Then, this little angel invites me to come to dinner. With more than bit of surprise, I ask her how this can be and what her parents would think of that. She informs me that her parents are missionaries, and that her behavior on this occasion is not unexpected by them. We board an open-air double-decker bus; it circles Hong Kong harbor as her home is on the far side. The child proves to be correct, and her parents expect us. I have a pleasant and unusual dinner with a family of supernaturally kind and trusting strangers. I have vague prophetic intimations of what the world might be in the remote future.
I’m in Hawaii again, this time the sunny place of the travel brochures. I meet Doris, an old woman, and very wise. She is a mystic and has a library. Most “liberties” I visit her and borrow from her books. She was clairvoyant as a child, and a little of this still remains. We walk on Waikiki beach and talk about love, death, and the sapphire sky.
More sunshine; this time that of San Diego, California. I exit the Navy and make my living in a series of jobs-the kind that everyone avoids when they can. I work my way through college and eventually graduate, studying psychology and human communications with an emphasis in semantics. I work as a technical writer specializing in documentation of computer software. Eventually, I abandon this and become an antiquarian bookseller.
Time flashes by like one of those reported reviews of life at the moment of death. Divine synchronicity, working blatant and obvious miracles introduces me to my partner, now wife of 32 years. Our daughter is born; she is extraordinary. I make a game of teaching her to sit without falling over; she laughs a lot. Time warps. I learn from her and we read stories together. A minute or so later she is married and graduates with her master’s in counseling.