As I've gotten older, I've stayed the same person I've always been: creative, and childlike with a love of people, nature, philosophy, and the deep mysteries of the universe. But some things have changed. I'm more comfortable with who I am, most of the time. I care less about what people think, most of the time. Finally, my goals are bigger... way bigger and I have a better idea of how to accomplish them and a set of goals along the way. When I was a kid I loved to invent board games, make up radio shows, write & perform in plays and home movies, build a dollhouse, and write stories. As an adult, I still enjoy writing stories, but now I build stages, invent business ideas and tech stuff, and write screenplays. I believe that there's a child in all of us. Never lose your inner child. A sense of curiosity, belief in magic, fascination with science and the wonderment of nature are gifts we can keep and cultivate forever.
Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire. I've been everywhere these past two weeks and can't decide what I love the most.
However, I am certain that I will visit again soon.
I met an angel in a hardware store the other day. His name was Walt, and he caught me by surprise.
A cool afternoon in late fall, I was busy making my rounds in Orchard Supply Company, my tote bag on arm, my iPad in my left hand. I see a short man with little round glasses and a mustache and ask him my usual questions: “How much do you spend on electricity? Have you considered solar power before?”
He looks past me, and I can tell he’s lost in thought. He says, "I just want to let you know that I admire you. You got up this morning, brushed your teeth, and came to work. You probably don't like this job, but you do it anyway."
I was surprised and a bit taken aback at his sincerity and insight! He went on to say, "One day, maybe you'll be the CEO of this company." Then he began to tell me about his life's work. He explained that by trade he was a mechanical engineer, but his real calling was in counseling people with alcohol, drug, and other forms of addictions. He said he worked for Al-Anon, the resource for family members of those struggling with addictions.
I told him that solar sales was my profession, but that I was also a writer, and that was my calling. I pulled out my poetry book, Tasty Little Samples from my bag and showed it to him.
He smiled. He then proceeded to tell me about how much he liked to read, and how he had some tidbits of wisdom for me. He told me about a book called The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. He said that it was one of the best books ever written and that I should read it.
Then, he asked me what I thought it was about. I said, "Well, I think of that verse from the Bible that goes: But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." And also that quote from the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, "All know the way; few actually walk it."
He said, "yes... you're onto it." And proceeded to explain another book, The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell, and ask me what I thought it was about.
I said, "well, it's about going through obstacles in life in order to find your destiny."
He said, "Yes, that's also true. Did you know? You’re on the heroes journey right now. You're the hero of your own story."
He then paused to ask me another question. He said, "why do you think humans are put on this planet in the first place?" I said, "I'm not sure."
He said, "do you know that the word angel means messenger in Greek? We're all messengers sent from above. We are on this earth to help people find the way, to help them discover where they came from; to help them discover their own divinity."
I was beginning to feel oddly light-headed. I had to hold steady to keep myself from falling over.
He said, "the most amazing feeling in the world is when you show one of those poor kids a way out of their own hell--the hell of the house they live in, where everyone is in their own torment created in their minds."
I said "yes, many of my students in this book wrote about their own life tragedies. One girl lost her baby brother, a teenage boy lost his sister--barely eighteen--to suicide. This book could be one of the only outlets they have to express themselves this openly", I explained.
This philosophical stranger went on to tell me of another book, entitled The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. He told me it was next to Shakespeare in terms of greatest works of poetry ever written.
I said I was sorry I'd never read it.
The stranger described the prophet and how he spoke of love and marriage.
He explained that one should never be in a relationship with a person unless they are working on bettering themselves every day. He said "otherwise, it's just not worth it."
We talked about one of my screenplays, and he told me to trust that the questions I had would be answered. He understood that my job was to help bring truth and light to people who are suffering.
He shook my hand, gave me a little daily meditation to keep in my wallet and share with someone in need.
This is the meditation:
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God. -- Saint Theresa
Learning to detach may be the most demanding and difficult part of the program. Detachment means being filled with closeness and love toward someone, yet knowing we cannot fix or protect that person. It means we can be in emotional contact but don't have to react to someone else's issues. We respond from our own center with what is fitting for us. Being detached means we allow others to be in the hands of God because we cannot live their lives for them. Detachment gives us an inner calm, an acceptance of our limits, and the freedom to live our own lives with integrity.
Detachment is a skill in living, and like other skills, we can practice it. Gradually, it becomes a natural response. True detachment takes root and grows within us over a period of time as we deepen our relationship with the Steps and with our Higher Power.
Today, I turn to God as my eternal rock for strength in learning to become detached.
I'm sharing this story with you, so you will remember your own divinity and to take that truth and pass the light and love to other souls who are suffering in their human condition.
We're all fallen angels who need reminding of where we came from. It's our calling to help others do the same.
That morning, May 12, Mary Jane washed her hands in the kitchen sink and looked out the window observing the sun and calculating the temperature. She put on her walking shoes with shaking hands and her Walkmen and headphones with the same precision and purposefulness she'd done for the past 12 years since living in Southern California. Today, she was listening to Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Tomorrow, would be the gospel of Matthew—Sermon on The Mount.
She walked out into that morning, the sun shining on her like melon cream, as a gentle breeze lightly pulled at her hair, cooling her skin. Her face gave off an expression of sadness; apathy. She headed down to the boardwalk and looked for Bob. She knew he wouldn't be there today, but something told her to keep looking and he'd show. It was the first day of the county fair and the workmen were setting up the sellers booths with fine fresh produce squeezed from the Pacific sea, great mother to us all.
Mary Jane picked a bench where a seagull sat and immediately flew away when she approached with that same quiet patience she always had, not ever wanting to disturb any living thing. She'd known Bob for eight years. Bob was a former Naval officer at Port Hueneme. He'd done two tours and come back with a drinking problem. His wife left him. He never married again. He was funny and charming. Bob had a real nice sense of humor and took to Mary Jane quickly. They were bingo buddies at the adult community center. She was good with predicting people, and he was a numbers man. They were something else together—competitive and seemed to win every week, but knew how to take it graciously like most competitive people don't know how to do. They would just laugh and get the whole room rolling so hard on one of his jokes. He liked to tell stories. Mary Jane sat herself upon the bench and looked serenely out over the sea.
It was approaching ten in the morning, and she had just completed the second letter to the Ephesians when she was startled out of her daydream by a soft whimper coming from below the boardwalk. She stiffened up and listened. The sound persisted. She got up from her seat and leaned over the railing. Below, a small dog of whitish fur stained yellow and brown was panting furiously and looked to be injured. She approached the animal with reservation.
The dog looked up at her with small beady black eyes hidden behind a shaggy tuft of hair. He whimpered softly. She bent down slowly and extended a hand. He sniffed it, curiously, then gave up in an expression of sadness, dropping his head between his front paws. She extended her hand again, this time to stroke his matted coat, accidentally touched his left leg and the dog gave a shout and reared his head as of to bite her—but she pulled her hand away to prevent such an occurrence.
Am I merely an assemblage of memories and experiences or was there something in me at the beginning of my inception as a human being? How does one find one’s purest self, unclouded from the world of prejudices and judgments and tastes?
Throughout our human existence, the world entices us toward her opinions, religions, and ways of being. When we die, we shed all these artificial garments of self as snakes shed their skin or trees their foliage.
One might ask themselves when am I my most authentic self, and when am I pretending?
This leads me on to a related question: why do we like what we like? Why is my inclination towards folk and not rap? Why do I have a propensity for staying up till the wee hours of the morning? We attribute some of these elements of ourselves to genetics, our families, environment growing up, and what we were or weren’t exposed to. Sometimes we look to astrology or the belief in a past life to explain who we are and why our thoughts and minds shape into a particular form. Once all of these fixtures fall away, are you left with a skeleton of yourself? What truly makes you, you?
In my humble opinion, herein lies the greatest purpose of a singular human life: to create one’s destiny out of the rubbish of the old world’s stale opinions and breath, to breathe new life into the body marred by a parent’s love or lack therein; to sculpt into new form the mind out of the genetic material one arrived on this planet with; to confer with one’s heart and find it beating to one’s own drum; to pull the planets and stars down and give them new names.
The greatest achievement for the human being is to write their own creation myth and mold themselves into something utterly new, a force to be reckoned with.
Today is Palm Sunday. It's also Day 18 for me being on the road. We started out in Los Angeles, California, drove through parts of Nevada and Arizona and ended up in Salt Lake City, Utah the next day. I feel like Jack Kerouac's ghost is leading the way. To make that sound less ominous, I'll call him a spirit. When you wake up in a new place every morning, in a different bed, well, sometimes you forget where you are. That's the excitement of the road though. At least I'm not sleeping in cow pastures. There's always something new to see. Colorado is a very inspiring place. When Katharine Lee Bates wrote a poem in 1893 that turned into an iconic American song, "America the Beautiful" and spoke of the "purple mountains' majesty" she was speaking of Pike's Peak. When I'm not writing poetry, I'm taking pictures to capture the magic of our adventure. Here's a morsel of prose for you. "Flow away down the Colorado river with me as we pass homemade signs for B&E's Antiques and a bakery next to a drive-through liquor store. We'll zoom passed sparse fields brown patched with tough green stubble. One purple tree stands out among a set of cedars and cottonwoods. There's a brownstone steeple on a Presbyterian church, and a dilapidated muffler shop neighbors an apple orchard."