SOME THOUGHTS AFTER READING A BOOK FROM A FRIEND by Syd Blackwell
Where to begin? Well, since there really isn’t a beginning, or for that matter an ending as far as I can figure, I’ll just start babbling and you’ll pick up the thread.
You’ve never really tried to get me to read a book, at least not so insistently. Back at the beginning of the ‘80s you did suggest Manwatching and I did actually buy it and read it. Not sure what all of it was about, but somehow I think it made me understand that there was nothing wrong with being a left and right brain person in the same body, that I could view the world through different eyes, which cleared up some confusion on my part. I’d always sort of wondered how I could fit in when I didn’t really fit in and that was a start. I guess a lot of that got lost along the way, although I did have the book right up to my last great going away basement sale in Revelstoke where it sat ignored on a makeshift shelf all day before making its way down the road to the second-hand book store.
However, right from the first mention, you were rather insistent upon Tom Robbins Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. I, of course, ignored your first overtures over the telephone. After all there were more important matters to discuss like the BC Lions. You didn’t let up, mentioning it at least a time or two more before I arrived at your door, all in a hurry to vacate the country. I wasn’t even thinking about any book, but you were. You told me I’d like it, which I found a bit presumptuous as I previously didn’t really read very many books at all and it didn’t at all seem to fit in with the books I really had been reading which I didn’t think would interest you at all. How presumptuous!
In short order, you had presented me with the actual book. I murmured some sort of half-assed thanks and took it to my room for the night. Somehow I knew I couldn’t accidentally leave it behind and telling you all my bags were full to the brim, so full a book wouldn’t fit, just didn’t cut it either. So, there it sat, a large orange promise - a promise made is a debt unpaid. It got stashed in my carry-on bag the next morning with an add-on from you that I could read it on the plane. Even though I may have said uh huh or such, I really didn’t think about the book at all.
The flight proved to be a bit torturous and worrisome with delays and concerns over missed connections and Simon the dog being transferred to the right plane and whether or not he was still alive and a few more things too inane too mention. I didn’t even read the in-flight magazine and didn’t watch any of the free movies. I did eat the one and only meal provided and the brownie I had smuggled aboard with me. Together they were my only intakes in the twenty-five-hour ordeal.
The book was unpacked along with everything else and deposited on the book rack below the TV without so much as me even cracking the cover for a peek. Talk about gratitude! It sat there for a long time. Gundy spied it and I mentioned she might like to take it to the hospital with her to read when she was recovering from her hip surgery. Well, the surgery has yet to happen, but the book was retrieved from its place of outcast by her. A brief thought went through my mind that it probably wouldn’t interest her very much. How presumptuous!
It wasn’t long before she was chuckling, giggling and laughing. Soon she was trying to read me passages. Next she was announcing that I’d really like this book. I tried to ignore much of that too, at first, but my resistance was weakening. She was addicted to the book.
When Gundy suddenly appeared in my life, I had no idea that she was about to have a profound influence on me. I had no idea at all. I had for most of my adult life proclaimed myself to be an atheist (from the Greek áthe, meaning godless). I suppose I believed that to be true; but a more apt description was probably skeptic, one who doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds. I never had a secret chart to get me to the heart of this or any other matter.
Anyway, she did set me off on a different path. Oh, it took a while. Telling me about spiritual books and spirituality and how it had made a difference to her and all that. At first, it sounded like another doctrine or creed that I did not need.
I think when she let me read her cathartic journal, written many years before, I finally decided that I at least had to walk along her path a while, for she had not always been spiritual thinking.
She was careful in her selections for me, but still, a lot of it sounded hocus pocus. The first thing that really touched me personally was a book called Creating A Miracle. It had an anecdotal approach. One of the early anecdotes in that book was eerily familiar. It involved an accident that should, by any possible contrivance, have been fatal. Yet, the woman of the story survived, completely unscathed, and had no explanation as to why she should have, other than a miracle. A real miracle. Not one of those advertising hype miracles, but a real miracle. I had one of those. Driving in New Zealand. Forced off the road with nothing but a few hundred feet of space until the ground leveled out, pushed out beyond that edge by a truck too big and too far over to let me stay on the road. But, we didn’t fall. The van didn’t teeter. I tried to discuss what had happened with my travelling companions, my ex and her friend, but they would have none of it. It hadn’t happened. But it did. I proceeded cautiously along the road to spiritual thinking.
The big impact book, the one I could finally embrace with a passion, was Deepak Chopra’s Ageless Body Timeless Mind. It has a basic quantum physics approach to spirituality that I could finally find believable. It made sense. It addressed the ideas that I had heard of before; namely, that other planes of existence were not only possible, but also as real as anything I had ever held as real. My experiences, mostly my travels, had long since led me to believe in things that most of the world would not accept. Had not Erich von Daniken’s Chariots Of The Gods led me to charter a plane and fly over the mysterious lines in the desert near Nazca, Peru? Or watch the sun rise on Intihuatana, the so-called hitching post of the sun at Macchu Picchu? Had I not felt a surge that could only be described as in a different plane than the physical one I occupied? Could I deny that I had already accepted spiritual beliefs long before I met Gundy?
The next big blowout was Dr. Wayne Dyer’s Inspiration. I had read one of Dyer’s earliest books, Your Erroneous Zones, at the urging of my first wife. However, she was motivated by a desire to change me and I’ve always resisted having people tell me what to do. I dismissed the book immediately, partly because the photo on the front cover was neatly cropped to not reveal the top of his head, which was already bald. I figured a guy that had that much ego that he would okay such a picture for his book cover had nothing to tell me. I may have been wrong.
Dyer’s Inspiration has been everything a book of such a title should be. It is no coincidence that our new home in Uruguay is named Inspiración. And, by the way, he is most glaringly bald on the front cover. We may both have changed.
I have found the spirituality in so much since I have opened my eyes. The plethora of quotes in Inspiration alone, from Jesus of Nazareth to Van Goethe, from Albert Schweitzer to Dag Hammarskjold, from Socrates to Einstein, were amazing. If they could embrace, acknowledge, and live in-spirit, what was my problem? I found the spirituality in other recently read writings such as Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Part One and Leonard Cohen’s Book Of Longing. I find it everywhere I look now. And I found it in your book. In fact the whole book is actually a spiritual book. Oh, it didn’t seem to be that when I started. However, you knew it would hook me right away. You knew I would relate. And I sure did. I had been to South America before I chose to live here. I have been in the upper reaches of the Amazon; I have experienced in ways that I would not choose to relate, the world of Patpong in Thailand; I have sat in Pike Market in Seattle. I have sat with a man in a bar in Thailand who claimed to have been involved with secret deeds on behalf of the US government and a man in a stone hut in Peru who showed me rocks etched by aliens a thousand years before that depicted brain surgery. I was easily hooked. But my experiences were only doors. Soon I was engulfed in the world of Switters. Engulfed in the magnificent command of the English language of Robbins, er Switters. Enraptured by the metaphors of constant originality, dare I say unique.
I laughed when my own feelings were displayed on the pages. I loved your book. I loved the fact that just as the Universe decided I was ready for Gundy, it decided I was ready for this book. You were a servant of the Universe. The usher of another door to understanding and spirituality. There was no accident.
I thank you my friend.
November 19, 2007
P.S. I had a poem that needed to be written before I could read the book. It appeared five days before my birthday. There was no accident.
A BIRTHDAY COMETH
If now that I’ve reached sixty-one,
It seems that I have come undone;
Lost all the glue that held me fast;
Just broken concrete for my past;
Know that there was never glue;
Nor anything that held me true;
No iron bars now red with rust;
Not anything but light and dust;
No documents, no accolades;
No golds nor silvers; no parades;
Not ever held in high esteem;
No one can hold a stardust beam;
Nothing more than waves of motion;
Surges in a cosmic ocean;
I am a spirit; you are too;
Recycled in the cosmic stew;
A spirit in a human time;
Where is the poem? Where the rhyme?
If you who knew me think this odd,
Just know you too are part of God;
I live my days not in the past;
No forms of future have been cast;
This moment is all I can see;
It is the limit I can be.