Enlightenment

Some people come into the world with a message for the rest of us. I learned this years ago, on a beautiful spring day in La Grande, my hometown. This was the day Ken Kesey came to town.

The story starts with my friend Mike complaining about the over-use of certain phrases, rendering them clichés. As it happened, the cliché in question was: “Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid.” The way I remember, this warning would never have surfaced had it not been for cult leader, Jim Jones’s, and the massacre he orchestrated. Stuff that doesn’t need retelling here.

Before this, anyone who said anything about Kool-Aid, and meant anything other than, well… Kool-Aid, was speaking wistfully of events recounted in Tom Wolfe’s book. Enter: THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, and, Ken Kesey. Mike and I had read the book as had all our friends. But, “All,” in this usage is a small number given that we lived in small-town Oregon where ordinarily there wouldn’t be many counter-culture types. But La Grande was home to Eastern Oregon College, now EOU as the school has been granted university status. So, add our small group at the High School to the College population where everyone had heard of Kesey’s novels. Now you have an audience. This was about the time that Kesey’s second novel had made it to the big screen and few there were that hadn’t seen Paul Newman’s performance in Sometimes A Great Notion.

Where’s this going? On a whim, Mike and I decided to call Kesey and invite him to town. Audacious. Yes, for a couple of seventeen-year-olds it was a bold idea. But with the idea floating right there in the air between us we knew we had to give it a try.

Fortunately, those were the days of dial type phone books and operator assistance. With a little help from each, we found a number for his family’s business – The Springfield Creamer, East of Eugene, OR. These were more trusting days. The woman who answered gave us Kesey’s home number. Dialing, a little dizzy now – we must have been holding our breath – Ken picked up the receiver, and presumptuous as we’d already been, we plowed past the awkwardness of two kids calling a nationally acclaimed author.

As some may remember, prior to his appearance in Tom Wolfe’s book, Kesey had already written, “The Cuckoo’s Nest,” in 1962 and, “Sometimes A Great Notion.” in 64. The second of the two has made it to the big screen first, in 1970, and few hadn’t seen Paul Newman’s performance as “…”Great Notions,” Hank Stamper. All this added to Wolfe’s recounting of the escapades of Kesey and friends – Kesey was a Rock Star.

Our request was simple enough; Would Ken Kesey drive himself over to La Grande and speak at the High School? My guess is that on that particular morning he was feeling more like a bored farmer than a celebrated author. Apparently, Kesey was ready for a vacation from cow milking, hay hauling and all the rest that went with life on the farm, the dairy operation that supplied milk for the creamery. We just happened to be the best excuse for a road trip he’d received that week. So, the long and short of it – we invited, and Kesey accepted.

So far, all was shaping up well. No rumblings of decent -Amazing! Well, actually, not so amazing. The problem was that neither Mike or I considered, or were considerate enough to ask permission. I was president of the student body, so arranging assemblies was a regular thing. We’d invited this guy we knew of, and thought we knew something about – invited him to say a few words.

Never mind that our guest speaker was none other than the spokesman for the “Merry Pranksters.” As such, an infamous counterculture hero – one of the decades most celebrated and vilified psychedelic evangelists. Yes, we forgot to ask anybody. Simply slipped our minds. No, wait – we were only 17! We had yet to grow minds.

So we forgot – conveniently forgot right up till the point where we had to tell, “The Principle” – Dale Wyatt, that he needed to cut us a check for $250.00 in favor of, “Ken who?” Dale may not have known who Kesey was. But he knew Mike and I and knew trouble when he saw two of its local representatives standing in his office. We must have said something like, “Paul Newman starred in the movie version of one of his books! Ya, Mr. Wyatt, Paul Newman!” Whatever.

It was spring, just before graduation. I think Dale just rolled his eyes and figured he’d be rid of us in two months. So why not just wait and see what we were really up to. Part of me still wants to believe that the man found us entertaining – a source of variety and amusement in his otherwise predictable world. But that’s just speculation, something I’ll never know. “So long Dale… Hope your next gig has been more fun than this last one!”

If I had a conscience, I’d feel a little sorry about it all. Whatever he’d known or suspected, we had set out to fool a nice guy. Think about it. It was 1971 and Dale’s job was the social and academic care and feeding of several hundred kids. At which time, there was that war in S.E. Asia, and a related one in most homes in America.

Add to this mix – with the release of about a dozen albums, the Beatles had just ripped serious holes in six thousand years of recorded history, then walked off stage leaving the Stones – Jagger & Co, to mop up any resistance. In Dale’s mind, if not in fact – he stood on the front line, defending civilization. Representing the opposition – Mike and I looked him in the eye with the straightest of faces, assuring him that Kesey was coming to talk about writing and, “You know, good literature and…” So Dale signed the check. Yes! So much for feeling bad long after it makes a bit of difference. Add to this, on the “Bad Ass” scale, Mallory and I were the minor-leagues compared to what Dale had dealt with in his time.

It was one of those days. Spring. Warm. Blue sky and not a cloud of doubt that all was well in our world. I was driving my dad’s jeep back from lunch at Nell’s, a local N’ & Out, burger place. Up N, and a left on 8th, climbing the hill by the Admin. Building with a right turn on to K Avenue put us directly across from the Eastern Oregon College Library. This was back before the University thing.

Anyway, glancing out the driver’s side window, I spot two guys sitting in a funky looking beige sedan. A Ford, a Dodge… an ugly car. But the guy behind the wheel was Kesey. I guess he and his pal were thinking that he’d been invited to speak at the college. Or maybe it was the first place they’d found that looked academic enough to be their destination. A better guess is they weren’t thinking. I have evidence for this last idea.

Braking fast and pulling to the curb, I was out the door with Mallory close behind – both of us loping across the street to make introductions. Kesey wasn’t exactly friendly. He wasn’t unfriendly either – just unimpressed.

Smoke from the joint the two of them had been passing drifted and curled out the window. Which brings us back to why he was sitting in a car a mile from the location of his big speaking engagement, looking totally unconcerned about his shabby car, his two new acquaintances or where he was supposed to be for the rest of his life. The joint between his thumb and forefinger – there’s my proof of the theory advanced in the previous paragraph.

Kesey looked at what was left of their smoke and glanced up at me. Apparently inviting, but he wasn’t he going to say the words. So I asked for a hit and passed it back to Mike. Big mistake. Two lung-fulls apiece was all it took for Mike and I to realize that before that moment, whatever we’d been rolling was closer to lawn clippings than a federally controlled substance.

Fortunately, the onset of effects took a few seconds. During which time we delivered directions, time and… that must have been about it. Mike and I drove away. Finding ourselves inside the high school building tried our best to figure out what was supposed to happen next.

let’s fast forward, because I don’t remember how we got through the next class and on to the assembly thing… the pledge of allegiance and an introduction. But I know it happened. Mike assures me it did.

Time passed, and the effects of the smoke began to dissipate. But there was still one more twist scheduled for our heads that day. After the preliminaries, Kesey took the stage and the microphone. Within the first few minutes, he’d also taken charge of the minds of everyone in the auditorium.

What did he say? I’ve got only the barest glimmer of a memory, and none of it translates well into English. I remember feeling that we’d all been dropped into the deep end and nobody seemed to have the sense to paddle to safety. Something shifted. By this time, Dale must have known that he’d made a mistake, a big one. Maybe something was shifting inside of him too.

Some people are very smart – smarter than the rest of us. More to my point; there are people who come into the world with a message for the rest of us. Kesey was no man’s fool, but his message wasn’t about being smart. It was not about being, “all you can be,” at least not in any conventional sense. Instead, it was about really being alive, and not being afraid to do whatever it took to figure out what that meant.

Comparing memories with others, it’s clear that we all heard something different. Just as everyone reading the previous paragraph interpreted it differently. The thing is, when a person who knows something about how big the human spirit really is – knows how far beyond conventional wisdom or perception – well, when somebody speaks from experience, whether you fully understand what they mean or not – it makes a difference. The shift.

Something happened on a beautiful spring day in La Grande. Kesey was the catalyst. What that was – how it may still be resonating in the heads and hearts of those who were present is impossible to specify. A blessing and curse – though in fact we’re doing and thinking pretty much the same things – we’re all convinced that we are different. Looking through a kaleidoscope, the patterns are ever changing. Stand back and see what’s in our hands? It’s just a kaleidoscope. The temptation to make distinctions ensures that we’ll never look at the same thing the same way.

We love it. We hate it. Still, few ever stop long enough to see the obvious. Those who do, say similar things. It’s all empty, incomprehensibly spacious, safe and infinitely peaceful. And one more thing, it’s funny. Too funny for words.

 

 

 

#sacredspace

#tomcarroll

Late one rainy afternoon in the parking lot of my bank I dropped a gold nugget. It had been in a wooden box with several old pieces of jewelry. Rings, one raw nugget and a nugget studded stick pen.

There were also tie clasps and cuff links from another era and an assortment of broken chains and other bits and pieces, some solid and others gold plated. They were things that I had no use for but which still held sentimental value  and with the rising price of the metal I’d decided to put them all in a safe place.

Getting out of my car and turning to close the door, the box slipped off the top of a stack of papers I carried. Being November and just before closing time, daylight was already slipping away as the little box slid off into the air. I could only watch as it sailed forward and hit the asphalt, its contents flying away from the point of impact. Continue Reading

“Open your heart,” he said, at the same time using both hands to pull from the center of his chest – as if pulling ribs to expose – to “open” his heart. I watch unmoved by the words and gesticulated reminder of Hanuman – mythological Hindu deity who rips his chest open to reveal Lord Krishna seated in the mystical heart.

Smiling now, he does it again while repeating his words. Hands posed as if gripping, pulling. Ribs parting, tearing flesh, bending bones. Intention without reservation. “Just open your heart!”

Continue Reading

( #TheOracle March 18, 2015 ) – Among the selections, many who attended this years Sedona, International Film Festival sat in on multiple screening of Rooted In Peace. In this award winning, energetic quest for answers, filmmaker Greg Reitman takes viewers on a journey, crisscrossing the world and into the presence of notables, Deepak Chopra, and Desmond Tutu. Viewers hear the words and music of, Pete Seeger, Donovan, and Beach Boy, singer, songwriter, Mike Love. These and more share the experience of their lives as it applies to the central question: Peace – why is it so illusive? What will bring peace to our increasingly un-peaceful world? Also introduced to viewers is Britta, woman of personal interest to Greg. Soon the two are married and life goes on. Continue Reading

With Co-Author: Catherine Carrigan

catherinecarrigan.com

 

Intuition.  Though familiar – even common to all; intuition is not very well understood – yet! With help from Author, Catherine Carrigan, let’s explore this powerful, sensory ability.

Who of us has not said, “Oh, if I had only listened to my intuition!” Failing to follow advice freely given, we fall into a ditch on one side or miss an opportunity on the other. And there are those happy times when we do just as we “knew” we should – we follow the advice of the, “Still Small Voice” and see questions answered and situations turn out for the best. Continue Reading

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. Couples, hopeful suitors, friends and family members are professing and accepting expressions of love. In each case love means something different.

There is so much packed into the word, the practice and the concept of love that we’ll never begin to see anything close to its meaning if we don’t take it out beyond our everyday, human sized understanding. In a previous article posted here and titled “Loves Got a Hold on You!, Love was seen to be, not just universal. Possibly much more startling, the idea was introduced that it is a Universe pervading, fifth force like gravity, responsible for self organization of the material and living worlds. So let’s look from a place approximating that altitude again.

Love most often shows up in one of two ways. Comparing them will help us see both what is confusing as well as the best of love as our heart and understanding matures. Continue Reading

Late afternoon, early evening. Daylight is fading. Lights that illuminate the Wailing Wall push back the growing dark. The Wall, though emmence, is only a one hundred eighty-seven-foot section of the western side of the ancient wall that rings the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, center of attention in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Old City roughly centered in modern Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the heart center of Israel. Centers within centers. Chambers of the heart of Judaism. A priceless jewel in the eye of Muslims. A touchstone to Christianity and an often, irritating mystery to the rest of the world.

The Temple Mount – site of three temples – the first, built by Jewish, King Solomon. The second by the Roman appointee, Herod. And a third temple, so far existing only in the minds of Jews, Christians, and fearful hearts of Muslims.

Walking here from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jane and I had descended a long series of stairs, passing through a security check point as we reached the plaza below. The plaza, a stone paved expanse built to accommodate crowds exceeding one hundred thousand – the immense crowds that gather on holidays – holy days. It stretches out and away from the Wall at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. At its North West corner, a waist-high retainer of stone blocks bisects the edge of the plaza preventing falls to the prayer floor, two meters below. The prayer floor, paved with white marble, stretches the full length and thirty meters back from the actual Wall. Capped with an angle cut stone lip, the retaining wall is comfortable to lean against as many do, content to watch the ever-shifting spectacle. Wherever you were in the world that night, if you’re Jewish your attention was on this place – this gathering. Attention and intention are key words. I was about to learn something but not nearly all there is to understand of their significance. Arriving early, Jane and I had this front row view as the spectacle unfolded around us – perfect for events that would mark the evening and set a further progression of events in motion.

The year was 2000 – Y2K. The lights hadn’t gone out. Even so – the world was a darker place. These first High Holy Days of the new millennium had already been stained, just the day before, when PM candidate, Ariel Sharon had walked up and into the Temple Mount. A thousand or more Muslims went crazy, claiming Sharon’s presence as justification for more riots – the second intifada. After Sharon’s visit, unsuspecting worshipers standing at the prayer wall below had been showered with fist size stones thrown by Muslims gathered on the temple grounds, above. Large numbers of police and military units had been brought in to discourage further attacks. Still, there was no guarantee of safety. The blood of those injured the day before – lots of blood – was visible where it had run and pooled, drying between the paving stones. Despite these tensions, Jerusalem’s largest gathering of the year swirled around us, growing as night fell. What had happened could not keep the faithful from gathering to pray.

Jane and I were there to witness the Jewish world’s most important day of the year at its epicenter. Having done a little research, it was not by chance that we’d come early enough to be standing at the front. From here we had an unobstructed view of a thousand or more men as they milled about, raising a din as the talked and prayed. Behind us, tens of thousands more had already streamed into the large plaza. A relative few, going directly to the prayer floor fronting the wall, while others were content stand back, to carry on their own conversations or quietly honor the occasion as suited them.

According to Jewish tradition each new day begins at sundown, making that evening the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the one day in the Jewish calendar given over to confession and forgiveness of sins, to enter the new year absolved of guilt for the previous year’s mistakes.

I had drifted. Moving farther to the left, away from my friend, alternately standing and leaning, watching the activity in front of me. More than just watching I was thinking how unfortunate it was, all these men so anxiously pleading, pledging repentance and praying again. Each one, earnestly attempting to ensure that he had brought everything to account. I was thinking that Christians had a better way. One died for the sins of all, and if these guys could just see this they could all walk away free. The Christian alternative, as I saw it, was tidier – much more economical. All my Christian understanding stood with me, leaning comfortably against the retaining wall – a wall of stone and one of belief separated me from all those sincere but misguided Jewish men.

Without warning, a loud voice broke through my thought – the voice seeming to come from a very big, very tall man standing directly behind of me. With no warning, no preceding twinge of conscience, these hard words, were spoken, sharp with disapproval and delivered with absolute authority.

“STOP! STOP JUDGING! YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THIS IS ABOUT!

The voice cut through the noise of the crowd, several hundred people standing so close that movement was difficult. Turning, I looked behind, expecting to see a massive man scowling down at me. There was no one out of the ordinary. As loud as the commands had been, apparently, I was the only one who had heard them. Hearing voices is schizophrenia territory, but I knew what I’d heard, knew that they had been directed at me. Validated beyond logic, a I knew that a powerful, unseen individual was aware of not pleased by my thoughts. Reacting in a way I would have never expected, in the moments after the initial shock I felt a kind of thrill, call it the gratification of infamy. From experience I can tell you that a message from a divine source, even a harsh rebuke such as this can make you feel really good if you take it the right way. Or maybe I just in shock.

Below, the action was intense as larger numbers crowded onto the prayer floor. Men stood everywhere, all with their heads covered. Some wearing wide brimmed streimals and fedoras – others, a simple knitted kippa or their complimentary, paper equivalent for tourists. Many had gleaming white prayer shawls around their shoulders which could be pulled up over their heads to form a tent under which they met privately with God. Alone or in small groups men prayed, leaning against the wall or back some distance around tables full of prayer books, all bowing from the waist rhythmically, repeatedly, the style unique to Jewish prayer.

Shaken but excited by what had happened, I jostled my way back. Jane was standing where I’d left her, watching the sea of people. Having just managed to make it to where she stood, there was no time to say anything before the Divine hand reached out to grab me one more time. Standing below and at least twenty feet away, one among many rabbis stood surrounded by a dozen men that he was leading. Without explanation this man turned and looked up, searching faces and pointing his finger as if to sort one from another until his attention fixed on me. Shouting over the din, he looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you know what we are doing?”

It was a freeze frame moment. Feeling completely hollow and exposed, I was still literally vibrating from the power of the voice that had just shouted me down, foretelling the answer to this Rabbi’s question.

“No, I… I guess I don’t,” I stammered.

In response, his arm still raised and finger pointing for emphasis, he began to explain the activities and significance of that night. I tried to listen but was not catching it all. By my clothing and answers to his questions I was clearly not Jewish. So, forget the disembodied voice that had just scalded my ears, the Rabbi’s behavior made no sense. That on this of all nights he would turn from the men he was leading, turn and pick me from a group of thousands for an impromptu lecture? It got even stranger.

Seeing that I was not tracking, he said, “Wait a minute, I’ll come up there.” It took full five minutes for him to push his way through all the people. First, back toward the wall, then over to the exit ramp, circling up and around, he edged his way through to where we stood and continued speaking.

“As we pray here tonight, he said, we are opening a hole in the heavens – a channel, connecting earth and heaven, a connection for all people, people all around the world.” He said. There was more, much more. After a few minutes another man in an expensive black suit and wide flat brimmed hat had joined him. One on one side, one on the other, they tag teamed – each picking up the narrative if the other so much as paused. I was too overwhelmed to pay attention; I remember little of what was said.

What was is that I had been spoken to by a disembodied voice telling me that I did not know what I thought I knew – telling me that I was wrong to imagine that my views were correct or that they encompassed the whole of spiritual truth. And I was most wrong to have held a condescending attitude from which I looked down on these men. Their love of God, even more, their single-minded devotion overrode any difference of doctrine.

Their words tiring and I soon heard the limitation of the ideas they expressed. Condescension for other faiths leaked through – an indication that they were making the same mistake as I. Realizing that they were the tool of the “Voice,” I listened respectfully, but was really just waiting for them to finish. What they said was not as important as the fact that they had been placed in front of me to reinforce the evenings real message. I had been told to suspend my judgements. The Voice had implied that what any of us thought we knew was partial; at best, only a small part of what was happening around us, and probably beyond the understanding of us all.

What happened that night drove home the point I now see – the fact that we all fell short when confronted by divine authority. At the end of the day, none of us were being transported beyond mortality like Enoch or leading with the authority and miraculous power entrusted to Moses. Individuals who, following instructions, had truly put on the mind of Christ should stand out as clearly as night fire on a hilltop. Scanning the horizon, I saw no one.

 

I met Glorian Bonnette at a meeting where she was speaking, a meeting sponsored by a mutual friend – an evangelist with a reputation for giving accurate prophetic readings. Glorian did the prophetic thing too so after listening to her stories of miraculous encounters I asked her for a “read.” Short story made shorter I was intrigued enough with what she said that by the end of the afternoon I had offered to travel as a member of her ministry group. Injury and age had combined making travel and the heavy lifting it requires painful. It was clear that she needed more help.

So began a four month odyssey in South East Asia. Singapore would be our “home base.” It’s alsop one of the most beautiful cities in the world. From this comfortable oasis we traveled the archepelego. Bankock, Kuala Lumpor, smaller cities and remote villages up and down Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Glorian was a self styled evangelist, an encourager. The people who came to her meetings were looking for a message from God. To Glorian’s credit she came to give – not to get. Good thing, because by appearance, certainly by comparison, most who attended, were extremely poor. Continue Reading

Before leaving Singapore on my original return flight ticket I bought another that would get me from the US to Israel. Arriving home, I stayed only long enough wash cloths and re-pack. Flying from the Boise to Chicago, with a night in the air over the Atlantic, put me in Munich by morning of the next day. Changing planes here meant I would be flying the last leg on Lufthansa. Unlike United, Lufthansa, allowed a bare minimum of carry on baggage – insisting that you check anything larger than a wallet before boarding – which meant more hands pawing through my stuff. And even before September 2001, passengers waiting to board flights to Israel were watched by armed guards. Thankfully, no shots were fired and we were soon on our way. Crossing the Alps and Southern Europe the plane banked left once we were out over the Mediterranean routing us straight into Tel Aviv. This near the end of the second leg of a long trip I was anxious to get to a room, shower and sleep. After a short wait at passport control, I retrieved my roll aboard and made my way unchallenged through customs and out into an arrival hall. There I was greeted by expectant faces – all waiting for someone else. Some held one words signs that said things like, Greenburg or Sheraton or UNESCO. They are never for me but I can’t resist looking – as if by chance someone knew I was coming. Apparently no one did. Outside of the terminal the late afternoon sun felt good. A warm breeze tugged at the tops of the palm trees as I stood waiting for the bus that would take me the last thirty miles. Continue Reading