Spirituality

There are people who come into the world with a message for the rest of us… something I learned  years ago on a beautiful spring day in my home town. This was the day Ken Kesey came to town.

Long-time friend Mike Mallory has been doodling on Facebook about his allergy to clichés which led us to one of the sillier things we did years ago. After comparing notes, half-truths & faded memories, here’s my version.

It started with 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 event he orchestrate. Stuff that doesn’t need retelling here.

Prior to 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. The other, “off brand” Kool-Aid reference that came to our attention a decade earlier.

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 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, it was a bold idea, but looking at each other, we knew we had to give it a try.

Fortunately, this was the days of 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. The woman who answered gave us Kesey’s home number- these were more trusting days. Dialing this second number, Ken answered 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 celebrated author. Apparently, the man felt he was due 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, 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. School assemblies were a regular thing and we’d invited this guy we knew of, or thought we knew something about, 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 counter culture 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.

Actually, it was spring, prior to 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 that that last one!”

If I had a conscience I’d feel a little bad about it all. Whatever he’d known or suspected, our intention was 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 defensive front lines of 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 it he’d been invited to speak at the college. Or maybe it was simply the first place they’d found that looked academic enough to be their destination. A better guess is they weren’t really 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 kind of 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 actually 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 prior to 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 off, and found ourselves inside the, never quite so, High School building trying 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 serious twist scheduled for our heads that day. After the preliminaries, Kesey took the stage. Then 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. But then maybe something was shifting inside of him too.

There are some really smart people. More importantly, 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 interesting thing is that 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. Exactly 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 basically doing and thinking 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 insures 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

“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

The Wooden Bowl Revisited

I beg your pardon, if I’ve I dropped my fork. Smile with me please, as my feet stumble and I trip over a word and miss when reaching for a thought! What follows is a story and the same story revised, such that you may have heard parts before. Together, they leave the reader with a mixture of feelings, depending upon your point of view – your own thoughts and actions.

The original is attributed to a great man, Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy. Intending no disrespect, I’ve added some thoughts that turn his tale upside down at the end. Tolstoy’s version goes like this: Continue Reading

This past Sunday afternoon, refreshingly candid, humorously irreverent – teacher and counselor, Eva Marice conducted the first of three classes for people like myself who felt a need to brush up on their public speaking skills. “You must love yourself” said Eva. You must first of all, love yourself if you want to connect with an audience. This somewhat surprising – almost counter intuitive insight is the basis of compassionate expression, Eva explained. Loving yourself allows you, as a public speaker to give the audience your full attention. A person who love’s them self – is much more relaxed and sensitive to those seated in front of them – sensitive to the needs and shifting mood of their audience. 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

January 14, 2013

Also posted at: www.sedona.biz
Tom.Carroll@sedona.biz

When spiritual and religious authors write that “God is love,” they often use the Greek word, Agape. Agape is safe. It suggests unconditional love, either from God or a really spectacular friend! Toss in a couple more Greek words for love, philia and storge, and we’re still safe. A friend for a friend and a mother’s love for a child. All three of these words are under control – our control. Just the way we like it.

Eros is unique. Those other words each carry the suggestion of self-will, choice, even self-sacrifice. But usually only for predictable people – in predictable situations. By comparison,  Eros moves right in without waiting for an invitation, saying, “I want, I need” and in some cases, “I will!” Eros does not ask permission. Eros is desire! Continue Reading

January 1, 2013

Also posted at: www.sedona.biz
Tom.Carroll@sedona.biz

Abundance. The word means more than enough. Not necessarily piles and piles of money and supplies but all that you really need, and at least a little more. Prosperity seems to mean something similar, but with a slight difference. This word suggests the continuing condition of abundance. So once you possess abundance, you want to couple it with prosperity – those conditions that sustain abundance. Let’s call them A&P like the supermarket chain located in some parts of the country – an appropriate metaphor and a little quicker to refer to as I write. Continue Reading