Spring break – March Madness – time to take mother in law window shopping for residential and assisted care homes and to start the processes of consolidating, eliminating, and winding down the affairs of a life. For such an event, Karen’s sister fly’s in and between the two of them and mom, its a good idea and good time for me to get out of the way and out of town for a few days – time to visit an old friend.
Jerry’s a Jewish monk living in curmudgeon clothing with his partner in a sweet adobe home in Magadelina, NM., but let me explain the apparent contradictions. Jerry was raised Catholic only his mind is Jewish. I guess one could say he is a trans-spiritualist or something of that nature and for reasons yet revealed, I seem to run into and befriend these kind of folk.
I’ve known Jerry longer than I have known my wife and that’s going on 35 years now. He was the first and one of several deeply addicted god junkies I’ve come across, since hearing god’s voice tell me to leave home. Since then, of course I’ve come into contact with a variety of god junkies operating at different levels of imagination, insight, wisdom and following divergent paths; and of course I am a god junkie too….aren’t we all in our own fashion?
I’ve been addicted to the search, the quest, the realization of god gong back as best I can remember to high school days associated with muscle cars and semi cold beer, a friend or two and a night brilliant with stars. In college the cars had less muscle and beer was a poor sister to Cambodian weed. There were those occasional special occasions to explore consciousness with home grown mushrooms, LSD, The Beatles and the Maharishi alone and with some of my brothers in the band. Those were the “days of the endless summer,” as Van Morrison penned and they have long since faded but the thoughts generated have remained. If I were to choose a new Van Morrison lyric to describe my practice these days it would be more like “precious time is slipping away, you know your only king for a day.”
I last saw Jerry a few months back and something seemed off center a bit about him that I had not felt before. This visit, I sensed that a quickening – another kind of culmination and winding down of a life time, too. Jerry has a mind different by dimensions rather than degrees from most minds I’ve encountered and his thought has a richness and a complexity with a piercing intellect weaving together inside his head. His practices are those that in my tradition, are called Samahdi or concentration practices and Jerry’s mind is extraordinarily disciplined, self-querying, focused, and intense. He once saw “spooks” a/k/a archetypal energy acquiring sensory form, now he just see’s the end of life approaching and his attitude is to do what he can here in order to get his ” ticket punched taking him as far down the line as he can go.” And as we all know “there’s a train a coming.”
Jerry is older and age is making it’s demands known. He had a stroke that is a signpost along the way and his fiddle arm is about to wear out and he is 83. Jerry’s an important person to me. He’s been a friend, a helper, a teacher, an experimenter, and of course he seduced me to to the joys and tribulations of being a god junkie. Though he couldn’t have seduced me If I wasn’t ready to take the plunge and I was.
This visit was different. This time I saw with new eyes what I could not see before – this time the story lines of who Jerry is to me, didn’t make the trip. This time I listened to him and left with a gnawing sense that for all the concentration and discipline of his mind and intellect, for all the experiences of extra-ordinary experiences he’s had – all his practice current and past that he has lived by and the freedom and openness these fruits bare, there was something missing. I didn’t know quite what until just before I left, he told me that he regretted not being able to live a monastic life, and then it hit me. Jerry has not had the benefit of being part of a Sangha, a community of spiritual friends.
Marie, my mother in law is 85 and living more or less alone in a big city a few hours north of Jerry. She is also a god junkie and her fix is Jesus centered. She is just as sincere, just as needy and hungry for experiences of spirit and heart as the next person, as I am, as we all are and seem to become more aware of as we age. This is an existential and a universal truth of life needing only to be recognized; that we are all in some sort of relationship with what ever we consider God.
Marie and I have an unspoken agreement that we will engage each other in the sport of god talk as Jerry and I engage in. And we did and this time I saw that as she spoke of Jesus and the will of God as she understands in a biblically literate sort of way. Her’s is a theology of Late night screachers and Sunday morning prime time Preachers. And though Marie has a child like, joyful and loving heart, filled with natural wisdom and innocent compassion, there is something missing from her spiritual journey as well. Community. Relationship. Sangha. Church.
One of the stories I tell myself is that I am a loner. I made this up during a time of life to protect me from the pain of being lonely, of feeling ignored, unseen, invisible, and voiceless. To fit the story, I became interested in activities that were best undertaken alone – one such activity is photography and photography has fulfilled that role and has, it seems, been a Koan for me to “solve.” So of course photography has opened me to seeing the Light and the Love through flowers and nature and to see in my own way and through the lens of a camera to learn to see through the eyes of the heart and thereby to taste glimpses of the kingdoms of heaven.
And what I see is that I am extraordinarily blessed by all the people who have touched my life. All of them. Which of course elicits feelings of gratitude to my teachers, my peeps, and my spiritual friends for sharing their journey’s and their wisdom with me. While some can, I cannot, travel this path on my own. The lesson learned this month of madness is the importance and necessity for me, in this time of life for Community. May I share with open heart that which is called forth from me as I participate, study, learn and grow in Sangha.