One day I was in the car with a spiritual master and he laughed, “there’s goes Babaji, again”. Babaji, for some, is the name of the Divine; a divinity that comes and goes throughout all of time, showing up periodically in a human body and then disappearing into the spirit world again. This Babaji looked like an accountant.
Like everyone, I have often thought about the face of God, the topography of Heaven, the life of the Infinite. At times, I have prayed, chanted, meditated and spent hours at a time submerged in water with only my nostrils above the water line, cyclical breathing, rebirthing, conjuring my time before time.
Classically, we collectively think of angels, cherubs, pearly gates, wise and wizened men, all of the Hallmark images.
But one time when I saw God, it was none of the above and hardly anything I can explain but of course I will try.
My neck was bothering me so badly I could not bear to sit up for more than 5 minutes. I tried everything, heat, cold, adjustments of every kind, yoga, acupuncture, tinctures, salves, drugs, home cervical traction (a humorous, medieval-looking device, more scary for me than effective) and nothing worked.
So, I went to a surgery center and they shot something into my neck. In order to handle the pain of the shot, I required a mild, anesthetic that would keep me, they said, in a twilight state; someplace in between, instead, I went to Heaven.
And then cascading Escher prints of pure white, whiter than any white we know. The same image, collapsing endlessly, repeatedly into another, into another, into another; it might have been terrifying but it wasn’t. It was lovely, lovelier than anything I had ever seen. Although it never changed, when it collapsed and reappeared, it was every time more and delightful, more and more wonderful, more and more captivating. As if plucked from a Talking Head lyric, Heaven was a place where nothing happened and when the party was over, it started again.
I wanted those white images to collapse into one another for ever. Perhaps, I was wrestling with letting go…I might have been a sad story to those who loved me here on planet Earth. He went in for a routine procedure and passed inexplicably on the operating table.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t. It was not my time, I guess.
Leaving Heaven was unbearably difficult, very sad. “Let me stay”, I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. Some part of me knew that I had more work to do here.
In the end, just the image and the joy; the peace, as they say, that passes human understanding was enough.
I have never been the same.
I wanted to go to overnight camp very badly; we lived in downtown Boston and the heat was overwhelming and there was only so much you could do with a stick and sliced-in-half pinkie ball. Although the fees were modest, it was still a stretch for my parents but they came up with the money and off I went on a bus to the Cape…Camp Ousamequin!!
Because I was tall for my age, they put me in a cabin with much older boys…boys who pushed me around a bit. Noticing my discomfort, Warren, our counselor, asked me to join him for a walk in the woods. He sat me on a stump of a tree and bent down to chat with me. He was so large to me, so manly, so hardy, robust, I felt very privileged.
He said, “they’re bigger, you’re smarter”.
It made sense, it changed my life.
I have tried to be Warren for someone my whole life.
As we walked home, a pack of 12 and 13 year old boys, I dropped back from the main group to collect my thoughts. I was upset. I felt that the film had described my future life with women! Alfie was a con man, an unkind and indiscriminate womanizer, the opposite of my dad, a loyal, loving, committed husband.
I could not, at that tender age, imagine a life where I would love and desire any one woman forever; it depressed the hell out of me. One of the more sensitive barbarians in the group, dropped back to cheer me up but I was adamant that no true monogamous happiness was in my future.
And lo and behold, that would be my truth, my reality until a bald headed man showed up at my door in Santa Monica when I was 37 and about to leave town for good.
More on this later, I just wanted to give you context to enjoy the pictures of Lee in Italy.
She had short hair, red lipstick, a scarf and a hoop skirt. She was waiting for tickets in front of me. She felt my presence, turned and said “I bet you expect to get everything you want.”
Later, one morning in bed, she studied my body and landed on a flaw. I winced, shy. She comforted me…she whispered, “every scar is a trophy.”
I should have loved her more, longer, the relationship ended, the comment lasted forever.
You might choose to look at your wounds this way.