How Does One Know God?

To most Western Civilizations the image of God that comes to mind when one thinks of God is the painted image on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He (God) is the clothed white haired man, supported by a host of angels, reaching out to touch man, who is naked, with the gift of life. Even as a child I always thought it was strange that God would be wearing clothes since shame/sin had not existed before the eating of the apple by Eve in the Story of Creation.

In Eastern Cultures, the image of God takes on many forms, most of which are more mythical than human although most process human features. There are over twenty forms of Kali, the Hindu goddess of dissolution and destruction who is known for destroying ignorance. Kali means The Black One, the color in which all other colors merge and dissolve. Just as black is the absence of all color, all names and gods disappear in Kali. She is the ultimate goddess. Perhaps the female counterpart of the Christian God.

My personal belief around knowing God is just that, “personal.” It is not derived from any religious teachings or prophets, although I have read and studied many, but from a single dream which left me in awe.

The Temple to God

I saw in a dream…

I am attending a meeting of the worlds religious leaders to dedicate a new temple to God. The temple is built in the middle of the desert with no other life within miles. It is made of granite columns extending hundreds of feet into the air where they meets a massive covering made of ornate glasses connected with beams of gold. The floor of the temple is busy with the debates of world religious leaders at one end and an open air market at the other. There are no walls but entrances appear between the arched Greek designed columns.

The market place is filled with the artifacts of all the world’s religions. There is the schrod of Jesus and the wooden bowl of Buddha. The original manuscript of the Koran. The scribe with which Confucius wrote his wisdom for mankind.

I am myself, dressed in today’s fashion but everyone else is dressed in the fashion of the time when their religion was established. One man dressed in the colorful robes of a desert leader is addressing a large contingency. He insists that God’s temple is within and no building no matter how large or beautiful houses God. He is encouraging all the participants to go outside to witness God in his true house but they are reluctant to leave the new monument.

A desert wind suddenly blows through the temple extinguishing all the candles and lights, so the crowd disperses outside to view the temple in the sunset. I go outside but instead of looking at the temple, I notice a small dust twister no more than two inches high carving something in the sand at my feet. The carvings were an ancient alphabet but the translation was this: “You must know God in a way which leaves the greatest impression upon you as an individual.” The twister now flattens out and blows away the message it just created and then itself disappears. I look up to see if anyone else had witnessed this event but everyone’s eyes were focused on the Temple to God.

Milestones Of Age—What Is Real?

I remember when I couldn’t wait to be five years old so I could start kindergarten. I was busting at the seems to be thirteen so I could be a teenager and not a child any more. Turning eighteen was not an exciting milestone because I was required to register for the draft. Fortunately I was never called to fight in Viet Nam, the Iraq War of the Sixties.

Then I was twenty one. I could now vote in federal and state elections and more importantly, I was finally a man. Huh!

I blindly stumbled through my early adult life having no owner’s manual to guide my steps. I learned from my own experiences and from the wisdom and experiences of others. Upon reaching thirty I was part of the very establishment that I protested against in my twenties. I was living the American Dream or whatever I had been brainwashed to believe was the “dream.”

At forty I was living a completely different life. I was leading vacation bicycle trips to beautiful and exotic locations around the world. When I had given enough time to that or any endeavor, I moved on. I learned to trust my instincts, to follow my heart, and to believe in myself during my forties. My hair started to be loved off. I was becoming “Real.”

During my fifties the physical changes to my body grew exponentially. I remember reading somewhere that up until our early twenties the body produces more cells than it destroys and then suddenly starts loosing more cells than it produces. This trend lasts until our death. Literally the body spends twenty years building itself and sixty years breaking itself down. Although the process occurs over some eighty odd years it is remembered in milestones. The first grey hair, the use of reading glasses when your arms cannot hold the book far enough away to be read, and the first time someone mentions the bald spot on the back of your head or your receding hairline.

“Hey, didn’t you use to have a widow’s peak?”

A few weeks ago I pulled a muscle in my back which greatly affected my mobility and range of motion. One morning I slowly made it out of my bed and used the full distance between the bed and the bathroom to reach an erect walking position. I turned on the light. I was shocked by the image in the mirror looking back at me. I had been looking at myself in the mirror for 58 years but I did not recognize this reflection. The skin hung from his face the way a wet rag hangs on a doorknob. The bags under his eye could have saved the levees in New Orleans from breaking. His body was limp, seemingly without any muscle mass at all. He looked strange, ugly.

Then I searched his eyes for some points of similarity, familiarity. He had a very compassionate heart, an inquiring mind, and a loving spirit. He struggled with man’s inhumanity to man but had found a place of peace within this shabby reflected image. He was a loner but well loved by those who had shared time in his presence. He strived to be understanding before seeking to be understood. He was the five year old starting school, the rebellious young adult fighting for human rights, and the corporate man living the good life. He was the antithesis, the confirmation, the mirrored reflection of all I had become gathered into that single reflection.

My face looked old, my hair was either gray or missing, my joints were not as lose as I would have liked for them to be but my reflection was real and “once you are ‘Real,’ you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

If I Should Die, Before I Wake

Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time? — John Updike

I am more conscious of death’s inevitability as I age. Knowing death can come for me at any time, I live my life more fully now. I don’t have a checkoff sheet or bucket list to complete. I live it, everyday. The things I want to do, I do. The places I want to see, I visit. The men and women I love, I love as best I know how. I like to think the friends I leave behind understand the part we each played in the life of the other. It is my hope you are living your life to its full potential and you hold joy filled memories of the times we shared. It has never been my nature to stick around, go back, or keep in touch after I leave a place or a chapter in life. We are all but actors in the other’s dream and I am merely your understudy. You are the star. Remember that!

Henry Miller said:

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

This is how I live my life. This is how I want to die. So Death! Do not sneak up upon me in my sleep. I want to see the end you say awaits this life. I want to look into your eyes from the eyes of one who is aware. I want to live life right up to the very moment my essence seeps out from this body and greets you, face to face, soul to lifeless soul.

Resurrection – Life UnMasked

The moment I let go of whatever it was I held onto, the life flow took over and is preparing me for the journey ahead. I feel a shedding of skins, of all the masks I have worn in my life. Some friends have already noticed the change.

In the market a few days ago, a young man called out, “Hey, does the library have a copy of … yet?” and he was looking straight at me. I recognized him as a patron from the library but did not know him personally.

“You have to check on line. I retired six months ago,” I responded.

“Okay, thanks.”

In my mind the mask of the librarian with instantaneous answers died six months ago, but to this young man I was still the same person. That is one of the conundrums with masks. It is not only the mask you create for yourself but also the mask  others see you wearing. No matter how old I get, my mother still sees me as her baby. It is a mask I no longer wear but one she still sees on me.

So now I am off to a new adventure, a place where my former masks are not known. They have no value to me nor to anyone else. No one there cares who I once was, what positions I held, what certificates and degrees hang on my wall. I have the opportunity to be the true me I am. I am excited to see whom that person will be. I don’t know that I will be any different from who I am now but to everyone else I will be seen with new eyes for the first time. This is a powerful experience — First Contact. In this new world of palm trees, ocean, heat and mosquitoes, a metamorphosis is underway. Who I was will no longer matter. The transformation has begun and I’m not even there yet.  It is all happening right Now!

In my new life if someone asks, “Are you…? From…?” My reply will be, “I’m sorry you must have me confused with some else, I am no longer that person you seek.”

But, I will always be my mother’s baby.

In The Absence Of Time

I know a place where time has
no points of reference to hold onto,
no hands sweeps across its well worn face,
no seconds eat away at  existence,
no flashing light marks the arrival or passing.
Here, in this infinite space, all dreams live forever.
Everything, is expressed in the moment called now.
Here, each embrace is the only one I desire.
Here, I come whole and leave so much wiser.

Responsibilities

“You are the responsible one,” my mother would tell me when I would wine about having to reheat dinner for my brother and father when she left for work. “I know you will do it,” she would say. The responsibility of being responsible started early for me. I was eight years old. When mom and dad separated, I made myself responsible for mom’s happiness by being the best son I could be and not to cause her any pain or grief. She had already suffered enough staying with dad until I was old enough to understand (12) even though he had been having an open affair since I was six.

I am a firm believer that there should be a statute of limitations for adults blaming their present situation on childhood drama and I am not placing blame on anyone but myself. I took on responsibility during my youth and young adulthood. The more the better. I do not know if I had anything to prove other than I was capable, but that was a falsehood also. I did not know at the time that I could have said no to responsibility nor did I know that corporations will keep piling it on until you break. That is their modus operandi. How much one could handle was a determining factor in how far one would climb up the ladder.
As far as responsibility, I went through the three stages of development that Friedrich Nietzsche writes about in his work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” I was the camel and told everyone to pile on the responsibilities. I was strong. I could handle the heavy burden. I performed this role until my late thirties. Then I transformed into the lion who fiercely fought for my freedom and independence. Everyone wondered what had happened to the camel who was easily controlled. As the lion, I had to fight and eventually slay my nemesis, the dragon, whose bodily armor carried a “Thou Shalt” written across each scale on his body. Each “Thou Shalt” was a rule created to control me as a member of society. I pealed each scale from the dragon, one by one until he was dead. Then I became the child of innocence again. I was free to determine my own rules and responsibilities for my life. I was free of carrying the burden of others that I so freely accepted in my youth. I was once again unbounded by rules and “Thou Shalt” of others.
During these transformations I learned four things about responsibility: Most people in our modern western society are overburdened with responsibilities. This is primarily a result of having too many material things. Our things control us. We become responsible for them. We must maintain them to keep them useful (cars, boats, lawnmowers, etc.) We must plug them in to keep them charged. And when we have more things than space to hold them, we store them rather than pass them on for others to use in anticipation of needing them some day down the road. The Storage industry in America is a multi-billion dollar a year business. Most have no idea what they are storing and rather than going through all of that stuff to find something they now need, we buy a new thing to replace the old thing and keep adding to our responsibility for stuff.
The more stuff you have the greater your responsibilities to material excesses. We even hire people to take care of our stuff so that we can get away from the burden for a week long vacation.There are two types of responsibilities: One can be either be “responsible to” or “responsible for.” In any contract situation, marriage, employment, or society we each have a responsibility to abide by the terms of the contract, spoken and implied. In marriage we promise to love, honor, and obey. These are responsibilities. In employment we have the responsibility to perform according to the needs and decisions of the corporation. In society we have the responsibility to abide by the laws of the state. In all of these cases, there is an exchange shared by all parties of the contract. You do this for me and I will do or provide this for you in return.
In contrast, “responsibility for” is not necessarily a contract between two parties. It is often a self imposed responsibility. One party independently makes themselves responsible for someone or some thing often without the other’s knowledge. As I did with my mother. Taking responsibility for something is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it is done with consciousness, but even then the person being responsible for another may build up resentment toward that person over time. This is especially true if this responsibility prevents him from living his/her own life at some point?
We are responsible for our children until they become old enough to be responsible for themselves. We are responsible for animals we take under our wing. They become totally dependent upon us for their existence. Once you feed an animal, that animal becomes your responsibility. You may ask, “What about caregivers or people who chose to be responsible for others?” Caregivers, like nurses or doctors, have made a conscious choice. One is to be responsible for the people they care for and two, to be responsible to the organization for which they work. Unless you are Mother Theresa or some other saintly person, even the most caring of hearts can become frustrated and overwhelmed by the demands of being “responsible for” can create. “Responsibility for” extracts a great toll upon one’s being. Ask any parent.
At this point in my life, I tend to shun responsibility of all kinds except for myself. In the words of the Little Prince:

If you are to be, you must begin by assuming responsibility. You alone are responsible for every moment of your life, for every one of your acts.

I am no longer the camel saying, “Put your burden upon my back.” I no longer assume other’s choices upon myself. I know at face value this approach seems selfish, and it is. I no longer chose to be responsible for other people’s choices because I am aware of the resentment which build up over time within myself when I am not living the life of my own choosing. I choose to be “responsible for” how the time in this life is used and I protect this time the way a hungry animal protects its kill. That does not mean I won’t do things for my friends because I will out of friendship. It means I am more consciously aware of when I can no longer do things for friends when their choices begin to purge upon my time and life, and hopefully I do this before resentment beings to build.These are three of the things I learned about responsibility. I do not know that they are universal but I have a feeling they are, but most are unaware how much responsibilities take a toll upon their life.
My choices and decisions do not always make other people happy but that is not why I am here. The most important thing I have learned about responsibility is this: I am the only one who is “responsible for” how I live my life and I am the only one “responsible to” myself to ensure I live it the way I choose.

When Paradise Is No Longer Affordable

What does one do when the home you love is no longer affordable or when you realize your time in paradise is running out?

* Get a job so you can afford to live in “Paradise?”

* Max out your credit cards to extend “Paradise” a bit longer?

* Search for a new “Paradise?”

On my return home from one of the required every four months exit of the island, the Immigration Officer said, “You know, you can’t do this forever.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about but I pretended to be uninformed. “What is that, sir?” I answered in a non apologetic voice. My passport pages were filled with entry and exit stamps from Fiji. I had lived on the island now for over three years using only my Tourist Visa.

“You can’t stay here forever on a Tourist Visa. You need to find another way to be here if you plan on staying any longer.” He stamped my passport and handed it back to me.

“Thank you sir.” I took my passport and continued to the luggage trolly. I thought it was somewhat ironic that whenever I reenter the Unites States, the Immigration Officer almost always says, “Welcome home!” In Fiji, a place I consider home, I am told the day will come when I will no longer be permitted entry into the country on a Tourist Visa. I did’t tell him that my application for residency had been rejected because I had not invested at least two hundred thousand Fijian dollars into the economy through the purchase of land, housing, or as a business investment, nor did I have fifty thousand dollars in a US bank to qualify for residency. My income from my pension and Social Security otherwise qualified me under their guidelines.

It was not an official warning. Those, I understand, are sent by post to inform the recipient that he/she has thirty days to leave the country and must remain out for at least one year. I glanced back to the Immigration Officer as he typed something into the computer before calling for the next traveler.

Everything is a sign for something I suppose. Maybe this was my sign to start creating another home or to figure out how to stay in this one. I had managed to pay for my required exists in advance up until now, but my meager savings have run out. It is expensive having to leave the country three times a year. A two month extension is available but it can only be utilized for emergency reasons and not merely to extend my Tourist Visa. No matter where you go from an island, it costs money, and having to leave three times per year amounted to one third of my income.

So how do I stay here? Or is it time to leave? I didn’t actually come here with a plan or time frame, but there is so much I love about Fiji. The sounds of the ocean, the millions of stars in the unpolluted skies, plucking a ripe papaya from a tree in the front yard, and quenching my thirst after working in the garden with the sweet juice from a coconut. It is a simple life I live here, but the required exits have made it unaffordable.

I could marry a local and gain residence, but that option is not one I would consider. I am still an old romantic, so being in love would have to be a huge part of any decision to marry. I could extend my time using my credit cards, but that option would always keep me in debt. I thought I had the issue resolved a few months ago when Jeanette offered me a work permit, but it fell through. “Too much government paperwork,” she said. Besides, I didn’t come to Fiji to work. I came here to live my life the way I dream of my life.

Or, I can take Thoreau’s position, “that I have several more lives to live, and cannot spare any more time to this one.” I thought, for whatever reason, my major life changes and moves were over, but it seems I still have more castles to build in the sky somewhere if not here.