"Now, take this board game," says the old
toy maker. "It's called ORWELL -- A Game of
Cross-Purposes. The players move in endless circles.
The winner is the one who first gets out of the game.
But the rules don't tell you how to do this."
He winks, as if to share a secret, and moves
in closer. "Sooner or later, you'll draw a card that says
'CHOICE: Move in any direction you want.'
Now, most players assume this means any direction
on the board..." and a sly smile slowly
creases his impish features...
(fragment of an unwritten tale)
[This is what went out to my ever-faithful readership, just before I put myself, very deliberately, into a condition of homelessness for the course of a full year. The resulting journey is summarized in a later newsletter, The Summer of Infinite Presence. This is as close as I could come to a rationale for it.]
It is mid-January as I begin this accounting. My thoughts, my visions of an upcoming year, are still rather discordant -- they always are, at this early time. But I want to try and collect them for you in some tentative harmony before a sudden springtime throws my energies far from the relaxed moment that I require for such an effort. I need to tell you 'where I'm at' because I need to tell myself, and because I want to stay in touch.
The one thing that seems clear to me now is that I am going to hit the road, in that much-dreamed-of adventure odyssey I spoke of in the Last Hurrah newsletter. But there are so many possible trails out there that my path, even its beginning, can only be guessed. I've made almost no commitments. All I can share with you, then, are the motivations behind this apparent madness -- some of the things I see in it, some of the reasons I've ignored opportunities for 'rescue', and some of the validations I've received.
Calling it madness is only a momentary condescension to life's popular realities -- the sanities that ordinarily govern our actions: a concern for shelter and where our next meal comes from (and our next hundred meals), a safety/security syndrome that stresses everything we must fear in the world, and a 'healthy' respect for the needs of old age. I won't be without such concerns, but I'll be playing them by a wholly 'unrealistic' set of thumb-rules.
I don't know whether it constitutes another reality or not. I tend to call it that, but some will say it's a reliance on luck, or just foolhardiness; some will see it as a spiritual quest, which I can also identify with. But what are words, in the end? It is simply something I have to do because the path I follow is too compelling to be denied.
I invent rationales - have done that for all of my life. It is a preoccupation of my left-brain, even as I move toward ever greater reliance on my right. The rationale is a handy way of collecting all the things that consciously support your inner impulses, to make of them a framework which can then be given as a reason for what you do. The rationale is as close as you can come to describing your inner process, but it is no more the compelling motive than having sex is the reason for falling in love.
So I'm going to try and gather the things that say why I need to do this, but understand that they are not the reasons, only the events and encounters which have illuminated the reason -- which lies deeply buried in my being. If I lean, at times, into a bit of rhetoric about them, it is because I think they express, too, some universal reflections on the way things are going in our world, of which we should stay conscious. You may not be provoked to a response anything like mine, but you may find a resonance, nonetheless, with perceptions that trouble your own spirit.
There was a 'key happening' in my world, last fall, that seems to have set the stage for all of this. It was telegraphed by events of summer, by the very dilemma I made note of in that early-summer newsletter, and in fact -- as I later realized -- by a four-year prior trail that I first wrote about in the 1982 issue of Black Bart #14 ("I Do Not Believe in Predictions...").
You'll recall last summer's situation -- I was "hopping ice floes" as I called it, while my finances diminished toward an August vanishing-point, and wondering if I was actually about to be dispossessed of bed & board, or if some rescue would appear.
My sense of cycle told me that the summer's tension would continue to build, without release, until the very end of July -- and that I could rely on some kind of resolution in that hazardously late moment. Whatever other guidance I might need should appear in the natural course of summer's events. And it happened exactly that way. I was offered the opportunity to organize a class I called Serendipity -- the very last thing mentioned in the newsletter -- and it proved to be no financial rescue, but its schedule requirements caused me to arrange a promised visit with a friend living in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon during the last week in June. Then, a full month after that visit, in the exact week of July that I had predicted should bring a resolution to the summer's tension, I was informed of a residential program at Rajneeshpuram -- a three-month Fall situation costing only $750.
Now let me broaden this picture a bit, so you'll see why that came as a resolution in a moment of disappearing finances. On the money side of it, I had one last reserve resource - a slowly maturing Israel bond that I had meant to save for my 'old age' (whatever that is) - or, really, to maintain as a thin but psychologically useful buffer between me and utter insolvency. But as summer squeezed me slowly toward the edge of my securities and that vast chaos of uncertainty, I began toying with ways of using the bond to preserve my options. Nothing so radical as spending it, of course. But this is how we tip-toe into deeper levels of risk . . . and faith.
As to Rajneeshpuram - well, my very earliest counter-culture friend has been vith Rajneesh for many years, and I've had a sufficient exposure to her changes, and to his discourses, and to the group's doings up there in Oregon, so that my perceptions go a lot farther than what media makes of the trip. Even so, doubt (and media brainwashing) might have restrained me from such a large investment of self and money, but for that late June visit, which had provided firsthand assurance of what I'd be getting into.
It was the combined effect of these circumstances, plus the unique timing, pIus the clear sense of a trail, plus a series of nine beautifully integrated I Ching readings on all aspects of it, that finally left me with not the narrowest doubt that it was the move to make. The bond, thanks to a helpful Black Bart friend, brought $1000; fortune further favored me with a sub-let of my living quarters, and yet another friend helped finagle a slightly bogus but necessary health-insurance certification. All possible disasters secured, all securities washed away, I tumbled forth into the abyss.
A curious sidelight is that others were actually going there free, at that very moment: street-people being bused there from all parts of the country, as you probably recall. I could easily have qualified -- but it somehow wasn't my trail to do it that way. I didn't challenge this, but I wondered about it. It may have been necessary for me to be totally rid of my resources going into 1985. It also obtained for me a better level of residence and companionship there, facilitating several significant connections I might not otherwise have made.
As it turned out, I spent only six weeks in Rajneeshpuram. Those of insufficient dedication to the pursuit of buildlng that community are gradually filtered out, and I was one of the first discards. But the time was all I needed there -- sufficient to my own purposes. By my own choice, I was into a daily routine of physical labor, doing groundswork -- and was amazed at how well my lazy body responded at age 57. It was a good turn for my head, too -- rejuvenative at both levels. And after edging toward it for years, I finally became a no-fish, no-poultry, no-foolin' vegetarian.
(From personal experience I can now say that flesh--food definitely tends to constipate the system. And I believe such information is either denied or suppressed by the American medical and agriculture establishments. As one who's had bowel problems all his life, I feel I've been lied to and misled - all my life. The passion for meat in this country amounts to a religion - and I want to affirm that my body feel healthier in six months of complete vegetarianism than it has for many, many years.)
It was also a rarely educative gift for me to be at Rajneeshpuram during the time of their highly publicized experiment with social cast-offs, and the media-adventures of their spokeswoman, Ma Anand Sheela who enraged everyone from Phil Donahue to Ted Koppel (and me, too) with her feisty style of public relations. I had a privileged inside view, and a firsthand contrast between what was actually happening there and what was portrayed to everyone in the outside world. You might even say it was a privileged view of how media has edged us unconsciously into Orwell's 1984!
I want to dwell on this for a moment, because it feeds into the stream of awareness that has been a lot on my mind this winter -- the sense that we really do live in a narrow media-packaged reality, so confining in its perspectives that it makes a complete mockery of our highly regarded freedom of press.
Media was our sideshow while I was up there. Once weekly, we were treated to an hour's worth of TV clips from the 6 o'clock news all over the country. We saw the now infamous interviews with Sheela possibly edited, but in a sufficiency to convey their full impact. A large dining-hall bulletin board was regularly updated with nationwide newspaper and magazine clips. We saw the diet of 'news' that you were being fed about the place and its activity' and were yet intimately in touch with the actual truth from which your small slice was being abstracted.
Rajneeshpuram is a place of spiritual seeking and social experiment. It is not 'typically religious' and certainly not typically American' -- if any such standards exist. They are self-serving, as any other social or institutional entity in this country. They are possibly more respectful of legal niceties, and possibly more creative around them, than most such entities. They are not 'dangerous' in any observable way, and have not violated anyone's rights, territorial or otherwise. They have tread on a few people's sensitivities, and have not exactly fitted our mold of good public-relations.
For these limited inadequacies, they received a major media hatchet-job. Paced by the local redneck intolerance, and a paranoia that reached statewide proportions, national media made an incredibly cynical attack on their motives at every level -- from their spiritual sincerity, to their territorial ambitions, to their 'using' of both devotees and streetpeople, to their supposed general threat to life and liberty. In the guise of 'getting the story', innuendo was left dripping from every paragraph, printed or spoken.
Now, we all know that media sensationalizes for competitive purposes; it's commonly understood that along with delivering the image to us, they are delivering us to a cross quilt of advertisers. We make allowances and do not take the image too seriously -- the violence, the soap operas, the political hype. But I begin to see that some Orwellian line is crossed when it comes to 'news' . We may not be taking it too seriously but it is going in, nevertheless, as news, and therefore cur reality filters are down. My perception is that we cannot separate the informational content from the meaning-structure that's interwoven -- simply because the presentation is assumed to be a slice of the real world.
When I came out of Rajneeshpuram, I found that people tended to discount what I had to say. In effect, they were choosing to believe the second-hand, superficialized, deliberately sensational, and remote-from-challenge reality presented by media, in preference to a firsthand report from someone they could trust and question, and from whom they could pick up nuance and qualification. Too often, their minds had already been made up, although they were quite insistent they were still 'open-minded'.
Do you get the really deep implications of this? I'm not carping at having been relegated to the ranks of the brainwashed, I'm saying that everyone of us is being brainwashed daily into an acceptance of media news as a valid picture of the real world. Even though we know better -- and this is the horrifying part. It's not even government that has our minds on a leash, but a non-conspiratorial consortium of advertisers, TV ratings-busters, and instant evaluators known as anchor-men. I mean, it doesn't even have the decent excuse (as in-Soviet Russia) of a supposed public good.
For last words on it, let me say that Rajneeshpuram is a happy and affectionate place. They are working toward a community that serves the needs of the heart. It is immersion in another reality, to be there for an extended stay -- and you'd be wise to let no media superficiality persuade you of what that reality is, or to simply discount its sincerity because it doesn't conform to our own.
I had a brief taste of the contrast between the Rajneeshpuram reality and ours when I left. After six weeks of total immersion, my very instant perception of the streets and people of small-town Oregon was shatteringly dismal. I saw a grey, grim scene of intense traffic, dreary people paying heedlessly little attention to one another, apparently absorbed in private mis eries -- not a smile to be seen, whereas they had been everywhere where I'd just been. I adjusted fairly quickly, of course, but the immediate impact was .like coming out of Shangri-La! And it serves as a memorable example of the fluidity of personal reality.
Returning home six weeks ahead cf schedule brought me two bonuses. One was a rebate of $375, which was enough to assure an unhassled Berkeley residence through the winter. The second was a gap of nearly six weeks before I could reclaim my old quarters -- for they were sub-let. This might hardly seem a bonus, but for me it was, for in denying me an immediate resettlement, it also broadened the time in which I could remain free of old trips and attachments -- being neither here nor there, but somewhat afloat And in this rare space, I confirmed the joys of a reality of being free.
When I finally did reclaim the books and desk-projects that ordinarily hold my focus, their possessive spell had been fully broken. I knew that I was here for a winter of ritualized separation -- from this house, from this locale, from my own past of recent and many years. Something new had been, or was being born in me -- and if I could not yet know what it was, I had some tentative sense of its themes. In the course of the winter, these intimations have been enriched with further flashes and confirming resonances of the sort that rationales are built from, as I stated in the opening of this newsletter.
I have been a complete puzzle to some of the people I live with. They have seen me, over the course of nearly three years, going about my affairs in a fairly idle way, paying almost no attention to the earning of any income, actually refusing occasiona1 opportunities for it. Some relatively incidental money has come in from a few Black Bart efforts, a couple book reviews in the daily press, my brief brush with a computer last year -- but generally speaking, I seem content to let the very last of a small inheritance of a few years ago drift away, without any apparent concern for my own continuing welfare.
What it's all about (as many of you know) is that I have come through 13 years of such laissez-faire economics, always discovering that some avenue opens, some worthwhile trail presents itself. The Spirit that underlies our tethered lives is like an incredibly resilient bouncing ball. It can't bounce if it's boxed in or tied down with 'security' -- but let it loose and you'll hardly be able to keep up with it!
The excitement of chasing it, however, is rarely experienced by most of us because of the tendency, when things get the least bit scary or risky, to clamp down on Free Spirit and stay with yesterday's tried and true. Yet, I think we've all had glimpses -- moments of either unusually adventurous daring, or maybe times we were caught unawares by an unguarded twist of fate -- when we've experienced these brilliant flashes of a Spirit that seems to know exactly where it's going. It is only that we're unwilling to believe it can be relied upon.
What I'm really indicating, by contrast and reverse emphasis, is the cage, the virtual prison, that daily reality holds us in. It's not just that media lies to us about a place called Rajneeshpuram, or that the A.M.A. lies to us about nutrition. There is a continuing process going on, here, of structuring a reality that eventually tells you what you can or can't do. It doesn't bind you by any set of rules, as in Orwell's 1984 -- it's much more subtle. It tells you what is real and what isn't.
Maybe I can get closer to this through a remarkable and curious quote I found, the other day, by the great French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. "In reality," said he, nearly a hundred years ago, "time does not stop. It is the artist who is truthful, and it is photography which lies."
How strange this at first sounds. Isn't the photograph our ultimate arbiter of reality? But think about it. It's always what lies behind the photo that refreshes our sense of reality: it's what we already know of the person whose image is captured, it's the sense of what has just happened prior to the photo, or is about to happen, that imparts meaning; it's dozens and hundreds of associations we make, ranging endlessly far beyond the frame of the instant film. By itself, as a slice out of time and life, the photograph is almost meaningless.
But Rodin could not know the full implication of his observation Here's the paradox that closes the trap: Photography provides the inarguable evidence of what is real, and thus - by corollary - it certifies that what cannot be caught on film is thereby not real! In other words, this image which merely stirs our conjectures of a larger, deeper reality has come to be, in symbol and fact, the rigidly narrow and lifeless limit to reality.
The damage does not even stop there. In neglecting art in favor of photography, we have banished it to museum and gallery - a mere pastime for the 'cultured' and curious; whereas it had been a primary medium for our shared meditations on reality - pervasive in every sort of print publication, in poster and broadside and billboard. The old Chinese adage that a picture is worth a thousand words referred to no photograph (as the modern use insists) but to graphic artistry and its special way of conveying what cannot be seen or described. And still further: As we lost touch with the artistic extrapolation of reality we became further intimidated by the breach between the scientific and the visionary.
So Rodin cues us to the very nature, in advance of its arrival, of our twentieth century reality -- haltered and bridled by science so completely that whatever lies outside the provable realm is something perhaps to dream by, but hardly to live by. If you cannot photograph it, measure it, or replicate it, it lies somewhere between fantasy and delusion.
But proof, itself, is turning out to be riddled with inadequacies in these shifting times. Take, for example, the introduction of acupuncture in a western world whose medicine not only can't explain it, but literally contradicts the very possibility of its existence! Here we have two whole and workable systems of diagnosis and treatment, each of which disproves the other -- yet they both 'provably' work. In this light, the idea of proof does not even make sense -- it references merely a state of mind!
And 'state of mind' may eventually turn out to be all the justification we have for proof. In the course of my sojourn at Rajneeshpuram, I had to wrestle with Sheela's outrageous performances as they impacted on my ability to contentedly return to my labors each morning. Time and again, she would blow me away, and time and again I had to find some explanation of what was going on out there between her and the media. One day it struck me that my pacifying explanations had no firmer ground than the workings of my own mind! Still, they were marvelously effective in easing my anxieties and enabling me to continue happily at my tasks. (...et tu, Brute?)!
To be sure, opinion is not explanation, and explanation should not be called proof -- but the 'proofs' we hail, whether in the morning newspaper or from some state-of-the-art symposium, are used only to bolster what we already incline to believe -- don't deny it. And all I discovered in that Rajneeshpuram incident was that even for one who thinks proof and explanation are serious things -- invention will do the job quite as well!
At first shock (and it was!) this is a shattering discovery. It takes one's claim to rationalism down a few pegs. It takes one's interest in expository writing down even further. It kind of puts dialogue and debate in their place, too. Those lengthy discussions that pit one Great Mind against another -- really, a lot of pure bullshit gets thrown around, when you get right down to it.
But then the awareness goes to deeper levels of reflection, and I begin to see interesting possibilities. If the world is simply filled with people proving one thing or another just to keep their own belief-system on track, they don't really have to be taken very seriously, right? I mean, my inventions are every bit as good as theirs! So friend X assures me, with the superior smile of the clear-eyed, that what I see in the I Ching is really in my own head -- but he cannot see that his doubts are really in his own head. Friend Y observes that I have a money-problem -- oh, but what a blind way to judge my freedom! -- and sees not her own concern, at every turn, with how much her work is "worth".
What it really does is put me squarely on my own terms with the Universe. If confronted with 'facts', I don't have to make excuses, flimsy or profound, for my ruptured reality -- nor even reveal my resistance to anyone's challenge. Nothing has to add up! Neither or both of us is crazy, and there's no more need to prove anything to anyone.
Well, as this newsletter plainly proves (ha!), the vision is not yet completely real for me -- I'm still 'proving' things. Once upon a time, in the mists of a long-ago reverie, I wrote a poem about the long trail ahead of me that ended with the line "...and if I ever get there, no one will ever hear of me again." Maybe this time actually approaches. I almost seem, these days, to be bobbing between two realities. I've had, for a year, the curious sensation that I can 'see into things' more clearly. And this winter, for a first time, has been exceptionally mellow, paced to a tempo that fits my being. In the late hours of night, there is some communion with Spirit that regularly arrives... the walls of life seem to come down, and I experience an indescribable vitality and freedom -- a vastness of self without any apparent boundary.
Even am I slowly moving through a conscious transition that continues to make that other reality ever more real. This 'winter of my content' has permitted the slow formulation of a framework that will surround my travels. It is as loose as uncertainty requires -- and as firm as self-knowledge demands:
I want to stay close to earth -- to walk it as much as possible, to sit and lay upon it, to regard it with respect and reverence, to find my food in it (and leave my waste in it, for it), and learn not to be wary of its creatures.
Water, too, of creek and surf -- I want to loaf and frolic in it. And also in sunshine. I want to spend most of my time under sun and stars -- to be so at home in the outdoors (even in rain!) as to retract some of that terribly large fraction of life spent in boxes.
I want to take time easily -- as if I have an eternity of it (which, of course, I do). I want to be as long in any place as I desire to be there. And I want to meander away, when it's time to leave, never rush.
I want to not know where I am going, so that the fork or turn next taken is done so precisely because it appeals to me in that moment, and with no reason ever to retrace my steps unless that, too, is the moment's pleasure.
I want to be very light of baggage -- so light that I can walk with a spring to my stride. My heroes are the Muirs and Whitmans of a yestertime -- men (and women too, I suppose) who'd be shocked at today's back-packer; who could take a bedroll and a sack of bread and have no fear of the longest hike. After all, if the Universe provides, it provides too in the moment of need.
While I'll keep some sort of journal, no longer will it be the daily parade of happenings I've kept like some grossly obsessed 'accountant of time'. I want to write, hereafter, with pastels and broad brushes, not the scalpels and fencing foils I've grown so clever about.
And if I never see another computer (nor even hear of one, God willing), I'd hardly consider my world amiss. No more technology to trap my mind, no telephone or hi-volume stereo to disturb my evening reveries. I'll watch the silhouettes of twilight...twice each day!
Yes, a lot of quiet-time. The ambience to get in touch with what is truly real, to be in it and of it, unrushed and unwired by city-trips -- and to have no boundary-time on these blessings, no 'responsibilities' to cut them short.
My hope is that by living more in the REAL world, for the first extended time in my life, I might come to and cross a magic line that I know is somewhere in that direction, where my perception will go through a subtle shift and I'll no longer be a 'civilized' person adrift, but a natural person very much at home in the wide, wild world.
You wonder, of course, about this business of having no money, and how realistic, in that light, are these paradisical visions. I admit, I've had doubts of my own. I've had a long curriculum in the ways of reality and Spirit, and feel pretty well grounded for this 'graduate study' I'm contemplating -- but caution is quite as much the child of experience as confidence. However, the Universe provides even against unrelieved fears of the not-yet-known: two books have come my way in the past year with quite a lot of validation for the safety of a moneyless course.
One is the story of Satish Kumar, who embarked on a peace pilgrimage from his native India some twenty years ago, and walked almost the entire distance from there to France -- including a four-month passage through Soviet Russia which lasted three months longer than his visa allowed! He not only refused any transportation, he accepted no money on the journey, and took none along with him. He tells how it brought him close to the people he traveled among, and how they 'came through' for him every time. Not even was the difficulty of language any unsurmountable barrier.
I don't imagine the book is obtainable, as it was published by a small British press, but just in case you'd look, the title is No Destination (Black Pig Press, 1978). Satish Kumar eventually became the editor of Resurgence Magazine; and rather strangely, I met him, briefly, in Toronto in 1980. I find this particularly curious because it happened just three months prior to the chain of events in the Fall of that year which I wrote about in my "I Don't Believe in Predictions.." article, and which I now see as having initiated the trail I'm presently following. Again, destiny weaves an intricately synchronistic fabric!
The second book is one you can obtain, and I would urge you to do so. It is Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, and it's obtainable from Friends of Peace Pilgrim, 43480 Cedar Ave., Hemet, CA 92344. The book is distributed on a donation basis -- it is easily worth $6, and it sells for that price through bookstores.
Peace Pilgrim's journey took place in this country, and it lasted 28 years! It puts any fears I might have about my own intended journey into the pale fringe of meaningless anxiety, a weakness of faith. This remarkable woman began her journey in the dead of winter on Rose Bowl Day, 1953, in Pasadena. She proceeded to walk 25,000 measured miles in ten years, then discarded any effort to keep track, and walked on until the time she died, sometime around her 80th year! She relied entirely on offerings, for both shelter and food, carried no luggage, not even a sleeping bag!
Her book is an incredible testimonial to faith, dedication and spiritual purpose, as well as to the Providence of Spirit. She came to no harm in those 28 'unprotected' years, went never any longer than 3 days without a meal -- yet asked nothing of anyone! One simply runs out of superlatives in any commentary on her journey. I'll have absolutely nothing to boast, whatever my own travels manage to achieve. Get the book.
I will, however, have tales to tell. And I'm going to leave you with one that seems a perfectly adequate bridge between where I'm coming from and where I'm headed. It's a delectable instance of the sort of wild providence that I know is out there. It happened late last June on the first of my four hitching trips between Berkeley and Rajneeshpuram.
It had been about two years since I'd last tried my luck on the road, and I was a bit unsure of what to expect from it, so I allotted four days to the 600-mile journey. I also gave myself a handicap I'd never tried before. Since I have the prospect ahead of me of being on the road without funds, I thought I'd make a dry run, so to speak, and I left town with only $1.17 in my pocket but plenty of foodstamps, so that my actual daring was minimal.
I'll spare you the humbling detail of the first two days, which saw me only as far as Sacramento -- barely 80 miles. They were the worst two consecutive days of hitching I have ever experienced, and I was going through all sorts of head-trips trying to account for it. Had I lost my touch? Had the highways tightened up that much in two years? Was it perhaps not a journey I should be making, after all? Everything has meaning -- the only problem is to figure out what the meaning is.
I finally decided it was a rigorous rebuke of my efforts to control the journey by turning down rides that seemed poorly directed, and by holding a destination sign, which is another way of being selective. I had guessed this after the first discouraging day, which had netted me the single late-afternoon ride to Sacramento; but I was now on a Sacramento freeway ramp that went off in several directions -- mainly back to the Bay Area, and it seemed only ordinary prudence to have a sign saying "North". However, the prudence had gained me nothing during the entire second day, and I had now to consider that I was still being too choosy. It was either that, or to abort the whole project.
So, on this third morning, I abandoned all effort at control and stood ready to take whatever should come. If it took me back to Berkeley, then it would be my message from the Universe. Any ride at this point was better than none.
In hardly 20 minutes, a car pulled over for me! The driver peered out and asked where I was headed -- and I told him I honestly didn't know. He thought about that for a bare moment, and then said he was sort of lost, himself. There was not much use in standing there trading uncertainties, so I just got in at that point, and we took off. Could I have known it, my entire autumn journey to Rajneeshpuram rested on that one moment of absolute faith. It turned out he was going north -- toward Oregon -- 90 miles.
I knew immediately that I had figured it right, and had broken through the psychic barrier. Nothing would hold me back any longer, which was exactly the case. In five rides that day, I would travel close to 500 miles. But the sweetest measure of the day's breakthrough was yet to come, on another freeway ramp further up the line.
This was outside of Red Bluff, about noontime. Encountering three other hitchers there, I took my proper place, the last one down the descending ramp. The fellow closest eyed me in hungry misery as I began to enjoy the entré of my just-purchased lunch -- a cup of yogurt. He had the doleful look of a dog that just watches you while you eat -- and I finally had to give him the bottom half of the yogurt. His expression barely changed as he welcomed it and finished it.
Almost immediately, a small car pulled past all of us and stopped just on beyond me. Now, the rule of the road is that the lately-come hitcher is last down the line, but if a car stops precisely for him, there is no contest -- it's his ride. I was halfway into the car, when I again caught that utterly devastated look of the sad character who had just finished my yogurt. The driver, in my moment's hesitation, spoke up -- quite unnecessarily -- to say that he could take only one rider. I made an instant and unprecedented decision. In a flush of both confidence and conscience, I got out and motioned the other character into the car. After all, he had been waiting much longer than I, and I was now in the aura of a perfectly functioning connection with The Universe.
Well, in hardly any time at all, a 20-mile ride came for the rest of us -- and I was on my way to the second half of this amazing demonstration of one of the oldest and most basic of Biblical certitudes, variously rendered as 'casting bread upon the waters' or 'give and ye shall receive' or simply The Golden Rule.
My very next ride was with a van-loaded family of Seventh-Day Adventists. Prompted by nothing more than their own charitable instincts, they left me with a large, freshly packed bag lunch when we parted company, 60 miles up the line. And now (are you ready for this?) the most incredible touch of all: along came the very driver whose hospitality I had earlier given over to that hungry soul with the sad-dog eyes, two hours and 80 miles back along the freeway!
This driver had paused for a swim in Lake Shasta, lost his sad-soul passenger to the road at that point, and decided to finish his journey alone -- but stopped for me, now, only because he remembered the incident and recognized me! It was his ride that took me all the way through Oregon, assuring completion of my 'helplessly late' journey within its allotted span of time.
There's a lot to ponder about, in that chain of events. Never before have I travelled fully without funds; never before have I, myself, been so generous on the road; never before has The Universe gifted me with such precisely clear validations of faith and charity. I think miracles only happen to those who put themselves entirely on the line -- I think this is the great and lovely teaching that life has for us, and I do not fear the course I enter upon.
I don't know how well this pastiche of a newsletter has said the things in my heart. But I guess it's as close as I can come. I didn't think it would be so long, but things kept bubbling up as I wrote and rewrote it, over several weeks (it's now past mid-February!). There are a few more incidentals you should know, and I will leave you to your ruminations.
I do mean to stay in touch with most of you who receive this. My mail-list has been chopped to half its old size, so you are among the select -- based on some sense of our past contact and present connection. But some of these are addressed in red ink, which means that I think our connection has become a bit thin -- and the reasons vary. For you (of the red) I can only say that this is now a much more personal mailing list than before, and it is up to you to let me know where we stand on that basis -- or else this is our farewell.
I'll try to send newsletters now and then. But if they're done on the road, and by photocopy, they'll be much briefer than this. I won't expect any donations. But I'll certainly accept them, gratefully. I have not yet Peace Pilgrim's level of purity. Two newsletters per year could come to $100 or more, even lightweight, and if you feel yourself to be a channel for Providence, I'll be a ready receiver. But again, I repeat: There's no obligation, even implied, to contribute.
I'll continue to receive mail through my Canyon P.O. Box -- though it will take longer to reach me. And I'll reply as I can, tho mostly by postcard -- although I'm not sure how much my finances will allow me to indulge in postage, comfortably. One think you might do to assure a reply is to include a SASE or an addressed postcard in your letters. Otherwise I may play it by ear.
Would you like a visit? If and when I'm in your territory -- especially if you're far afield from my Bay Area haunts -- you can be sure I'll try to get in touch. A night (or several) of shelter would always be appreciated -- and I'd provide an exchange for that, of some household chores. Or maybe an I Ching reading, or a chance to sketch you. (Any or all of the above). And certainly some good conversation. If you have an especial desire to be visited, why don't you write and tell me. Or for that matter, if you have a desire not to be visited -- then you won't have to worry about the sudden appearance of an old hobo, freaking the hell out of your neighbors.
I'm also thinking of hiring-out as a vacation house-sitter, at times. If anyone is interested in such a service, for a week or more, let me know (but well ahead of time) and I'll see if we can work it out.
One more thing I might as well put out... while it's far too soon for any concern about next winter, I do expect I'll be wanting a steady roof over my head for that span of 3 or 4 months. My early fantasy is that it would be a great time to be part of someone's household, preferably in some part of the country I've never been much exposed to -- a spare room to briefly call my own, a time to collect my adventures on paper, warm evening hours with good people -- all that neat winter stuff. If it sounds engaging and possible to anyone, please make a point of letting me know between now and late summer. I doubt if I could pay for the room, but I'm sure I could handle my own upkeep.
So we begin a new Black Bart chapter, and who knows where it will lead? To another reality, of course! I'll be getting on the road sometime around April 1st, when spring has turned a bit warm here -- certainly no later than my 58th birthday at mid-month. It's my second Saturn return, this year, by the way. A lovely moment for rebirth. I'll be celebrating it all year long! `
In love and profound gratitude,