The Beginning: The Shape Shifting of Ancestry
To arrive here, on this late date, seems ludicrous, and yet, strangely, as it should be. I have lived my life under the grand illusion that I was born, like all Anglo Saxon Protestant human beings, a complete person who lives in a body and controls their own destiny, that my talents would be discovered, that I am somehow special. But the gargantuan monster that is the shadow side of that "myth of specialness" ensured that my relationships and experiences in life would only support my grueling self-hatred. I thought myself inherently flawed, and the harder I struggled against this vision of my "self", the more colossal the monster grew. Negative thoughts constantly streamed through my consciousness, demanding that I walk a thin line with cultural expectations. I held a job at a prestigious university, had an outwardly beautiful wife, Mary, and the obligatory 2 1/2 children, was tolerant of minorities, polite to a fault, had impeccable self-hygiene, but even with all that toil, I was not really the person the world so admired. In truth, I have blindly stumbled and careened drunkenly through life, a puppet whose strings are operated by forces outside my control. Negative thoughts have streamed constantly through my mind, demanding that I walk this way and that, this way and that. Interior and exterior identities were not aligned, and masks were worn.
Mary must not come in the room and see me writing this missive. She is sly, and can intuit when I am hiding something, and I believe her lately to be somewhat malevolent. So I scurry to get my lies on the page.
At Age Seven: Sometimes You Just Need to Go Through a Door
Christmas at our home was the highest unholy holiday of the year. Granted, there is a slightly minor but perhaps more delightfully hedonistic holiday in our Puritanic culture on the tail of Christmas called New Year's Eve. Its build-up begins the day after Christmas, followed by a week of anticipation, and then (voila!), culminates in varying degrees of abandonment of social norms such as alcohol abuse, dancing and wild partydom until finally (post hangover), all living beings return to dull normality.
But Christmastime was THE event. It was absolutely jam-packed with gaiety, warmth, colored lights, Christmas cards, a bedecked tree, figgy pudding, .... ad nauseam, I now believe. But back then, it was a purely joyful chain of delightful absurdities that led to CHRISTMAS DAY, including cheerfully greeting passers-by while shopping for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts for family, organizing reunions with seldom-seen relatives that included a potluck meal, smiling at carolers singing loudly triumphant songs about Christ and mangers and wise men, and eating loads of sweets. I nearly hysterically looked forward to the climax of this prelude: CHRISTMAS DAY!, when at the break of dawn, the family gathered with frantic expectations around the Christmas Tree to open our presents (of course, not until Mother made coffee and Father was enjoying his first cup).
One day, during my childhood, I had a revelation concerning the exciting Christmas build-up I had grown to love (or, I should say a revelation came to me). This new and confusing thought appeared like a thief in the night. In fact, I can remember precisely where I was standing... in the entryway from the dining room to the kitchen, where beside me hung one of those old rotary wall phones, beige to be exact, with a long tangled cord for moving about while chatting. I stood there, seemingly caught in time (the thought gave me pause!), and I said to myself, "You are excitedly anticipating Christmas day, but in the twinkling of an eye, Christmas day will be gone. There is the 'build-up to Christmas day', followed by the short-lived experience of 'CHRISTMAS DAY itself', and then it is gone (Poof! Like a puff of smoke!)."
This was my first inkling of the passage of time, or impermanence, as the Buddhists might say. A realization that things come and go and nothing stays the same. Just then I saw out of the corner of my eye quick movement toward the open door at the end of the long wooden hallway. Our loyal dog, Sir Alex von Fifelbach, was racing for the stairs.
Brother Dog, Spirit Dog
She quickly ran after brother dog, as he was the only one in the family who would listen to her as she whined on about non duality and the meaning of life. Or rather, the lack of meaning. Her mother said, "stop thinking so hard. These existential crisis are getting a bit old," and her father just wanted to be alone. Chasing Sir Alex up the stairs, she suddenly was jettisoned into the air, as the stairs had changed direction, as if she were climbing a teeter-totter, and she found herself careening downward, through Wonderland, passing through Never-Never Land, and finally meeting an abrupt end at Chapel Perilous. Rubbing her eyes and tapping her heels, she began squinting at her surroundings, which always made her see better. She could hear her mother's faint voice calling her in for dinner, but taking no heed, as usual, she took a step into the small room where she had last seen the blur of the racing dog. The room was empty and the ceiling very low, and it contained only an old steamer trunk pushed against a wall and a tiny hinged door in the ceiling. This little door must go to the attic, she thought, and after pulling the trunk to the middle of the room she climbed up on it, slid her finger into the brass ring that was attached to the ceiling door and pulled it slowly down. She began to snake her body up through the tight opening, easing her arms through first, and then using her elbows to begin inching herself up. Once her eyes were above floor level and she was able to peek into the room, she heard a low buzzing, a fluorescent light began to flutter awake, and she saw that someone had spray-painted a message on the wall facing her.
There was one word only:
"Sometimes you just need to go through a door,"3 she thought.
The hurrier I go the behinder I get, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and why is this door so small? This is most unusual. I wonder if mother is mad at me. Where did Sir Alex von Fifelbach go off to? Oh, I am so very hungry. I wonder if mother is worried. I would like to buy that Nancy and Sluggo comic I saw at the store. Why does my back hurt? CHRISTMAS DAY was so disappointing. I wanted a doll with blond hair, not brown. I am very hungry. I want Kix. And a Slo Poke. I guess I'll go home. But where am I?
I am lost.
Age Fourteen: At Home in the House of Mirrors
Having discovered peroxide, nothing was ever the same. She was pissed off at the fucking world as she defiantly left the school grounds and walked up to a group of students crouching in the trees nearby. They passed her a joint and she took a toke. You going back to class? No, they answered, and they turned away with their spray cans and she went her own opposite sweet way, down the steep hill and passing through the door to the House of Mirrors. The Master stared out from her reflections, and asked, "When you become irritated with others who disagree with you, who is speaking? When another mispronounces a word and you think them less intelligent, who is speaking? When you are critical of another's appearance, who whispers in your ear and tells you that you are superior? It is me, and I will always say "soap is cheap" in your ear if you begin to feel compassion for the homeless. I will always say "less is more" and then say "more is less". It makes no difference. I know your weaknesses and I come in many forms, and have multitudes of trickeries. I am subtle, beautiful, and I have come to court you. I am tender. I masquerade as benevolence. I am the church and I am the school and I kill children. I am a shape shifter. If you look for me, avert your gaze. I am King of The House of Mirrors.
Unattachment: The Son of God is 2
Mary still smelled the taste of her professor's penis in her mouth, the sharpness of metal and the Dean's List. Her mind was bleeding complicity and self-loathing onto her cashmere cardigan. She stared dully out the kitchen window as child 1/2 tugged at the hem of her wool skirt. But she paid no attention, she was practicing the dull stare that would carry her numbly atop the fake life on which she rocked comfortably back and forth.
"Sometimes what seems like laissez-faire parenting can really be depression", said son 2 to a friend in a bar in Tuscon, following his divorce from his second wife, who would, to her death, consider him, in her martyrdom, the love of her life. My mother was distant, to say the least. Always thinking about death, taking pictures of gravestones, stuff like that, pretty depressed, I think." Making self-conscious eye-contact because he had just read an article that said making eye contact during conversation indicates sincerity and empathy, the friend said, "Yeah? I always thought she was the perfect mom, she had a great personality, she was always buying you toys, and she was a looker, too!" Son 2 laughed. "Looks can be deceiving."
Mary's Story: Memory Does Not Exist
Once, when bathing the son of God, I stood up from the tub, looked into the mirror, and saw my face only partly. I had only one eye, and part of my forehead and cheek were missing, as in a puzzle. But I could see the wall behind my head even though there were missing pieces. This occurrence, and some others, have made me wonder if I do in fact exist, and the seeing of "me", my body, is an illusion. Maybe the object that I have seen as "me" all of these years doesn't exist. Perhaps the world, reality as we know it, is an illusion. What if I am wearing the mask of "me" and you are wearing the mask of "you"?
"Standing on the small porch of Hakujuan, she saw the shadow of a little wren cross the footpath, followed by the shadow of a hungry crow, and she saw that the little wren arose, abided, and fell away. And then she saw that the arising arose, abided, and fell away... and that abiding arose, abided, and fell away... and that falling away arose, abided, and fell away. She saw that knowing this arose, abided, and fell away. Then she know there was nothing more than this, no ground, nothing to lean upon at all, and no one leaning, and she opened the clenched fist in her mind and let go and fell into the midst of everything."3
Title: Ego is Legion: from a talk by Adyashanti
2. A nod to Yoko Ono
3. from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children,
by Ransom Riggs
4. from Women of the Way, by Sallie Tisdale
a description of Teijitsu, the lonely one