Category Archives: Parable

Grandfather Speaks

On this date, December 26th, a Wednesday in 1956, my first best friend was born. Today she would have been 58 years old, but the fact is she never made it to her 20th birthday, having chosen to voluntarily shuffle off of this mortal coil far to prematurely. I have been unable to sleep this night as an old song plagues me. It is that Jefferson Airplane composition entitled Miracles and I ponder the connection that Paul Kantner and Grace Slick have with my inability to leave the past behind and embrace the comfort of sleep.

My cousin Carol left us too early but she has continued to be an inspiration to me, as I carom awkwardly through this life some call an illusion, although the tears and pain we bear prove all too well it is nothing less then real. Carol has been the catalyst for many of my poems and musical compositions, as well as my novel Pictures in the Sand, which is based upon a singular drawing she made in the dirt of the desert so many years ago after the ravages of this involuntary tour of duty left their scars inscribed upon her hopes and dreams.

Eight years ago, a Tuesday, on what would have been Carol’s 50th birthday, I wrote the following while contemplating what might follow this life.

20141226-Grandfather Speaks

“Grandfather, what is a soul?”

“Granddaughter, when our world first came into being the Creator included wondrous forms in the first mix. These forms existed for untold millennium as wisps that encircled our newborn world. They could feel the warmth of the sun and the cold of space but judged them not. The winds of space ferried them endlessly about. After a very long time life began to appear upon our world. First tiny creatures floated unseen in vast oceans living upon the light. Eventually larger creatures appeared until finally, one day, a creature inhaled the breath of the world and took in the wondrous wisp. This was the first soul. As the creature lived the soul learned of its surroundings. As the creature died the soul was released back into the realm of our Creator until the first breath of life once again captured it. And so it went for unnamed centuries, living, floating, and living once again experiencing the lives of our Creator’s works.”

“Grandfather, are not souls only the property of humans?”

“No Granddaughter. The unborn souls are more ancient than life. The birthing came when creatures imbued the breath of our world. This occurred long before humans came to walk upon this planet with his older cousins.“

“Grandfather, do all humans have souls?”

“No Granddaughter. The great prophet Black Elk once told me that our Creator had given only 666,000 unborn souls to our world. Since souls may live within any breathing creature only a very few humans may share their existence with one of our Creator’s souls.”

“Grandfather, what is the purpose of a soul?”

“Granddaughter, only our creator would know the answer to that question. Once, I asked Black Elk the very same question. He also said he did not know. He also said that he felt as if the soul was a gift from our Creator to connect all life. He also felt that the souls acted like teachers who would show us how to live life well.”

“Grandfather, do you have a soul?”

“I do not think so my Granddaughter. I am privileged to have learned from Black Elk what it is like to share one’s own life with a soul.”

“Grandfather, how is one who has a soul different?”

“In many, many ways, Granddaughter. A soul has shared the lives of many creatures and has developed empathy beyond the capacity of people. A person with a soul knows what it is to live the life of the least and greatest of God’s creations. A person with a soul does no harm to his fellow creatures or to the Mother of us all, our Earth.”

“Grandfather, are souls immortal?”

“Black Elk once told me that he felt as if there were now fewer souls upon our planet then when he was young. When I pressed the issue he could only say that it was a sad feeling, as if a good friend had died.”

“Grandfather, what other humans have souls?”

“I do not personally know of any.”

Sometimes I think that what happens after we leave this plane is exactly what we believe will happen. If we believe it is nothing then it is nothing that we will receive. If we believe it is basking in the warmth of God then that is what we will receive.

God bless you Carol Joy Harris on what would have been your 58th birthday. God bless you and forever may you bask in the warmness of His aura.

Why, Indeed?

My 22-year-old student, who continues to inspire my writing, asked me just this morning: “Why is there so much evil in the world?” I found the coincidence curious as I was thinking about the very same thing on my way into work. I was asked only yesterday what my political views were, which has triggered a significant amount of gray matter to develop a inoffensive answer, but the frankness of her question begged me to throw caution to the wind and answer her query as I would see fit and I did. But first, a parable, if you please, from a millennia old story:

“There was once a man,” Grandfather began, “who lived in the old countries and was deeply loved by his family, his clan, and by all of the people as all of the people loved each other in those times before the great change. One day the man built a fence around a bit of our Mother Earth and said ‘mine.’ Now his neighbors had never seen a fence before and did not like the man’s audacity in claiming that a portion of Our Mother, who by birthright belongs to all, was his alone. The people sought the advice of the wisest of the Elders who concluded that the man had a sickness of the brain and advised the people to leave him be lest he cause injury to them. However, one of the Elders was also a gifted and trusted seer who warned the people of a great calamity coming to all and encouraged them to kill the man immediately, and tear down the fence and forget about it, out of their unselfish love for all of the people.”

“Grandfather,” his daughter asked, “what did the people do?”

“They left him be and damned all of mankind forever more.”

I explained to my student that I perceived the root of the evil that lurks in the hearts of mankind to be one of greed that is greatly exacerbated by the private ownership of our natural resources. I further observed that if we all worked together and shared our natural resources I do not see how things like starvation, homelessness, disease, and none of the poverties could exist. Not economic poverty. Not spiritual poverty. Not nutritional poverty. Not even the poverty of inadequate Love.

I was once telling a relation of mine this same basic tenet and when I was all said and done she looked at me in earnest seriousness and said: “But, I don’t want to share.”

If only we could get past all of the “I don’t want to share’s” and the “I need more, more, more’s” even after the accumulation of billions. To slightly paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one needs to be rich but all persons need to live with dignity.” I think Eleanor was a very wise woman and worked hard to secure the blessings of dignity for all. Though that we could all be as wise.

Touched By An Angel Songbook2
Many years ago there was a television show called “Touched By An Angel” that many people know about. Fewer people know that there was also an album called “Touched By An Angel” that included the song “Dignity,” written and performed by Bob Dylan, that has always moved me. You can listen to this song on YouTube here: Dignity. For those of you who might be interested in the album it is still in print. The Songbook, however, has been long out of print and I feel fortunate to have a copy in my music library.

Here are the lyrics to Dignity:

Fat man lookin’ in a blade of steel
Thin man lookin’ at his last meal
Hollow man lookin’ in a cottonfield
For dignity

Wise man lookin’ in a blade of grass
Young man lookin’ in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin’ through painted glass
For dignity

Somebody got murdered on New Year’s Eve
Somebody said dignity was the first to leave
I went into the city, went into the town
Went into the land of the midnight sun

Searchin’ high, searchin’ low
Searchin’ everywhere I know
Askin’ the cops wherever I go
Have you seen dignity?

Blind man breakin’ out of a trance
Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance
Hopin’ to find one circumstance
Of dignity

I went to the wedding of Mary-lou
She said “I don’t want nobody see me talkin’ to you”
Said she could get killed if she told me what she knew
About dignity

I went down where the vultures feed
I would’ve got deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
For dignity

Met Prince Phillip at the home of the blues
Said he’d give me information if his name wasn’t used
He wanted money up front, said he was abused
By dignity

Footprints runnin’ cross the silver sand
Steps goin’ down into tattoo land
I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light
In the bordertowns of despair

Got no place to fade, got no coat
I’m on the rollin’ river in a jerkin’ boat
Tryin’ to read a note somebody wrote
About dignity

Sick man lookin’ for the doctor’s cure
Lookin’ at his hands for the lines that were
And into every masterpiece of literature
for dignity

Englishman stranded in the blackheart wind
Combin’ his hair back, his future looks thin
Bites the bullet and he looks within
For dignity

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take
To find dignity

Collective Consciousness

The other day I wrote about the idea that we are composed of many selves, which reminded me of my state of mind a dozen years ago.  A good friend of mine, who goes by the name of Swallow, often sat in the St. Francis Garden, or worked in the gardens, of the church we attended and spoke of many things.  Now Swallow had been a chemist for many years that had become disheartened with his Industry.  I was a Senior Systems Developer working on a contract for a major aerospace (i.e. war) firm, which was diametric to my pacifist ideology.  As a result we spent many peaceful hours discussing nature, spirituality, purpose, love, and the teachings of the wise ones that came before and from those that sought to have their voices heard above the confusion and rhetoric of those promoting their own agendas.

After a time Swallow invited me to attend the A Course in Miracles class with him that he attended on Saturday mornings.  I resisted at first and ultimately accompanied him to the meetings and found a group of kind, intelligent, people seeking spiritual enlightenment on a peaceful, loving, path that appealed to their personal aspirations.  Many of these people became great teachers of mine in spite of the fact that I wasn’t necessarily buying into the messages of the Course.  However, that group of people was open, caring, assuring, and I found myself sharing a secret that I’d kept from everyone, which was that I was plagued by a multitude of voices echoing in my head.  The voices were so numerous in fact that I could not single in on any one of them.  In a sense, it was rather maddening.

I’m not sure now if it was Swallow, or Sally, or Troy, or Lloyd, or Jerrie who looked at me with a smile on their face and asked:  “Did you ever ask them to be quiet?”

I hadn’t.  I had simply assumed that I was a receptacle for that Collective Consciousness that I’d remembered from my Behavioral Science courses at Cal State, but I took the advice and immediately ceased to hear the voices.  Now in A Course in Miracles they say a true miracle is a change in perception and that day more than twelve years ago I had a change in perception and if you think about it from that perspective we are invited to enjoy miracles every single day.  Whenever we learn something that causes us to see the world just a little differently, or see another person a little more equal and a part of us, or even see ourselves in a higher light.

Is there a Collective Consciousness as Carl Jung and others postulated?  I’m sure I will never know the complete truth, but one truth I do accept is that we are all connected, some others would even go so far as to say we are all one.  Whatever the truth is I think Kahlil Gibran was pointing to it in his parable of the Pomegranate, which I referred to the other day.

So, in it’s entirety from The Madman, the parable of the Pomegranate

The Pomegranate

By Kahlil Gibran

Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be strong and beautiful through all the seasons.”

Then another seed spoke and said, “When I was as young as you, I too held such views; but now that I can weigh and measure things, I see that my hopes were vain.”

And a third seed spoke also, “I see in us nothing that promises so great a future.”

And a fourth said, “But what a mockery our life would be, without a greater future!”

Said a fifth, “Why dispute what we shall be, when we know not even what we are.”

But a sixth replied, “Whatever we are, that we shall continue to be.”

And a seventh said, “I have such a clear idea how everything will be, but I cannot put it into words.”

Then an eighth spoke — and a ninth — and a tenth — and then many — until all were speaking, and I could distinguish nothing for the many voices.

And so I moved that very day into the heart of a quince, where the seeds are few and almost silent.

So when the voices become too overwhelming treat yourself to a miracle and move into the heart of a quince.

Know Thy Selves

I did not sleep well at all Tuesday night, which is something that I frequently read and hear is a curse of the American population. However, I suspect that limitation is part of our egocentric nature and that human beings around the planet share in this torment. In any event, I had a number of vivid dreams, if they can be called that because it was not that I was in a deep or REM sleep by any means. It seemed to me that a part of my consciousness remained completely awake and alert to everything that was going on about me; my wife’s steady breathing, my son coughing in the other room, a cat meowing far in the distance, and the ever-present insect chorus. Then again, there was that part of me who was at the same time exploring new dreamscapes that were occasionally pleasant, often disturbing, but always vividly alive.

The last of the dreamscapes that plagued me began just after my wife walked out of the bedroom at 6:00 am and I tumbled back into that realm of altered perspectives. The dream itself was nothing less that a hodgepodge of disjunct scenes bringing together distant places and dissimilar persons into a tapestry that could only be woven by the fears and desires of our subconscious selves that we have pushed into the shadows of neglect. The dream concluded with myself, the hostess (with whom I had an emotional attachment), and two waitresses, hiding within the storeroom of a restaurant (not unlike a Cracker Barrel) under siege by several heavily armed men intent upon robbing the establishment and its customers. In my dream the others were doing their best to keep our whereabouts unknown while we used our phones to summon help. Unfortunately, we were discovered and the dream ended as we were about to be executed for our impertinence at 6:44 am.

I rose and prepared a simple breakfast that was nothing more than a cup of black coffee along with an English muffin with peanut butter and zucchini jam. My mind analyzed, or perhaps obsessed over, the dream while I; carried the jar of instant coffee to the breakfast table instead of the mug of hot coffee, searched for my daily vitamin and other supplements in the refrigerator instead of the cupboard where they are kept, and – you probably get the idea, my many selves where so preoccupied with the phantasmagoria of the dream that my daily-practiced routines became as disturbed as the dream itself.

Our many selves? Just how many of us are there? Freud was intrigued by the unconscious aspect of self and wrote about the id, ego, and super-ego. Jung recognized the plurality of self and proposed a collective conscious. I believe, however, that both men, along with many others, recognized that the multiplicity of self had a long history and was well known to the peoples of the most ancient civilizations and, I would warrant, that it even went back far into the prehistorical realms of humanity.

When I was in the early stages of wrapping my mind around being a teenager I spent much of my time immersed in angers that I never quite understood. I’ve been told that a lot of it had to do with the hormonal changes that occur when a boy slowly metamorphoses into a man. There may be a lot to that but there was so much more at the time. The Viet Nam war was in full swing and on the news every night. My neighbors from the community were dying in a place called Southeast Asia that I still knew so little about. The man from Yorba Linda toppled The Great Society and I was making discoveries.

One of the first of these I made at this time was a red-covered paperback on the rack at Bogg’s Rexall Drugstore entitled The Poetry of Ho Chi Minh and I discovered our hated enemy was also a beautiful poet, among many other things. And, I discovered other things like: Transcendental Meditation, the Buddha, Confucius, the Dao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, and the Bhagavad Gita. But, my most important discovery at the time, and one that has followed me through all the decades to come, was Kahlil Gibran.

The first book I read by Kahlil Gibran was The Prophet and I was hooked. Others followed as fast as I could acquire them. I was continuously marveled by the man from Lebanon, shed tears within The Broken Wings, and was enthralled with The Madman, especially his parable of The Seven Selves, which I continue to reread to this day. In this parable each of the seven selves, which comprise the consciousness of Man, believes themselves to be the worse off of the lot. The parable concludes with:

But the seventh self remained watching and gazing at nothingness, which is behind all things.

I do not think I will ever know the truth of just how many of us reside within this temporal shell we call a body but I do believe that Gibran was on the right track when he upped the number to seven, and in his parable of the pomegranate, to perhaps hundreds or even thousands. But one thing I can say is that the concluding sentence from the parable of The Seven Selves has haunted me for decades.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the aforementioned parable I an including it here.

The Seven Selves

In the silent hour of the night, as I lay half asleep, my seven selves sat together and thus conversed in whispers:

First Self: Here, in this madman, I have dwelt all these years, with naught to do but renew his pain by day and recreate his sorrow by night. I can bear my fate no longer, and now I must rebel.

Second Self: Yours is a better lot than mine, brother, for it is given me to be this madman’s joyous self. I laugh his laughter and sing his happy hours, and with thrice-winged feet I dance his brighter thoughts. It is I that would rebel against my weary existence.

Third Self: And what of me, the love-ridden self, the flaming brand of wild passion and fantastic desires? It is I the love-sick self who would rebel against this madman.

Fourth Self: I, amongst you all, am the most miserable, for naught was given me but the odious hatred and destructive loathing. It is I, the tempest-like self, the one born in the black caves of Hell, who would protest against serving this madman.

Fifth Self: Nay, it is I, the thinking self, the fanciful self, the self of hunger and thirst, the one doomed to wander without rest in search of unknown things and things not yet created; it is I, not you, who would rebel.

Sixth Self: And I, the working self, the pitiful labourer, who, with patient hands, and longing eyes, fashion the days into images and give the formless elements new and eternal forms — it is I, the solitary one, who would rebel against this restless madman.

Seventh Self: How strange that you all would rebel against this man, because each and every one of you has a preordained fate to fulfil. Ah! could I but be like one of you, a self with a determined lot! But I have none, I am the do-nothing self, the one who sits in the dumb, empty nowhere and nowhen, when you are busy re-creating life. Is it you or I, neighbours, who should rebel?

When the seventh self thus spake the other six selves looked with pity upon him but said nothing more; and as the night grew deeper one after the other went to sleep enfolded with a new and happy submission.

But the seventh self remained watching and gazing at nothingness, which is behind all things.

Kahlil Gibran
From: The Madman