Greetings from the mountain top…
Movies and popular culture paint a picture of gurus as always peaceful, infinitely patient, and fatherly in their kindness–which is true.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they do not use pressure or temper or anger or debate or challenge as a teaching tool. Some students need a carrot, some need a stick, and some need to be left the hell alone. The mark of an excellent guru is knowing which tool to use with the right student at the right time.
A long-time student of The Guru, who shall be referred to as Candy (not to be confused with The Guru’s favorite stripper of the same name who once took a shot glass, placed it between her ample bosom and…but, I digress) tends to make simple things difficult as do most students. For many complicated reasons, however, she tends to only learn her lessons when the element of loss is introduced.
After an intense lesson on the subject of free will, The Guru walked away without explanation and left Candy sitting alone on a distant boulder (not his boulder, however. No one sits on The Guru’s boulder. The rock is perfectly formed to my saggy buttocks after eons of clinching).
Candy was still sitting alone as she saw me walking toward her, up the hill.
“I thought you left.”
“I never leave you,” I responded divinely.
“Not being a metaphysical being like you, it sometimes helps to have a physical presence,” Candy explained. I looked at her oddly as I contemplated an elemental truth too simple for a supremely complex being to come up with on his own.
“I’ve been thinking about the last thing you said,” she began.
“Sorry,” I offered, “I was pretty worked up.”
“No,” she responded, “not about the rant…the last thing.”
I looked at Candy with a heavenly blank stare.
“You said you don’t know!”
“You don’t know if we, the parts, will ever put aside our shallow, petty, meaningless differences and come together as a healthy, happy, well-adjusted whole?!?” She was both outraged and confused.
“No, I don’t.” The answer was both matter-of-fact and intentionally patronizing.
“How can YOU not know?”
An enlightened laugh.
Candy later told me that she has not been fond of that laugh since she first heard it, at the age of eight, in a doctor’s office. Each week as she awaited her allergy shot (a sick process, by the way, where they inject you with small amounts of the very thing to which you’re allergic) she watched fish in the waiting room aquarium. On one occasion, she observed a nurse putting tablets into the tank.
“What are those for?” Candy asked.
“Algae,” the nurse answered.
A bit (okay a lot) precocious, Candy assumed the poor woman had difficulty pronouncing words so she proudly explained, “I take shots for that.”
The guffaw of the nurse then was identical to mine now.
“How would I know?” I asked, cackling and wiping a tear from my eye.
Candy stammered and sputtered and spit out every Sunday school, catechism, and televangelist lesson she’d ever heard about His ‘plan’ and His ‘will’ and ‘His’ plan and ‘His’…will…and…plan…
I stopped laughing and looked at me with a somber stare. “You’re serious.”
She blinked, but remained silent.
“As a parent (Candy has twin six-year-old daughters),” I explained, “think about a time when you watched your children grow and learn. They made better choices and appeared to grasp the essence of what you were teaching…they seemed to ‘get it’. Then they did something so totally stupid you wondered if they were dropped on their heads at daycare.”
This time she interrupted with her own laughter as she told of the previous day. For ages, her daughters have been told to refill the ice cube trays because there is no magical ice cube tray fairy who visits at night. Yesterday, opening the freezer door and noticing every ice tray filled AND put in the right place, she felt pride…until the gallon of water which has been spilled on the floor began to soak into the bottoms of her socks.
I chuckled at the story. “The point is,” I continued, “you don’t see it coming because you’ve given them…”
“Free will,” she interrupted. Her childhood Sunday school teacher would be so proud.
We sat in silence for a considerable amount of time, pondering free will.
“This free will thing…” Candy started.
Eyebrows uplifted in a silent, “Yes?”
“Seems rather convenient for God or whoever is in charge.” This time it was her turn to rant. “I mean, if He is All Powerful then He could stop all the pain, all the suffering, all the killing…He could make this place a freaking paradise!”
“According to some stories, He already tried,” I interjected.
“Seriously, isn’t free will a cop-out for Him to not accept responsibility or isn’t it at least proof He isn’t All Powerful?” Candy beamed with pride at her logic trap.
“Do your children ever do wrong?” I inquired.
“Sure,” she answered.
“You let them?”
“Not if I know about it.”
“No, of course not.”
The Guru asked, “Sometimes do they just choose poorly?”
“They do.” She was saying as little as possible. Toe-to-toe with The Guru and she was, by God, going to win.
“Why don’t you stop them before they do wrong? Why don’t you kill them or smite them or lock them away?” I grinned.
“Sure, why not?”
“What’s the point?” she asked.
“Locking them away. Killing them. How would they ever learn and grow if I didn’t give them freedom to make mistakes?”
I smiled with superiority. Round one to The Guru.
Again we sat in silence, pondering, for several hours. Time goes by very slowly on the mountain top especially when one is high.
“But what about the innocents?” Candy finally asked, still smarting from losing the first round and determined to even the score. “Surely they shouldn’t have to pay for the choices of others.”
As The Guru is able to read thoughts as easily as he hears words, he heard Candy remember something very painful (and very personal which will not be shared) from her past. A pain so intense it nearly killed her, yet it had not. She chose to not let this powerfully painful experience define her or limit her.
Free will. The power of choice. She had chosen to grow rather than become a victim. As a result of being hurt so intensely and personally the false security surrounding us all was amazingly obvious to her. How quickly money, freedom, loved ones, dignity, jobs, buildings and cities can disappear and all we are left with is…
“Love,” I interrupted her thoughts. “It’s the only thing which can’t be taken from you. Love is the only thing that is real on all planes of existence and the only thing that matters.”
While the point was crystal clear to her, the constant, intense anguish of our race was nonetheless troublesome.
“The One could stop suffering, of course,” I continued. “But, at what price? If every decision is made for you what is the point of your existence? If you are sheltered you from all harm, all pain, all injustice, all disappointment and all wrong, what have you gained?”
Seeing Candy’s difficulty owning the concept of free will, I elaborated. “There are times when you see your children get hurt or make horrific choices and it breaks your heart. But, inevitably, if you wait long enough, if you truly open your heart, if you have faith, and if you pay close attention, you see good come from bad. It may take weeks. Or years. Or lifetimes. But it always comes. Always.”
She countered my brilliant argument with only two words, “9-11.”
I paused and shared Candy’s infinite grief. “So tragic. Among my saddest days and among my most hopeful. Beyond the pain, beyond the anguish, beyond the dreams and lives destroyed, beyond the terrible, terrible loss…I saw love. Do you remember heading to work that morning and the mornings immediately after?”
She did. That morning was the most surreal of her life and even in the days that followed, a change occurred – a change which, sadly, didn’t last. For a few days after 9-11 people were kind. It was a quiet world and she recalled an eerie silence on the highways. No horns blew, drivers allowed others to merge, and waves of thanks were given. People opened doors for one another and no one seemed inconvenienced by long lines or someone writing a check at the grocery store. It was very kind and very peaceful and we both agreed that we miss it.
“For a few beautiful months, some ignorant souls aside, you experienced the miracle of life as a whole. A people—not races or nations or religions or political parties—a people mourned. A people gave. A people worked together. A world was shocked, a world was outraged and a world healed. With few exceptions, the parts of the earth came together and realized they were one. Parts became whole if only for the briefest of moments. From tragedy,” I commented, “came love. For a few fleeting days you experienced what the whole can accomplish, and how it could be every day if you chose.
“Free will, Candy. It’s the most difficult gift a parent can give and it can be the most rewarding.”
She didn’t answer. Instead as she reviewed her life and, with a true Parent present, she felt shame at many of her choices.
“I still love you, Candy,” I answered. “I still love all of you even when you choose poorly.”
Peace out ya free willing freaks