3.15.09

              

On December 17th, 2007, I received a phone call from Will S., a former student.  He had graduated from the school where I teach, joined the Army, and was calling from Germany where he was then stationed before his scheduled deployment to Iraq the next spring.

It’s not unusual for teachers to receive calls like this.  I nearly always enjoy them although, coming at random times, it can be a little like having your personal and professional reflexes played with.  I have to remind myself it’s not too crucial what I say.  Either they want to talk about something specific or they want to talk in general and after you get that figured out, it’s mainly a matter of being a good listener.

This turned out to be just a good friendly conversation.  We talked about some of his adventures on leave in Europe.  At some point it occurred to me that it was either very early or very late in Germany (about 7:30 where I live in America), but it didn’t sound to me as if he had been drinking, as I might have been at his age making a similar kind of phone call.

We also talked quite a bit about the Army and his training in Germany and eventually got around to his scheduled Iraq deployment.  He told me his job there would be to drive around in a vehicle designed to detect and disarm IED’s.  Students often like to tell teachers things they don’t want to say to other adults, like their parents, so you always have to be prepared to hear about unplanned pregnancies or traumatic break-ups and so forth.  They are counting on you to remain calm – it’s part of the reason they’re talking to a teacher - but I have to admit as the nature of Will’s mission became clear to me, I had kind of an inner Casablanca moment:  “Holy shit!  Of all the jobs in all the….” I did, however, manage to keep it together for the rest of our conversation.  At one point he talked about a cutting-edge new vehicle the Army was developing that was designed not only to withstand the average IED but also had an outer shell which, if hit by extraordinarily large bombs, would shatter in pieces and fall to the ground, leaving intact the inner core of a functioning vehicle. His description painted an extremely vivid picture in my mind.

We talked for half an hour or so, a good conversation by any standard - between teacher and former student, young adult and older guy, or just two friends.

Later that evening, I was hanging out in the kitchen, leaning against the counter listening to music, thinking things over as I usually do in the evenings, probably getting ready to check the wood stove in the old farmhouse where we live, when I had the strongest sensation I’ve ever had in my life – physical, mental, spiritual - whatever levels there are or I can experience.

The feeling itself was pretty simple, although it will take a while to explain the background and context.  It was simply that 2011 is coming.  What 2011 means to me, besides being an arbitrary calendar date, is the time that a number of different cultural or spiritual traditions have predicted will usher in a new and better level of human consciousness.

I first heard this idea when I began studying Oriental medicine and the Kototama Principle with Sensei Nakazono in Santa Fe in 1982.  But it’s been a widely discussed idea, even in mainstream culture, for quite awhile.  Shortly after hearing Sensei talk about it, for example, I read a blurb in Mother Earth News, of all places, about the Mayan calendar and Mayan prophecies about 2011.  It was the idea behind the widely-publicized Harmonic Convergence of 1987.  Even good old Jerry Garcia talked about this in his last interview with Rolling Stone (sometimes, as I believe was true in this case, the year 2012 is cited instead of 2011.  I don’t know why.)

But the feeling I had on December 17th wasn’t an idea.  It was a concrete certainty that in 2011 things will be different.  I want to try to describe that certainty.  I think I’m a pretty normal person.  I have an okay record of academic achievement and I fool around with writing a little bit, but I also used to be an athlete and the fact is those kinds of experiences – the simple physical reality of my own body – are a very basic thing with me.  And that is where this sensation began.  It wasn’t a vision from the stars.  Quite the contrary it seemed to come from the earth through my toes and spine and culminate in the most interesting kind of tingling feeling at the base of my neck.  As I said, in many ways I’m a very simple physical kind of person and I’ve thought since that simple physical things were a big part of this moment.  I’ve been living and growing food in the place where this happened for more than a dozen years.  My son and I in the summer before had laid down a Spanish tile floor in the kitchen, and the counter I was leaning against had been built by a friend of mine from an oak tree that had been logged nearby.

I’m well aware all that may sound more than a little goofy (what about this whole thing, or existence in general when you get right down to it, doesn’t?) but the simple fact is I was intensely aware at the time of where I was on the earth.

There isn’t a whole lot more to describe about that moment.  I almost feel like a semi-cosmical, totally comical Paul Revere with one simple message:  2011 is coming!  2011 is coming!  Just about the only conscious thought I had was an image related to my conversation with Will - 2011 is coming like a missile that will hit the fake outer shells of our personalities which will then shatter and fall to the ground, leaving our authentic human cores intact.

I don’t know how long this moment lasted, more than a minute certainly, less than five I’m pretty sure.  The only cognitive action I had was the personality-shattering missile image.  No self-monitoring whatsoever, which is most unusual for me.  Also, when the moment ended, no sense of regret or control – just that it was over.  Again, I’m not that kind of person.  All I felt was a vague sense of gratitude and some astonishment.  I walked into our bathroom, which adjoins the kitchen, where my wife was taking a shower with both the door and bathroom window open, as has been her custom for the 34 years we have lived together, and said to the shower curtain, “I think I just woke up.”

I’m 56 years old and have been around the block a few times.  I knew what I was doing when I said that.  To me when someone says, “I’m in love with her,” the best days of that relationship are over.  More seriously, as soon as a Christian says out loud, “I’m born again,” he’s not born again any more.  But in this case the moment had ended as naturally as it came and I wanted to say out loud, set a kind of peg in time, in full normally-skeptical consciousness mode, just how remarkable a moment it had been.

There was one aftershock later in the evening.  I was discussing the experience at some length with my wife and my daughter (our daughter, 21 at the time, was home from college for Christmas), both of whom were familiar with the intellectual backdrop of the idea of a coming sea-change in human consciousness but even more than me probably didn’t have the faintest idea what to think of this particular business, when I said out loud, almost but not quite in a joking tone of voice, “I want somebody to write this down:  On 12-17 I…” seeing the numbers in my head as I said it (I see all the words I say in my head as I am speaking – a strange quirk so that I can say words backwards as easily as forwards, not phonetically but as they are spelled) but in this case I saw the numbers themselves “12-17”, and in my mind I had a long, slow, altogether pleasant and smiling moment, “Oh yeah   5-7   5-5-7.”  I’ve had moments somewhat similar to this before – two or three times – but this was something else altogether: coincidence and irony and an inexhaustible source for meditation all coming together at once, a long sunny slope opening slowly out on to a beautiful vista.  In all of literature, and I was a serious English major in the days when English majors still read a lot, and have continued those studies, the only moment I know that is anything like this experience was when Odysseus would “laugh in his heart.” As I recall, this would always be during some time of crisis where suddenly a path would open up that with hard work and facing down danger just might lead to success.  It wasn’t success itself but just a shifting of the insurmountable odds slightly in his favor.

Now this business of the 5-7  5-5-7 will take some ‘splaining and connects directly to the old days at the Kototama Institute, but not my studies with Sensei Nakazono.  Instead it connects to the sound meditation class taught there by a saintly old guy named Hikalu.  Sensei Nakazono was the most compelling and authentic personality I’ve ever known, but I need to make it crystal-clear that as big an influence as he has been on my life, I claim no understanding whatsoever of the real sense of his teachings about the Kototama Principle.  I still read his books but the fact I must face is I still don’t know my a priori from my a posteriori, still have no understanding of the innate differences in meanings of the particular sounds.

Hikalu’s sound class met two mornings a week at the old dojo on Alto Street, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 to 8:00.  I attended religiously for three years until it ended when the school closed.  Attendance ranged widely over the years from as many as 10-15 at a time down to a core group of three or four of us near the end.  Two of these were the best friends I made in my time at the Institute, although now I haven’t spoken to either of them in over 20 years.  I had no expectations for the class, never any real sense about what we were doing, but strangely now look back at those years of sound class as one of the seminal experiences of my life.  The whole deal of the 12-17 thing is a separate tab, my next entry on this site, but there’s no particular mystery about it.  It has to do with practicing the free sounds, and the human spine, and Hikalu’s sound class, his own eternal “Ta!” more often than not beginning the free sounds and ringing through the old sacred dojo and the crystal-clear air of Santa Fe in the early 1980’s, and then also it has to do maybe with the earth and the moon and the stars.  But it has taken me a year just to get this much up and this site is ultimately about common people like me feeling inside themselves that a real change is coming, and I would feel pretty silly if I couldn’t get my website up about 2011 being on its way until after 2011 has arrived.

Not that I haven’t been working on it.  The only other remotely conscious feeling I had during my epiphany of December 17th was that the change was coming from the west.  Either then or later that night, and this is the only part of the experience that is intellectually murky for me, I had something like certainty that it was coming specifically from South Dakota.  This doesn’t sound as wacky to me as it probably does to you, but still, I was more than a little skeptical.  Nevertheless, because the whole experience was so compelling, or because I am completely nuts, or whatever, I drove out on the Plains last summer by myself to try to write down what I was thinking and feeling about things.  I wound up spending five nights in Mobridge, South Dakota where I watched the sun rise three mornings in a row from Sitting Bull’s grave overlooking the Missouri River and returned to my room to write feverishly – 60-70 pages - which I haven’t looked back at yet.

On the way back home I spent the night in Steele, North Dakota, at a terrific little place you have to drive into town to find – the best, cheapest room I stayed in on the whole trip.  I walked around town that night for exercise and it was the spookiest small town I’ve ever been in, not a single sign of life on the streets or behind closed curtains (this was about nine o’clock) until I bumped into a fellow schoolteacher who was walking her dog.  We talked for 10-15 minutes about the things schoolteachers talk about: local cultures, funding issues, retirement plans, but when I got back to my clean, quiet room, I had a restless night, wondering as always what I was doing, what I had been doing.  The next morning I stopped early for gas and coffee at a place on the Interstate.  It was as modern and impersonal as you can get in the middle of nowhere – recorded advertising blaring at the pumps, a dozen coffee machines inside to pick from, but I noticed as I went inside a couple of farmers standing on the curb at the far end of the store, drinking coffee and staring at the distant horizon with the eternal wistfulness of white men on the prairie, trying to remember to wonder why they had fucked up such a beautiful country.  As I was leaving with my own cup of coffee they were still there and a younger man, obviously a farmer also, walked up behind them and spoke the most perfectly comic Zen-joke I have ever heard:  “That’s North!”  I chuckled all the way to my car and drove over to them on my way out and rolled down my window and said:  “I couldn’t help but overhear you fellers.  I’m not from around here.  If that’s North, what direction would that be?”  extending my arm out the open window, pointing left.  The young farmer Zen master was puzzled by my unexpected idiocy and said, “Oh, no, that’s West,” but I was still chuckling as I drove off and by the time I reached the end of the parking lot wished I had replied, “Why thank you boys!  That’s the direction I’m headed.  I’ve got a very important meeting in New York City – a matter of life and death – and I’ve got to be there by noon!”

As I got on the Interstate, headed east of course, I drove into a perfect morning sunrise and had a Kerouac-satori just outside Steele, North Dakota and pulled over to the side of the Interstate and wrote down the story of it, weeping.  I haven’t reread that page either yet but in my mind it still shimmers, and I felt like the goofiest Jack Mormon in Utah coming in from the remotest part of the desert claiming to have found the Golden Leaves, feeling that for once in my life, on this trip, I had actually nailed it.

But now it’s 2009 already.  My ideas about free sounds and all the rest of it will have to wait.  My current understanding is 2011 is coming (have I mentioned that yet?) and that it will rest on twin pillars.  One is that common people will feel an absolute compulsion to speak the plain and simple truth.  The other is that as people wake up they will feel a kind of tingling process in their spines, culminating at the nape of the neck.  It’s just that simple. Sensei would laugh at me, I think, for not grasping that a new age will require a new, perfect language, but I am not even close to being there yet.  English is a better language than I am a person so my simple idea about just speaking the truth in the language I know makes sense to me.

I’m haunted a little bit by a cartoon I saw when I was a child.  A sort of nerdy-looking man was sitting next to a woman in a patent office.  He had a perfectly-realized vacuum cleaner beside him.  I’m old but not that old.  Vacuum cleaners had already been around for a long time.  She asked him, “So how long have you been up at your cabin working on your invention?”  I know nothing of chakras or esoteric studies (even the Kototama Principle, which I have actually studied).  One of the reasons I stopped practicing acupuncture was I had to accept the fact I didn’t actually feel energy, the flow of ki.  There are, I believe, enlightened or semi-enlightened people who do know these things, genuinely.  But in a way that’s exactly my point.  I’m not stupid, but I am basically a physical person, and I think the change that is coming will be change from the bottom up (apologies to Obama) felt by people like me or, to steal another pretty good idea - those who are last shall become first, a function, simple or not, of human consciousness as it is and the spinning of the earth through the universe.

That’s the actual point of this website.  If there’s anything to these ideas I’ve been haunted by for the last year, some number of ordinary people are feeling something like I’ve been feeling, or will be before too long, like Homer’s rosy fingers of dawn revealing the coming sunrise, and perhaps some one or two will find their way here to make a record of it.

All are welcome, of course.  I’ve taken a stand, on twin pillars, for all time, or as long as the Internet lasts, and have provided space here for genuine tingles, comments and observations, and condescending dismissals and rude aspersions.  Regarding that last category, I’m as sensitive as any other delusional aging New Age hippie-dippie goofball, so extra credit to anyone who can actually make me cry.  Would be a good character-builder.