Grandfathers And Grandchildren

Recently, I performed the stage role of an elderly grandfather for a gathering of my extended family over the Christmas holiday, and enjoyed having the opportunity to express through a theatrical scene, the importance of giving serious consideration to our contributions to the well-being of our family, and to acknowledge both the challenges and the rewards that being a grandfather can bring to our lives.

Being a grandparent these days, while retaining many of the basic characteristics we normally associate with this important role, has become expanded and extended beyond what it was years ago. Even just fifty or sixty years ago, the traditional roles of grandparents were fairly straightforward generally, requiring a supportive stance toward the parents, and filled with many pleasurable moments, not only watching the grandchildren grow and learn, but also spending time sharing advice and telling the grandchildren stories about the days when Mom and Dad were growing up. It was much more rare for children to have to live with their grandparents, although extreme circumstances did occur, like the loss of one’s parents, divorce, through some disabling illness or in the case of serious parental neglect or inability to care for a child.

In some ways, our modern day social environment is much more volatile and strenuous than in previous generations, and those conditions and exceptions are much more common these days. That certainly would explain how the role of grandparenting needed to change to meet this new reality. Each generation has its own unique challenges and opportunities which shape the social landscape through the years, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to recreate the conditions of previous generations in order to reduce our 21st century expectations and demands on family life.

What does seem most urgent to me, though, is the recognition, that being a grandfather or grandmother, no matter how one arrives in that role, and no matter what circumstances occur that assign us this very important role, presents us with an enormously important opportunity to not only assist in shaping the lives of the next generation of our family, but also points toward a fundamental connection that each of us has to all life, whether it is a very specific human life that a grandparent shares with their grandchild, or the most far flung life anywhere on Earth.

In a recent article by Jim Sollisch in the New York Times, he recalls how much more concern and stress accompanied the birth of his own children, and he describes his experience of becoming a father as “…a lot like becoming a German shepherd if German shepherds were capable of constantly calculating the risks of SIDS and peanut allergies.” Becoming a father is a lot like becoming something you couldn’t even have imagined being BEFORE having a child, but his exaggeration for emphasis does sort of capture the strangeness of it at first. He goes on to detail the difficult days of early fatherhood with his son’s several bouts with typical illnesses, and his stories about the differences with his second child definitely rang true for me, including one fairly serious injury report that most young parents could match at some point looking back.

He concludes by describing his experience of being a grandfather now, as always being “…the second line of defense, a bench player.” While this is frequently the case, it is much more common these days to be on the front lines of caring for and worrying about our next generation’s progeny. In my case, the role of grandfather took on a whole new level of worrying and concern when circumstances required us to care for several of our grandchildren on a daily basis for the early years of their lives. As a father, I had a fairly rocky beginning in the early years, not in my unabashed love and concern for my two small children, but in my inability to sustain a relationship with their mother.

The arrival of my children in my life was fairly challenging due to the circumstances into which they were born, but when I finally saw them as they entered the world, there was an extraordinary surge of love and positive emotion within me that could have overcome any obstacle, and I took to my role as father to my children without reservation. All other concerns melted away as I held them in my arms for the first time, and I was irrevocably altered in ways I never could have foreseen. Even as the circumstances worsened outside of their existence, there was a deepening of emotion and unconditional love that was unstoppable. Just when I thought that this would be my only experience of fatherhood, destiny and my connection to the heart of life, readied an impossible dream to unfold that would change me in ways that I never could have imagined.

****next time–an impossible dream come true****

The Flow of Destiny

“I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfill our destiny, but our fate is sealed.”–Paulo Coelho

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”–Carl Sandburg

“Destiny is something not be to desired and not to be avoided…a mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.”–Dag Hammarskjold

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Sometimes, I worry about my destiny, as though I may be sitting on the sidelines and might somehow miss my opportunity to pursue it. Some might say if you just calmly accept your destiny it will come. I’m not entirely certain that I desire it, but sometimes, I can’t seem to push myself to the place where my destiny seems to be waiting. It’s not that I’m avoiding it necessarily, but I’m concerned that some crisis may precipitate it or that a crisis may result from going toward it. I can’t seem to clearly envision a future that will result in some equitable resolution of whatever destiny holds in that future. One of the main stumbling blocks for me is when I examine the lives of others whom I admire–authors, poets, philosophers, scientists–people who embraced their destiny and who suffered greatly as a result.

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Richard Brautigan 1935-1984

One example of such a life which brought this idea to the point for me was a recent reading of biographical research regarding author Richard Brautigan, who became internationally famous for his novels, poems, short stories, and nonfictional pieces written in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s. In one account by Claude Hayward, an early printer of Richard’s poems who worked with him in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, he described him in this way:

“Richard was an imposing figure, tall in stature with long, straw-blond hair and a walrus mustache, and always dressed in that heavy range coat, and worn boots that had seen the prairies…Richard was an observer, an acute, bemused one with a keen eye for the absurd and the surreal.”

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My recent investigation of his life in San Francisco and elsewhere brought out revelations that were quite surprising. His early success as a writer brought him international fame and, for a time, great fortune. He published his first truly successful novel, “Trout Fishing in America,” in 1967 and it became an instant sensation, selling over four million copies worldwide. He was a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone magazine, and along with his other poems and articles, brought him to the forefront of the writers of his day.

Unfortunately, along with his success came a number of difficult struggles in his personal life. He was married several times, and had a fair number of difficulties maintaining relationships with those who knew him well also. In a 1985 tribute to Brautigan by Lawrence Wright in Rolling Stone, Wright describes Brautigan’s harrowing descent into a host of personal problems that made it difficult for anyone to handle being around him:

“He had a difficult habit of testing his friends, but he was even more demanding of his lovers. He pushed them away, he was abominable, he wanted unconditional love and forgiveness. They put up with it, some of them, because he genuinely valued a woman’s intelligence. ‘That appealed to women,’ one of his girlfriends recalled. ‘It was a trade-off.’ It became a liability to be seen with Richard.”

He struggled for years with alcohol which eventually hampered his writing efforts, led to a lessening of his fame as an author, and contributed to his decline into near obscurity toward the end of his life. He continued to write up until his excesses and deeply personal challenges that he created, led him to take his own life in 1984 at age 49.

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In a very strange and unusual coincidence, of which I only recently became aware, I happened to be in San Francisco in 1974 when Richard Brautigan actually lived there. Come to think of it, I could have easily passed him on the street without realizing it. I had been walking the streets of that great city many times, spending a fair amount of my spare time on weekends exploring and visiting many different parts of the city by the bay. In one of my earliest visits there, while casually walking along the streets I happened by a photography shop window with a sign that read, “Make a poster of yourself!” Posters were very popular in early seventies and I couldn’t resist the invitation to try it.

At the time, I was attending the Defense Language Institute, a federally funded language school in Monterey, so I had with me one of the current textbooks from the course, as well as a copy of a book by Brautigan called, “On Watermelon Sugar.” I was already well into the reading of it and wanted to continue reading it on my trip, so when I walked into the studio and spoke to the photographer, I expressed to him that I was at a truly pivotal moment in my life, and how I wanted the image to reflect just how important it was to me. I insisted on holding the two books since they were representative of where I was in a broad sense, both psychologically and geographically at that moment. Also at this time, like many of my fellow members of the U.S.military, I was a casual smoker, and as a young man I thought holding a cigarette would make me look “cool,” so I included that also. I sat for about a half dozen photos and then had to go away for about an hour or so while the processing took place. When I returned, I was handed six small prints of the images to look at and I selected the one that appears above.

As an impressionable young man of twenty-one years, Brautigan’s writings seemed to speak directly to my experiences and the chaos of my life as a soldier in training. Looking back at those times now, some forty plus years later, I have to admit that I never once thought of them in any other way than as simply a part of my experience, and only within the context of the actual events themselves. It was quite a surprise to discover, after all this time, that an author for whom I had great admiration, and whose work resonated so well with me in those days, was very likely somewhere nearby as I traveled the path of my own destiny.

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Destiny, it seems, may lead us inexorably on a path to fulfillment of some purpose of which we may or may not be fully aware. It also may take all our strength to sustain ourselves along that path, but we all must discover that strength within us if we are to succeed.

Passion drives the winds of fate
To uncertain shores and fatal flaws;
True love brings us forward and home,
Into the gentle comfort of destiny’s flow.

–from my poem, “Uncharted Hearts,” 2014

From Morning Light To The Next Liquid Night

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As the morning light bestows its first sweet caress,
It stirs my waking dream to life,
Loosening the reluctant grasp of
Yesterday’s liquid night;
The stillness of the dark water,
In the wee hours before dawn,
Slowly yields to the tides within me.

They ripple gently in steady, rhythmic response,
As my heart reclaims its rightful place,
Among the hidden pillars of my spiritual center;
Tender thoughts of affection newly-born,
Cascade like a waterfall of epic delight,
Propagating along networks of neural pathways,
Bursting now with skittish ions,
Jumping to each new tendril that reaches out,
As they await the sparks
Of their measured and anticipated embrace,
With invisible and mysterious arms
Of infinite possibility.

How delicately we step into the light of each new day;
How faithfully we sow the seeds of our delight;
How often we strive to open our hearts and minds to its potential,
Only to discover the ever-changing distance,
From morning light to the next liquid night.

January 2015

The Spiritual Inner Side of This Life

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man in a dark forest – © andreiuc88

“No experimental methodology ever has or ever will succeed in capturing the essence of the human soul, or even so much as tracing out an approximately faithful picture of its complex manifestations.” “My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. It is not the part which can be externally and biographically dated that constitutes the real life of a person, but its myth–the fateful, spiritual inner side of this life.” — C.G.Jung from Collected Works, Vol.6, and from the Prologue to his autobiography.”

It was very much like the proverbial “lightning bolt out of the blue.” An inexplicable explosion in my heart and mind, touched off by an encounter with a clearly kindred spirit–perhaps a soul mate from a previous incarnation or the embodiment of an answer to some unconscious longing–an “Eve,” from a garden paradise; a Nefratari–wife of Ramsees II of Egypt; or the companion and lover to Jonas Rice in colonial America. The pieces of the puzzle were only beginning to form a fuzzy picture of how this lovely and mysterious soul evoked such a provocative and profound influence on my psyche. The awakening to her presence in this lifetime brought with it a torrential flood of long-forgotten memories from what seemed like centuries ago, and which were in sharp contrast to my life at that time. Like a ship trying to sail against the tide, I was ill-equipped to manage the powerful emotional and spiritual flow. Faced with the deeply-felt draw toward her spirit, I floundered at first, stumbling through each encounter like an embarrassed child. Impelled helplessly by forces I could not control, I fell headlong into the cavernous recesses of the ancient shared memories.

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What follows is a glimpse into what lies within. It is not an exaggeration to say that I do not fully understand how these thoughts and images erupted from me in the weeks prior to departing for overseas duty in Europe, nor could I identify the underlying causes or enumerate the sources for the vision that occurred one night while on a field exercise in the forests of Massachusetts. The descriptions arrived on the page with my hand holding the pen, and with my heart and mind completely open to what was erupting from within me.

The Vision

Alone while on perimeter patrol in the middle of a steamy summer night, gazing up at the full moon, humming softly to myself, I noticed a rock formation shaped like the bow of a ship, which stood out prominently in the foreground against the moonlit sky. Intrigued by the thought of traveling on the ocean in such a vessel, I explored the area briefly, and allowed my mind to wander into a reverie of a sea voyage, setting sail for a sea-bound adventure, and traveling to distant shores. Exploring the limits of my youthful imagination, and caught up in the daydream of an exotic sea voyage, I suddenly became aware that there was absolutely no sound around me. No swells crashing against the side of the ship; no wind whistling through the masts, no seagulls screaming in the distance. I tried furiously to shake it off, but without success. My brow began to bead up with sweat, and my heart was racing as I struggled to free myself from the strange and compelling silence. I fell to my knees, somehow unable to cry out or to look around to see what might be causing my predicament.

Quite unexpectedly, I heard what seemed like a voice calling my name, and when I stood up and turned in the direction of the voice, there before me was the lone figure I had seen weeks before in the tree with no leaves in the depths of the forest. Terrified that I might be falling ill or be delusional with fever, my first thought was to escape, yet I seemed to be frozen where I stood, wondering why I could not “wake up” from this daydream. There was no face to the figure, only darkness below a hooded cloak, and no other sound came from that direction, but somehow, inside my head, I felt as though scrambled, choppy words were forming in my mind:

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“Do not be afraid…Heed what you now feel…great importance…this moment in time…assume the burden…seek the Fortress…hidden purpose…go now and prepare…”

As quickly as it appeared, it was gone. I felt light-headed and had to sit down. I sat there, stunned, staring off into the distance for some time, contemplating the thoughts that passed through my consciousness in the moments that followed. As I peered deeply into the early morning darkness, the words from the vision tumbled over and over in my head. I could hardly believe what had transpired, and couldn’t seem to settle down. Alone with my thoughts, I breathed deeply, and was reminded of the scent in the air which filled my lungs as a child, which wasn’t much different than the air on that day, but it filled my lungs and sustained me in a very different world.

Not much time had passed before the first hints of daylight began to appear on the horizon, and the overwhelming silence began to give way to the sounds of the mountain creatures awakening to their daily chores. Soon, blanketing the surroundings in shadows, the sun peeked out, illuminating the tips of the mountains with the soft, warm glow of the day’s beginning. Fully aroused now from my reverie by the spears of sunlight, I slowly turned away from the light of the sun, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Whether it was the brightness of the morning light or a sudden sadness that prompted the tears I could not say. Whatever it was, I had the feeling it wouldn’t be the last time I would weep on my journey.

It was a long trek back down the mountain path to the campsite where the field crew was waiting for my return from the perimeter, but it didn’t seem to take very long this time. My mind was clearer now, and I felt an unusual calmness, in spite of having felt fairly shaken just a short time before. I checked in with the station monitor, and my replacement for perimeter patrol was already waiting to take over. I went to lay down in the makeshift barracks for my section, but didn’t think I was going to sleep much. I would be off-duty until the next night shift, and as I lay on my cot, I wrote a letter to my lady-in-waiting:

Miranda by the Sea

“My heart and mind are with you. I feel your presence clearly. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it feels very good and I intend to hold on to this feeling. When I look into your eyes, it’s like looking in a mirror in some ways. How to resolve the nature of our connection remains a true puzzle. You enter the realm of my existence in unguarded moments with a frequency that pleases me greatly. Your heart is open, and your spirit is unbounded. And yet, the pain in my heart this night is unlike any other I have known. Emotionally, I accept that it must be for some purpose of growth or development, but spiritually, where the pain seems most severe, I am completely without the slightest notion of how to proceed. The occasionally hopeless feeling of being totally alone, not only because I am feeling a bit lost without you, but in knowing how to move forward again, and if it is even possible, creates a quandary of spirit such as I have never known.”

Our closeness had been a godsend during these times, and it allowed me to see where once there was only darkness. I felt blessed for the gifts of joy and music that spoke her name, and cursed by the anticipated emptiness that everyday life would hold when we would have to part, as I prepared to go overseas. Like it seemed to happen so many times before, everything would “soar brilliantly for a time, only to be eclipsed suddenly” by other circumstances. For me, at least, there was a sense of increasing evidence of the convergence in time and space of kindred spirits, and the story of Jonas was only one of many that would intersect with my expectations and intentions as I followed the path forward.

Entering the Inner Fortress

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“Awakening to that mystical dimension where the very essence of self is suddenly perceived to be one with the ultimate forces of nature, is at once the secret and the transforming journey of human life.” – Joseph Campbell

In my last post, I introduced the story of how I began the journey of discovery which is now unfolding here on the pages of my blog. It was, in many ways, a tumultuous and transformative time in my early life; a time when my temporal life was in a bit of a tailspin, and when my inner world was finally free to expand in whatever direction seemed right to me. Although I had no preconceived notion about just what direction I might go, my awareness of a transcendent aspect to my world of experience had finally been released from the confines of my earlier restrictive religious background, and with those restrictions no longer in place, it seems my inner world, which had been more like a fortress against exploration, now had become my “inner fortress” of my experience of consciousness.

According to specialists in cognitive studies, there is a stream of consciousness within each of us that never ceases, regardless of whether we are awake or asleep. Exactly what is responsible for our experience of consciousness and a comprehensive explanation of its functioning are still subjects of considerable speculation and study. Assuming that we continue to expand our knowledge and insight into cognitive functioning, it seems reasonable to conclude that we will eventually gain a greater comprehension of its workings, perhaps resulting in a greater degree of access to this stream. We must therefore seek it out, and nourish our individual paths which connect us to it, and also be open to what we uncover as we search.

The nature and study of human consciousness has been a compelling subject for me for more than twenty years. I have spent a great deal of my time and energies trying to come to terms with my own very particular “inner experience” of life, and to somehow understand how the events and flow of my temporal life have directly been influenced by the workings within. Sharing what I have come to understand about my own “Inner Evolution,” has tasked my intellect and communications skills in a big way. I am only just beginning to feel confident enough in the results of my study and contemplation to bring out into the open, the many various aspects of what I have uncovered within myself. I am hopeful that my own subjective and personal experience of my own “human spirit” will resonate with others, and encourage them to explore their own.

Way back in 1973, as a young man embarking on the journey of a lifetime, I experienced what Carl Jung described as “the eruption of unconscious contents,” which compelled me to seek the path I continue to pursue to this day. The path of discovery has led me through an astonishingly diverse range of explorations in philosophy, science, and religion, as well as the many compelling ideas in the literature and scriptures of the cultures of the world. There is, in my view, a compelling thread made up of components of each, that runs through the fabric of life.

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The awakening to the knowledge of the transcendent within each of us can be a difficult, dangerous, and deeply personal undertaking. Without a sense of urgency that we can reconcile against the relentless struggle to survive and maintain our daily lives, many of us never even attempt to access this knowledge. For some of us, the awakening can begin without a conscious choice.

Forty years ago, as a young soldier stationed in Massachusetts, I experienced what could only be described as a revelation. I was off-duty in the base cafeteria near the post exchange in the middle of what had become my traditional Sunday noontime meal. As I sat down to begin eating, there was no reason I knew about for that Sunday to feel any different than all the others which preceded it, when suddenly I was struck by an overwhelming sense of being unable to control my body. Fearful at first that I might be ill, I tried desperately to settle my mind, and I began to tremble noticeably. Reaching out, I spilled my drink on the table. The harder I struggled against the experience, the more difficult it became to remain calm, when I was inexplicably overcome by a sudden, compelling urge to write something down.

I got up from the table, went into the post exchange, bought a notepad and pen without waiting for my change, returned to my table in the cafeteria, pushed my meal aside and began to write. What disturbed me the most was that I didn’t seem to have any control over what my hand was doing–it felt more like I was outside of my body watching someone else writing.

Sweat dripped from my forehead onto the pages, smearing the words in several places. I was writing frantically, cramming the words onto page after page. The resulting text was incomprehensible to me, and I was in such a state of excitement that I found it impossible to concentrate. I can only remember wondering what the few people around me must be thinking about this nut, spilling drinks and writing like a madman.

As suddenly as it began, the frenzy stopped. The pen dropped from between my fingers and I went limp. I lifted my head, now throbbing with a headache, and looked at the clock on the wall. Nearly two hours had passed since my arrival at my table around noon. Shaken, but slowly calming down, I had to drag myself away to the men’s room to throw up. When I sat back down at the table, I turned back to the first page of the notepad, having half-filled it with what looked like scribbling. The initial pages were only marginally legible, but as I gradually turned over the pages, I was able to make out most of the words. It seemed like a description of a journey, but the terms were suggestive of travels not found on any map. The language seemed almost surreal and incoherent to me. The single item that made any immediate sense was a name–Jonas Rice.

Deeply disturbed by the incident, when I returned to my barracks, I ripped the pages out of the notebook, put them in an envelope, and hid it under some clothing at the bottom of my closet. I told no one of the experience.

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The following weekend, I bought a bus ticket to the nearby city of Worcester, with the intention of investigating the name and whatever else I could find to help me understand what had occurred. Without fully knowing why, I felt certain that I could resolve the matter, even though I had no conscious knowledge about the city of Worcester prior to that day. Upon my arrival, I immediately set out walking, simply moving instinctively forward toward what felt like the center of town. I shortly came upon the city commons, where I noticed a collection of headstones marking the graves of prominent former citizens, interred there in the 1700’s. My heart began to pound wildly as I stood in front of the headstone of Jonas Rice.

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Photo by Susan Fenner

Momentarily dazed, I found myself gasping for breath, unable to speak or move. Only with great effort was I able to gather my wits long enough to suspend my state of shock long enough to walk away. I realized at that moment that I was dealing with a phenomenon of an extraordinary nature, and unless I could come to terms with it somehow, it would be difficult for me to find any sort of peace of mind. I managed to find my way to the public library, and began what ended up being decades of investigation, which included life in colonial America, psychology, mythology, philosophy, and a whole range of religious and metaphysical subjects, trying to understand the experience, and the nature of what had been thrust into my consciousness.

Subsequent to the initial episode in 1973, I occasionally experienced recurrences of lesser intensity, which seemed to point me in new directions as the research progressed. Over the years, I began to view my research as part of the process of awakening, and kept a more detailed record of the significant events and important milestones, hoping to incorporate the essential information into a more comprehensive narrative at some point. Without fully understanding why, I nonetheless submitted myself to the unfolding drama, at times, overcome be a sense of powerlessness to stop myself. The resulting path of discovery and illumination brought me face-to-face with a fascinating and perplexing inner world.

**Somehow…this posting was deleted by WordPress.com. It was originally posted on January 1, 2014**

Reflections on Chaos

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“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” — Buddha

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” — Deepok Chopra

Recent developments in my personal life, which have affected me deeply, have clearly resulted in a degree of chaos for me, and have also pointed to some key distinctions, which I had been creating out of my own mind, and which I believed to be true. It would seem that the Buddha was on to something when he pointed this out. Even now, as I contemplate the events of my life recently, I am beginning to see how this chaos may be a necessary part of the path forward, and how it relates to the unfolding story here in these pages. We sometimes fail to consider how even heartache and emotional turmoil may, in fact, be the only way to discern what is most important in our lives. I am feeling better about these recent changes now, in spite of how difficult it has been to endure them, and I am beginning to see the wisdom in accepting them, rather than fighting against them.

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The images directly above were taken just before I departed Massachusetts for my next assignment, and they still evoke a powerful sense of those days in my mind. Certain images, even ones I have received recently, can stir my heart and mind beyond the mere beauty they might reveal. It seems that whether they are from the past I remember, or simply so striking in their resonance within my heart-of-hearts, deeply touching my inner world, what lingers is the sense of familiarity and the emotions they evoke.

In the course of my research into the nature of consciousness, which began in earnest after the traumatic encounter with what Carl Jung called, “unconscious contents,” I began to see how the events of my youth were starting to fit into a kind of pattern in the way in which the contents of my unconscious mind were being revealed to me. The sensations and emotions and experiences in Massachusetts felt familiar in a way that didn’t make sense at first, but slowly, subtly, I began to understand that they were all somehow part of the same experience. It would generally begin with a spontaneous eruption of some sort, a flash of insight, a sudden sense of recognition, an unexpected turn in the routines of daily life, a remarkable confluence of deeply personal longing which would suddenly be accompanied by a feeling of fulfillment, all of which seemed to be guiding me toward an avenue of thought or action that I otherwise would never have thought to pursue. The truth is, throughout the many years that have passed since my journey began, as I reflect on the many missed opportunities of my youth, I have found that I no longer wish to miss a single possible moment of fulfillment of these longings. I trust enough in my heart and in my soul to be true to their inclinations, even when they lead me to something painful, or which I don’t fully understand at first.

James Redfield, author of “The Celestine Prophecy,” suggests that what we often consider “coincidences,” are in fact meaningful and essential events in our evolution as an individual:

“It begins with a heightened perception of the way our lives move forward. We notice those chance events that occur at just the right moment, and bring forth just the right individuals, to suddenly send our lives in a new and important direction. Perhaps more than any other people in any other time, we intuit higher meaning in these mysterious happenings.”

Redfield also asserts that the introduction of certain individuals into our lives, at particular moments in our lives, frequently seem to occur at just the right time to help us move forward or to solve some particular problem. In this regard, I have had many remarkable experiences, the significance of which was not always evident to me until long after the influence had occurred. A very small group of significant individuals stand out. Although it would be difficult to quantify their value precisely, it seems clear that my life would have been quite different without the intercession of a few of these “significant others.”

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Many times, the arrival of certain individuals has had a compensatory effect for some other significant influence, helping me to maintain balance at a particularly precarious moment. Some of these individuals have been mentors and teachers. Some have been irritants who have compelled me away from certain situations or ideas. Some have been beautiful angels who lifted me up and made it possible for me to continue when it seemed like there was nowhere to go. Some have been adversaries, whose challenges have brought aspects of my personality to the forefront, broadening my self-awareness. Some have been lovers who renewed my faith in life and all its possibilities. In most every case, in retrospect, I have been profoundly grateful for whatever time I was privileged to be in their company.

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The initial revelation of the Jonas story found me mostly baffled and confused as to the nature of its significance in my life at the time it occurred. While I knew it was important, I was unprepared to assimilate the information it contained into anything even resembling a coherent response. Over the span of years in my life as a self-aware and conscious being, I have gradually come to feel a powerful sense of having been born to some vital purpose, and have been reminded often of the feeling that what was unfolding within me was somehow remarkably different than what I observed to be happening in those around me.

The image above is a photo of the very place where, after months of chaos and confusion and a series of astonishing changes within me and as a young soldier, I realized that all I had endured, suffered, and learned prior to that day had created a foundation for all that was to come. As I sat beneath that tree on the square in front of my barracks some forty years ago, I knew that the journey had only just begun for me. At some point, we all encounter experiences and important events that change us in this way. If we arrive at such a moment reasonably intact, where we finally abandon our naive notions of the world, leaving behind our childhood, we may then hopefully embark upon a truly original individual human life.

….still to come… California impressions…

Continental Army

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Once I had completed Morse code training, it was time to select my permanent company assignment. Generally, if you you had no preference, you would just be assigned to a random platoon in whatever company had slots available. I was informed shortly after my arrival that there were a variety of different “special assignments” available, should I be interested.

Without even the slightest hesitation, I selected the first platoon in Company “D” which was described as housing the 14th Continental Army Regiment… an active duty U.S.Army unit…supported and sustained by the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. I honestly can’t say I knew what I was doing. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It turned out to be the beginning of a journey that would alter the course of my life. But let’s begin at the beginning.

I had no idea what had happened to me, and even less of an idea of what to do about it. It was almost like I was sleepwalking through the first few weeks of my “indoctrination” into the Continental Army. I had to appear before a board of the senior members of the group in order to “pass muster.” I was brought summarily to the meeting, almost like a prisoner facing a tribunal. They questioned me for almost an hour. Why had it taken me so long to make application to join? What were my aspirations? What made me select this particular platoon? Do I even know anything about the organization?

After nearly an hour of questions and attempts to dissuade me, I was asked to step out of the room. It seemed like an hour in the hallway, but it was probably only about five minutes. The sergeant-at-arms escorted me back into the room, and I was told, after careful consideration, I would be accepted as a candidate in training for the 14th Continental Army, and that I should report in the morning for duty as expected. I saluted smartly and properly and left the room when I was dismissed by the Colonel. As I walked down the hallway, with one voice, all of those assembled in that room hollered after me….”NEWG!” I had no idea what it meant, but I would soon find out.

A “Newg” was a “new guy,” and I was subjected to some of the most unappealing harassment and “hazing” for a number of weeks afterwards. It seemed like it was in the spirit of good will for the most part, and once I had accumulated a sufficient amount of it, I was informed that I had successfully been granted membership in the group.

Along the way, I began to get a keen sense of what the organization was all about. These were men of good character. They were patriots and fellow soldiers, dedicated to the values we all hold so dear here in America. It turns out, that the original 14th regiment in the American Revolutionary War, was the very same one that had squired George Washington across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve almost two hundred years ago. As the details of the history of the unit unfolded for me, it became clear that this was no ordinary military unit. By an act of Congress in 1967, the unit was officially reinstated as an active duty unit, and assigned to the Army Security Agency School at the base where I landed in 1973. As an active member of this unit, I became part of history.

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Throughout my training and indoctrination, I learned all about the history of the unit, and of the individuals who were associated with it during the Revolutionary War. It didn’t take long to understand that as a member of this unit, I was upholding the finest traditions of the American people, and I embraced the experience with my whole being. Eventually, I became a senior member of the organization and achieved the rank of Lieutenant of the 2nd Infantry Division, which was the training company. I marched in the regional parades throughout New England, participated in re-enactments of Revolutionary War battles, attended large gatherings of other continental units called “musters,” and spent many hours outside of my regular Army training, training the new recruits to the organization. I spent nearly two years engaged in numerous Continental Army activities, as a member of an active duty Continental Regiment.

continental army

Throughout this experience, there were periods of time where my identity seemed to fluctuate depending on where I was and what I was doing. I remember specific moments, where I would find myself in Continental Army uniform, completely decked out in the tricon, or three-cornered hat, spats and boots, sword and black powder pistol of the times, fully immersed in full regalia of the continental soldier, and felt totally lost in the role. In the photo above, I was put in charge of the regiment for the day, during a battle re-enactment, and when I was preparing to bring the unit to attention, someone called out to me, not by my name, but used instead, the title–Commander–and I instantly turned toward the voice–almost in disbelief–and someone snapped the photo of me, with a fairly confused or startled look on my face. The photographer swore he had said nothing.

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These were men of exceptional character and dedication to the traditions of our American heritage. Not everyone who applied was granted membership. There had to be something about you that could “pass muster.” Throughout my service in this unit, I was never able to fully shake the idea that I was being guided or directed to continue for some purpose. At the time, I was a very young man, out on his own for the very first time, and knew so little of the world that, in retrospect, it seemed there was no way I could truly comprehend what was transpiring. I continued to study and to investigate and to allow the experience to take me wherever it took me. It was an extraordinary time.

After my traumatic episode in the early months of my assignment, the only part of my life that kept me grounded was my military training. Had I not been forced by circumstances to adhere to a fairly strict regimen of duty and responsibility, I might not have been able to sustain the level of continuity that followed. There were moments when I absolutely did not recognize myself during these years in New England, and the story that began to form, became an obsession with me at nearly every moment I wasn’t otherwise occupied.

Jonas Eve

The historical person of Jonas Rice lived in the mid-to-late 1700’s in colonial America, and many of the elements of the story that seemed to be unfolding within me to explain it all, came into my consciousness during my tenure as a member of the 14th Continental Army Regiment in Massachusetts. One of the central characters in the evolving story, was a young female companion, Eve, to whom Jonas writes in a journal entry that he has promised to keep while he is on his journey of discovery. Once underway, he discovers a note left in his pocket by Eve, and in response he wrote the following:

“Your words, like minute drops of rain in a summer sprinkle, touch my heart with a tender softness, and cool my heated loneliness in your absence. For truly, every moment without you beside me, is as empty as it is seemingly endless, and my only caress is in the crystal clarity of my memory of your sweet face. These words should not be unfamiliar to you, for they come straight from my heart, where you reside eternally with me.”

Next time: Off to California…