Wednesday, February 10, 2010
You have been dreaming about me these nights in your crummy little walkup apartment on Portland Ave. Dreaming of college. Dreaming of your future. Wondering how it will all turn out and who you will become. You read nights, walk the streets, and try to feel the future like radio waves. With the old Royal portable typewriter you keep next to your record turntable, you keep a self absorbed diary and attempt to write your ridiculous little stories while dabbling with exotic religious systems. You try to sleep but are tortured by physical and emotional urges you cannot master. You fear the dark and fear the furtive movements of the shadows when you are alone in your fold up bed at night because you believe in spirits and you have never been alone before. You are right to fear them. There are nights I lie awake too, when, if I could stretch my hands beyond the wells of time and space I would reach out from the dark just as you fear and strangle you for what you about to do to us.
You are my hero Phaedrus. I love you as I love myself, because that is who you will become. You are a nobler and kinder and more innocent and idealistic person than I will ever be again. For all of those excellent qualities you will doom us to a small passionless life for which I will not forgive you and for which we were not born. I am the bearer and debtor of the karma you are brewing even now.
Know you this – you are a Fool. Not any fool, but The Fool. The zero card in that Rider Waite Tarot you keep next to your tea pot on the scavenged board and brick bookcase where you store your books and phonograph records. I know every thing in your apartment. I have gone over every inch, year after year, in the still dark of night in my wistful and longing memory. That is the last place where you will ever be perfectly free before others cage you forever. I have come to warn you. You are that Fool, the young man full of dreams looking up towards Heaven as he is about to step blindly over a precipice. I am that honest little dog next to you, biting at your ankles, barking, trying to get you to look down to earth before you doom us both. Fool.
In the next day or two a young woman named Susan will call you late at night on the phone. She will have filched your name from the dust while she is cleaning. A piece of paper with your name and phone number you gave to someone will snag in that elderly vacuum cleaner, and because she’s a beautiful young woman, and because you are shy and desperate to love and be loved, you will be doomed like a hungry fish. When she calls, do not answer. If you answer - avoid the hook, I beg you from across the years - hang up and go your way.
God does not love you Phaedrus. Have mercy on me and do not search for God. You will never find God. You do not even begin to have the mental or spiritual tools to find God, and God does not want to be found by the sorry likes of you. That girl Susan will not tell you, but her God will devour you alive. It is better to be a cowardly agnostic full of doubts and free of religion’s chains than to bravely scale the great mountain and fall. The fall from that height, young man, is far, far down, and it will break you beyond all healing. If fall you must, build new wings on the way down.
The devil in your life is not me, no, it is your own self doubt and impatience. Listen to me your honest little Tarot dog. After all, the demons within you are your best teachers. That is your other problem. You lack good teachers. Your mother is insane. Your father has left you all, and he was right to leave you and save himself while he is yet young. You have no teachers now and in your terror of freedom and spiritual loneliness, you will grab at the first who flatters you. DeEtta was a good teacher full of affection for you, but now she is far away and if you go where she cannot follow, she will never forgive you.
Study yoga and meditation if you think you have to, but learn them at the YMCA, from ordinary and unassuming men and not from gurus or messiahs. Keep your spiritual ambitions small, fly low to the earth because people are coming soon who will try to clip your wings forever. If any man has a great purpose for your life or speaks of a Holy Land anywhere but within you, run from that man, run for your mortal life. To follow an incompetent spiritual master is like letting a madman sit on your chest with a razor.
Girls will not look at you, Phaedrus. Not yet. You’re too complicated and you’re living too far inside your head with your romantic illusions. Young girls full of choices, reeking of sex, do not need to make the effort it takes to draw you out when there are so many other young men who are easier to understand. Your time has not come. Your heart is too green and full of yourself. Suffering will open it and give it depth. Don’t look for love; look for suffering. Intimacy is created by honesty. Speak honestly but don’t use honesty as an excuse for cruelty. Avoid the white lie because once you begin down that road you will never find your way back and you will find yourself alone someday. Change your destiny. Find intimate friends you can speak your honest mind to. You will know them by listening to them, the way DeEtta listened to you. She taught you how to listen well. Listen! When someone speaks their honest mind to you, listen and never punish them even if they wound you. You don’t have to fix anything, but you must listen the way DeEtta listened. The root of intimacy is honesty, and way to honesty is humility.
Humility is to see yourself as you really are, no better and no worse. That is the beginning of true spirituality and the only defense your soul has against the flowering of evil. You will learn humility from your many failures yet to come, because failure shows you only in your nakedness and does not falsely flatter the way success does.
Learn to embrace solitude and not to be afraid of being alone, because the most important people in your life you haven’t met yet. Look for the woman who is different from you, who is bold and outgoing and can lead you out of your head and into the wide, wide world of other people. Look for the woman who wants to teach you how to dance. When your father chooses a woman for himself next time, study the woman he chooses. You are so much alike. Get to know the woman your father chooses, because she will help you know what kind of woman you will need. If you can, find an older, mature woman who will take you into her bed and teach you about pleasure and the mysteries of giving and receiving pleasure with a woman so that when your time comes you can be good to your companion. Don’t hate pleasure. Love your body, make love to yourself freely as often as you feel desire. It will console your loneliness, and also because your body is your first and true wife. Love your body as you love yourself, and stay away from any spiritual master who tells you to hate the flesh.
Fight the future. Rebel against your insane destiny for my sake and yours.
Be patient with yourself, for God’s sake, for our sake have faith in your own decisions, don’t be ashamed of them. Never believe anyone can manage your life better than you. Own your mistakes, lie down and bravely bleed when you fail and then begin again. From that scared blood and no other comes your art and your soul’s redemption. When you have failed badly enough and learned to experience humiliation without bitterness, you may begin to discover the beauty of other people because every person, great and small, you meet is fighting a hard fight inside. There - there lies the key to the stories you should be learning how to tell someday.
You have good stories inside, but they are buried under all your stupid illusions and ignorance about life. You don't know shit about anything. What makes you think you can find God, young man, when you don't even know yourself? Fool! You are that Fool. It will be years before you know enough to have anything to really write about. Learn language and beauty. Find writers who are better than yourself and read them and listen to them. Be intimate with them. Your time will come. If you think you must have faith in something, have faith in that.
Please Phaedrus. Child of the past – have faith. I will have to live out your life someday.
Make me a good man.