Wednesday, January 2, 2013
1500 Portland Ave APT 3
There is a noise in the hallway and a whisper by the door. Heavy footsteps clomping quickly down the stairs and then silence except for the people fighting downstairs. The young man has been sitting at his kitchen table typing on a black Royal Portable typewriter his father gave to him to use for his college work. The Murphy bed that folds into the wall is set up to go to bed late even though he doesn’t sleep well. The couple below, whom he has dubbed "The Domestic Drama Society”, is fighting again and he can hear it through the kitchen floorboards. Last week he cops came and pounded on his door by mistake.
He listens and waits for a knock. But there's nothing so he gets up to look.
Under the door is a small stack of white, neatly numbered sheets of paper, although the perfect machine like printing was never done with a typewriter. He picks it up and looks.
Dear Phaedrus (I always think of you as Phaedrus)
You don’t know me. But I know you.
I watched you today sitting in the Student Union in the Whole Coffee House where you go between classes. Where I live, all of that has been gone for years. They have a Starbucks now. You don’t know what that is yet. But you will like it. Nothing to do with the guy in Moby Dick.
You might have noticed me there though I don't think so. I was the old fart with the beard in the corner two tables over, watching you with fascination and dread over the top of a newspaper and drinking bad coffee from a Styrofoam cup. Where I come from the coffee is much improved. You had your three little lucky Chinese pennies. I know what you were doing though I have lost faith in the habit myself. You were casting about for your fortune with the I Ching. You were tossing them and consulting in a thick gray book. I think that was the Richard Wilhelm edition. In fifty years or so I think it's still the best one. Looking to a book to tell you your fortune. Looking for supernatural guidance outside yourself. That is so like you. That is the thing that is going to do you in, my boy.
You do not know your fortune. But I do. Don't worry how.
I could tell you what the world and its good coffee will be like, what stocks to invest in. Keep an eye out in the '80s for something new called Microsoft, and something else called Apple. If you don’t screw up your life first. If in your impatience, fear and arrogant spiritual ambitions you don’t throw it all away by letting self inflated messiahs micro-manage it for you.
There as you sit in your grubby little apartment on the south side, with your grubby furniture and the bed that hurts your back, this is the only moment in your life when you will be completely and perfectly free and beholding to no one but your own lights. Even now, forty years distant I dream about your little apartment because there you knew freedom.
And like most people - freedom terrifies you.
You were not made for it. You were not brought up to it. You are in desperate need of good teachers and you don’t have them, solid family and you don’t have them. You'll take your freedom and throw it away to the first master who shows an interest in you or the first girl who lets you fuck her, or maybe auction it away grain by grain the way most people do.
Phaedrus, you possess the potential for brilliance. You are passionate by nature, gifted at this time in your life with inexhaustible spiritual and sexual energy and curiosity. But these are also the wings that are so easily clipped.
Life has three great golden apples, three great gifts to offer a person:
A great teacher.
A great love.
A great passion.
These are the greatest things this world can bestow you. Some are blessed to get even one. A rare few are blessed with all three. You will have none unless you change your course and learn to cherish your freedom and not fear it.
You need guidance, you need a great teacher. You are addled by the internal fires of spirituality and lust. The best guide for you would be an older and wise woman, one who might take you into her bed, but would most of all never lie to you. DeEtta could have been that person but now she is far away and you are alone and you feel the thorns around you. Soon the wolves will gather around you too.
The wolves are the false teachers which in your time period so abound. They'll smell out someone like you a mile away like blood. I tell you young man, surrendering to a false teacher is like letting a madman sit on your chest with a straight razor.
No one can save you from your own impatience. You must find a good teacher who will not demand your life in return for his or her investment in you. Make sure it is a person like DeEtta, someone only as smart as yourself but more experienced, and most of all compassionate. That is the most important spiritual virtue. Any religion that doesn’t increase your capacity for compassion is not serving you.. If you feel what others feel, if you know yourself as equal to them and know that each person has a hidden battle, you will find your teacher. Stay away from those who speak only of God. Anyone who tells you they have the highest truth or speaks of a Holy Land, run screaming from the room. Avoid them if they have no ordinary friends who can speak to them as equals. Beware Phaedrus. Ultimately, you must learn how to teach yourself with compassion. Until then, you must find another DeEtta, maternal, wise and intimate who is not afraid to tell you the truth. You seek to love God as a woman. You are right about that.
Bullshit is what clips your wings and makes you smaller by cheering you for your illusions. Truth is what brings you out of your illusions and into the larger world of other people and their sufferings. Someone must teach you to smell bullshit because you are fated to be exposed to more of it than most people.
Find yourself a liar. Someone you know is false. Listen to them lie. Smell the air. Feel the vibration. Learn to know it by heart. By instinct. Maybe there's hope you can save yourself.
The key to you, Phaedrus, the beauty and the fatal flaw in you, is that you are instinctively seeking with the hunger of an old and ripe soul for something greater than yourself to give yourself completely to. That is the seed of genius when connected to fertile ground. It's also the seed of madness and sterility when it fails. Not everyone has the stuff to follow that star in the east. But too often the star doesn’t lead you where you think it will. You need luck. Talent is not enough. Luck may find you, but you can’t help that. Your job is to prepare yourself to be lucky.
When you have found yourself a great teacher and true friend, you may have then the tools of perception to find yourself a great love or more likely to recognize a great love when she’s standing in front of you. Make sure she is interesting, maybe exotic, but above all a growing person, a companion you must run to keep up with. Make sure she doesn’t need you.
A goddess chooses, she does not need. Find a woman who doesn’t need you, but wants you. One who can live just fine without you but chooses not to. One who doesn’t depend on you alone for her happiness. Find a woman who wants you because you can make each other bigger than you will be alone. A person travels faster alone, but farther with a companion. Take a long road trip with her and run out of gas at least once in a difficult place. See her when things are off the rails and you’re looking stupid and then you'll know if she's the one, because you will have many opportunities to look stupid in front of her. If she laughs at absurdity instead of scolding you, hold her tight and thank god at once for your good fortune.
Until you meet her, use this time to explore your sensuality. Experiment. Get it out of your system. You are always afraid of disappointing people. You have to learn to disappoint people. You must learn to disappoint women, even if you hurt them sometimes, or you'll end up marrying the first girl who lets you fuck her, or the first guru who lets you follow him. The world is not always kind and there is a time for a kindness and a time to disappoint. You must learn the art of disappointmenting people gracefully if you are to avoid being small.
Find a great passion if you can, or let it find you. Something within, that belongs to you and fires you and gives meaning to your life. When you walk, keep walking. When you write keep writing. Write with soul, or stop writing and do something more productive. Whatever you do find the soul of it, and someday you will find your great passion. The best passion is to be of service somehow to others. To have a thing to do that makes ripples in the lives of others that makes them bigger also. Be cautious of any passion that brings glory to you rather than compassion.
Always look for the compassion.
Whatever makes your heart bigger, your compassion bigger, your scope bigger - that is truth.
Whatever makes you smaller - that is false.
Remember those two things until you find your great teacher and your great love and your great passion will find you.
Do that for us both Phaedrus. And for God’s sake - be patient with yourself.
An old friend