THERE & BACK
I have been exploring “through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea” for the source of all thoughts.
ENLIGHTENMENT is the path of a grain of sand becoming EVERYTHING!
When contemplating my pre destined enlightenment; and what is enlightenment but a point of view, a place to observe from, simply an attitude towards life and its ups and downs, going in circles, repeating the same crap over and over and there is no escape from this hell except death: AND THAT IS WHY ALL MYSTICS DIE BEFORE DEATH!!! And all achieved "A HAPPY ENDING", Peace in Our Time.
This was my path to peace. It was all mental, guided by an unceasing, invisible presence that I projected inside my teddy bear, my secret confidant, who new all my gripes and joys, and gave loving, soothing council. He disappeared one day, thrown away by unsympathetic adults, and I'd been on my own ever since; until I was writing a film script and MY TEDDY BEAR returned!! INVISIBLE NOW! Over my shoulder! Cracking those wise, aside jokes, kidding what I was doing!! A real Kibbutzer, a wise guy, a topper who always gets the last word!
“The Football Follies” was a great success and I managed not to brand it as my own, the truth being I was an instrument, a puppet, following specific guidance. I later discovered what MY TEDDY BEAR's real name was, and our relationship both personally and tribally became evident; however, to all HIS fans out there, HE is our Brother, not our FATHER, but HE speaks for GOD and dictated a cheap correspondence course called “A COURSE IN MIRACLES”, a post graduate course in coping with a simple recipe for Peace by mixing forgiveness with an evolving TRUST in the CHEF.
JESUS has a phenomenal SENSE OF HUMOR!!! Well, you could say, if humor is present, part of life, then HE created it! That's why I know The New Testament is edited. Where's the humor? 13 Jews hanging out for 3 years and there are no jokes? Baloney! For all the Light shed, there had to be some Dark humor (that some ancient editor was guided to squelch, jokes ending up on a sanctified monastery floor.) Definitely, a cover up!
That experience of being helped by an interior guide made me question who was really in charge here and confirmed Captain Ahab’s wise reflections before his showdown with his fate-full friend, Moby Dick:
“I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare?
“Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as some errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I.”
So Ahab argues all take credit for The Creator’s Creations. Thanks Mr. Melville for “Moby Dick”, but Walt Whitman puts artists in their place. On being a poet, humble Whitman said he was like a harp on a mountaintop, and the winds of heaven blew through him and IT’s music cascaded down into the valley. Walt was a harp, an instrument, not the composer. As Melville might say: “God wrote ‘It’, not I!”
Those were dark days without my Teddy Bear. My 1st brush with religion came when I was 5 and my Mom took me to a Temple in Flatbush. The service was in Hebrew and I didn’t understand a word spoken and I got really pissed that they sent me into this foreign land without an interpreter!
I never warmed to Judaism, never took off for their holidays and never declared that I was “one of them!” No bar mitzvah for this Yid! Fortunately Dad’s side of the family were outlaws who could care less for any laws including NO BACON!
I tried to go to Hebrew School afternoons after public school but the teachers kept beating me up with my parents’ permission. See, I had this double edged gift, I was a child prodigy with a rapier wit which amused my amoral family at home but angered teachers, both public and Hebrew, when a word or two from the cheap seats would break up the class.
In public school, they hid corporal punishment; in private Hebrew, they could blast away publicly. I was addicted; the laughter was applause and I couldn’t stop wisecracking and being beaten.
Also, my Brother, Mother & Father at home, routinely beat me. I was the dog everyone kicked.
I never lasted long enough in Hebrew School to be Bar Mitzvahed, the ceremony at 13 that marks you a man. I didn’t want to be a Jew anyway. We must be terrible otherwise why would Hitler and so many others through history want to exterminate us?
I thought I had escaped detection but at lunch with my football teammates one day, a Jewish holiday question came up and they turned to me. They all knew! I thought I had hidden “IT”. I was outed as a Jew who knew nothing, even his TRADITIONS!
I had no other religious exposure until I went to a Lutheran college and scholastic courses in religion were required and taught by top scholars. One nugget I took with me was the explanation of what the word CHRIST stands for: it’s a Greek word for the Children of God United. JESUS is the prototype of what each one of us is capable of attaining in these lifetimes. HE is 1st among EQUALS.
Back to enlightenment and Peace. The return of My Inner Teddy Bear inspired me to seek smarts outside of talking to an imaginary friend within. A wise soul-mate gave me an anthology on Sufis, kind of a fly over of their philosophy and some of their great works and workers. I discovered I was already one of them, a NATURAL. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing my SOUL for the 1st time. I had found my mental and spiritual home. Where were they on earth?
I was living in NY, working as a free-lance filmmaker, and found a Sufi meeting/service on a Sunday morning; so at 33, my official Sufi life began.
Sufi dancing? Think of going to church and spending most of the time dancing and singing songs and chants of all religions with a brief brake for “secrets of the Sufis” (everything’s vibrations-science’s just catching up), and then there was that “ROSE DANCE” where my heart burst open and warm tomato soup seemed to be flowing down my chest and my love canal opened!
I asked the Sheikh to become a mureed, a student, with the full understanding that I was free not to become a Muslim and I could remain a Jew without a religion like most Jews who celebrate one victory over their bosses, the Egyptians, and keep harking on it and avoiding the MASTODON named JESUS.
Jews go on and on about Moses and their 10 Laws: The First is the only real law; surrender to God or “your goose will be cooked and eaten to the bone!” The 9 others are a psychological HAIR SHIRT that constantly manufactures guilt through fear of breaking impossible, double-edged laws.
Then there is the denial of JESUS as The Jewish Messiah. Check out the 22nd Psalm, written by King David (thousands of years before JESUS), about a guy who was hung on a cross and cried out “Why hast THOU forsaken me?” His garments were gambled for (sounding familiar?) and HE ends up praising GOD. The crucifixion of JESUS fulfils the description/prophecy of the 22nd Psalm. Accept JESUS, Brothers, and explore HIS Wisdom and Love without having to pay for a building fund.
All right, I have to come clean about my “thing” about Jesus and Simon-Peter. Being a Jew raised in a Lutheran stronghold/community (I can swear in PA Dutch!) I heard for the 1st time in public school readings every morning from The New Testament about this guy named Jesus and his great henchman called Simon-Peter—I made the “Simon” connection, as if somehow I could be a henchman to Jesus, like Tonto was to The Lone Ranger! Silly Dream.
And then there was “the incident”. I was sitting on the floor in kindergarten and a male called my name, ”Simon”, from behind me. When I quickly turned, there was no one there but an everlasting memory that HE called me gently, knowingly, fully; like HE knew ME. Maybe it was my buddy, Dave, who was 6 years older than me but there was no one there and no one else turned to hear a stranger clearly calling my name. In scholastic religious circles that’s known as a “calling”, a “vocation”.
Somehow my father instinctively knew my connection to JESUS: I was the moral pain in everyone’s ass with my quick wit, which emasculated men and disillusioned women. My Dad would come to the mostly Jews defense by demeaning me in a friendly way, “Ignore him, his feet stink and he believes in Jesus!” Of course he was right on both counts!
Despite the real blood, the real sweat, and the real TERROR, I love and respected KING BENNY, my 2nd hero. His Dad was my first.
By the time I was 9, I had come up with a theory about the nature of this universe that I discovered myself dumped into. I was the only person really alive 24 hours a day and everyone else was not real like me; they were just marionettes, puppets, hung up in some closet and only brought out of the closet when they had to “swell a scene or two” in my life.
I lived in a narrow corridor that was real but every thing, the planet, the bodies, whatever! were just extras in my movie. I was alone and abandoned. And I sucked at intimate relationships. Nothing was real.
I was “A LONE RANGER”
“Don’t mess with me stranger, / I’m a Lone Ranger.
My gun is never for hire. /I play it strictly alone, Cause I’m only tough on my own.
So stay out, stay out of my line of fire!
“Don’t mess with me stranger/ I’m a Lone Ranger.
Sad eyes just raise me a grin/. Rescue yourself, I don’t care./ Dreams take all the time I can spare./
My guns shoot silvery light/ Cause shadows are all that I fight./ I’m stuck in this skin that I’m in!
“Don’t mess with me, Stranger. / I’m a Lone Ranger.
Lies are my legends of daring!/ Heroes are made out of popcorn!/ They burst through there shells to be born!/ Someday I might love and be sharing, /
But right now I wear a mask, the Mask of Not Caring!/ Don’t ever ask, always I’ll wear this mask./ Always I’ll be a Lone Ranger!/ Someday, Someday, I might love and be sharing, but right now,/I wear this mask, the mask of not caring. Of not caring.
That was a song I wrote with Earl Robinson for an unsold screenplay but mirrors where my head was at growing up. I was an Agnostic, someone who didn’t know or not know about God; a safe, neutral position while professionally, I was focused on “charging the canon’s mouth for bubble reputation” with a couple of Emmys and honors from museums.
So back to the Sufis and my enlistment. A Sufi name is given to a new student, a name whose “vibrations” are said to infect and transform.
Imagine the hairs on the back of my head rising as the Sheikh gave me my Sufi name, “Simon-Peter” and heaven sang, or at least that part of heaven that’s in me. I could arise from my skeptical stance and bask in my coronation. I am JESUS’ henchman! Watch out!! HE IS THE KIBBUTZER!!! So am I.
After I had displayed continued interest in singing and dancing my heart away, I was assigned a mentor who questioned me on my readings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Master who founded The Sufi Order of the West. My Mentor, Ezra Winston, was a pupil of Hazrat’s and appreciated my take on the Master’s teachings, and, before I knew it, Hazrat’s son, Pir Vilayat Khan, ordained me Reverend Simon-Peter! And he said it stuck forever.
What did I learn from Sufism in NY? I started as an agnostic, not knowing, and ended up an ordained reverend, someone who KNEW. There is a practice in 12 Step Programs called “AS IF” which means, even if you don’t believe in GOD or a HIGHER POWER, operate “as if” GOD was real and able to help us through life’s challenges. I believed in God but had not experienced THE FAITH THAT KNOWS.
For a while, I conducted a Sunday morning service in NY; and then, an attractive job offer came from DC, so I worked in the nation’s capital for a year with little contact with the DC Sufis. I wasn’t really serious about spiritual practices, I was a Natural and that was reflected in my work. Long before I had become a Sufi Whirling Dervish, I had created a NFL football ballet, “The Headcracker Suite”.
I was thirsty for more metaphysics in DC and took the Scientology introductory course, but when I had to confess to a stranger the most dreadful thing I’d ever done, and who I wouldn’t want to know about “my sin”. I said I masturbated and didn’t want my boss to know that about me. Perfect setup for blackmail; so, using due diligence, next time I saw my boss in the hall, I told him that I masturbated. Free at last!
One of my coworkers in DC went from being shallow to being deep overnight and he invited me to an est training graduation. The people were ballistic with joy and relief, they could now pee unrestrictedly. It was cheap, 2 weekends and transformation was possible. I’d seen it work in that coworker!
My father had died 15 years before my est training. I never mourned him, in fact, hated him, but I rediscovered a memory at the training from when I was a child in his arms in the surf at Coney Island. I’d never felt so secure. I couldn’t swim but he was that person who went deeper into that ocean than anyone else, and, from that royal position, looked back upon us all and relished the spectacle. King Benny! My est training opened me to forgive my father so that eventually, 50 years later, I cried uncontrollably at his grave.
Fortune or misfortune found me in LA, fired but inspired by visits to psychics on both coasts that LA would be “the land where all of my dreams would come true” and they did, although one looked more like a 30 year Beloved Nightmare named Kelly.
I met a fellow seeker at an est event, Patrick O’Flynn, Sr., who had just been fired too (from his own company!) who was doing this home study course in metaphysics, spiritual stuff, that took a year to complete and it was called ”A COURSE IN MIRACLES” and it has delivered for many years.
We became close, unemployed friends, learning to do nothing gracefully and we talked about God for 3 years everyday. Sr. called it “the conversation about God” and we found an old friend in ”A COURSE IN MIRACLES”; JESUS, HIMSELF, dictated it to a Jewish woman in NY (He kept it tribal).
Patrick started 33 lessons ahead of me but we one-a-day-ed it for a year. Halfway through, Patrick was in the hot tub and, like a stroke of lightning; he became ENLIGHTENED and started pouring wisdom out of every pore of his body. I was the Sufi Reverend but Patrick was “in the spirit”.
The “Course” has 3 parts; a workbook of 365 one per day mental exercises and takes a year to complete. There is a 700 page “TEXT” that I read every word and didn’t understand one word. Thank God, I found my Cliff Notes for the “TEXT” in the 2 volumes by Gary R. Renard, but WARNING! There are spooks.
The 3rd book, “The Teacher’s Manuel”, is a measuring stick of how well you’re practicing “Trusting God” in your everyday life. Want to get to Carnegie Hall? , Practice! Same thing with enlightenment, PRACTICE! Ups and downs are perfect practice.
Your life becomes a lab to apply your new attitude to every day stuff. You graduate, and, like any graduation, you’ve still got mountains to climb and ditches to avoid or get out of, but you have a new tool to extricate Your Self from yourself.
The “COURSE” answers the basic questions; Who am I and Where am I? I am a Child of God, like you, and we’re learning to take over the family business of running the universe with the rest of us God Kids. Neither of those answers is believable because they speak of our united spirit, Our Oneness, and not our separate bodies of animal, vegetable or mineral.
The “COURSE” suggests that we are not our bodies, these human vehicles we use for living on a space ship circling through space around a circling sun. When we leave the spaceship, we don’t take our Rovers with us. They are buried or burned or fed to nature’s clean up squad. Nothing here is permanent, especially our human vehicles. The spirit within is permanent and is who WE really are.
Not only am I not a body, I am free to choose my daily bread from what’s available (gluten free?). And if The All-Powerful God, like Ahab says, DOES EVERYTHING, then we’re not to blame for whatever you or I did, so we all get endless forgiveness (JESUS Knew This On The Cross!). I discovered all my temptations have led me not to evil but to ILLUMINATION, ENLIGHTENMENT. I am so blessed and so are you, when you waken.
If that last paragraph sounds like The Lord’s Prayer, I stole it from THE AUTHOR of “A COURSE IN MIRACLES”: JESUS dictated ‘THE COURSE” to a Jewish Psychology Professor, Helen Schucman, in NY in the 1970s.
The last lesson has been my mantra since 1984: “This Holy Instant would I give to YOU. Be YOU in charge. For I would follow YOU, certain that YOUR direction gives me Peace.” If there is an All-Powerful GOD, then everything is EXACTLY the way GOD wants it to be at every moment; so TRUST and TOTAL SURRENDER are actually appropriate. I am following the 1st Commandment.
How this TRUTH carries through in my everyday life is by forgiving everything by putting all judgments of blame or praise onto God; if blame, wait for further developments; If praise, THANK GOD WILDLY! Somebody CARES for ME!
Patrick O’Flynn, Sr. had been a bank vice president, a computer systems salesman to major corporations and a failed Catholic wanna-be-priest with 3 kids. After his enlightenment, he stopped shaving, getting haircuts, gave away his custom made suits and wore only sweats and Birkies. Eventually he returned to the church, became a lay teacher and hasn’t missed a mass in over 25 years. I was a “Homeless Guest” of Patrick’s wife, Barbara, for over a year.
My best memory of Sr. was I had been to the east coast and made my film, “The War Follies” based on the teachings of the “COURSE”, and returned to LA on a cousin’s green handshake with a new camcorder and we sat on the hot tub and I recorded a string of wisdom from Patrick.
My favorite was about Who teaches Us? Parents, teachers, friends, all tell us what to do. What we agree with, we do; what we don’t, we find a way not to. Who is the teacher? Who is the Chooser? I am.
I tried to spread the “GOOD NEWS”; a wealthy friend hired the Theosophic Hall in Hollywood on Tuesday nights for several months but we didn’t draw a crowd. (Mom, I made it to Hollywood!!) Even though homeless and sleeping on Patrick & Barbara’s floor, I wangled/produced an half hour Public Access TV show in Santa Monica starring Patrick as the all-wise one and me as the congenial host.
We did 5 shows and then I wanted to bring the dog I was babysitting on the show and Patrick refused to be on the same show with a dog. The dog was booked so I fired Patrick. For good. I did around a dozen more half hour shows on the metaphysics of the “COURSE”. I occasionally dug ditches with wetbacks to have spending and gas money.
According to Hazrat Inayat Khan, enlightenment comes in 3 stages. First, we acquire knowledge through some form of study (not necessarily academic), then we meditate/marinate on what we discovered and finally understand it well enough to live IT, to share IT, and to be IT. In fact, “IT” is my new name for GOD, eliminates the male versus female stuff and opens neutral, universal territory.
When I returned to the east coast, I was homeless, jobless, destitute, but with a new metaphysical (above the physical) philosophy of the world based on “The COURSE”. For 7 years I was a “Professional Homeless Guest”; strangers, old friends, new friends, all took me in and I learned humility, gratefulness and TRUST in A HIGHER POWER from this physical/spiritual trial.
I went into the biggest film library in the world at that time, Sherman Grinberg Film Library, with offices in NY, LA and London. I knew the NY manager, Bernie Shertok, from my days as a NY filmmaker and showed him some of my pieces as a reporter and producer. He gave me the green light to make a feature length movie using documentary footage from their vast worldwide library.
I love to test the JESUS statement that “The Kingdom Is At Hand” so I asked only for a string of films/video on a shelf, “at hand”, in the main room. They were Paramount Newsreels from 1940 to 1957 and they became the actors in my DOCUMENTARY FICTION that I called “THE WAR FOLLIES” because WW II was the big news of that time. I decided to look at war from a spiritual, metaphysical perspective rather than the usual propagandistic cheerleading.
The library covered all my expenses, which came to a whopping $1,000. A friend in Sparta, NJ, had an editing system at home and let me use it and stay there for weeks at a time as I wrote, narrated and edited the film. Completed, no one wanted to buy it. Grinberg was sold and the new owners would not honor a word of mouth contract even though Grinberg never charged me for weeks of viewing, normally at $35/hour, and shelled out a $1,000 but Bernie could have hidden that in petty cash.
I was friends with the late Gil Cates; an Oscar Telecast Producer, Film Director and Head of UCLA Film School. Gil looked at “The War Follies” and told me to enter it into film festivals, but with the rights not locked down, I couldn’t.
Bottom line, that film saved my life. I was depressed over the way my life was going, I needed something to chew on while I was waiting to be fed a new life. There were a few dark, gun moments.
In the summer of 1988, my homelessness ended with a summer relief editor job at ABC News in NY. I was back with bucks. What followed was a spiritual marination for 14 years while attending 12 Step Programs for compulsive over eating and sexual anorexia. I wrote about the experience:
I found a new family in my 12-step program.
Brothers and sisters I never knew,
Forgiving me unconditionally.
Total Strangers who tell each other the truth
Become a family of Intimate Strangers,
Sinners who do not throw stones.
We attend The 12 Step Church
Our God has no name except Higher Power
We believe Confession purges the soul
And the Truth sets us free.
In anonymous rooms we Confess and are forgiven.
In anonymous rooms we hear Confessions and forgive.
We hear of damage, we hear of recovery, we learn of hope.
The anonymous rooms are actually halls of mirrors,
Each one of us, a mirror to the rest.
We are the many who are one.
We are not alone,
We came to this fellowship shameful liars.
The lies hid secrets even from ourselves.
The Truth inspired miraculous recoveries
Among this family of Intimate Strangers.
Some have even become Intimate Friends.
Love is not only a possibility,
It is the very mortar of our 12 Step Church.
Where open wounds are closed,
Where closed worlds are opened.
And where the Truth of Intimate Strangers
Back home, free-lance editing, living in L.I.C., acting in a couple of off-off-off Broadway plays, acting in a couple of short films, did some stand-up, some poetry and always loving NY, my adopted city, until I saw those burning buildings from my apartment window and working night and day, being part of the messengers of doom, the news, and I burnt out too and was fired, Thank God!
I sat around in Riverdale in the Bronx for a year, spending my savings, not knowing what to do next. GOD jumped right in with a heart attack: FOUR MINUTES OF FLAT LINE! I was dead for 4 minutes! 2 is bad! I was a math wiz! No more. Best thing that ever happened, a sneak preview!
Killing me was like sending a navy seal to infiltrate DEATH. AND RETURN. To tell you all, to tell you what you’ve always suspected: there is no DEATH, there’s just “a change of address” but your own consciousness moves with you. Your inner self doesn’t miss a beat whether you see lights, friends, whatever you experience, these “returnees” all were conscious while they were supposedly DEAD. Yes, their bodies were dead, flat-lined, but their consciousness was not!!!
So I have no fear of DEATH; been there, done that; however, the fear of exactly HOW one exits, is a fear few lose.
Fully retired after the heart attack, finances forced me back home to a suburb of Allentown, Emmaus,PA. I re-discovered the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan on the internet, but, on this second reading, everything was being filtered through “The COURSE” via JESUS.
I was harmonizing these 2 sources, saying daily prayers from each to center myself, to push aside my ego (the sound I hear in my head, full of judgments and worse case scenarios.) There is also a listener inside me with a deeper, quieter voice that gets quite loud if I seek it by focusing on the spirit within that we call THE SELF or GOD WITHIN.
Hazrat speaks of the importance of actually making up a “God Ideal”, someone to speak to within and I had One already made: TEDDY BEAR JESUS! It is me, Kingasabe, your faithful servant, Simon Peter!
THE ZEN OF AUTO PARTS
Auto parts are a lot like body parts, you got to have most of your parts or your whole thing won’t run. So, I got this job delivering auto parts to garages and auto repair shops in this semi rural valley I was born and raised in. Driving around my valley, I’m learning about nooks and crannies I had heard of as a child but didn’t have a clue about their actual whereabouts.
Now their location is of paramount importance. Some auto or truck is sick and the automotive doctors have determined a replacement part is needed and I am driving quickly, safely, to save a sick puppy. I am riding to the rescue in my clown colored car to make two people happy: the vehicle’s owner and the mechanic. I have a mission. I am a happy servant.
I use to complain that someone should make a car that never needed fixing. Nothing is made to last! Planned obsolescence I called it. Then I looked in the mirror. Whoever created this universe didn’t make anything to last. The automakers are only mirroring nature.
Part-time auto parts delivering fits my retirement to a “T”. It greases my income, and gets me out into the world so that I can swirl in its weather and play with everyone: even co-workers and customers. I have a good time no matter what the weather is physically, socially or financially. That’s what us retired guys should do. Have a good time!
It’s written in the Declaration of Independence, that stuff about the pursuit of happiness. If you haven’t gotten happy while sliding down your last slope; then, When? So it’s my constitutional duty to have a good time no matter what the weather throws my way.
It’s my solemn duty as a guy on the way out, to go out laughing, or, at least, smiling. So, here’s my secret recipe, given to me by the ancient sages of antiquity; it’s simply this: Imagine having an All-Powerful Being to blame everything on! It’s not my fault or your fault that the world is the way it is. It’s that interfering, got to have it My Way, All-Powerful Thing. Shakespeare called it, a “Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we may.”
I send all my complaints to the Maker. I also send my compliments. I hope my objections are noted but rarely do I get things my way. I blame the All-Powerful Designer, wash my thoughts of the whole matter and continue practicing happiness by being happy with my lot, whether its full of lemons or auto parts.
I get paid to look at Pennsylvania’s rolling hills in the bowels of this valley that probably once was a seabed. The autumn sunlight plays games with my sight, blinding me one moment and then hiding for days, sending those misty tears we call clouds in the sun’s place and making me yearn for the return of the light. But I love the balance, the harmony of it all.
The streets of my childhood are filled with friendly ghosts of my past superimposed over the brief permanence of the present. I feel the undertow of the world to come. I am a child of Providence delivering auto parts.
Simply Simon has taken more than one step backward and many forward. It’s a dance!
I had an epiphany on THANKSGIVING 2013. A Universal Holiday for the whole SPACESHIP (aka Earth). Every day is THANKSGIVING if you relish what you’ve got and count your blessings instead of losses and you’ll fall into eternity, counting your blessings. Start by being grateful for breathing and take it from there. Remembering BEAUTY is the easiest “work”.
I now have a PEACE that is beyond understanding, surrendering and TRUSTING IN GOD (by any name or none).