I looked it up. It was the third post I ever wrote. That tells you something. It says the subject matter is important to me.
I was visiting this health spa that I go to in Mexico, and I ran into an Indian who I was pretty sure was about to let me in on “The Secret of Life.” This was more than a hope on my part. There was a flyer thumb-tacked to the Rec Center bulletin board saying that if anyone interested were to gather in front of a certain exercise structure at an appointed time, Grandfather Raven would arrive and reveal to them “The Secret of Life.”
They don’t lie on the Rec Center bulletin board. When they say there’ll be a six A.M. mountain hike, there’s a six A.M. mountain hike. Or so I’ve heard. I don’t want to leave the impression that I actually participated in such a hike. The people who did told me about it. After their natural breathing had returned.
Owing to the Rec Center bulletin board’s proven credibility, I believed that, if I arrived at the appointed time, Grandfather Raven would unquestionably come through with “The Secret of Life.” I had other confirming evidence as well: A near-personal encounter with the Indian Wise Man himself.
I had run into Grandfather Raven earlier in the week. I was decorating a little wood box in the Arts Center, which I would later present to Dr. M to make up for the fact that I had gone to the spa and she hadn’t, when the venerable Indian came in to check on some art supplies he had ordered, and was informed that they had not yet arrived. His enlightened response to the disappointment?
“That’s all right. Everything happens in its own time.”
I know that’s a cliché. But it takes on a truthful resonance when it’s pronounced by a descendant of a civilization of people who were here before Columbus. At least it does to me.
Those who’ve been reading this blog since the beginning know how this story ends. I arrived at the appointed time only to be informed that Grandfather Raven had been delayed, but he would definitely appear, if we came back in two hours.
Coming back in two hours meant skipping lunch. Skipping lunch at a health spa is like skipping a water hole in the desert. The next one is a long way off, and may, especially in a Mexican health spa, be swimming with red-hot chili peppers.
I went back two hours later. That’s how much I wanted to know “The Secret of Life.” At this second gathering, however, we were informed that Grandfather Raven would not be coming at all. Apparently, the Indian Wise Man had dropped a rock on his foot, and had been taken to San Diego for X-rays.
I would not learn “The Secret of Life” that day. Nor would I enjoy the jicama salad and the mini vegetarian pizza they were serving for lunch.
FLASH FORWARD: Three or more decades.
I am invited to hear a Guru speak at my haircutter’s salon. The Guru is from India, where he’s involved in some quasi-religious/slash/spiritual/slash/I don’t know what organization, of which my haircutter is a member. I sense that the organization has something to offer in the spiritual arena. And, once again, I have proof.
Since joining the organization, at the end of every haircut, my haircutter places his hands gently atop of my newly shorn locks and bestows upon me an extended, silent blessing. After a moment’s dizziness, I find myself feeling amazingly refreshed and delightfully clear-headed.
I really believe that there’s something there.
I go to the lecture, joining an audience of about forty seekers. Standing off to the side, my haircutter is virtually exploding with pride, like a kid on “Career Day” whose father he has brought in has the coolest job. I am very excited for him.
The Guru is introduced and he comes out to greet the assemblage. I feel one step closer to knowing “The Secret of Life.” It’s always a hopeful sign when the guy who’s dispensing the wisdom actually shows up.
This one is young, dark, Bollywoood handsome, and charming, at least from the resistance-dissolving-smile perspective. He is dressed “Indian Style.” Everything’s loose and flowing.
I’m aware of the incongruity. I am listening to a Wise Man in a haircutting salon, generally reserved for colorful gossip concerning the semi-famous clientele. I have to get past that, I instruct myself. That very night, I could be illuminated by an insight that would alter my entire existence.
It didn’t happen.
Let me make it clear. I am in no way disparaging the Guru’s message, which ran some forty-five minutes. I’m sure it was amazing, delineating the path to true understanding.
The problem was,
I could not hear what the man was saying.
I had clearly advanced to a higher level of missing out on “The Secret of Life.” The first time, the Deliverer of The Message had failed to appear. This time, there he was. Delivering The Message. I was just unable to understand what it was.
I was in the same room with “The Secret of Life.” I could feel it flying by. But somehow, it never quite landed in my ear.
Though the man spoke quietly – call it calmly and serenely – he was wearing an amplifying microphone. Nobody in the room shouted “Speak up!” So it appeared that the hearing difficulty was restricted to me.
And it wasn’t like I couldn’t hear anything. I could make out the beginnings of his sentences, where he was setting it all up. I was just unable to pick up the inspirational payoffs, his Pronouncements of Truth reaching me as an incomprehensible mumble:
“We must release ourselves from the habit of blaming, and instead hinda the hama wana ging-jang to the lam-jam of the ruba fana bean-a-bop.”
That was what I heard.
I felt frustrated. It was trying to listen to a radio station, whose signal waveringly descended into static. I took deep breaths. I tried to relax.
I felt confused. If I understood the first part of his sentences, why couldn’t I get the whole thing? I was determined to keep trying.
“Imagine the contentment we would enjoy if we stopped pana wana p’nama and we moo-moo s’wana hana of the huska hanny bom.”
The Guru ended ended with this:
“My friends, my message of hope tonight is this: Hin wanna always precedes ham samma walla so that jai lua kenny can teach us to h'uana lapa to the sinny sanny saw.”
So close. So very, very close.