Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I Will Walk With You


I didn't finish the book.

I don't know why--it was a perfectly good book. It was well written and the story was interesting; I just didn't finish it. This happens to me from time to time. I read a book until it stops speaking to me and then I put it down. Sometimes a book speaks to me until the last page, sometimes not at all. Four times I tried to read THE DA VINCI CODE. I couldn't get past the fourth page. I stopped THE COLOR PURPLE when Celie's letters were stopped and Nettie's letters started. I knew, not, why I never finished THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR.

The book is Pat's bible and Dan Millman, his guru. He has read the first PEACEFUL WARRIOR book so many times that it is not possible to count them--the first four of those times were consecutive. His copy of the book is, now, in pieces--dog eared, without front or back covers, filled with notes and markings. The full title of the book is THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR; A BOOK THAT CHANGES LIVES and, indeed, Pat has always said that it changed his life.

Perhaps I should have finished it, twelve years ago when he asked me to read it.

I have been on a quest for the longest kind of time. Unhappy throughout much of my life (not all of the time, mind you), I have sought enlightenment, truth and peace. I have looked for guidance, prayed for assistance, worked toward grace. All of these things are elusive to me; even when I have thought I was getting close to achieving even the slightest degree of these things, I have been knocked down again by the revelation that I knew no more one day than I had all the days of my life that had come before. That process of being knocked down, once more, was always frustrating and irritating.

Until today.

Well, until Sunday, that is, which is the latest time that I realized that I know nothing. For the first time, this news was a relief. On Sunday when I realized that I know nothing, I was happy, I was content, I was ... well, relieved. I know nothing and I am fine with that. All that I THOUGHT I had learned in my life was an illusion. All that I THOUGHT I could teach people, was a myth. I spent a year trying to teach Pat Jr. and I had no right to that frame of mind--how can I teach him anything when I know nothing? Kaitlin seems to look to me for some kind of guidance, some sort of assistance in dealing with the mess in her life--but I cannot guide her or assist her when I know nothing? I know nothing. I am so happy.

The realization came at sunrise, while running in Central Park. I hadn't run in the park in 18 months because doctors told me not to because of injury to my leg. I chose to begin running again, chose to believe that I can conquer, that I can overcome, that I can be...

a PEACEFUL WARRIOR.

My quest continues, my journey moves to the next chapter, my instruction is just beginning.

I have yearned for a teacher, a master, some kind of Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, sensei, Mister Miagi......Socrates. I have sought spiritual guidance and found it, only, on my own. No teacher has presented his or herself to me, so I have read books, taught myself to chant (in my own way, as I have had no one to show me that which is considered the proper way), how to communicate with nature, with myself, with my body, with God. I have worked on my own, in relative loneliness, trying to become a better man--though now I see it is not about being a BETTER man, for I am no better than anyone, at all. It is about being the man I am MEANT to be. It is about being a PEACEFUL WARRIOR.

In the book HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE, there is talk of an exercise in which people are asked to make a list of what they want. Children want toys, teenagers want cars, twentysomethings want money, thirtysomethings want meaningful relationships, fortysomethings want better jobs, fiftysomethings want security, sixtysomethings want good health......few people wrote down that they want to be happy. When I made my list I did not write down "I want to be happy"; I wrote down "I am already happy". I know, now, what I want.

I WANT to be a PEACEFUL WARRIOR.

I understand, now, why I never finished the book. I did not read THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR because I am a visual artist. I respond, most strongly, to visual stimulation. It was meant, almost necessary, that I experience this tale through the visual arts. I was meant to see the imagery, the cinematography, meant to hear the musical scoring, the dialogue, the artist's embodiement of Socarate's voice. My first experience of this story was supposed to be this visual journey.

The book is called A BOOK THAT CHANGES LIVES. I have told friends that the movie is 'maybe the most important movie of my life.' This film, this moment in time, this moment of clarity has changed my life. This is the third day since I saw PEACEFUL WARRIOR and the lasting effects are still apparent, still coursing through my viens, my body, my mind. I am still intent, indeed focused, on being a PEACEFUL WARRIOR. It was not the 24 hour reaction to a film, a reaction which fades or subsides when Monday rolls around and the real world takes root, once more. This has become a priority, a focus, a peaceful obsession. I may not have a physical teacher here with me guiding the way, I may not have a master showing me the ropes, I may be on my own, still, but I am at least on the right path. All of this spiritual change is brought on by a trip to the movies....how extraordinary is that? It is not a surprise to me. It is extraordinary but not a surprise; the artists who created the film PEACEFUL WARRIOR (beginning with the author of the novel on which it is based, Dan Millman) have done what they are supposed to do: they have illuminated something personal for me. It will be different for each person who sees the film, reads the book or both because it should be. Art is as different as the perception of the person moved by the art--illumination is a personal thing but in its generality, it is what artists do: illuminate. The movie and all of the movie makers who contributed to the patchwork quilt that it is have lit the path and the way for me. I will make use of their light to turn myself into a PEACEFUL WARRIOR, with or without a physical guide. Perhaps it is meant to be that I should serve as my own guide, the spiritual and metaphysical guides serving as good company and watchful angels. What matters, though, is that I am, at last, squarely on the right track. I have been placed there by angels and, as a bonus, my first lesson was an easy one: I know nothing.

It was the most important movie of my life. It, like the book before it did for Pat, has changed my life. I hope it will change the lives of many more before its day is done, like I hope the book will continue to do for the readers of the world, of which I will become one, now.

That's right.

I am on page seven of the book THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR. This time, I will see it to completion....

please note: i did not take the photo(s) seen in this piece...

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you might enjoy the foreign films "Travellers and Magicians" and perhaps "The Cup."

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too longed for an Obi Wan for many years. I recently came across this quote, which seemed releveant, and did reflect what the Lamas I have spoken to have all repeated, one way or another:

There is only one teacher. What is that teacher? Life itself. And of course each one of us is a manifestation of life; we couldn't be anything else. Now life happens to be both a severe and an endlessly kind teacher. It's the only authority that you need to trust. And this teacher, this authority, is everywhere. You don't have to go to some special place to find this incomparable teacher, you don't have to have some especially quiet or ideal situation: in fact, the messier it is, the better. The average office is a great place. The average home is perfect. Such places are pretty messy most of the time--we all know from firsthand experience! That is where the authority, the teacher is.

--Charlotte Joko Beck, in Everyday Zen

I would add that our friends, our enemies, and even our animals are all teachers at one point or another. They come into our lives at just the right time to teach us what we need to know, or give the encouragement we need. Sometimes, they teach us what we don't want to know. And then, sometimes, when the lesson is over, they walk away. Or we do. Some lessons have to be repeated. Others, we 'get' without too much trouble.

1:07 PM  

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