The first brick on my yellow brick road to Enlightenment, a path I don’t claim to be very far down, had to have been the word ‘God’.
It’s one of my earlier memories. I can’t say exactly what age but about 5 or 6. I was behind my parent’s house where the small forest of spindly pines begins, I was with my mother.
Many of my early memories with my mom are walking along Lower Mill Road, a road far more peaceful and natural than it’s yellow-brick counterpart could ever make out to be, however just as full of characters. In most of my memories I am engrossed in the microcosms of old tree stumps in the summer sunshine; the tiny red bugs that scurry over them, the tiny colorful fungi, forests in their own right… or bees and butterflies travelling in their own styles… and below always the ants building their civilizations… searching for wild berries or Lilly of the Valleys.
This particular afternoon I was less aware of my surrounds though. I wasn’t hearing the birds in the trees, the wind sweeping the grass, or the forest’s buzz of summer insects. For the first time in my memory I had a troubled mind. The word ‘God’ was swirling around my mind and all my questions and all my mother’s explanations weren’t enough to grasp it.
It was about at a stage of thought somewhere between, “God knows everything, even my thoughts,” “God used to talk to people a long time ago but doesn’t seem to much anymore,” and, “When I die I will meet God.” Hmm, when I die. I hadn’t thought much about that before. When I started asking what will happen when I die, my mom told me, “When you die, all answers will be revealed, you will know everything.” Heavy words for a child to ponder, and though I no longer agree with this teaching it was probably the most influential moment of my life. From that moment began a great obsession with death and life after death that lasted the better part of two decades with a handful of near fatal contemplations.
I was 12 the first time I decided I really wanted to know about death first hand and I went in my father’s greenhouse and tied up a noose with the twine he used for the cucumber vines to cling onto. Dad had already tied it to the rafter, so it was quite convenient. It was still a few years before teenage angst began brewwing like bad liquor, and I wasn’t suicidal in the sense that I wanted to end my life. It was quite the opposite. I became certain that this life was too partial and too fractured. If by death the whole universe could be revealed then I didn’t see the reason in waiting any longer, I wanted to see it now! As it happened, the gauge of the twine wasn’t nearly thick enough to support my body and snapped as soon as the tension hit it. I walked away hoping my dad wouldn’t be upset that he’d have to tie another string around the rafter, it seemed pretty high.
A few weeks later, while waiting for the tub to fill to take a bath, watching the water flowing around and rising, I thought maybe drowning would be a good way to go. Kneeling down, I plunged my head over the edge of the tub into the water and took a huge breath. The shock of the warm water streaming through my nostrils sent me on my back and I acknowledged that I just wasn’t strong enough to go through with dying.
Not too long after that teenage agnst did set in and there aren’t many actions taken from those years that I can claim were for the purposes of enlightenment but the questions still remained. With maturity, independence, and experiencing the loss of a friend, thoughts of death faded and I began to realize if I haven’t learned the proper lessons in this realm, what’s to say I wouldn’t get smacked right back into it? There’s no saying there is anything at all when you die, maybe life’s biggest joke! For now, regardless what’s to come after, I’ve found pleasure in focusing on living and God and I have made some agreements. I know what’s right and what’s wrong. I won’t do anything to bother God and God won’t bother me. I know if I live my life well, I can get there on my own.