I’ve dabbled with ideas; even practices. I was born a (non-religious) Jew, but even at a young age, I always felt that our capabilities as human beings should be miraculous. I just didn’t know where to begin my search. No one talked to me about God, or a higher power, or the limitless possibilities of the mind. I spent time as a student observer at a parapsychology lab trying to influence a computer with my mind, learned the rudiments of meditation, and noodled around with the Ouija board. I’d lay prone on my bed in the middle of a summer afternoon listening to Tangerine Dream or Jean Michel Jarre on the turntable, and try to induce out-of-body experiences.
But nothing ever took. As a young adult not even out of my teens, I joined the Navy, where I served with Christians of every denomination, many of whom felt that the only way for me to be a complete Jew was to be born again. I did think about it, and remember one night lying in my bunk, trying to conjure up a connection to Jesus, imagining a wave of love and compassion overwhelming me. But I just could not do it. I felt stupid, embarrassed, and a little bit disappointed.
In 1984 I was one of about 10 Americans and possibly the only Jew in a stadium filled with screaming Catholics about to be blessed by Pope John Paul II. There were helicopters overhead and His Holiness circled the stadium in the famous Popemobile. But what I most remember are the priests and others walking through the crowd, selling cheap icons and trinkets for a mass blessing. I held up my camera during the blessing, and it was stolen a couple of weeks later.
I have prayed to Buddha in Thailand and Vietnam, written a terrible poem about Swedenborg (Heaven is a bureaucracy of angels … blah, blah, blah), and chanted mantras to Ganesha and Krishna.
And after all of these experiences, all the searching, all the sleepless nights, small epiphanies, joy, grief, and love, I have finally earned my first true piece of wisdom.
I know very little, and must be content with small steps on a long journey.
The older I get, the more impatient I am, as if I am in a race to some nebulous nirvana. And impatience can cause me to miss subtleties, those ephemeral hints of deeper truths, vast but also knowable.
In Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsch asks “How much time do we need to take? It’s already taken me five months to get from the first chapter to this. I know that people read this and think it’s all put down in one even, uninterrupted flow. They don’t realize that 20 weeks separated the 32nd and 33rd paragraph of this book. They don’t understand that sometimes the moments of inspiration are half a year apart. How much time do we have to take?”
To which I can now answer, as long as it takes.