Eric and I seemed to be standing on some kind of observation balcony above an operating theatre, watching an operation unfold below. I wondered if this was how they train doctors. Eric, of course, heard my thought, and gave this in reply: No, this is to help you see the power of expectations and thought generally. A badly wounded soldier was brought in by two orderlies.
A bloody stump was all that remained of a left leg and a largish hunk seemed to have been chopped right out of his mid-rift. One orderly brought what looked like whisky up to the soldiers lips: he slurped it back and groaned. The wounds must have been cauterized earlier as there was only a little blood trickling out and it didn’t make near the mess you thought it would. He was laid on the operating table and given a large injection. He looked at the syringe and seemed to pass out. The thought appeared in my mind that he was an Israeli blown up by a Palestinian mine, someone who had lain shattered on a city street for a few minutes before dying. That’s right, said Eric, he doesn’t quite know he’s dead. Then the surgeons did a strange thing. They held the palms of their hands over the wounds and seemed to regrow the missing parts. In about maybe two minutes the soldier was complete again. Gauze bandages were carefully wrapped about his left shoulder and torso and he was awakened with another hand gesture. He opened his eyes and looked about: the surgeons smiled. Words were exchanged. An orderly appeared with a cane, helped him to stand and then lead him out a door.
What happened next would always be a puzzle, no matter how I tried to perforate its mysterious skin with enquiring spotlights, so I’ll dish you the details on the same dreamy platter they were served up to me. A flurried transit, or a transit through a flurry of dim lights and strange shapes. Eric said later a trip through the manifesting conscience of anima mundi, if that’s any help. Months later Clea sat me down to watch the movie Contact, thinking the opening sequence of all that stuff drifting about the planet would help, but it was more abstract than that, and really so short in duration that it hardly matters now. Eric didn’t recall it himself, but he was right there with me when we arrived, and I got the distinct feeling he was leading the expedition. We stood in what seemed to be the floodlights of a baseball diamond at night, except there was no diamond no players and no discernible bleachers. I was so stunned it took me a few moments to notice that my eyes did not actually hurt, that the brilliance of illumination was quite without the belligerence of something that has a source and desires to penetrate, ie not of this world, and I only slowly settled into the immanence of its welcome. I finally looked at my companion, a presence with all the appendages I had come to know as Eric, but so perfected in form I was tempted to project the paranoia of hologram, and wonder just how elaborate the backstage trickery was.
The thought calm yourself appeared in, well, my brain, I guess, and this perfect thing that was Eric smiled. Ever the good friend he slipped his hand in mine. For some reason, I though uh-oh we’re getting shit for something; but no, it was not to be. Another thought, pay attention, made a quick debut. I felt called to do my utmost. I stared uncomprehendingly into the brilliant yet diffuse light and saw nothing but brilliant and diffuse light. No shapes, no shadows, no discernible textures. I gradually came to feel calm and thrilled simultaneously. Seconds or maybe hours passed : my feet didn’t seem to be getting sore. An Eric thought seemed to appear; it said ask any question.
I blurted Why are we here? Instantly, as the sound of my words faded, came the answer To learn. I just knew it wasn’t an Eric reply. Too loud for one thing. To learn what I asked, emboldened and nearly shouting. Everything, everything there is to know. Know about what? Geez, I sounded like some drunken angry teenager. This planet and all the life forms on it. Since no condemnation was forthcoming, I continued to rant. So it’s all about science after all? Again the answer roared out before my question lost its echo. Life forms include sentience and sentience includes emotions: all these you must know and absorb. I got cocky: evil and all that shit too? Yes, evil and all that shit too, for love has its children who hide in the shadows.
Well, you couldn’t dispute the poetry of that. Am I talking to God, I shouted. There’s no need to shout, came the reply, I’m right here and I always have been. I laughed, thinking perfect, this guy’s a winner, I love it. Then, I not only love it, I am it. In fact, there is no I and there is no it. I couldn’t figure an argument for that. In my lapse, Eric said Is this how the prophets got started? I thought it would’ve been funnier if he’d said got their start, but since I was the newbie here I kept my thought shut. Yes, they all came close to merging with the light, but being human they never went farther than asking questions or waiting in awe for the revelation. Eric continued And then started up their religion. Them and their followers, doing doing doing. You don’t have to do god, you just have to be god. Eric chuckled Well you’d be the one to know.
Well, you couldn’t dispute the poetry of that. Am I talking to God, I shouted. There’s no need to shout, came the reply, I’m right here and I always have been. I laughed, thinking perfect, this guy’s a winner, I love it. Then, I not only love it, I am it. In fact, there is no I and there is no it.
I couldn’t figure an argument for that. In my lapse, Eric said Is this how the prophets got started? I thought it would’ve been funnier if he’d said got their start, but since I was the newbie here I kept my thought shut. Yes, they all came close to merging with the light, but being human they never went farther than asking questions or waiting in awe for the revelation. Eric continued And then started up their religion. Them and their followers, doing doing doing. You don’t have to do god, you just have to be god. Eric chuckled Well you’d be the one to know.
Groggy, uh, I nearly fell out of bed. Stumbled to the washroom, drank some water, stumbled back. Took up the pad and scribbled. Wrote most of what you read here. And then phoned Eric. It was about 4:20am. He was not pleased. Said he was having a great dream. I proceeded to tell him mine. About the time we appeared in the well lit baseball diamond without any baseball or diamond he said, No wait, I took you to the light, right?
You mean you remember?
No, but apparently I’ve been there before with others.
You’re like the guide?
Yeah seems that way. It’s my Moses thing. You know instead of leading folk to the promised land and not getting in, I lead them, go in, come back, but can’t remember a thing.
Must be maddening.
It is, but I’m getting used to it.
Well what the heck do you think it is?
The god consciousness.
But not god himself?
God’s not an it, apparently, god’s a space. Somehow, after seconds or centuries, you find it. Then, after a few more seconds or centuries, you pluck up the courage to go in, do your business and leave. And it’s not up for discussion, hear?
What about the ones that don’t leave? No, let me guess, they become part of god.
You got that right. You’ll notice, my friend, that you and I are still here. And with that he hung up the phone.
I was a bit pissed at first, but began to see his point. What more was there to say? I fell back to sleep pondering that one.
A very blessed and silent blackness soothed my morning reentry. I was actually needed at the office that morning, and was more than grateful for the chance to chew the fat with my manager. The ever waning fortunes of the Maple Leafs and the welcome departure of noxious in-laws let me embrace my humanity with gusto. Sales were continuing to whizz through the roof despite fierce competition from every corner. Mike’s shooting-fish-in-a-barrel comparison was all too apt. You’d have to be a newfie with a booger hanging from your snout not to make a sale these days, he announced to general hilarity. There are times when racist jibes are just what the doctor ordered. Mike, by the way, was Mike Patel, who lasted three months at Harvard before the family fortunes turned out to be based on fraud, whereupon he skipped to Toronto to sell carpets and antiques in his uncle’s Yorkville shop. And he actually did have a lapel badge that said Hey! I’m The Paki Here.
Lunch was a lazy affair at a not-too-favoured Chinese buffet, where I could be almost sure no-one would recognize me and I could practice my new prophet status over lemon chicken and shrimp fried rice.
Mr Lee called while I was thus occupied. He seemed keen to meet me at the Clarkson property around two. I sensed it would be smart to agree. I had to scout out a couple of possible new listings, but that could wait.
As usual there was enough mendacity and suffering around the globe that living in Canada seemed very much a gift from God and I felt tempted to write the Globe and Mail, giving my thanks a public venue. As I usually wanted to rant and rave about the cutthroats at Queens Park, I took note, wondering if enlightenment softened the heart, or perhaps it was psychosis that softened the brain. Then I caught a glimpse of a report on one of my favourite Tory wags, currently puttering between portfolios, who’d been caught at some tonier-than-thou party suggesting that the homeless be allowed to build shacks on the edge of garbage dumps, where their famed abilities in trash sorting could be put to lasting environmental impact.
On my way down to Clarkson I alternated between hoping that Clea would call and dreading the same thing. After all I would have to tell her: my life was in a shambles and I was talking to god. How long till my clothes could be called unkempt and my fingernails cracked and dirty? Although I trusted that committal would not be an option in her vocabulary, I worried that she might think I’d gone a bit too far. Gerry I didn’t care about, my parents were long off the show-and-tell list, and since Eric seemed determined to let me sink or swim, Clea looked for all the world like my personal lifeguard. She never did phone, in the eight or so minutes available, and I stopped in chagrin at the Lakeshore Bistro for one of their marvelous pick-me-up cappuccinos. More than one sale has been closed on the boon of one of those little babies. Mr. Lee was already parked and perusing when I pulled in. His beamer may have looked like it could use a wash but he was beaming from ear to ear and said he had something very special he wanted to tell me. We walked to the back garden and circled the flower beds. What it all amounted to was a chubby bonus pour moi if I could close the deal pronto. Although it sounded like he wanted to move in by the weekend, he didn’t actually specify a date, so I acted as if his urgency would be shifted to the very top of my agenda. Before he answered his cell he smiled that you and I, we be good friends, yes, and I nodded as my own infernal line to profit beeped
A Mr. Fawcett wished to inspect one of those new luxury townhomes in Streetsville and had heard that I was just the man for the job. I sloughed off his compliment and told him to meet me at four. I could tell that he was going to have to wangle an hour off work but was keen to meet the challenge, so four it was.
I waved goodbye to the good Mr. Lee and set cruise control for a slow ride up the serpent of Mississauga Road with some unbuttoned Beethoven at my elbow. Two more potentials for the townhouse called on the way; I set them up for 4:30 and 5:00. It would be fun to see them making counter offers on the doorstep. Not three weeks back I had one such item jump ten thousand in twenty minutes and some very disappointed faces at the door not ten minutes later.
I arrived at 3:35 and nosed about familiarizing myself. Hardwood flooring, marble counters, a so-so fireplace and generic jacuzzi, one floor to ceiling window looking out on the driveway across the lane. The first owners had split up two months after closing, and it seemed as though the husband had camped out in the bedroom for the next nine months, as the place had seemed immaculate from the moment we’d stepped in to assess. No dog hair, no cat smell, no kiddy scrapes and scratches. It would be like selling a museum to the government.
I sat in the one remaining kitchen chair, in what I imagined a Buddha pose to be, and waited.