A hot dry wind blew through the open window of my 1978 blue Ford Capri. This was not to be unexpected during the summer months in Temecula California. The high desert was in fact hot and dry; and desolate.
No one in their right mind would choose to live here I often thought.
The year was 1982 and I was on my way to summer school. Not entirely by choice, but truth be told I didn’t have anything better to do. That and my mom somewhat told me I had to go to stay out of trouble.
She had her life to live and I was in the way of most of it. Staying out of trouble helped her do the things she wanted to do. So I had been enrolled in ROP computer class taught by Mr. Boyer at Elsinore High School.
I remember many of those years with a combination of loneliness and of being content with the simplicity of my teenage existence.
Me and the blue Capri were on a section of the 15 freeway; alone as it usually was.
This particular make and model of the Ford Capri was a complete piece of junk. At least I had the ability to get around; so I had a little luck there. Otherwise the prison of a small condo in Murrieta Hot Springs in the middle of the desert would have been unbearable.
Normally when I drove I would have music playing on the cassette deck in the car. I had this old Radio Shack hard plastic case stuck behind the driver’s seat that held 12 or so cassettes in it that encompassed the absolute best music history has ever known. Which at the time probably was Led Zeppelin, Flock of Seagulls, The Cars, Foreigner and maybe Duran Duran.
For some reason on this day I wasn’t listening to music.
I don’t know why.
The sky was blue and the sun was out and oddly I wasn’t running late which also was rather unusual. I wondered how I could be late to anything when I had nowhere to go and nothing better to do.
My lack of priorities would cause many such problems, both then and now.
These were years where my mind was blank, or should I say nothing interesting ever seemed to be in my conscious thoughts. Unless you count dungeons and dragons and the pursuit of girls as important. Or, at least I had dungeons and dragons...
My empty mind would soon change forever.
How I ended up in Temecula was a strange series of events of its own.
My dad moved the family there in 1978 as I recall. We previously lived in a suburb of San Francisco. When my dad first told my brother and I we were moving to Temecula I thought I didn’t want to move to Mexico; I didn’t speak Spanish.
Back then Temecula had nothing. It was the town that time forgot and people went there to get lost from themselves. I suspect my dad was doing that. I don’t really know if it was true for others, but in retrospect it seemed like it was the case for many of the transplants that had relocated to this town, that didn’t exist on the map.
The town; a phrase I use rather loosely had no stop lights, no major grocery stores, one backwards elementary school, no police and basically it turned out to be a freeway offramp that someone decided to put in a gas station for people to fill up their cars and whisper to themselves that they would never choose to live in such a a place as they drove off to some more interesting destination like Corona or San Bernardino.
The 15 freeway had recently opened up. Before that all there was could be described as poorly maintained country back roads that pretty much meant no one drove through this part of southwest riverside county unless they had to.
I think it was late June when I was on this desolate stretch of the newly opened freeway between those more interesting places that I never actually went to when I heard that sound that would change everything.
In a moment of mental emptiness when I was on auto pilot driving to summer school I heard a voice.
Yet it wasn’t a voice, it was a sound or better yet a series of sounds. It was a question as much as it was questions and answers. All of which rhetorical in nature.
Everything changed in that moment.
Before I continue, this wasn’t a voice telling me to rob a bank, or that I would win the lottery of that aliens had taken over President Carter and that’s why the country was in such a terrible recession.
It was a sound. It was intelligence and wisdom. It was all things and it was complex and simple at the same time. It was the nothingness of all energy that ever was or would be; condensed into moments of my life.
Perhaps it could be described many years later as the sound of small rocks rolling together on a cold Icelandic beach. The essence of wind coming off of an ocean; of waves crashing off of a shore that human feet had not ever touched.
Yet it wasn’t harsh or uninviting. I remember the depth of the sound. It was thunderous yet barely audible.
It had power and compassion and a timeless nature to it.
I heard it yet it made no sense.
As though the encyclopedia Britannica, the Upanishads, The Bible and Siddhartha had been summarized into mere grunted syllables at a frequency of 40 hertz to the rumbling of clouds coming out from a storm that had been waiting for a very long time on a distant horizon to appear.
It was nothing and everything and perfection and then nothing again that lasted perhaps a few micro seconds.
That voice told me all of the answers I would ever need. None of them I can remember to any degree other than the feeling I had in that moment.
As it turns out, we need very few actual answers in life. A concept few people embrace.
None of this makes sense now any more than it did then. Which is probably the reason I’ve never really told anyone.
I don’t have any real story here.
I have just the flashes of feelings from a time where I was driving in the middle of nowhere on my way to a computer class to learn about apple soft basic.
Yet I began that day.
Some days I think I ended that day.
Perhaps I may know which it was before I leave this world.
Some people I know would have said I was born that day. Or born again. I don’t like that phrase, so I reject the notion more on principle than anything else.
My friend Leila asked me when my transformation began. I laughed at this because the answer isn’t linear. The answer is as complex as it is worded and utterly simple when replied to.
If I had to provide a response that was from the truest and most accurate reference point I would have said it began on that day in 1982 in that poorly built blue Ford Capri.
Everything began that day.
And perhaps it ceased to be also.
My ability to follow others ended.
My ability to accept simple truths ended.
My ability to blindingly be complacent with the herd, you guessed it, that ended also.
And my ability to easily get along with people somewhat faded away also. That part I miss from time to time.
That voice, that sound, the rolling of rocks on an empty and icy beach, that thunder and that silence changed everything.
Looking back I wouldn’t have wanted something else to happen, but there have been a few days that I have thought my life would have been easier if it had never transpired.
I could have been more like everyone else; happy if it had never happened.
An echo of all of this resonates in a phrase I have learned to repeat to myself “Embrace your chaos and you will find the calm to evolve.”
What did it say to me you may want to know.
I don’t really have any more answer for you than I do for myself. The answer I was given was simply a question.
If you are confused, trust me, so am I.
I am horribly paraphrasing what little I can put into words as it stands.
The voice and the sound that was the rocks on that blackened beach, the waves crashing onto an icy shore was simple in its message “Do you want to live, or do you want to be alive?”
An eternity of contemplation came and went.
Evidently I replied “I want to be more than the sum of that question.”
Was that an answer? I still don’t know.
The sounds or the voice that asked appeared to approve of my response and was gone from me.
The infinite and the invisible was no more.
Perhaps it laughed at me as it left to find something else to do.
I don’t really know either way.
For a hundred thousand years and the blink of an eye I heard all I would ever need to know from the thing that spoke to me.
None of it made any sense and I can’t recollect any more of it now.
I chose a higher path or at a minimum a different path and began my journey that day.
We all chose our path.
Some of us accept it and others do not. But we all choose at some stage. Somewhere there is a Rush song that imparts this concept better than I do now.
Was that voice god, angels or demons? “No” would be my answer. I have always maintained that.
This was outside of all I knew until it spoke. Even after, I couldn’t define it anymore more than I have.
It would be like defining the infinite and timeless in the least amount of words possible to someone that doesn’t speak your language and wasn’t listening to you anyway in a dark room with the sound of a perpetual storm all around you.
After that day I began to sense things.
To see things.
To recognize patterns in people and events I had not noticed before. That I could tell others weren’t noticing.
None of these meant anything on their own.
Each instance was a grain of sand being placed together to form a beach that would eventually form an island; that would eventually form more.
But with the formation of islands it might take a hundreds of millions of years, or more to see the potential of those infinitesimal little pieces of sand falling together.
I was able to see that this was all possible.
I was able to see in a non-linear way.
The evolution of time became evident in small motions and sounds I became aware of.
If you ever read Dune by Frank Herbert and you understood what Paul was going through when he was blinded and how he could see all futures at one time, well, this is as close to a really bad explanation that I can provide.
And no, I can’t see anything like that. For that matter I can’t tell you what day it is most of the time.
At times it has been overwhelming to see the potential of the infinite in the minutia of the crow that sits on a branch or the dogs barking because a rabbit had run by.
To understand the meaning of the first word a person speaks and see how they have lived their lives and the pain that they hide that makes up much of who they are. To see a smile as it represents happiness and watch the eyes of a child as it determines the light from the darkness.
So many things we take for granted have infinite importance and are only a grain of sand on a beach that won’t join an island for a hundred million years.
There is a madness in this and a pristine beauty to the motions of all things when viewed from this perspective.
The individual pieces of some things ceased to be important, it was the sum of the potential things that I could see and how they joined onto each other and how they interacted in the larger scheme of things.
But all of these are in shadows and glimpses and not very tangible. It’s seeing more possibilities than exist on the surface that is so intriguing.
This vision of this sound was also a curse and has been for more events than I like to recall since that day.
I can’t communicate this to others, sometimes because it doesn’t make sense to me, sometimes because it doesn’t translate into any language I can convey and sometimes because it’s simply me being wrong about how I see the world and the intricacies of it all.
I am wrong far more than I am right. I just eventually learned to stop talking which as a by-product meant I said less wrong things.
Most smart people I know are so because the learned to shut up.
I’ve tried to tell people this before. It has never worked out well.
“Talk less, listen more.” Is something you have heard me say if you have spent any time around me.
I tried to tell my dad of this day before he died.
The analogy about all of this I wanted to say to him a long time ago was that I saw a chessboard and I saw a potential for an infinite amount of pieces with no limitations on their movements, on a board that was also not limited to height, width, or even two dimensions for that matter. Even as I tried to explain it I know I lost him and he had that worried look on his face like I was doing drugs.
I was trying to explain how I could see things to him because he was one of the few people that seemed to understand me.
I tried to explain How I could envision the movement of life and all that could be captured in the subset of things that existed.
To make matters worse I recall saying, everything is alive, the rocks, the ocean, the trees, the people; everything. That didn’t help.
Some of these things just play a larger part than others. My explanation to my dad never went anywhere I suspect.
“But in the great continuum...” as my brother would say, “...it is all there. It all starts and it all ends and that pattern repeats itself.” After that he usually adds a comment about sending a raven or that winter is coming.
More times than I can remember I think I wanted to shut this thing off; to go back to how it was before; to be normal.
But that wasn’t ever going to happen; ever.
I had made my choice and I had to live with it.
I have lost friends, alienated people, destroyed relationships, developed stupid addictive personality traits, lost jobs and generally speaking had more problems in my life because of this thing than I can even remember anymore.
It wasn’t until late 2015 that I finally accepted it. I had come to a very final decision point in my life that August.
I stopped fighting what it was; the nature of things.
Maybe I stopped trying to fit in to the mob that didn’t actually want me or interest me to begin with.
Groucho Marx has a fantastic quote about being a member of a given club that speaks to me...
I don’t know.
But things became better after that.
There is a fantastic lyric from a Tears for Fears song I say often “Nothing good ever happens without some pain.”
No truer words have been spoken.
How I got from that dry desert highway in 1982 in Southern California to waking up a bloated corpse in the basement of my friend Tara’s house is also a story for some other time.
But I woke up from it all. I embraced that thing finally.
I began the transformation I had been fighting for more than 23 years.
As you read some of my ramblings you may begin to sense more than the words on your glowing screen. You may see some of your own chaos. You may find you have the same gift, or curse.
The pieces don’t always fit well together but will make more sense if looked at without an intention to find an answer.
Find your mirror and start there would be my advice.
“Do you want to live, or do you want to be alive?”
“Yes” is the best response.
We all have this choice. We always have.