In my rather “naughty” diary a few weeks ago, I wrote about celebrating an uncle’s 90th birthday by going skinny dipping (and no, the uncle was NOT one of the participants, although he’s a pretty game guy, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had joined in). I have a funny follow-up to that story, plus a new set of portents that hit me with a wallop after I got home. I sometimes think that God (or Goddess or the Great Spirit or Whomever) has realized I don’t listen to whispers in my ear, so I get hit over the head with a metaphorical frying pan instead.
Ever since my aneurysm burst around 5 years ago, I have noticed an amazing number of synchronicities in my life. Maybe they were always there, but I just didn’t notice them before. Whitley’s theory is that this means I am on the right path, when it comes to the way I am living my life. Or does it mean something more scary: Are our lives more predetermined thanwe like to imagine? Do we not really possess what wetreasure the most, which is our free will?
The first such portent involves a flurry of UFO sightings in the little town where I went to high school. My childhood was pretty miserable and these years were some of the most miserable of all: my parents moved from the sophisticated college town which I dearly loved to the country, where I was bored out of my head. They didn’t want to pay the extra insurance so that I could drive, so I never got my license, and since I learned to drive very late in life, I’ve never been a confident driver and highways still scare me to death.
In those days, this meant I was stuck in my room most of the time, which was (conveniently for the rest of the family) out of the way in the basement, where I could hear all the laughter and living going on among my step-siblings but couldn’t be part of it.
But the worst thing was, the land they bought and built their house on was just over the property line that divided one school district from another. Instead of traveling to the town I loved to attend high school, I ended up taking a big yellow bus to a school in a dreary little town with a single moribund factory that employed all the men there who were not farmers. So, not only was I bored, I was also sad.
There’s a kind of karma to this story though (isn’t there always?) My parents bought one-third of an orchard from a elderly couple who wanted to retire. If you have apple and peach trees, you have to spray them, but one of the families that bought the land didn’t want to pay the money necessary to do this, so their trees all became diseased, and the insects quickly spread to everyone else’s trees and killed them. My father eventually cut down all the trees, which were now very ugly, but he couldn’t afford to remove the stumps, which was expensive proposition, consisting of hiring a man with a tractor to wrap a chain around each one and pull it out. The result was that our beautiful country manse now had a view of a sea of stumps!
I did make friends at my new school, however, but I didn’t keep up with them when I went to college. Since these were some of the worst years of my life, I wanted to put them behind me. But being in a public venue like our website sometimes brings friendships and family ties out of the woodwork, and I was contacted by email by an old friend from my high school.
I learned that a high school reunion was being organized in the town. Since this is far away from where I now live, and thus hard to get to, I decided not to go, despite the fact that I saw, from the list of email recipients, that the boy I’d first had sex with (under the pool table in HIS basement) was going to be there.
I have since found out that, during the reunion, there was a flurry of UFO sightings over the town! Were they “looking” for me? Since I assume that they (whoever they are) know where I am, since I’m always with Whitley, I think it may be a message of some kind of me that I need to interpret.
The second major portent that has occurred in my life is that I’ve just finished an autographical book about my aneurysm and recovery, which I hope very much will help others. The editor of the company that is going to publish my book suggested I read “Man’s Quest for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl (which I did). At this Sunday’s mass, I learned that a reading group is starting up at the church next month–to discuss this very book.
In fact, my favorite priest, who gave the sermon, made a special point of saying that we need to keep our ears open, to listen and notice what is going on around us, so we can take meaning from it. I was especially receptive to this message, since it’s what I’ve tried so much to do in the last 5 years. The school reunion message might seem, on the surface, to be that I need to come to terms with my past, but I’ve already done that. Frankl’s book is about how HE needed to come to terms with the past (and he writes about being in a concentration camp, so he had a lot to come to terms with!). I can’t compare myself to such a great thinker or the wrong that was done to me to his great suffering, but I can say that we had similar reactions to evil that was done to us.
While Christianity is largely about forgiveness, I can’t see why any Jew should even try to forgive the Nazis for what they did (in fact, it could even be dangerous, since it might encourage other people to try their hand at genocide). Immoral choices were made by a group of people in that place at that time that are almost without precedent, when it comes to evil.
Families are a different matter, however: Sometimes the only thing we can do is forgive and move on. I don’t think I have ever really forgiven my father and stepmother for what they did to me, but I do understand how those of us who are not what might be called “evil” can make the wrong moral choices at times. I recognize that the wounds imparted by my family have healed because I’ve come to the realization that I would have chosen to act differently under the same circumstances. I hope I would have made some brave moral choices in the Nazi era as well.
Oh, one final word about skinny dipping: When I told my friends in Austin about the pool party, they related the following story. They had some friends visiting from Harvard who were avid birdwatchers. They brought binoculars with them and said, “The black capped virago (I may have this slightly wrong) has been sighted recently in an area of Austin known as Hippie Hollow.” The Hollow is a notorious skinny dipping spot in that town, and when our friends took their bird watching acquaintances over there, they stumbled upon a naked WEDDING that was taking place. While the Harvard folks peered eagerly through their binoculars, our friends had to keep reassuring the nude wedding party (who were giving them suspicious looks) that “They’re birdwatchers. They’re only looking for birds.”
I used to say that I don’t need to go to church, because church comes to me, but this Sunday proved that there’s still something valuable to be found there. I guess I could say the same about bird watching: They come to me too. And UFOs? Well, they came to me but I wasn’t there: I was busy getting wisdom in another way.
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