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Born Again

What with Easter coming up, and all the hubbub about Gibsonís Jesus Christ: Beyond Thunderdome, Iíve got resurrection on my mind.

Iím not a Christian and I didnít see the movie, so itís more amateur philosophizing than any kind of theological investment; but however daydreamy it may be, itís sincere. See, Iíve undertaken a vision quest and itís had interesting results. Though I donít think Iíve been fully reborn as a more highly evolved being, Iím making progress. My mystical experience hews pretty closely to traditional accounts of spiritual re-creation, but I contend that religion is more-or-less based on plagiarism (Osiris, this is Jesus; Jesus, meet Osiris), so I feel like Iím in pretty good company. That being said, Iíll allow that my own journey was pretty heavily informed by two books, The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, and Meditations by Shakti Gawain. And, in all honesty, I probably owe a shout-out to sleepiness and Cockatoo Ridge shiraz, too.

Iíd been reading Campbellís masterwork of comparative mythology on and off, and slowly because I was actually taking notes. And it seemed to have been settling in: I think the process was actually opening my mind, in the sense that I was becoming more, colloquially speaking, open-minded. I am geared toward skepticism, but Campbellís work is so comprehensive and so plain-spoken as to present an acceptance of all cosmological approaches as a fait accompli: Whammo, instant universal tolerance. I was in a receiving mode.

So, when Meditations arrived at my office, I looked more kindly upon it than previously I might have. In part, itís true, it was because I assumed the slender volume to have been penned by an Indian, and expected, in narrow Western prejudice, it to contain one-hand-clapping-style mindbenders. But that I didnít chuck it instantly when I discovered it was written by a Western woman and consisted of relaxation techniques and guided visualizations shows how far Iíd already progressed. Right?

Random annoyances forced me to quit Campbellís book for a while, and further softened my reserve against New Age self-help techniques. Relaxation rituals were suddenly enticing. And I guess I figured, ďIf enlightenmentís the price I gotta pay for a decent nightís sleep, Iím willing to risk it.Ē

So, I cracked the Meditations and found the exercise I deemed least witchy. Basically, itís a muscle-contraction-and-release procedure coupled with a waking-dream scheme in which you imagine somebody showing up to tell you how to live your life. The get-lazy-and-stay-lazy aspect appealed to me instantly; as did Gawainís pointer that your guide could be anything from your spirit animal (Iím not taking advice from something lower on the food chain than me, thank you) to your Grandpa. I liked that: I pictured some crusty old Yankee in flannel; Robert Frost as shaman.

And, in a way, it worked like a charm. For consecutive nights I fell asleep within 20 minutes of hitting the sack and slept like a rock, as had been my goal. So, itís funny how ripped-off I started to feel. Whereís my freaking spirit guide? Iím well-rested, but what about, you know, the answers? I resigned myself to giving in fully, calling a spade a Goddess-blessťd spade, and actually meditating.

So, one evening well before bedtime, lights dimmed, candles lit, wine poured, I went off to meet my mythic mentor (who, certainly, is no teetotaler). I pictured myself rowing a kayak, which is awfully relaxing. Slowly, though, it dawned on me that I had imagined myself in too small a boat. Iím the only person for miles. Iím putting myself in danger of a spirit fish. I had to visualize a land mass, pronto. Done. A mist-shrouded isle on the near horizon. I beached, and headed inland into the woods. My controlling mind yelling at me, ďYou should have landed closer to a coffee shop. Weíre in the middle of nowhere!Ē Accordingly, the woods opened up around a small, spring-fed pool, beside which a young Indian woman sat on a stone garden bench, writing in a journal.

ďIs this water good to drink?Ē I asked.

Without a word, she lifted a battered tin camp cup and doused me with the contents. Then she handed me the empty cup, with which I dived into the pool.

How cool is that?

The vision then just sort of fell apart. But it was amusing, and I was as relaxed as ever, even invigorated. I poured another glass of wine, and pulled Campbellís book out from beneath a pile of more-easily glossed books. I found where I had left off by following the underlined passages, and began reading about Actaeon:

After a heavy morning of hunting, Actaeonís companions wanted to rest, but Actaeon himself ventured out into unknown parts of the forest. Beside a pool, he viewed a nude female bathing, the goddess Diana. Furious at being so beheld by a mortal, Diana reached for her bow, but it was beyond her; instead she cast water on him, transforming him into a stag. He fled from the goddessí anger, only to be scented by his own dogs, tracked by his own friends and slaughtered back in the known parts of the forest.

Whoa. I hadnít read the book at all in two months and I didnít remember reading that passage at all, so the coincidence of it all freaked me out. The fact that Campbell then goes immediately on to discuss Kali, the Indian destroyer-goddess, who resides beside a pool in the woods on an island nearly gave me a heart attackóhowever obvious the rational explanation.

I havenít quite worked up the nerve to give it another shot. On the one hand, Iím optimistic that I wasnít turned into venison; but, really, Iím a little concerned about how Iím going to come out of that poolóplus, Iím out of wine.

But we usually have some on Easter, so Iím hoping to get my sequel out before Melís.

óJohn Rodat

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