Now, as the years continue to amass, there begs the question, “What’s it all about?” What are those unique elements of my particular journey that, as a part of the totality, seem to have contained the most significance? ‘Seem’ is at once both a slippery word, as well as concept, and it would appear that much depends on the local point of view, in essence that of the individual.
Rambling already? Which is fairly indicative that I don’t know where to start. However as my longtime idol, the Italian wordsmith Umberto Eco, has pointed out, “The most important thing is to make a start.” Now what? Perhaps a means of continuing would be to consider those special elements that I have found to be of most importance during this personal journey.
Love, given and received, scattered about like special pebbles on an immense beach. Many brilliant and still shining after the years have come and gone. Others, perhaps not so shiny, but nonetheless still as durable as when first discovered. Yes, love is of utmost importance, and much like the comfort of a marvelous warm blanket on a chilly eve, love which is deep, heavy and passionate or as light and buoyant as a feather, is, and has been, a very necessary element.
Knowledge. Quantities of information, gleaned from every source imaginable and hoarded like a Midas treasure. Never enough. The discoveries, as well as intimate thoughts of humanity, from neighbors and friends to the collected insights of those long dead, continue to be vibrant by means of words recorded. The keyword being ‘discrimination’ and constant vigilance, since jewels of thought, as well as banal trivialities, are both committed to words. A supreme example is constantly revealed in the missals of our beloved politicians and religious leaders. In addition to scattering pearls of wisdom, they can also become artists of word manipulation for their own ends. Hopefully this chronicler of a personal repository is more truthful to the craft of words.
Art in its many and diverse forms, has assisted in making this life’s passage an enjoyable trip. Removing the journey from the commonplace and ordinary to something extraordinary and special. Art as a means of sharing elevated moments with those who have managed to partake in the creative act; either in personally producing or merely sharing the creations of others.
Nature and the intimate, innate knowledge of that from which we spring as an integral part of the totality has become one of my sacred temples. Sort of a Mystical Scientific Paganism. And certainly far removed from the “Christianity of the Reich” which insists, in light of all reasonable evidence to the contrary, that Adam & Company were suddenly plunked down in a garden; not only that but Adam and his cohorts were given the right to do any thing they wanted with, and to, that garden. And have. Greenpeace take note: that long-flowing, white bearded God may well be the real culprit for much of the mess the planet is in. More about ‘Him’ and his followers later.
The elements are countless, but none would be of value without having learned, at an early age, to appreciate each one separately, and to the fullest extent possible, but to also recognize the interconnectedness.
Now, on to the specifics. Who am I able to blame or commend for what has been gleaned thus far on the journey? Life certainly appears to be a matrix of intersecting paths and it would also appear that where those significant paths merge and intertwine, at least for a period of time, we can begin to assess meaning, significant meaning.
Must begin somewhere, so why not with dear old mom? For without ‘mom’ where would we be — or not be? Some mothers, it would appear, are not much more than ‘birth vehicles’, pumping out children like a machine and then turning them loose to fend for themselves. They offer the necessary maternal affection, which it would appear is little more than the result of eons of genetic conditioning. Love, to be sure, but does it go beyond the basics to include the necessary intellectual development of their offspring? And not just sufficient intelligence for survival, but something more — a desire and yearning for stretching and attempting to attain the best possible during the trip.
Obviously time to admit that I was one of the fortunate ones, blessed with a mother who always attempted to go beyond the strands of genetic DNA. Sorry, can’t talk much about dad, since he disappeared from my life early, much too early, and it certainly wasn’t his fault. It was the result of one of those aggressive political shows perpetuated by the male of the species. War. Glorious war, complete with territorial banner flags, sprightly marching songs, political rhetoric deftly constructed so as to conceal its inherent nested lies and the marvelous union of military puppets and commercial interests. Money combined with the grasping for unlimited power has been, and continues to be, a deadly combination.
So mom was forced into accepting the dual maternal and paternal role, and did so in as outstanding a means as possible. Determined to succeed in the most trying of conditions, and that her offspring should learn to do the same. Life, according to mom and adding to her beloved husband’s ideals, was much more than the mere satisfaction of basic needs and desires, it also involved neuronal connections. She managed to impart the absolute joy of discovery contained in thinking and in books and music; a gift for which I will forever be indebted to that marvelous creature who was my mother.
Then there was ‘baba’, the epitome of all loving grandmothers. It should be immediately pointed out that I shall discuss only my maternal grandmother. As a child I was convinced that she had undoubtedly authored the ‘how-to’ book of being the world’s best grandmother. And it was from this marvelous creature that I learned, first hand, of my connection to the world of nature around me, and discovered the interdependence of everything that exists on our planet. The earth was our home, and also our daily classroom. Also a spinner of nightly stories, she had recognized that the sacred tome of the religious fanatics was in reality a collection of marvelous, well-constructed stories. To some myth become gospel fact. She never failed, with her characteristic, direct bluntness, to call a spade a spade.
I lied. I will devote a line or two to the other one, the mother of my father. Although as a child I was slightly dubious that the gentle, loving person who daily showered me with his boundless affection could have sprung from that zealous, hypocritical wench who was my paternal grandmother. She who gave a new, more ample meaning to the concept of religious bigotry, was not among my favorites to visit.
Both grandfathers disappeared before I had an opportunity to know them very well. Seems they often do that.
I was also gifted in the department of love outside of the family circle. My first, never to be forgotten, love was Gregg. Merely pronouncing his name, or seeing it in print, still conjures a vision of what love can be, and was. It never ceases to seem a bit odd that the US military, with its infinite homophobic venom, should have chosen to make us roommates, in order that we might more easily become lovers. Of course the military machine knew us only as numbers with names attached, and had no idea it was involved in playing cupid. Recently discovered a new word in the most recent Webster’s - ‘gaydar’ from gay and radar. Well, we certainly had it, even though we didn’t know exactly what it was, nor that it would eventually have a name. It was love at first sight, followed by endless days and nights of passion. The memories of that joyful union continue, now countless years after his death.
Gregg, much like mom, was instrumental in both my internal and external development. He assisted in my learning to accept myself for who I truly was, and by extension, could be. Being gay was yet another expression of life, and rather than suppress this marvelous difference, he insisted that we should learn to express it joyfully. Given, of course, the limitations of acceptance within society at the time.
Gregg became my source of my limitless joy, and also of infinite sorrow. Why was he so suddenly snatched from my life to leave me forever longing for what could have been? The eternal lament of many who have been separated from that special person who has given their life meaning. Although perhaps it should be a cantata of joy for having, at least temporarily, encountered such beauty and completeness. For having known, in that brief period of a few years, an intense pleasure which is rarely encountered by mortals.
And he, of the golden Mediterranean skin and sparkling dark eyes, drawing on his ancient Greek ancestry, had also helped in the formulation of my mind by forever posing questions, and quests, to be examined, followed. And instead of bemoaning my grief, I should rather be eternally grateful for the opportunity of partaking in his gentle instruction and guidance. Yes, thank you my eternal friend and lover for having guided me, personally and then by memory of your wisdom, to a life richer and more fulfilling because you helped to form it.
Thus, from Gregg I learned of myself, giving and receiving boundless love, partaking of wisdom, ancient and modern. Art? This young man, mirroring his Italian-Greek heritage, was the embodiment of art, surpassing the marble David in physical dimensions, beauty being in the eye of the beholder, naturally. His velvet vocal tones deftly wove the magic of Verdi, Donizetti, Puccini, Bizet and Mozart to new heights. From his lips the lyrical stanzas of John Donne, Rimbaud, and Rilke flowed like honeyed water from deep artesian springs. I had decided that my life would be spent by his side, listening, and partaking of his sweetness, but the fates had obviously decided otherwise. After three years of knowing the joys of paradise, I was left with a grave to visit, and sufficient memories to last a lifetime. Although it may smack of the fox’s sour grapes, my life would have been much poorer had it not been for that precious time with one of humanity’s finest creations.
And wonderously Gregg made a second appearance in my life some thirty five years after his death. Unbeknownst to me he had been reborn in a small, sleepy village in the tropical Mexican state of Veracruz. Oh yes, indeed he was the same person and shared many of the same attributes and memories. And I loved them both as one. Yet both succumbed early deaths. Their choice no doubt, but I was left wondering why.
Buddhism? Yes, even that chubby, serene fellow will receive his due. Although, in all fairness his weight seems to be dependent upon geographic location. In the southern part of Asia the representations of Buddha are of a svelte, smiling younger man, obviously hiding much the same secret as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. By the time his figure reached China and Japan he had obviously put on considerable poundage. Rotund in fact, and only sort of smiling. At least Christianity was consistent. J.C. remains gaunt, bloody and morose from north to south and east to west.
So I am barely twenty years old, bouncing along a country road in a remote part of northern Japan. The village I have just left isn’t even a wide spot in the road, when I see a small temple-like building and decide to investigate. Before long I am having tea and listening to one of the most erudite men I will ever have the opportunity to encounter, the abbot of the small Soto Zen temple, who it appeared, was awaiting my arrival. We talked for nearly three years and he never once attempted to convince me that he, or his band of merry monks, had the ultimate truth or all the answers. If only Christians could be so considerate of their fellow man. What he did tell me was that I would have to figure it out for myself. The ‘Truth’ that is. I was actually encouraged to use my own thinking processes.
What a change from Saturday morning catechism where everything was rigorously delineated and there was absolutely no room for dissent or questioning. Unless of course you decided to become a Jesuit priest and then you could spend your life playing with angels twirling on pinheads. Within a strictly limited framework of course, wherein the pin was crafted by pious, unquestioning Catholic dunderheads and the angels were all virgin sopranos with carefully preened and waxed wings. Pax vobiscum, and no thank you.
Though I must admit I found the Catholic obsession with trivia and ritual somewhat superior to their Protestant brethren’s preoccupation with the number of gloomy days until the Rapture. That most Glorious Time when they could laugh with glee at all the poor unfortunates who would eternally burn in hell, after Christ or God gave out the report cards and a goodly number would be found on the short end of the stick. Talk about sadistic perverseness – both on the part of the Big Boy and his zombie adherents.
So instead of tribal gobbledygook I was told I could think for myself. Well, here goes. The big sell and even some quoted verses from the good book (at least the Buddhist version). In one of his first and undoubtedly most important, little speeches, the Enlightened One proclaimed:.
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions, because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.
But, as usual, I am racing ahead of myself in that ineffable effort to tell all at once. Better that it should gradually unfold, minute by minute, hour by hour. And so it is that you shall enter the sanctum sanctorum of my personal repository. We all have them you know. Bits and pieces collected along the way. Carefully guarded until the proper moment of revelation.
Oh, by the way, the Japanese characters which grace the heading of this prologue when translated mean ‘repository’, but it is carries another, deeper significance, that of shrine or sanctuary. And so in the following pages I offer the recounting of those many memories contained in this personal “Hômotsuden”, the repository of but one of nature’s many creatures.