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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Pearl of Great Price - Chapter 2

the ongoing saga of a religious quest...

Chapter 2

John David stepped into a shuttle that was a part of the public transportation system. He began a genuine and genial conversation with an older man for the short, five minute trip to the park.

In this day and age there are few places that a person can go without encountering enjoyable company. After generations of counseling people simply know how to relate with one another. People understand the nature of human relationships and the art of resolving conflict before conflict reached fever pitch. But, of course, when you have a complete understanding of yourself then you know how to respond and react to situations that could arouse anger, fear, anxiety, etc. Emotions never simply happen – everyone knows this! Through a complete understanding of the self one can understand the source and cause of the emotions.

As John David stepped off of the shuttle and began walking in the direction of the park he reflected on his recent Meets and his description to his PPMH of his feeling of “restlessness.” Over the course of his life he had met, periodically, with various psychological doctors who specialized in various aspects of psycho-spiritual phenomenon. Everyone deals with the psycho-spiritual realm throughout their lives, John David perhaps a bit more than most, but certainly not so much as to imply that he was anything less than in perfect mental and emotional health.
The field of psycho-spirituality is the area of psychology that deals with what the ancients called “spirituality” or “religion.” John David recalled discussing some of his religious feelings with the specialist. But the truth was that he had no “feelings.” He only described it as a feeling because the doctors could deal with feelings easily enough. Feelings can always be classified and diagnosed. The roots of feelings can be discovered and the result can always be directed.

As he was walking towards the park he reflected on the fact that his “restlessness” was not really a feeling at all. No, not at all. The term “restlessness” was just something rather vague he had invented because he knew that it was something that could be directed and controlled by his doctors. His description of restlessness, then, was perhaps more of a diversion. He seemed to have a talent for diverting people away from his core, and in this day and age it was no small task to divert one’s PPMH.

But this so-called restlessness was something far more intangible than a feeling. It was really something he could not define. Well, he could define it, if he wished. He was sure that his physician could do that. Everyone had the best lives that they could possibly have these days. And John David was certain that he could also have the good life. And yet there seemed to be a certain, indescribable pull towards something less than good. There was a strange fascination in the unknown that attracted him as well.

In short, it seemed to him as though he possessed a feeling that was not a feeling. It was a restlessness that was not restlessness. It was a paradox and a mystery. It was irritating and it was frustrating.

John David could see the locker rooms of the park coming into view as he walked along the sidewalk. He was in the heart of the city now. Like all cities St. Augustine had long ago replaced their broad, one-way streets with walkways and a wide variety of trees, flowers, and other beauties of nature. During busy times, like the present lunch hour, the streets are filled with people coming and going. And yet there is still something that was comfortable about it.
The people of St. Augustine, not unlike other cities, are focused and productive. But they are also emotionally centered and intellectually stimulating. This is not one of the cities of olden times – cities like the ancient New York, Tokyo, or Los Angeles of the twentieth century; cities that moved at break-neck speeds and teemed with ulcer-infested workaholics. The people of St. Augustine are stable people who are focused and engaged with work and careers that they feel passionate about. They work with people who are equally passionate, and they always work within a management structure that is fair, positive, and rewarding. It is the best of capitalism. It is the best of socialism. And it is, quite simply, a beautiful world.

John David was alone now, in a secluded corner of the locker room. He was seated in an ergonomically correct chair in front of a locker. He bent over and began pulling on the devices of his running shoes in order to adjust the shoe so that it was tightened around his foot – tight and yet still comfortable. He was moving rather mechanically and not really paying attention to his current task. When he finished with his running shoes he remained slumped forward, but raised his head up just enough to rest his chin and face in his hands. With his head resting in his hands and his elbows resting on his knees he suddenly found himself deep in thought. He was staring intently ahead at nothing in particular, the sharp features of his face forming an intense and troubled look. It was at that moment that he believed very strongly that he had a choice to make. And, he thought to himself, it was a very terrible choice.

On the one hand he could embrace his paradoxical feeling that was not a feeling. Or he could simply explore it, deal with it, and go on with living a good, deep, and satisfying life. To embrace his feeling that was not a feeling seemed to be the terrible choice. The other choice was the manageable and safe choice. The terrible or the safe – that was the choice.

He leaned back for a few moments and then rose up and stood. He walked over to the mirror on his way out to the park and stared intently at his face. He smiled to himself as he realized what he was doing. Over the years he had developed the odd habit of staring at his face in the mirror with a searching gaze, almost as though he were searching out his own face to find something. It was in the morning, when he first would wake up, that he would perform this strange little routine.

Like most quirks and personal idiosyncrasies it was something that he had never thought of as odd, in fact he had hardly noticed it at all, until Kristen, a former girlfriend of his with whom he had lived with for almost a year, had caught him staring at himself. She had walked into his bathroom and was slightly startled at first. She didn’t say anything in particular, but her sparkling, light blue eyes had opened wide as the expression on her pretty face quickly began to change from surprise to amusement. He had noticed her by then and smiled, himself, as he realized how silly the whole scene must seem to her at the moment. He smiled, but turned his head slightly away feeling a bit embarrassed, remaining at the mirror where he was leaning against the marble of the extended sink area.

Embarrassment was something she rarely saw in him, and so Kristen began to approach. She was beautiful and barely dressed now, only in her underwear. Her dark brown hair was falling over her face in that messy and unkept morning look that has the charm of being completely unique at the beginning of each and every new day.

She leaned and rested on his back as she wrapped her arms around his body. She starred into the mirror at him, giving him an admiring look. Her blue eyes were now curious and playful as she smiled again and patted him on the stomach in a teasing way. “Do you like what you see?” she said, referring to the moment she found him starring at himself. “Yes, I do,” he replied. He was starring back at her now. As he had spoke he had raised his eyebrows in a devilish way and had fluctuated his voice in such a way that she suddenly realized that when he said “yes” he was referring to her. She smiled and the two just looked at each other in the mood of the moment.
He felt good when he thought back to that time, and he smiled. It had been one of those small and quirky moments of life in which he had learned something trivial about himself. And so he exhaled a breath of satisfaction as his mind found its way back to the current moment. He noticed the dark, black hair of his head cut long enough to rest against his dark eyebrows. He had just had his hair cut the day before.

Gradually he returned to his thoughts of the restlessness that was not restlessness. It was something he had never quite encountered before, but at the same time it felt very familiar, such that he was not surprised by it at all. It was like a brilliant musician who plays his instrument for the first time: It is completely new, but strangely familiar.

And so he made an unconscious decision in that moment. He would follow the mystery and paradox even though he believed he would be turning his back on much of the goodness that life had to offer him. Somehow he knew that to embrace this thing would be his undoing.

[Chapter 3]