Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baba Who?

Five Fingers Not the Same
Baba Who?
Baba Mucktananda

  I woke up in a tangle of wet bed sheets with the afternoon sun shining on my face and the telephone ringing.  My head was in a fog and I found myself too weak to get out of bed to answer the phone.  I grabbed the cord, dragged the phone, crashing off the shelf, toward the bed and answered.
  “Where are you? We were worried when you didn’t come to work this morning or call...what’s up?”  I gathered my thoughts, explained I was sick and would call back...I hung up and tried to figure out where Saturday and Sunday went.
  I began to remember waking up sweating, waking up into bizarre dreams, dreaming, calling out, trying to get up, wandering around my small apartment, lost. I began to realize that I had been in a fevered delirium for almost two days.  When I got the yellow fever shot they had mentioned that I might experience a mild fever, what they didn’t tell me is that I also might get a very realistic sample of what getting yellow fever would be like....minus the dying.
Ram Dass aka Dr. Richard Alpert
  As I showered and came back into reality one thing became clear...I definitely was going to India...this was real and now I better figure out when, how and why.  Around the same time a name started coming to mind, Mucktananda.  I wasn’t sure what it meant, or where I had heard the name, but I began feeling that it was somehow connected to the insistent voice I heard saying “come here” a few weeks earlier.  I began going through books where I might have seen the name and finally found it in a book by Ram Dass.  Ram Dass began his life as Richard Alpert...later Dr. Richard Alpert, a psychology professor at Harvard where he did LSD experiments with Timothy Leary, went to India to try to figure out what it all meant, found his guru and became Ram Dass a spiritual teacher and author. In one of his books he mentions another guru who he visited on one of his later journeys to India...Baba Mucktananda. Baba who? I knew that he was a guru, a teacher, and that Ram Dass had some amazing experiences with him... and that’s all I knew about him. I didn’t know if he had a western following, if I could find him or if I’d be welcomed if I did.  I did know that eventually that’s exactly where my journey would take me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Five Fingers Not the Same...a journey begins

A journey begins…

“Come here.”  a voice said from…behind me?  I stopped my razor mid-stroke and looked in the mirror, away from my lathered face, and over my shoulder to see who might have been the voice of that rather insistent command.  No one there.  Not that I really expected to see someone else in my small apartment bathroom with me…I knew I was alone.  But if I was alone then that meant I was hearing voices and I wasn’t ready to go down that path of thought.  I resumed shaving.
“Come here!”  This time more insistent.  I looked around again, now worried that if I’m truly hearing voices it was time to check into the nearest psych ward for evaluation.  As I sat on the bathtub edge to collect my thoughts I heard the command for a third time…”Come here”, this time with a clear image accompanying the voice.

I’m a young boy in my parents’s garage,  hammering nails into a board…bending most of them and occasionally making my thumb the unintended target of my clumsy hammering.  After a while I hear my father’s voice saying “Come here”…not angry, not judgmental, just… “Come here and let me show you how to do that right.”
Over the next few days I kept replaying the voice and image in my head.  The voice didn’t return, but the image wouldn’t quite go away.  As I worked to complete the research project I was writing for the Missouri Epilepsy Federation I was often distracted by the meaning of the words and image.  The publication was now in its final stages of editing and I would soon be once again unemployed and looking for my next project.   
When I arrived late for work the next Monday one of my friends in the office inquired as to why and I replied that I had just been to the health department for a cholera shot.  She looked confused and asked if I was expecting an epidemic in St. Louis.  “No, I think I’m going to India” was my reply.  Now, as of a week ago I had no thought of traveling or especially making a journey as exotic and far away as India.  I had neither the finances nor inclination to attempt such an adventure.  Yet over the last few days I had begun making lists…cholera, yellow fever, and other vaccinations I needed, passport, and travel guides.  Almost without thinking I began checking items off a list for a trip I wasn’t sure why I was attempting or really even knowing if I was actually going to follow through with.  I was on automatic pilot…on a ship someone else was clearly piloting!

Note: You have to begin somewhere.  I've been wanting to write about my journey overland to India for many years...so, at my 21 year old son's insistence here's the beginning...the first steps...just as I had to take to begin what was an amazing journey of discovery...discovery of an incredible world beyond the one I had grown up in...and of an equally incredible world within.  So, if you're reading any of my blog posts you will, on occasion, find random postings about this journey.  They will not in sequence...they will not be a travelogue...just thoughts and stories as they arise.  Some of them my children have grown up with...told as others tell fairy tales...some may be just recently remembered.  Once during my travels I was asked why I was traveling and I remember replying..."I'm collecting stories"...so here they finally are.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saddle up the Dinosaur Pa!

“Saddle up the Dinosaur Pa!...

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life,
nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'
Isaac Asimov

If it had snowed this year, this is how it would have looked down here in our valley

From where we sit here in our little Kentucky valley it’s just a short hop as ‘the crow flies’ from here to a special spot where visitors can leave the real world behind and be comforted in a place where science, and all it's inconvenient truths, hold no sway...the Creation Museum.  Now, this "museum" is quite a phenomena that has drawn over one million faithful from all over the world to view a strict biblical interpretation of the creation of the universe, complete with saddled dinosaurs (before “the fall” we all lived in harmony), a replica of Noah’s Ark (with dinosaurs on board...they REALLY like dinosaurs!), a movie on how the Grand Canyon was formed during the Great Flood, and other flights of literal fancy.  I should explain the part about the dinosaurs.  Since this account of creation rests on the ‘fact’ that the earth is only 6,000 years old there just isn’t enough geologic time to fit them in other than to say we all existed at the same time...all created in those first six glorious days.  After all that I’d have to rest on the seventh day too!  In fact, I don’t doubt that God created the Caribbean just so he could take a long cruise and sip mimosas on spanking new beaches to relax after such a big, and relatively successful, venture.  

This, by the way, is no church ladies’ Sunday school project , but rather a multi-million dollar enterprise complete with animatronic dinos designed by Patrick Marsh, who designed the "Jaws" and "King Kong" attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.  Did I mention that it costs 20 plus bucks to get in? Gods word doesn’t come cheap!

Creation Museum diorama ... young girl with her pet Velociraptor 

You can find much more information on the Creation Museum on line, but what I find so interesting is the amount of coverage this private enterprise gets in our local newspaper.  There have been a number of full page stories with numerous photos, endless editorials and articles. As a former restauranteur I know how much this free pr is worth! A single column of editorial space is worth ten times the same space of paid advertising...and did I mention it’s FREE!

So, of course, I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor, and since they declined to publish it I’m sharing it with you here:
I hope that when I get my funding together and open my Humpty Dumpty Museum that the Kentucky Enquirer (any relation to the‘National Enquirer’ ) will give me continuous coverage and thousands of dollars of free PR also.  It is my sincere belief that Humpty Dumpty really did fall off the wall and since I firmly believe it it must be true!  I will teach children that although the liberal media, and misguided teachers, have been telling them that Humpty Dumpty, Little Red Riding Hood, et al were merely fairy tales they were being mislead. My museum (note to editor...see, I call it a "MUSEUM") will teach them the true history of these much maligned historical figures.  Then, when they go to school they will be able to challenge their teachers and other students with the actual facts that Humpty really fell and sadly could not be put back together again.
If freedom of speech means anyone can cloak any idea in pseudo science and give those ideas legitimacy by calling it a “museum” then I should be good to go!   If the creators of the Creation Museum had just called it the Creation Church there wouldn’t be so much protest or concern for the wellbeing and education of our children.  By the way, why did Ken Ham have to go so far from home to open his museum, why is it here in Kentucky and not in Australia?  Could it be another case of “not in my backyard” syndrome or perhaps Australians are just less gullible?  How sad and humiliating that it ended up in our backyard.

Note: The creators of the Creation Museum have found they have such a gold mine on their hands that they are now proposing an "Ark Experience" theme park with a full scale replica of Noah's ark and of course...more dinosaurs.  Not only is this fundamentalist themed park already getting incredible free newspaper space years before it's completion, but the Governor of our fine state is offering significant tax benefits for this clearly religiously themed private venture. If you're thinking of applying for a job there however, but are not willing to sign a pledge that you believe in all the principles espoused in either the "museum" or theme park, you need not apply. Here's what it says on their own website: "All job applicants for the non-profit ministry of AiG/Creation Museum need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG statement of faith."
How does that fit in with using public money for tax benefits?  Not only haven't they ever heard about science, but they also seem unaware of equal employment opportunities.  You can't even be a construction worker or plumber there without a signed statement of faith (meaning THEIR faith).

One final note: When substitute teaching a 4th grade class not too long back, the teacher had left some slides for me to show and discuss.  One was of a lake created by a meteor impact and the caption said it was formed “over 4 million years ago”.  Immediately four hands went up and each child explained to me that “that isn’t possible...the earth is only 6,000 years old”.  They said the scientists at the Creation Museum told them so and therefore they know it’s true.

Final, final note: A young friend of our daughter also reminded me that the earth was only 6,000 years old (her family had recently been to....well, you know) after hearing us discuss a 12,000 year old Native American artifact that we had recently seen at the Big Bone Lick Park Museum, also nearby.  Isn’t it interesting that Big Bone Lick State Park, so named for the mammoth bones found there and noted as the “birthplace of modern day paleontology”, and the Creation Museum co-exist in this part of Kentucky. Anyway, she explained to us that the artifacts couldn’t possibly be 12,000 years old as the earth is only 6,000 years old.  I mentioned that the dating is done by scientists using modern carbon dating techniques and how can she account for the discrepancy? She then said “my parents explained that to me...scientists need to make a living too so sometimes they just make things up!”  
And so there you have it!
At least that’s the view from my valley.