I acknowledge pretty much everyone I encounter on my bike. When I receive a gesture in reply, I sometimes stop and strike a conversation. Riding through USC, college students scuttling to class ignored my nods. South of campus, in front of the Coliseum, I could tell the middle aged guy with a big grin wanted to chat. Joe Coliseum (that’s what his nametag read) is the tour guide at this 1932 and 1984 Olympic landmark. He boasts having a history degree, with honors, from Berkeley and an MBA. His stated interest is Eastern and Western history and philosophy. His real skill is talking.
“I meditate three hours a day with the Centering Prayer. Open heart equals open mind. The Centering Prayer works on the difference between moving and sitting. In Christianity you have to keep moving to keep Satan out. That’s where the phrase ‘Protestant work ethic’ comes from. But look at the Asian work ethic – Protestants don’t own work. The Centering Prayer allows quiet sit. Refer to Thomas Merton and Thomas Kearns on this.
“Compare them to Paramahansa Yogamanda, Autobiography of a Yogi. To what degree do you know god as revelation? The structure of faith comes after revelation, which comes after meditation. When the mantra goes away, the prayer begins. When everything that makes us human: action, feeling, thought, goes away, when the single meditation word goes away, only then can the empty vessel that is the human reach up and accept god’s grace descending upon us.
“The links between Hebrew and Sanskrit, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity are under appreciated. We stress the differences, but the similarities are immense. The Centering Prayer allows me to have one foot in the Christian world and one foot in the mystical world. In the Gnostic Gospels Jesus says to make thy eye single and the body will be fused with light. That’s an Eastern idea.
“The Biblical terminology about the second coming is not accurate. The world doesn’t end; it is complete. The phrase should be, ‘When Jesus reappears the world will be complete.’”
Half-hour into this monologue I began to gesture that I needed to move on. The more I tried to pull away, the faster, and more insistently Joe talked.
“The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is essentially a Buddhist concept. For thousands of years they have acknowledged experiences beyond rational, 3-D existence. Add time, add mysticism. The Dao of Physics is the rational side versus the spiritual side of life. Newton and Descartes looked at the world from a new perspective. That perspective had to precede the restructuring of human consciousness.
When I finally extricated myself, after forty-five minutes, I deduced a theory of personal interaction. When someone shares his passion with you for fifteen minutes, it’s exciting. When he’s goes on for half an hour, it’s detailed. Beyond that it’s tedious. Worse than that, it becomes suspect. By the time I rode away from Joe I didn’t trust that any of what he said was true. It was simultaneously too polished and too scattered. As if he were some twisted tour guide of the soul.
How will we live tomorrow?