A few nights ago I decided to take a walk just after sunset, as part of my plan to enjoy more exercise during my physical manifestation overhaul. There was still plenty of light, and I planned on only being gone about half an hour, so I didn’t need a flashlight or anything like that. I also didn’t plan on meditating or trying to contact Spirit in any way at all, so I was completely taken off guard by what happened…
Halted Outside the Gates
We live at the edge of Feldman Park, which lines the Connecticut River at the center of Holyoke, Massachusetts. The Connecticut is an odd river geologically; in the deepest geological time — before Pangaea — the river valley marked the edge of North America. The land on the east side of the river was once a microcontinent called Avalonia, which included most of New England, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the southern swath of the British Isles, and the Low Countries. Then the European, African, and North American plates converged on Avalonia, crushing and crumpling it from three directions during the formation of Pangaea. When Europe pulled away again, half of Avalonia was dragged off, and the remainder left here. The other side of the Connecticut River is, in a very real geological sense, a different continent entirely.
So I walked through Feldman Park, along the edge of ancient North America, looking across the river at ancient Avalonia. A policecar passed quietly; a streetlight flickered and died as I walked under it (always freaky when that happens); couple sat on a bench kissing in the dusk.
It was curious, I thought, that we’d ended up in just this spot. Our family had moved to western Massachusetts looking for a fresh start, looking for a house away from suburban America, closer to the land… A new paradise. And we’d gotten half way there, and been stymied. Our old house had sold for much less than we’d hoped, and we no longer had the money for a new one; so we’d found an apartment, a halfway house, to wait for the rest of our dreams to come true. An apartment perched here on the edge of the ancient continent! As if we’d been stopped because we weren’t quite ready to cross over the river to Avalonia. (The fact that Avalon is the ancient name of a Paradise in the Arthurian tradition is all the more poignant.)
Thoughts like these decided me: I would walk across the bridge tonight. It wasn’t exactly a safe thing to do, since it was a four-lane bridge that carried a lot of traffic, but there was a sidewalk.
The Burden of Guilt
Well, there was a sidewalk on the bridge, but there was no sidewalk from Feldman Park to the bridge. I found myself alternately jogging along the road and pushing my way through tall grass next to the shoulder, trying not to think about the cars speeding past. And trying not to think about all the garbage along the road, and wondering whether the men who dig through our trash every day sleep under this bridge, and not doubting at all that smuggling and drug dealing was going on over in the shadows of the trees.
Because we don’t live in the “best” part of town. There are many people in our apartment complex who speak little English, and their social mobility in the United States is pretty limited. Holyoke was once a rich mill town, but it has fallen on hard times, and its fantastic architecture — it has Victorian homes and stone churches and Edwardian mansions to rival anything in Charleston or Savannah — is all in ruins. Slowly the artists are moving in, and slowly certain neighborhoods are turning around, but it will take time; and it seems certain that as rents rise, most of our current neighbors will have to find new homes.
It’s something that faces me every time I come home from work. Why should I dream of a free-standing house in the country, when the people who live next door are so limited in their options? Yes, I feel guilty about my high income, about the private school I send my children to, my two cars… I feel guilty about my future, because while my standard of living is mostly comparable to that of my neighbors, my life has all the seeds of abundance and prosperity that they will almost certainly never see. Why me, and not them? Where is the justice? I don’t know.
Is it this issue that’s keeping us on this side of the river?
Now I was crossing the bridge. The traffic wasn’t so bad. The sky was glowing still, silhouetting the mountains. The water reflected the sky’s light, so that I was surrounded by purple and gold above and below me. The mountains surrounding the river were a ring of black girdling the horizon.
Maybe this is a time of purification for us. After all, if we were really going to move into that perfect dream home, and have it BE everything we want it to be, we can’t be carrying extra baggage. And we’re discarding baggage as fast as we can — my wife has lost 40 pounds, I’m finally losing some weight myself, we’re clearing out the basement (and you can get a sense of how stuffed the basement is if you imagine squeezing the contents of our 2200-sq-ft house into a 1200-sq-ft apartment), we’re removing toxic chemicals from our diets, selling or donating all our plastic toys…
And yeah, the guilt. We’ve got psychological baggage, too.
If I’m right — if we are in the midst of purification before finding our new home — then this will be a momentous change for us. It will be a lot more than a new house and a big yard and a few acres for a goat and some chickens. It will some place that we’re not yet “worthy” or “ready” to experience, something we can’t quite imagine yet because we’re not a “vibrational match”, to use the New Age term. It’ll be higher up and further in. It’ll truly be paradise, a pairidaeza in the original ancient Avestan… A walled garden, holy ground.
I stopped before I reached the other side of the bridge: it’s a wide river, and I had to turn around if I was going to make it back in time. I stood a moment, poised between the sky and the water.
The Purpose of Charity and Kindness
A month ago, Apollo said that a person’s guides could save them from disastrous events, like the shootings at Virginia Tech. Those who died there, he said, were ready to move on from this life. Anyone who wasn’t ready to move on would have been guided away from the shooting.
If your guides keep you safe, and ensure that you only experience things on Earth that you’ve chosen to experience, then can anyone ever really be hurt? Can anyone ever experience pain that they did not choose? Can your actions, advertent or inadvertent, ever really cause someone else unnecessary pain?
The homeless, the poor: are these lives they have chosen? If so, can anything I do change that? If I can’t make someone poor, if I can’t raise someone up to wealth, without their consent, without being part of the master plan laid down by them and their guides before they were born — if their state of life is beyond any power of my will — then what is charity and kindness for? What are honor and respect for?
The answer came: they are for YOU.
If you give $20 to a beggar, and the beggar is not ready to move out of poverty or pain, they will squander the money on drink or entertainment, or simply lose it. If the beggar IS ready, that $20 may be the source of the lottery ticket, or the clean clothes for the job interview… It’s not up to you. You get the benefit of giving either way.
If you don’t give that $20, and the beggar wasn’t ready for it, then everything simply stays the same. If the beggar is ready, though, then Spirit will simply find some other way to get that $20 to them.
Giving is something that fosters growth in your own heart. Kindness, respect, and honor are part of your journey. Your kindness may be used by Spirit to help along someone who is ready to accept it; but ultimately when someone is ready to move out of poverty or pain, they will move, regardless of what you do.
So where is the place for guilt here?
My head spinning, I started back. As I walked, I tried to imagine my body and mind purified, my family and my possessions purified, my heart purified, building a house in paradise, on holy ground. I had a brief flash of vision — bright, bright colors, accompanied by a wash of gratitude. Shivers went up my spine.
Then I was over the bridge and back by the side of the road — the oncoming headlights much harsher now, the woods much darker. My mind flickered between my noisome surroundings and the flash of paradise I had seen. Step by step I came back down from whatever heights I’d ascended.
I was back in Feldman Park, almost home, when I stopped dead, and looked up, amazed. The streetlight directly above me — the one that had died before when I walked under it — was gently flashing back to life.