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"Sounds like you do."
"I was speaking lightly."
I'm trying to skip playfully along surface of this conversation. I don't want to sink down into kind of answer I'd give a serious student. The truth is that I don't possess any mechanism that would allow me to be curious or concerned about future, but saying that doesn't make for breezy conversation.
"Jesus," she says, shaking her head. "My little brother has his own astrologers."
"Well, they're not really mine. They're just in attendance, so to speak."
I'm used to conversing with people who aren't awake and aren't happy about it. Everything else is chit-chat; talking for sake of talking, reinforcing illusion of self. I'm not against it, I just don't care to participate in it. My fault.
"So, you obviously have a great deal of influence over your students," she says as she sips her iced tea. I mull her statement over and decide that I don't have a response. I take another bite of pasta, wishing I'd ordered something with meat.
"I mean," she says, "they obviously hold you in very high regard. That's quite a responsibility."
She thinks, quite understandably, that she's my big sister and we're having a reunion; a nice little catch-up lunch. She's been thrown a curve with this little-brother/spiritual-master thing and she's trying to handle it. Does she think I'm a fraud? Does she think I'm running a game? Does she think that underneath it all I'm still really her little brother? I don't know and I don't much care. The fact that she's read Damnedest doesn't mean that she and I can speak; it means she should know we can't. She doesn't seem to be clear on that. Maybe she thinks enlightenment thing is just my day job and that I can step out of that role to be with someone who knows real me.
"I don't know. I suppose it's a responsibility."
"You don't know? Obviously these people are strongly influenced by you. You don't think that's a big responsibility?"
I shrug. The first thing she said to me when we got together was that I wasn't dressed well enough for restaurant. Such a statement is so alien to me that I could only shrug. Now it seems that every statement she makes is so alien to me that I can only shrug.
In accepting this lunch engagement, my hope was that I could slip back into my old persona enough to manage a civil meal. That was too hopeful. I can no longer impersonate myself and I am simply unable to formulate a reply to anything she has to say; I've forgotten my lines. We don't share a common tongue and there's no way I can make her see that. From her point of view she's saying perfectly normal, conversational things.
"Yes, I suppose it's a big responsibility," I say, trying to say something that sounds like I'm saying something.
She lowers her voice. "You hear a lot about people in your position taking advantage of that responsibility for... unsavory purposes. I hope you would never do something like that."
I could simply tell her what preview copy of book was meant to tell her, that we are no longer related because what I am now doesn't relate. But why say it? To satisfy myself? It wouldn't. To inform her? It wouldn't.
"You mean sex stuff? That sort of thing?"
"Whatever. Power corrupts. I just hope you'll be careful."
Sweet. Big sister giving little brother some advice on how to shoulder burden of power. Being in advertising, perhaps she thinks we have something in common; wielding power to influence people's thoughts. Maybe she thinks we're in same business, I don't know.
I set down my fork and sit back. "Well, when I walk through house, I always have someone proceed me with a boom-box playing Darth Vader theme music to lend a weighty and ominous air to my approach. And I certainly don't dress like this. I have, you know, robes, beads, and I always carry fresh flowers. Just trappings, all very tiresome, really, but minions expect it. There was a little resistance at first to having them call me Shri Shri Shri Shri Jed, but they got hang of it. And remembering to speak in first person plural there and singular here can take a little getting used to, but we are, I mean, uh, I am, happy to make effort. Noblesse oblige and all."
She stares at me for a moment, then bursts into laughter. I guess some ice has broken because we are able to continue in a lighter and friendlier manner, and eventually say goodbye with genuine fondness.
I doubt I'll ever see her again, but I'm happy knowing she's still in world. -Jed McKenna
::: About the Author
"Jed McKenna is an American original." -Lama Surya Das
Jed McKenna is the author of "Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing" and "Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment", published by Wisefool Press. Coming in 2005: "Spirituality X" and "Jed McKenna's Notebook". Visit WisefoolPress.com to learn more.