Impersonating Jed McKenna
By Jed McKenna
"No man is a prophet in his own country."
That line keeps running through my mind as I sit over lunch with my sister who I haven't seen in several years. These days I'm enlightened guy, but to her I'm just bratty kid who couldn't make eye contact when she wore a bikini.
It's summer '01 and we're having lunch in lower Manhattan. She read a preview copy of Damnedest and has had a few months to digest it. It was very nice of her to read it because it's really not her kind of thing. She's a good citizen; a successful executive, wife, mother, Republican, tennis nut, Christian-ish, and all-round productive member of society. (She once told me she was raising her children to be productive members of society and I winced so hard I almost chipped a tooth.) She's a wonderful person, but not a member of demographic book speaks to.
There's a plate of chilled pasta in front of me and a salad in front of her. We're both drinking iced tea. She's runs creative side of a medium-sized ad agency and, I have no doubt, she's very good at it. She's taking time out of a busy schedule to have lunch with me. After this, I'm going to park to lay in grass and watch people play with their dogs.
Visiting your sister and having lunch shouldn't be a confusing ordeal, but it is. Is she really my sister? What does that mean? We share some history and acquaintances, such as childhood and parents. Are my parents really my parents? Genetically they are related to my body, but person who lived my childhood is no longer here. The past I share with this person is about as real and important to me as if I'd read it in a brochure.
The problem is that these people, my family, are all related to my shell, and I'm not. They're looking at outer Jed McKenna and assuming an inner Jed McKenna. I'm inside Jed McKenna looking out and I can't really remember what he's supposed to do or say. It's all fakery. I'm an actor playing a role with for which I feel no connection and have no motivation. There cannot be anything genuine in my dealings with people who are dealing with my outer garment. (The whole thing is further entangled by fact that there's no "I" inhabiting my shell, just a fading echo, but let's not go down that road just now.)
Actually, it's not really confusing. I possess not least shred of doubt about who and what I am. The tricky thing is that who and what I am is not related to this pretty, professional, salad-eating woman across from me. By coming to this lunch I have inserted myself into a situation where I do not belong. I am an imposter. I have some residual fondness for my sister and if she died I'd be saddened to think that she was no longer in world, but simple fact is that our former relationship no longer exists.
Okay, so why am I telling you this?
Because that's what I do. I try to hold this enlightenment thing up for display and this seems like an interesting aspect of whole deal. How do you relate to people who were most important to you before awakening from dream of segregated self?
She asks why I'm in town.
"My astrologers told me it was a good time to get away and not try to accomplish anything. They said that ketu and rahu wouldn't be letting me get anything done for awhile anyway..."
I look up and see that she has stopped chewing in mid-mouthful and is staring at me incredulously.
"You're not serious. You have astrologers?"
Oh yeah. I guess that sounds weird. I was vaguely aware that I was trying to be funny by starting a sentence with "My astrologers told me..." but what's a little amusing to me is other-worldly to her. Might as well have fun with it.
"I have dozens of astrologers. I can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who's doing my chart or explaining how my future will unfold; advising me on pretty much everything."
Her expression doesn't change. "You have astrologers?"
"Lots. Gotta beat 'em off with a stick."
"And they tell you... They tell you what future holds? What you should do? When you should do it? What you should avoid? Is that what we're talking about?"
She resumes chewing but wide-eyed gaze remains. There's a chasm in this conversation across which there's no point trying to communicate. She knows I'm into some serious weirdness, but not how much or what kind. I don't really have astrologers, of course, but in those days it did seem like I was surrounded by students of Eastern and Western astrology who were always very eager to share their readings.
"What do you do with all that information?"
"Me? Nothing. I mean, I don't ask for it. It's not like I wake up and summon court astrologers to plan my day."