Friday, July 27, 2007

Giving Up the Need to Know

Sunday, July 22 ~ Albuquerque, New Mexico

More Texas license plates. Everywhere I look on the drive from Sedona to Albuquerque, I see Texas plates.

They're there, it seems, to tweak my dawning awareness that when I leave Albuquerque on Tuesday, it will be to head into Texas.

Not that I have any idea why I'm being drawn to Texas...again. Why should I, when I still don't know why I was pulled there earlier this year [see God's GPS].

"Not going to work this time," I insist to whoever's in charge. "If you really want me to go to Texas, you'll have to do better than license plates."

It's now my second night in Albuquerque, and I'm chatting with the hotel owner about The MoonQuest, which she's just begun reading. My post-Albuquerque plans never come up. Yet, somehow, it emerges that her husband has family in -- you guessed it -- Texas.

I don't make the connection until an hour later, when I'm talking to Josh, the new guy on the front desk.

"Are you a native New Mexican?" I ask.

"No," he replies. "I'm from Dallas. Texas."

I almost surrender in that moment.

But not quite.

Unconditional surrender comes 24 hours later.

I'm parked outside Office Max. Across from me is a small black car with Texas plates.

"Not going to work," I say, shaking my head at the Universe. "Show me people, not plates."

I come out of the store a few minutes later, following the man who was ahead of me in line. He heads straight for the Texas-mobile and takes off. For Texas, no doubt.

As I walk across his now-vacant spot, something flashes up at me from the pavement. A penny.

I stoop to pick it up and know where I'm going.

I still don't know why, but in that moment I remember my own words from a week ago as I spoke as part of a Sunday Service talk at Santa Fe's The Celebration. The topic? "Too Much Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing: Giving Up the Need to Know."

I give up.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

You Want Me To Do What?!?

Tuesday, July 10 ~ US-93, north of Kingman, Arizona

I'm in Sedona a few days ago when, for the first time since turning it into an eBook five years ago, I begin rereading my book of writing practice and inspiration, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

The idea is to update and repackage the eBook to restore some of my focus on teaching writing.

The more I read, the more excited I get. Not only is it good -- better than I remembered -- it ties in perfectly with The MoonQuest.

If among its other themes, The MoonQuest is a call to live more authentic lives by telling our stories, The Voice of the Muse is the primer that shows how to do it.

I continue my reading with that thought in mind until, somewhere on the highway out of Kingman, I hear the voice of my muse (ie, Evan Almighty's boss -- see Use Me).

"Forget the eBook," the voice says. "Publish it as a book. Not in a year. Not in six months. Now. Start the process now."

"You want me to do what?!?" I shout. "But The MoonQuest-- It's just barely out. This is insane!!"

"No more insane than building an ark," it replies.

Thursday, July 12 ~ Mono Lake, California

I wake up this morning in Hawthorne, NV in fear. It seems to be one of those unfocused, nonspecific fears, but it's likely related to the whole Voice of the Muse thing.

I struggle out of the womb-like safety of my hotel bed, into my clothes and into the car.

As I climb the Wassuk Range that separates Nevada from California, I open the car window. It's the first time in weeks that morning temperatures anywhere have been cooler than the low-90s, the first time opening car windows has been a comfortable option.

It rained last night in Hawthorne, a brief but pounding thunderstorm that soaked the streets and flashed electric bolts of white up in these mountains.

As soon as I lower the windows, the umistakable scent of sage -- heightened by the moisture -- blows into the car. I breathe in the cleansing, purifying smell and let it wash away my anxiety.

Now, ten minutes later, I'm parked on the side of SR-167 across from Mono Lake. Like some latter-day Avalon, Paoha and Negit islands rise up out of the lake's morning mist.

The stillness is complete.

I don't know what's ahead -- with my books or in my life. But in this moment, embraced by the mountains, enchanted by the lake's Camelot-like formations, and having written these words, I am at peace.

Thursday, July 12 ~ Oakhurst, California

I spend most of my day at elevations exceeding 9,000 feet -- in the skyscraping heights of Yosemite National Park. Now, most of the way down the mountain, I sit at an outdoor cafe as dusk drains the last color from the sky. With the final glimmerings of light go the final shreds of my resistance.

I feel both the insanity and the perfection of this divine directive to publish The Voice of the Muse.

I don't know how I will produce and pay for a second book while still paying for and promoting a first.

Yet, as God did with Evan and his ark, the God within me and the sentient spirit of both books will provide all the resources, inner and outer, that I need.

As long as I say Yes.

As long as I surrender.

And I do.

Photos by Mark David Gerson: #1 Yosemite Nat'l Park; #2 The road to Tonopah & Hawthorne, NV; #3 Mono Lake, CA

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Use Me

Sunday, July 8 ~ Sedona, Arizona

As I watch the new movie, Evan Almighty, with my daughter this afternoon, tears mingle with laughter at the story of the ambitious newscaster-turned-Congressman whose life is turned upside-down when God tells him to prepare for an impending flood by building an ark.

My tears come in Evan's surrender to the higher power that always knows best, the higher power that I, like Evan, have been known to resist, curse and fight.

I have never been asked to build an ark, but I have been guided along roads that seem equally bizarre and incomprehensible, in directions that others have judged or mocked.

Ultimately, though, as with Evan and his flood, the higher guidance has always proven itself wiser and more knowing than a limited human mind that is always trying to figure things out and cling to control.

As the film credits roll, I'm reminded of the song Use Me, Rickie Byars Beckwith's ardent anthem to ultimate surrender:

Use me
Oh, God
I stand for you
And here I'll abide
As you show me
All that I must do

I'm reminded too of author Madeleine L'Engle's description of the Old Testament as filled with bearded prophets shouting up to the heavens, "You want me to do what!?"

Evan is just such a prophet, as am I and each of you. For in every moment, the God Power we carry within is calling on us to do and be the impossible, to build our own version of Evan's ark, even though it makes no conventional sense, even though we don't know where to begin or who we'll be when we're done.

I wrote about the song Use Me in a November newsletter (The Choice for God), after having cried while singing it during a Sunday service at L.A.'s Agape International Spiritual Center.

Ironically, I had just recommitted to my then-unpublished novel, The MoonQuest, not realizing that this act of recommitment would result in its speedy publication -- by me! (You want me to do what!?)

My tears then as now are the tears of truth. I know that whether I stand in the vibration of that powerful lyric, in the resonance of today's movie or at one of life's many crossroads, my only choice is the highest choice, the choice that prophets through the ages -- all the way up to Evan -- have made: the choice for God.

My God is neither actor Morgan Freeman nor some force outside myself. My God is the divine within me, the highest imperative, infinite wisdom and creative intelligence that asks of me only that I surrender and allow it to use me -- to be me -- as it guides me forward.

As I prepare to leave Sedona tomorrow for parts (yet again) unknown, I recommit to that path of surrender and know that, in so doing, I walk in the path of God. And I am never alone.