Friday, December 6, 2013


Even as I was munching on some old predictions that had been made in my life and wondering to what extent they had come true, yet another arrived in email this morning.

I guess predictions are too alluring and enjoyable to do away with. In my book, predictions are sort of like "karma" -- if you knew, what, precisely, would you know? Not much, I suspect, but the delight and threat potential of predictions is as yummy as cotton candy.

There were three predictions that were rolling around in my mind like hard candy before the latest one arrived today. Had they come true? Had they not come true? I really didn't know and seemed unable to make a prediction.

Punch line first, the three predictions, when reviewed, boiled down to:

1. I never became a minister ... I guess.

2. I never got enlightened ... or if I did, I must have been doing something else at the time.

3. I never did figure out with certainty what "two" things were "very important to you."

As briefly as possible, here were the circumstances:

1. My mother told me that when I was a baby, she took me for a walk in the park along the Hudson River in New York City. She sat on a bench reading, while I lolled in the perambulator. A neatly-dressed, middle-aged woman was passing by. She stopped, leaned over the perambulator, looked for a moment and then said with a slight Scottish burr, "Ah! A minister."

I never did become a minister in any literal sense. On a lark, I did send away once for one of those Internet instant-minister cards. I got the card in the mail and the card got lost. So maybe, out there somewhere, I am still an instant minister.

2. A nut-brown man seated in the sunshine outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art beckoned me over. Business was slow and we struck a bargain -- $5 for an astrological reading. The sign at his feet said the cost was $10. He had a large book (I think it's called The Ephemera) in his lap, something that would allow him to see where the stars were at the time and place of my birth, which I told him.

After looking up my 'vitals,' he proceeded to tell me about job, marriage, money ... the usual stuff. At the time, I was hip-deep in a pedal-to-the-metal interest and practice of Zen Buddhism. The nut-brown man had not mentioned spiritual life, so I asked him. He looked at me as an adult might look at a child who ought to know better and he laughed. "Oh," he said through the laughter, "enlightenment in this lifetime! No doubt about it!"

Maybe he was right, I don't know. I do know that some jumping-up-and-down bliss-mobile never parked outside my house. Or maybe it did when I wasn't home.

3. As a reporter, I interviewed a woman in Massachusetts who 'got out of her body' and helped others learn how to get out of theirs. It was an airy-fairy topic in the airy-fairy 1970's and I was a little confused about how I would write a story about the interview. The woman was plain. Ordinary as oatmeal. With a beehive hairdo and a lawn-ornament deer in the front yard. After the interview she offered to do a reading for me. I gave her my wristwatch and she held it. She told me various things -- some of which proved spot on. But in the midst of it all, she also said, "I see two." "Two what?" I asked. "I don't know," she replied, "but they're very important to you."

Ten years later, in a Chinese restaurant in New York, a palm reader was part of the ambiance. He sat down and I handed him my hand. He too went through the expect-able topics and finally said, "I see two." "Two what?" I asked. "I don't know," he replied, "but they're very important to you."

Maybe the "two" is my family and my interest in spiritual life. On the other hand, maybe it's the two chopsticks casually stored in the flatware drawer. I know they're important when I want them.

Predictions and recollections, how delicious. Really, just like cotton candy at the fair ... a sticky, scrumptious confection that no one in his right mind would consider as a balanced diet. But is there some reason not to enjoy the moment, the sticky, the maybe and what-if potential of things? I enjoy the enjoyment.

And this morning came another prediction, another bit of sticky sweetness -- this one mildly tart. It came in the form of a response on this blog, where I had done a bit of thinking about the FUBAR tendrils of the Roman Catholic Church as it tries to smooth over the raw edges of its priest sex-abuse fumbles.
I will repeat my prediction from a few months ago..I foresee a deathbed conversion. Thou dost protest too much.
You are obsessed with the catholic church.
A deathbed conversion. Imagine that! Maybe it's true and it certainly contains the enjoyment of cotton candy. A prediction. How delicious.

At a more mundane level, I can't quite understand the tartness implied. If the writer -- it's "anonymous" as usual -- disagreed with my arguments, why bother to read them? What other view of egregious harm should I take? Should I be one of those serene smoothies who uses their serenity as an excuse for overlooking or denying what is unpleasant but true? I dislike war too ... is there a serenity pill for that as well? My obsession, if obsession it be, is with unkindness and my view that if anyone has a wondrous delight in life, an unwillingness to address the acidic underbelly, the sheer ugliness, is a recipe for missing out on the true wonder. If we don't mention something -- or do mention it only from the heights of religious or psychological or intellectual analysis -- does it go away? Are people less hurt? Does my visage shine brighter in the bathroom mirror?

The Rev. Martin Luther King once observed, "It is not what's wrong with the world that scares people. What really scares them is that everything is all right." I agree with that suggestion, but anyone unwilling to enter hell is never going to find an entry into heaven. It simply doesn't work, even for the smoothest and most serene poseur.


  1. Which brings me to your second leitmotif, not odd in itself..but unusual, you are willing to constantly ( or at least frequently ) reference your mother in public. Unusual for someone of the age you appear to be in your photograph.
    Two things. Your mother and the catholic church.
    I wonder if perhaps these two preoccupations have some kind of common origin.

    1. Oh for goodness sake ! Stop the psychobabble fact just stop.

  2. Anonymous -- Your cowardice is showing.

  3. Sticks and stones...Cowardice is an odd idea isn't it ?
    I am sure if you weren't pissed you could riff on it without reaching anything so vulgar as a comprehensible conclusion.

  4. I like to read about your mother, for I am interested in your writerly pedigree. It seems to me that you were twice blessed, with a novelist for a mother and a poet for a father. It's a pleasure to read strong thoughts well put.

  5. mbr -- Thanks for the kind thoughts. My father, as it happens, was a college professor who taught Shakespeare (whom I was trained by schooling to hate), loved James Joyce more for his math than any human connection he may have asserted, and wrote self-published poetry that never really got off the ground. My mother was, in fact, a novelist and writer of other articles.

    Both, in their own ways and for different reasons, worshiped in the religion of the intellect. It took me quite some time to catch up with Swami Vivekananda's observation that "the mind [he meant intellect] is a good servant and a poor master."