I was part of a religious organization called Subud in my early twenties. At the time, I really needed something to ground me. It was a less than perfect environment because of the imperfections of the leaders. I imagine this is true of any religious group to some extent. We learned how to speak in tongues, often in a language that resembled Arabic. Eventually, the group’s dysfunction caused me to leave and I’ve never regretted it, though I still do speak in tongues at times.

The high point of our local group was for me a man who quickly became a significant friend. This is odd for men–to have friendship with another man on a spiritual plane. It has only happened once or twice in my life. With women it is natural. With men, rare.

He told me that I had made my weaknesses into strengths, a statement which I still ponder at times. Also, that we were members of this group as a way of atoning for our abuse of sex and power in this or previous lives. I think he was right about this. I had been opened to the true nature of reality too quickly by way of drugs, as had many of my generation, and the result was an obsession with power and sex that destroyed our connection to god.

It is the supreme tragedy of my generation. We could have done so much and, in the end, did so little.

who’s your daddy

I was a project manager and spent time with everyone in the small, telecom corporation I was part of. Two of the software developers doing diagnostic programs for a particular computer were great talkers, borderline competent, and had motivational posters on the walls in the space they shared. I often thought of the disparity between how they projected themselves and what they could actually accomplish, though one of the posters continues to stay with me to this day…obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal, or as my freshman English prof and mentor would say, the brass ring.

I roped this great and loyal man into helping me with my first novel, whose first draft was borderline competent. Without a hint of sarcasm, he called it kaleidoscopic. He really wanted to help. Somewhere near the tenth version, he said, “Just a little further and you will touch the brass ring.” At that moment he was more of a father to me than my own father. Only later would I discover that he had hundreds of sons and daughters. I was only one of many.