What did he see in me that I didn’t see in myself? He wasn’t
my teacher, he was my friend’s, so why were he and I even
talking in the first place? He walked right up to me and asked me
if I liked poetry. What was a 16-year-old boy to say? I didn’t
even have to think before I gave my reply. “No!” The
question prompted visions of my English class and the endless quest
to try to determine what the teacher’s manual said was the
“correct” meaning to Chaucer or Donne, Browning or Longfellow.
------ He seemed surprised at my answer
and responded with another question. “You like Cat Stevens
don’t you? Isn’t that poetry?”
------ “No. That’s just
------ He went on to dispute my reply
and gave a brief explanation why he considered my favorite songwriter
to be a poet. I must admit that it sounded intriguing to me, but
I still wasn’t overly thrilled when he revealed the intention
behind his original question. He had recently gotten a tape that
he thought I would enjoy and wanted me to borrow it. The tape was
a recording of Richard Harris reading Kahlil Gibran’s “The
Prophet,” backed by a musical score composed by Arif Mardin.
I knew of Richard Harris. He was one of my mother’s favorite
actors and she absolutely adored his “MacArthur Park”
album.* Arif Mardin’s name rang a small bell in my memory,
after all, I grew up in a band director’s home. But this guy
with the funny name came completely from left field.
------ That night, like most nights,
I listen to my beloved Cat. But this time I had a different insight
into the very reason his music had moved me so. I’d always
known the songs spoke to me; I’d never considered that they
had meaning. By the time Doug brought me "The Prophet,"
I was at least ready to give it a try.
------ The tape captured my curiosity
almost immediately. I loved the sound of it. It was mystical and
alluring. My friends, lacking an accurate means to describe me always
seemed to default to a popular term at the time; “cosmic.”
I still don’t know what that means, and I recall that far
too often it felt like an insult, but I believe the image they were
trying to describe was captured quite well in this recording. I
had no idea what the text meant, but something about it certainly
struck a chord with me. I began to listen to it constantly, as much
for the aesthetic experience as anything else.
------ I began to talk to Doug about
it from time to time as he’d come to the school to teach saxophone
lessons. I remember him holding his thumb and index finger very
close together and saying, “Each time I hear it I get that
much more of it.” I recall thinking that I’d better
listen more, or harder, or something.
------ It wasn’t long at all
before I had it memorized. I remember a time in one of the conversations
when I had to correct Doug for misquoting it. He quickly replied,
“You have all the quotes, I have the meanings.” I felt
like a child. I felt like I had so very far to go. I was a spiritual
pygmy. But a very strong desire in me told me that I had found my
path. Or to put it more accurately, I must quote the text itself.
“Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul, but rather,
I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
------ In time, like Doug, I began
to pick up bits and pieces of the meanings behind the glorious words.
Mostly the meanings became clear through experiences. I’d
encounter a situation, feel what the moment was telling me, and
the sounds of Gibran’s words would echo meaning in my soul.
------ Almost as quickly and mysteriously
as Doug had entered my life, he was gone. I recall feeling very
alone and misunderstood one evening many months after I’d
last seen him. He was the only person I could think of to call.
I knew I had dialed the correct number. The voice on the other end
of the phone was familiar, and he recalled the people and events
of my life, but the man I was now talking to was not the Doug who
had inspired me to find the soul walking on my path. By the conversations
end, I got the very real feeling that the shoe was on the other
foot. I had called him in a time of need, but now I found myself
desperately trying to lift him up. After saying goodbye,
disillusioned, I hung up the phone and once again felt very alone.
It seemed as though my friend was dead. Or had he ever existed at
------ It wasn’t until much later
that I came to realize that in a very real sense I had drawn Doug
into my life. I’ve often heard it said, “When the student
is ready, the teacher will appear.” The soul I met walking
along that path was not Doug at all, but my own soul crying to begin
its journey. And oh what a magnificent journey it has been! I have
often looked back at that time in amazement. The whole relationship
was so unlikely, and many of my “friends” did much to
discourage it. But it marked the beginning of a handful of amazing
relationships, some likewise discouraged by well meaning but shortsighted
persons. If soul-filled, loving relationships with kindred spirits
are dangerous, then call me a spiritual thrill seeker with a death
wish. Or isn’t it really a Life wish?
------ I’ve often thought it
strange that I have made no attempts to find Doug and thank him
for encouraging me to open my eyes and heart when I was so young.
I also went many years without making any effort to find a recording
to replace the one that had long ago worn beyond repair. But thanks
to the miracle of the Internet, I now own a crystal clear CD of
the recording. I listen to it from time to time when the fog rolls
in. Like a beacon, it lights my path; and the reunion is fulfilled
when I meet the soul walking there and we magically... mystically...
perhaps "cosmically"... embrace.
* I must admit that the song
"The Dancing Girl"
that is part of "She is..."
came about as my version of Richard Harris' "Dancing Girl"
on the MacArthur Park album. I didn't steal the song, just the idea.
Mine is very different.
The Trill House