OLD SEEKER FINALLY FINDS HIS WAY...
had come for "signs and wonders,"
as the billing had proclaimed.
He had come to see another kind
of church, another kind of worship,
another spiritual diversion.
had heard about the laughter too,
and about the healings and people
being set free from stuff. He
needed to be set free from a lot
of stuff. His troubles had become
legion, his sins had gone over
felt stapled, spindled, and badly
creased by life, and his soul
felt betrayed by too many false
promises, too many false hopes.
He had run long enough, chased
enough phantoms, oblivioned himself
with enough parties, enough drink.
had no taste for the old life
now. He knew it was all slipping
away and that he couldn't remain
a young Hemingway much longer.
It had all been a lie, an imagination
that youth could be preserved,
that the fishing and the hunting
and the sporting and the glamour
would remain-that health would
stay and time's juggernaught be
of his friends had already checked
his shotgun permanently emptying
the last round into his mouth
to escape the ignominy and the
agony of lung cancer deliberately
courted by chain-smoking Camel
had fled to holding-patterns of
their own pinned to such name
tags as drunken journalist, poet
in residence, social reformer.
All had sold out to the establishment.
And "the movement," the flowers,
"the open road"? They had all
been lies too; the false paradises
of Mexico and San Francisco, now
meccas for the darlings of despair.
what had he to lose? Maybe he
could say goodbye to wandering
among the dead fish at the stagnant
river's mouths; his musings among
the wrecked troop carriers still
holding the mangled and putrid
corpses of blasted hopes.
now, with the naked, burned-out
forest of old age just over the
divide, and with the government
gone berserk and run by whore-mongers,
groupies, thieves, and with every
imaginable depravity out there
flaunting itself in the garments
of respectability, Ben saw it
no disgrace to check this meeting
was, after all, still a seeker.
He had followed so many roads
already into so many cul de sacs.
He had been "new age" before it
even had a name. He had quested
after cosmic consciousness, bliss
consciousness, nirvana, and countless
other help yourself heavens promoted
by mantra salesmen and gormandizing
he had met other disciples lost
and groping along various divine
paths, sinning merrily along their
karmic way to the next Bagwan,
drinking their divine ripple and
sniffing from sensors fumed with
sacred weeds. It was all lies.
old Odyssei still doggedly idolizing
their own opinions wrought mostly
from the dregs of Philosophy 101
would chide him now for coming
to a church.
you mad?" they would say; "seek
God in a church? You've lost it
all. Why not come to your senses
and meet with us at Psychic Friends
tonight? And have you heard? There's
a new holy man in town from Bombay.
Everyone who's anyone is going.
Do your ears still itch?"
had moaned Ben, "I'm tired."
there before him was the door
of the big church. The people
going looked friendly,
at least--not the lemon-suckers
his childhood often knew. And
so many bright eyes. Inside he
heard laughter and music--spirited
stuff. He went in, and as was
his wont, chose a chair near the
door, well-suited for escape.
place was jammed. Most of the
faces he saw there were unfamiliar
but not all. There was Tom Sands,
the old rounder he had known among
the bars. Tom was notorious for
fights, but there was Tom, face
lit, hands up and singing his
heart out. Was he drunk?
the headliner came out, a barrel-chested
South African with a devilishly
infectious rolling bass laugh.
And as he preached his gospel,
islands of tittering, giggling
and belly laughter erupted all
over the place.
name was Rodney Warren, and he
said that God had sent him to
Arnerica to save the "pagans"
wandering and bewildered in the
me," thought Ben, " Pagan First-Class
asked the people to stand up and
raise their hands to receive the
outflow of the Holy Spirit which
would be followed by signs and
wonders, bringing into play spiritual
gifts. "Would they be given gifts?"
wondered Ben. He stood up and
raised his hands.
Warren began to pass along in
front of lines of people standing
along the aisles on the far side
of the sanctuary And as he did,
people began to fall down as he
passed them; some even before
they got touched. Most just lay
stoned on the floor, but others
writhed and still others rolled
with laughter. Some wept.
that moment Ben noticed some people
to his right getting up to leave.
"This is not of God," snorted
one, a sixty-something lady with
blue hair and most severe eyes.
"I've never been so offended in
my life," she said. "It's an outrage!"
Ben saw Sands get touched. But
he didn't fall; he just froze
up like some guy caught in a time
warp. He had one finger in the
air as if to make a point, but
he just grinned out vacantly,
grinning stupidly the way he used
to, drunk in the bars before they
had to kick him out. Apparently,
Sands was still hitting the bottle,
but he hadn't looked that drunk
Warren, moving along the far side
of the sanctuary waved his hand
at a whole tier full of people,
and they all fell back as if mowed
down by gunfire. Ben could suddenly
sense what felt like waves pushing
in to him from Warren's direction.
Ben had to lean toward him to
keep from being swept away by
the powerful currents surging
felt like he was trout fishing,
wading in big water and on the
verge of being swept down stream.
Then he went down. The current
surged over him and through him.
Leeches, crustaceans, lizards
and toads crawled out of him,
and were swept down the stream.
He lay on the bottom among the
rocks, drowning but not drowned,
dying but not dead. In fact, he
had never felt more alive, more
loved. "Forgive me, Lord," he
moaned. "Take over; I've been
words could explain what he felt.
He felt like a computer disk being
reformatted, or as if micro-surgeries
were being performed on him from
the inside. All over his body,
especially around his lungs and
heart, long ravaged by his two-pack-a-day
smoking habit. He could feel the
work of restoration going on.
Then he felt as if he were being
gripped in a massive velvety hand,
but gently and with love. "He
restoreth my soul," he thought.
Peace such as he had never known,
even in the deepest space-outs
of transcendental meditation,
began to flow over him, through
him, out of him. He could suddenly
feel a river of his own flowing.
bubbled up from his very belly.
He felt joy indescribable. Suddenly
he was laughing. Waves of laughter
rolled up from the heart of his
being. "This is joy," he thought.
he came to. But there was no blackout;
he remembered everything, and
there was no hangover--only a
lingering sense of peace and joy.
When he looked around he saw that
most of the crowd had gone. And
so, very stunned, but very happy
he found his way down the stairs
and out the door.
for the first time he felt
indeed like Ulysses, like
Sir Lancelot, like Joshua himself.
The old world, the wilderness
he had known was all behind him,
and before him, spread out and
limbed with light, lay the land
of promise. It was all for real;
it was all for him; and he couldn't
wait to tell others.
set off down the sidewalk, singing
to himself the hymn he had heard
under the water: "Amazing grace,
how sweet the song that saved
a wretch like me. I once was lost,
but now am found, was blind but
now I see."
2006 © Gene Pinkney
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