Paradise

August 2, 2019

 

 



If you were mine

If you were mine

I wouldn’t want to go…

To heaven.

 

-Sade “Cherish The Day”

 

 

 

I have been at the threshold. More than once. There aren’t gates but there is an entrance, a doorway. There are the most wonderful creatures inside. People I recognize. People I have never met, but feel instinctively drawn to. Paradise is a radiant and earthy place; not sterile and white at all. There is dirt and mud and funk. The sun shines. Plants grow long and lush.

But for some reason, many times I have resisted walking through. Maybe because I was afraid it wouldn’t be as good as I had hoped, but I think mostly because I enjoyed the anticipation. I like to sit just outside the door, maybe chat with some of the people inside. There is a shiny black labrador there, and she seems to recognize me. She jumps up, tail wagging and leaps into my arms!  She plays with me endlessly, but I usually have to step inside.  I can rarely coax her out.  She seems to understand she has a job to do. I love her so much. 

 

But, I feel I am not quite ready.  So I wait here, at the threshold. It’s comfortable enough: there is food, a bed, books to read. I visit with folks on their way in. They seem to accept me as some sort of unofficial receptionist. I look up and smile hopefully, and they chat for a while. They are brilliant people, some of them quite funny.  We laugh a lot.  Some ask why I don’t cross over. Others just smile and walk through. They leave me.

 

Still, the view is pleasant, nature smells delicious, and it’s really not such a bad place to be. Just outside of heaven is not hell. Far from it! There’s some residual heaven out here; it’s just inevitable. It spills out.

Sometimes I think they have the same issues as me though, the ones that stay. They’re afraid too. Some even want to draw me further away, and that is where I can get myself into trouble. Mostly, I’ve gotten better at keeping myself close to that source.

This waiting around outside the door though, it can become an occupation. I get used to it. I sit down, eat a meal, I get sleepy. I say to myself, It’s not so bad to wait here, is it? Besides, It’ll be there tomorrow… I fall asleep just outside paradise, like Dorothy did within view of her Emerald City. I sleep through the night.

But when I wake up the next day, the door is gone! Branches and vines grew up and covered it. Or maybe I wandered a little too far last night and got lost… I don’t remember. I could swear I laid myself down right near the entrance. But somehow I lost it.

So here I go, running, desperate to find the door again. I cut my face on a sharp branch, twist an ankle, but I don’t care. It’s one thing to live just outside that door with the promise of what’s inside so close to me. To lose it entirely, that is another thing, one I can’t live with.  Then I find it.

 

I stop, lean forward to catch my breath with my hands on my knees. But I’m already calming down, my confidence coming back.  I see friends and they smile at me. I recognize the doorway, the view inside, the earthy smell. The vibe I get when I’m out here, close to this beautiful place. There’s a woman this time, just inside the entrance. She is brown skinned, stunningly beautiful, with features that tell me she is Indian, or maybe Pakistani.

 

She smiles at me. “You’re Tristan.”
“Yeah… . This is still heaven, right?”
She laughs.
“This is still heaven. When are you coming inside?”

It’s a great question, and the truth is I almost bolted right through the door in my hurry. But I’ve found it again. My heart beat slows, relief floods my body. There’s no reason to hurry…

“I can still come through anytime I want, right?” I ask her.

She smiles, shakes her head.

“Of course. But why not today!? We’re having a party tonight and we need a drummer. Plus I’m going away tomorrow and I need someone to take care of my place for a few weeks. Maybe longer.”

“Really?” I ask her.

“Mm hmm. Dolphins swim up to the dock every day outside my house, and I need someone there to greet them tomorrow.  They get cranky if you don’t.  They like sardines in the afternoon.”

My heartbeat spikes.

“You live on the ocean!?” I ask her, breathlessly.

She smiles to herself.  She knows she’s got me.


“Yes I do.”
“I could feed them?”
She smiles again.

“They would appreciate it.”
“Do they like… chirp and stuff? Make those sounds?”

“Yes they do.” Her speech has that effervescent quality I recognize when Indians speak English. It has laughter behind it.
“Could I dive in and swim with them?” I ask this one anxiously, afraid she might say no.
“Of course!” She says. “They would love that. As long as you don’t forget to give them the fish.”

Something about the way this woman smiles. Or maybe it’s because she gave me an actual job to do, something tangible.  I walk through.

 

The first thing I realize, as soon as I get in and start making plans, meeting people and starting a life, is that waiting outside was silly because walking through is not an ending, it’s a beginning. It’s a process and it’s relationship driven, so the sooner you get started the better. This place isn’t lily white with everyone floating around with inane expressions on their faces. Heaven is an evolving, ever expanding dimension. The place is just a buzz of excitement, fresh ideas, inspiration.

So here I am. This is where I live now, and it’s more beautiful every day. There is much to discover here, and much to learn.  I find I am fascinated with the real story behind things, the degrees of connection between every one and every thing, and this is the place where I can get it. I meet people I knew from my life before, and we marvel at how in the worst moments of our former lives we had the answer the whole time, right there waiting. We agree that the times when we laughed were the highest, the closest to where we are now.

 

I recall moments in my previous life when I spiraled up to an experience of ecstasy, excitement and connection with everything in creation, wanted the best for the Earth and for all feeling beings, and knew I was doing something good and I recall how in those moments, I just didn’t care. All bureaucracy, baggage, all the hangups, all the pitiful, petty details people get so concerned with in their waking life… I just couldn’t have cared less about them. Interestingly, it was a state of true iconoclasm, a victory, a casting off of the lies people live their whole lives by. That was what it felt like to me to play music, and I was lucky, it happened often. I’ve been working with some friends here, designing instruments that respond to your thoughts and intention. They key on changes to the electromagnetic fields around your body. It’s pretty cool. I’m a drummer and a keyboard player so I still like to run my fingers over the instrument, hit things and make noise. I still want the tactile pleasure of getting my hands on things and laying into that physical surface in three dimensional space. Still, it’s magical to feel something, imagine it, and hear it streaming back at you with no loss in the translation between the music of your inner world and the sound pulsing out into the world.  

 

I’m still here at Sajani’s. I spend a fair amount of time playing that beautiful old Steinway baby grand in the room with the gently whirring ceiling fan, the windows overlooking the beach and the wild ocean outside, the brick fireplace and exposed hardwood beams in the walls and old barn wood ceiling high above. She travels a lot, but I like when she’s home because we laugh and trade stories and make chocolate smoothies. I slept a lot at first, but once I started meeting people and making connection after connection in my new life, I found I got swept up in the excitement and projects that unfold from them.

Sometimes I go back and find the doorway, only now that I’m on the inside, it looks entirely different.  It’s dull: not nearly as vivid and exciting as the life inside. I’m in a unique position to speak to the folks hanging outside, if there are any. The one thing I find common to almost everyone hanging around outside the entrance: they’re a little blurry. Their colors aren’t as bright, their eyes not so brilliant.  They are a lot like I was. I tell them: it’s okay to be afraid. I was afraid, too. I tell them that once you step in, you’re lifted up on a rush of energy. You get carried off by it. I remind them that if they through, they can always walk back out anytime they want to.  Of course, I know they won’t.

 

 

Tristan Luke

 

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