I want to quickly clarify something here. This blog is not about politics, nor will it ever be. However, to keep the sense of the little tale I'm telling I need to make a quasi-political statement. This is from little jeffy's world - it's there that politics sometimes rears its muddled head, and little jeffy has to deal with it on some level. Comes with the territory of the common, mundane world. I'll keep it as simple as possible:
As I mentioned earlier, I believe we have a unique opportunity in this time of personal, societal and cultural unmooring to remake ourselves. This is always available to us on the personal level, but on the societal and cultural level it's a much tougher lift, so this opportunity is important. To put it bluntly, the biggest impediment to achieving this in the political arena is Donald Trump and his gang. If he is re-elected it will be a huge setback and a much, much tougher row to hoe, which would be a real shame.
That's it, that's my orientation. Back to my tale...
You might now be guessing what that lunch conversation turned into. My three comrades spun off into a 45 minute mutually supporting tirade that could have come right out of the Fox News playbook - Black Lives Matter being a Marxist trained organization; COVID as a Chinese conspiracy, mask wearing a fraudulent fix; Joe Biden going senile; rioters at demonstrations as leftist provocateurs organized by radical socialists. On and on and on it went like a feed-back loop building to a crescendo. I was stunned into silence as they peppered me with one conspiracy theory after another.
I'd heard all of this before of course, but it surprised me and I was unprepared. Besides, if I had answered back it would have provoked them more, and I just wanted lunch to end! So I held my tongue and breathed a sigh of relief when we returned to work.
I was troubled by the incident, and it followed me into the next day. Upon analyzing my reaction I could see it was not the arguments that bothered me, not even the fervor and the gloating. It was the emotions that lay just underneath the surface of the tirade - anger, resentment, hatred. And underneath all of that, a real, palpable fear. And these were guys I had considered decent fellows.
Little jeffy was shook up. His faith , his yearning for the possibilities in front of us to remake ourselves had taken a blow. With all that anger and resentment and fear dominating so many, what chance was there? And of course, his concerns for the common, mundane world followed him into the studio, and he couldn't shake it. Big Jeff observed his rattled studio assistant and could only shake his head. The trials and tribulations of the common, mundane world do not directly affect him - he's too busy probing the mystery dimensions and working his magic; and besides, he at most holds opinions very, very lightly. But little jeffy's agitation was getting to be distracting, even to the point that The Unborn was kicking a little harder in the womb, probably sensing the agitation himself. That would just not do!
So in my mode as Big Jeff I took action. I went to the singing bowl altar, ritually acknowledging the three holons and the holarchy. When done I took an extra step, one I save for only the most important occasions. I asked for help. I didn't direct this request anywhere in particular; no deity, no beloved saint, no angels or Earth spirits. I guess you might say, since my Significant Other is the Kosmos, I directed it to the Kosmos. Knowing that little jeffy's faith was teetering, was on the line and under assault, I simply asked for a message, or better yet a sign to help restore his battered faith. I struck the bowl and sent the request out into the Kosmos.
Later that day I was thinking intently about signs from the Kosmos, wondering what form they might take - an inner voice, what Teresa of Avila called locutions? A random but relevant message from someone I know, or someone I don't know? A dream perhaps? I was thinking "Signs, signs, signs, what would a sign actually look like?" And then a film I had once seen popped into my mind, "Signs" by M. Night Shyamalon, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. It had been awhile since I'd seen it and details of the story eluded me, but I remembered that the signs the title alluded to were crop circles that Mel Gibson, playing a farmer/ex-minister, found in his fields and which portended an alien invasion. I got a chuckle out of that - no crop fields in my world, so I could cross that one off of my list! Nonetheless the film kept popping into my consciousness, the title so intriguing under the circumstances. Ultimately I decided I would have to adopt beginner's mind and remain open for anything, without preconceptions.
By evening I had forgotten the whole thing, busy cooking for the week's lunches and catching snippets of news on TV. It was a warm, pleasant evening and as dark approached I strolled out to my favorite spot in the local park to watch the sunset. When I returned I decided to flip through the 7 or 8 movie channels I have on the TV, looking for something entertaining to help wind down the day. The very first channel I flipped to was showing "Signs", starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix!!!
I kid you not. Believe me, I could not have made this up. The little jeffy in me was flabbergasted. "This is impossible! What are the odds?! How could this just be a coincidence?!" The Big Jeff in me simply smiled. "Of course".
It was just 5 minutes into the film, and as I find M. Night Shyamalon films mysteriously eerie and filled with surprises I settled in to watch, looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the story.
(As an aside, I imagine most of you have seen this film; it was quite popular. I'm going to recount some of the action to refresh your memory, but if you haven't seen it I hope I don't ruin it for you. In any case it's worth seeing either again or for the first time.)
In the beginning we get a flashback to a time when the Mel Gibson character was a minister. His wife is killed in a horrendous accident while jogging, pinned to a tree by a pick-up truck driven by a neighbor who had fallen asleep at the wheel. The minister is able to get to her before she dies, and her last words to him seem to be nothing but gibberish.
As the film proceeds we return to the present. The minister has dropped his vestment and collar, having lost all faith in his religion and quitting his ministry after the senselessly random and brutal death of his wife. He has returned to his farming, and this is when the crop circles begin appearing in his fields, the signs portending an alien invasion. As I watched I noticed something I don't remember taking strong note of at first viewing - a running theme throughout the story is the issue of faith. We hear it in the conversations the minister has with his brother and two children as the ominous events unfold. You get a real sense of how bitter and disenchanted he is, how the universe seems to him senseless and barren. He's in a black void, as if floating on a vast ocean with no land on the horizon in any direction.
I mentioned the crop circles. Certainly they were one of the signs referred to in the title; menacing signs, we find out, as the aliens begin to appear and threaten the family. But other signs show up, signs that are not at all obvious as they appear in the narrative. Simple things, so simple we barely take notice of them as we watch - the young daughter leaving half empty water glasses all over the house; the young son suffering asthma attacks as the fear builds; the brother's trophy baseball bat hung above the fireplace mantel. These all become highly significant as the alien threat builds. And of course, it turns out the gibberish spoken by the dying wife seconds before her death was not gibberish at all, but prophetic advice.
On the surface this is a science-fiction movie about an alien invasion, but the real message is about signs, and about faith. The subtle signs save the family, and the minister wins back his faith, is redeemed by the signs. And guess what? Little jeffy had gotten his sign - the movie, with its themes of signs and faith, appearing in my mind that afternoon and then at exactly the time I would turn on the TV that evening. It was the Kosmos responding almost immediately to my request in the most unexpected way possible, against astronomical odds. Little jeffy got his "Signs", and got his faith back.