Serafina and Ram Dass
Dreamed 2000/11/6 by Chris Wayan
In memory of Ram Dass, with a tip o' the hat to Philip Pullman.
Strange bedfellows, but I AM a dreamer.
Foreword, April 2017
It's early in the Trump administration. I'm posting this journal entry from 2000 partly to remind us that we've seen equally ugly, shameful politics before. Bush wasn't even elected, but selected, by two Supreme Court justices with conflicts of interest, who didn't recuse themselves as they should. Not that this piece is really about politics. It's about how, even when public life goes corrupt, progress can happen on subtler, less visible levels.
All you need to know: it's 2000, Bush & Gore dominate the news, and I'm a painter who can't paint--my dad died a few months back, and I'm still grieving. Wrestling with his contradictory legacy.
Painting class at Fort Mason. I was painting my brilliant, alcoholic dad throwing bottles down at me from a tower. But I'm stuck. Figures and sky are fine, it's the tower. Instead of fighting on, I give up & just paint a big colorful spiral. My friend Kate is also starting a new picture, and we both have fun.
Later, at home, I plow through election materials, find more fraudulent ones then ever before. Even Common Cause accuses the ballot-pamphlet writers of corruption: kept their ballot arguments against Prop 34 out of the pamphlet--the legislature's last-minute trick to stop the campaign reforms we voted in four years ago. Prop 37 looks dishonest too...
I'm in an upstairs room in a tall house at the edge of a suburb, on the rim of a canyon. Night. A crescent moon.
A beautiful Finnish witch, Serafina Pekkala, raps at my window. She's here to lead me on a secret witch-flight! Not my first lesson; she's been teaching me how.
"Tonight," she says "we fly over Greenland." I'm only wearing a thin red shirt, but I don't reach for a coat: I know by now that part of the lesson is to stay warm with mental and spiritual fire. That's nearly as important as learning to fly. Serafina's nearly nude as always--just a thin robe, even in snow.
I open my window and climb out onto the sill. Follow Serafina--she floating, me climbing. Down one floor, clamber along a narrower parapet, then down a drainpipe.
She drifts and perches on the canyon rim. I drop from the drainpipe, landing lightly on the ground behind her. Already, gravity seems leisurely; I'm not flying yet, but I'm much lighter. I could have climbed down without her example, but seeing her float, proving flight is possible, sure made it easier.
I walk down the steep canyon slope, bounding from rock to shelf to crag as if we're not under the moon, but on it. Feeling lighter and safer all the time, as Serafina flits around me, glowing like a ghost.
I'm starting to get it on my own.
Bike to sculpture class. My spiral snake is in the kiln, getting fired. Finish my blue mer-angel--delicate work. Add to my Rainbow Sleeper piece--mold one of the shoppers witnessing the huge goddess-figure rising out of the grocery floor...
The Rainbow Sleeper
A short plump woman visiting the class makes a clay piece but wrecks it over & over. She keeps complimenting my work, till I realize she doesn't care about art, she wants a date. I pointedly don't take the hint; I'm not attracted to her at all. I AM attracted to that skinny white girl I recall from the end of last quarter. But I feel shy; barely talk with her.
Go vote. Long list of candidates and propositions. Go home. Watch the election returns. But they're confusing, come in slowly. Gore may win the popular vote and Bush the Electoral College? In a way I hope so as it'd probably be a death sentence for the College--that amendment's been needed for years and this'll jumpstart it.
At midnight they still don't know who won nationally and it looks like no big change in Congress. And no reliable returns yet on the local and state props. I give up and go to bed.
Still no Presidential winner. The fuss grows. Good local results though. The Mayor's handpicked propositions and candidates don't do well. Senate: split?
Acrylic class at Fort Mason. Feel stuck today. Mostly touch up paintings. Brutally white-out the brown tower in the picture of my dad as an alcoholic Apollo, and start over.
My friend Dawn invites me to go hear Ram Dass, though Dawn warns me he recently had a stroke, so she doesn't recommend going. Except... she is! She's been a lifelong fan. It's pricy, and short notice, but on impulse I insist on going along.
He IS inarticulate. But his spirit's strong, and it's interesting to feel his thoughts dancing and sense his meaning, then wait for the language to come out, or not. I wonder how other people see him--do they have to wait for the words and guess at the connections or can many in the hall do as I am? Slowly and indirectly, he says:
"My stroke had spiritual benefits. It shook my faith a lot, but then I started to see & feel myself, not just intellectually know myself, as a soul, watching my ego have a stroke, struggle with paralysis, relearn language. The wreck of my body forced me to live in my soul rather than visit it."
He now sees THREE aspects to each person, the ego-and-body, intimately bound, treatable as a single thing; the soul, a learner and observer with ready access to previous incarnations, and a god-level at which you identify with all sentient things and have access to all their knowledge. He wants free access to all three.
My dreamwork makes me agree with that. I want the freedom to use whatever stance is right for the job! Phillips screwdrivers are great, but sometimes you need a flatblade. Or a hex.
I'm tired by the time the lecture ends, since he's so slow. Hard chairs too, so my butt's sore; I keep stretching and fidgeting. But that's my main complaint. Yeah, he probably shouldn't have been lecturing yet, he's so slow it's frustrating, and I'm sure it's worse for people who can't intuitively fill in the blanks from that big loud astral radio station right above his head. But he got his message across--in fact lecturing like this felt to me like a deliberate thing, showing the difference between his soul, still vivid and playful, and his body, bogged down in basics.
Dawn, on the other hand, who knows what Ram Dass was like before, is shocked at how much he's lost. She was sure I was having a miserable evening and kept worrying about ME so much she had trouble hearing HIM. Ha.
All in all, a weird evening. One my soul won't soon forget. Or my butt.
Now go up and reread that dream of Serafina! After hearing Ram Dass, it seems obvious it's a response to his lecture--well, to sensing his spirit speak before his body did. Obvious except... it came first.
If this were fiction, such heavy-handed foreshadowing would be amateurish. But when it's nonfiction, what is it? When you dream the reaction two days before the event?
Skimming an old journal, I found I'd met Ram Dass long ago and forgot! So I DID know the articulate guru Dawn admired. But... back then I was unimpressed. In 1975 he was merely asserting "the soul is not the mind". But in 2000, that visible delay between his soul formulating each sentence and his damaged brain groping to utter it, showed the truth of it. His wrecked body became his teaching-tool.
In the end, Serafina Pekkala the dream-witch and Ram Dass the stroke-victim had the same message (and so I pass it on to you, gentle reader):
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