The following is the first chapter from my latest novel, I, Kosmos, published by Emergence Education.
The best place to start explaining the next weird chapter of my wonderful and often bizarre spiritual life is to tell you what happened the morning I met Destiny. I’d call her my destiny, but she doesn’t really belong to me. She isn’t my destiny, she’s just destiny, everyone’s destiny, the fact of destiny. Without her, life would be utterly unpredictable and chaotic. There would be no way to know what might happen next—no way to make the slightest predictions about tomorrow or any other day. Life would fly off in every direction, doomed to eternally spread into oblivion. Lucky for us, Destiny lives, although it was touch and go there for a while. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves; you haven’t yet heard about the morning I discovered her, well I guess really, she discovered me.
That day I was in a particularly pensive mood, the kind that overly sensitive people like me find ourselves in on a regular basis. Those moods act like weather patterns. They come into your life and just kind of sit there. Might be for an hour, a day, a week, or more. Just like the weather, sometimes it rains, sometimes the sun shines. The mood I was in that day was like an ominously cloudy sky. To be fair, the feeling wasn’t really one of impending doom; it was more an auspicious feeling of something important that had begun under the surface but hadn’t yet revealed itself. It felt like something amazing, overwhelming, and frightening was about to arrive and I wondered what it was.
I had spent the early part of the morning drinking coffee and listening to music. I remember feeling lonely in a nostalgic sense and a little melancholy, but in a good way, or at least in a way that I like. Lots of us sensitive types tend to enjoy this feeling even though lots of other people would find it unpleasant. For sensitive types, it feels familiar, comfortable, like a second home. I’ve learned that for me, good things come out of these moods. They have a scent, and it smells like change. It’s the scent of growth. On the other side of those moods, new things await. Certainly, as it turned out, it was true that day.
So, after sitting for a while contemplating doing some writing, I decided I needed to get outside. I’m a writer, well actually, I’m a meditation teacher, a mystical philosopher, and a writer. I’m lucky to have been able to attract a group of wonderful and supportive people who want to learn from me. You might wonder what I share when I teach and write. Well, that’s a secret. I don’t mean the kind of secret that you keep inside and don’t tell anyone. I mean the kind of secret that you tell everyone but is so subtle that almost no one has any idea what you’re talking about. In fact, my secret was entirely mine alone, with the single exception of a few people who saw what I saw a few years ago.
The morning I met Destiny, I didn’t feel like writing, so I grabbed a book and walked to the park. It was the middle of autumn and the sky over Philadelphia was rich dark gray. It looked cold outside through the window, but the air was warmer than it looked and smelled like earth. I walked out the door and headed toward Washington Park with my book under my arm. I was reading a novel called Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. I’d seen the movie, on a plane actually, and something about the narration in the film made me think it must be a good novel. It is. For reasons unknown to me, I was thinking about love as I walked along the brick sidewalk. That’s the thing with us sensitive types; we’re always thinking about something and seldom know why.
Somewhere inside us, we’re all looking for love, real love, deep love, complete love. Ultimately that means we’re all looking for total recognition. We want to be seen, accepted, and appreciated all the way through every layer of our being. We want a love so penetrating that it has the power to see even the parts of us that we’ve been hiding from. The parts we’re afraid to look at. The parts that we are sure disqualify us from being acceptable. To whom? Them, whoever they are. We are afraid that our deepest fears are true – we don’t belong here because we’re not good enough. But if just one person could see us all the way to the bottom, even into our darkest corners and still embrace us, that would prove we’re OK. I was thinking about how important it is to be deeply seen because until we are, we aren’t totally here. For us to be fully alive, we must be seen. Just ask yourself, if something exists but can never be seen, does it really exist? What if it can’t be seen at all, by anyone, ever? Does something that can never be perceived or experienced by anyone ever really exist?
Before I dedicated myself to spiritual life, I had studied physics as an undergraduate, and I was aware of the strange quantum phenomenon that seemed to reveal that reality isn’t sitting out there waiting to be perceived by whoever comes along. Reality comes into being when it is seen. Before that, it’s just a field of possibility. Once seen, once an observer of some kind perceives just one of those possibilities, all the other possibilities disappear and the one that was witnessed becomes reality.
As I walked along Pine Street, I was barely aware of the traffic around me. I had my headphones on, and I was listening to that wistful kind of music that enhances and expands my pensive moods. There are unseen potentials waiting to be brought into reality all around us. They are waiting for the magical gaze of a loving eye to manifest them, but until the seeing occurs, existence is only a potential. Reality isn’t out there. It doesn’t exist independent of the experience of it. Reality is an emergence that comes into existence as it is perceived, felt, and most of all, loved. We ourselves only come into existence as we are perceived, felt, and loved.
Three years prior to meeting Destiny, a series of chance encounters had led to a spiritual adventure that ended up revealing the deeper dimensions of myself. When those dimensions were seen, they came to life for me too. But it had been three years, and I hadn’t heard from or seen any of the people from that time again. I was beginning to relate to the whole affair as a dream. Maybe I would have forgotten it all and lost contact with that deeper part of myself if I hadn’t been in the park that day and met Destiny.
As I walked across the street and through the gate into the park, I felt happy. The air and the sky had expanded my mood. I walked past a small girl and her mother. She was about four years old and had a red shovel in her hand. She had a coat on with fur around the collar, and I could see the edges of a yellow dress sticking out from beneath her brown coat. As I approached the two of them, the little girl looked straight at me and waved her shovel like a flag. Her gaze was very strange, sort of all-knowing and otherworldly. I didn’t think about it then, but as I look back on it now, I can see that was the first sign that something unusual was going on. She stared into my eyes with so much intensity that it made me nervous, so I spoke to break the tension.
“Hello, sweetheart,” I said. Her mother looked at me and smiled, pleased that her daughter had received positive attention.
“Hi!” she shouted with a little jump. She seemed very excited to interact. I had expected her to sound different somehow, but she sounded exactly like a little girl should, high pitched tone and full of excitement. “Hi!” she shouted again louder with an even higher jump.
I stopped and fell to one knee to match her height. “You’re a very happy girl,” I said, wondering what she would say next.
“Hi!” she said again, this time in a loud happy shriek that was accompanied by a massive leap into the air.
I looked up toward her mother. “Is she always this happy?” Her mother shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ve never seen her this happy to meet someone before. I hope it’s OK?”
“Sure, I’m flattered,” I answered and then looked back toward the little girl and added, “Thank you for making my day.”
“I will see you again,” she said cheerfully. I couldn’t tell if she was asking me or telling me, but I responded as if she was telling me.
“I look forward to it.”
“Bye, bye. You need to go now,” she said, waving her shovel.
I waved to the little girl and then to her mother. “Have a nice day,” I said as I walked away. I looked back after taking about ten steps and saw that the little girl was still watching me. Her mother was looking into her phone screen.
I turned and walked the rest of the way to the fountain in the center of the park. There were a few empty benches, and I chose one that was in the sun and sat down. I opened my book, but before I started reading, I took a moment just to inhale the scene. There were a few people sitting on other benches. The light breeze pushing against the trees periodically made the leaves roar. The sun had appeared in the sky and was bright, but its warmth was too weak to warm the air much. A group of small children tied together like a chain gang were being led by their teacher through the center of the park.
I put my head down to focus on my reading, but before I had a chance to read even a single word, I noticed a pair of silver sneakers walking by in front of me. Without moving my head, I looked through the top of my eyes over the edge of my open book. The sneakers walked past again in the other direction. I thought they were silver sneakers, but they were blue and held together with silver duct tape. I tried to ignore them and start reading, but when they walked past a third time, I had to look up and see who was pacing in front of me.
Her eyes were striking; light brown teardrops with long tails. Against her dark chocolate-colored skin, they looked like two comets on a collision course that would crash on the bridge of her small, slightly upturned nose. For a few moments, her eyes were the only thing I noticed, but gradually I began to see that although she was dark-skinned, she did not look African. I imagined her heritage might have been from an island like Jamaica. She was wearing a winter jacket. It was the puffy kind, and it was silver, and it was also held together with duct tape, probably from the same role. Under her arm, she held a large plastic water bottle. She was clearly homeless, but perhaps only recently because there appeared to be a professional woman just below the surface. She saw me look up at her and she returned my gaze. She stared uncomfortably into my eyes as she continued to pace back and forth.
“Hello,” I said at last. She said nothing. She simply continued to pace and stare. “Can I help you?” This time she walked over to the bench next to mine and sat down. She crossed her right leg over her left and took a long sip through the straw that was sticking out of her water bottle. After drinking, she turned to stare at me again. I didn’t address her that time. I just turned toward my book. If she won’t talk, I decided, I would read.
Of course, I couldn’t read. I could feel her staring at me from the bench where she sat. I glanced over, and there she was with big, wild eyes staring right at me. This time I held her gaze. She was beautiful. Her eyes had a dreamy, faraway look that made me wonder what she had been through to end up homeless.
“Really,” I said, starting to feel concerned for her. “Can I help you? Do you need money? Where’d you sleep last night?”
She just looked at me. Then she stood up and walked in front of me again. She paced back and forth twice more, then stopped right in front of me and spoke for the first time.
“What’s that?” she said. Her voice was lovely, soft, and high-pitched. I don’t think I noticed at the time, but thinking back on it, her voice was eerily like the little girl with the shovel. Something about the way she pronounced her words told me she was educated.
“What?” I said.
“That,” she said, gesturing with a nod of her head behind me. “That hundred-foot-high cosmic man behind you. What’s that?”
“Oh my god! You can see that?”
“Yes, I can see it. That’s why I asked. What is it? What is it?”
“That’s my celestial self. It’s been right there behind me for three years. It’s there when I wake up in the morning. It’s there when I fall asleep at night. And it follows me everywhere I go all day long. It’s been there for three years, but no one else has ever seen it except you. You’re the first person who has ever mentioned it.”
That is my secret, by the way, the one I mentioned earlier. I knew who I was. I knew my celestial self. And this homeless woman was the first person besides me to ever see it. Well, the first one besides everyone who was with me when it first appeared, but I’ve already told you that I haven’t seen them since.
It took a moment for me to catch up to what I had just said. When I had spoken the words, they had fallen mindlessly out of my mouth. I hardly knew what I was saying. In fact, initially, I thought I was just thinking to myself, but then I felt my mouth moving and realized I was speaking. I had given up even wondering when someone might see the cosmic being behind me, and to be totally frank, I had hardly noticed him myself for almost a year. He’d become part of the unseen background of my life. I had all but forgotten he even existed. It was only on those rare occasions when I saw him in a mirror or reflected in a puddle that I remembered he was there. But now someone else saw him too. I had to find out why. Something was happening. Something big. Kosmos, the name I used for my celestial self, suddenly felt real, more real than he ever had before.
Regaining a little composure, I spoke again. “Look, I’m sorry. You caught me off guard. I didn’t think anyone could see him.”
“What is it?” She was still staring at him beyond me, up over my head.
“It’s a long story. I live just a few blocks from here. If you come back with me, I’ll tell you everything.” For some reason, I didn’t want to explain everything in this open public space. I didn’t really want to talk about him at all. Inviting her to my apartment was partly just a way to buy some time. A big part of me hoped she would decline and we would just part ways.
She looked away, thinking about my suggestion. I could tell she was slightly nervous.
“I know it’s weird to go to some stranger’s house, but honestly, can you imagine what it’s like to have something like this walking behind you for three years when no one else can see it? And then, out of nowhere, someone finally does? I’ll give you something to eat. You can take a shower if you like. I want to tell you the story. I want to talk to someone who can see it… ah… him. OK?” I was getting over my hesitation. The full impact of having someone else see my celestial self was dawning on me. I really did want to tell her everything.
“Yeah, I’ll go. If you try anything, I’m pretty sure I can kick your ass anyway.” I looked at her and noted that although she was smaller than me, there was something about the look in her eyes that told me she probably could kick my ass.
“Ok, fair enough. We can go then… by the way, my name’s Brian, what’s yours?”
“Really?” I asked, trying to hide my surprise.
“Is that the name you got from your mom? Or did you change it yourself?”
“It’s the only name I’ve ever had.”
I got up and started walking toward the gate. Thoughts and memories were pouring through my head. It was too much to think about all at once. I felt desperate to get home with this woman and figure out what was going on. Her name, Destiny, had hit me like a ton of bricks. All the women from three years ago had similar names. They were all named after spiritual qualities. When this woman said her name was Destiny, my head swirled.
I walked ahead, she followed, and the little girl with the red shovel said “Hi” as we walked past. She had a huge smile on her face, and I swear I saw her give me a thumbs up.
Read the full story here.