The Lone Ranger
Hopefully, readers of this blog will regard the title as semi-facetious and not boorish ego-basking. Being the facilitator of Biodesign was often exhilarating, delightful, humorous, dramatic gratifying and many other positives. It could also be terrifying, aggravating, traumatic, chaotic and many other negatives. Dealing with negative forces sometimes required me to be the chief law enforcement officer. It was the job that I disliked the most, yet paradoxically, may have been one of the most important. Biodesign was not a tree-hugging, rainbow-chasing, retro-hippie class, or a “New-Age,” touchy-feely experience involving lava-lamps, and peacock feathers. Any successes that we experienced were the result of discipline and hard work. The more disciplined and harmonious the class and teacher worked together, the richer the results. This often involved role reversals as students took leadership responsibility and created learning experiences that I would not have been able accomplish by myself.
Although, working, playing, laughing and crying together yielded many close relationships (with both boys and girls), there was a tacit understanding that I could not throw caution to the wind and completely join with them. This was part of the magic and power of the circle. While sitting or standing in a circle, we were as close to equals as we could possibly get. Each student had the potential to add a priceless insight, reflection or unique point of view and transport all of us to a higher level of understanding.
Our mentors helped immensely. John Muir suggested that between every two trees is a doorway to a new world. Henry Thoreau reminded us that every person has an innate need to be spiritually reborn in the sanctity of Nature. Loren Eiseley pointed out that many indigenous people knew the value of going apart from the tribe to seek visions and insights. Emerson reminded us that, “The whole of Nature is but a metaphor of the human mind.” And, e.e.cummings opined, “Every day is a birthday for a creative mind.”
Even so, for the first 15 or so years, there were times when I felt like The Lone Ranger.
Then Christie pulled another magical book out of her bag of tools. The title is, “Kything:”The Art of Spiritual Presence, by Louis M. Savary. Kything is from an old Scottish word, “kythe,” meaning “to make visible. It is a sort of wordless, mind to mind communication in which one person, in essence, almost becomes another, seeing through their eyes and feeling through their senses. Mothers and daughters often communicate this way. Identical twins (especially female) are often adept at it. It was also not unlike the concept of making a “mandorla” or Socrate’s concept of friendship as being two bodies with one soul. I had read this all before, but was shocked to learn that the Scots believed (many still do) that kything can and should be used to communicate with the dead. The possibility that my spirit could have communion (intimate fellowship or rapport) with my mentors was truly one of the most revolutionary ideas I had ever encountered.
John Muir was tricked into attending a séance, something he had no interest in. He admitted, however, that as he left the room a table started mysteriously tapping a leg. I agreed with Muir and had no interest in attending a séance, however, the book opened a whole can of heavenly worms. The students in the class of ’79 ALL believed that they had a soul. They were convinced that after they died their soul would “live” on. Most religions believe in an after-life and I began to wonder if the “spirits” of John Muir, Loren Eiseley and all of our poets, saints and scholars, existed beyond the writing they left behind. Was it possible that they were “aware” of us, and even capable of mysteriously guiding us? While Christie and I enjoyed the book, it was not information that I wanted to share with the students. I could imagine what the school board members would think: “Now he walks and talks with John Muir. Has he finally gone off the deep end?” However, the possibility gave me pause to wonder. Just perhaps, Muir’s “living” spirit really was hovering over us on our Yosemite trips. Maybe Eiseley’s spirit guided us along Grand Canyon Trails. Could this be why we experienced the many miraculous moments that I knew were not of my doing? After that, I found myself consciously thinking (if not talking) with them more on each trip. There is so much we don’t know, perhaps Muir’s Scottish ancestors had it right and we are walking around spiritually ignorant. It could even be hilarious. There were times when I could almost hear John’s rich Scottish brogue saying, “Aye, aye childrrren, yurrr are on a bonny path.” Or even, nae, nae, that path will lead to rrruination. Whether it was real or imaginary, their presence often comforted me and I no longer felt like The Lone Ranger.