Subject: You’re only as free as you life (the power of story)
I am literally cursed with the power of Story. When I look at something or someone, I cannot see the surface like other people see things. I see the story of the thing itself leaking out all over. For me the World is full of Wonder, but also full of Horror, since the curse of Story forces me to see both sides of everything. Most of the time this is a terrible curse, but it’s not all bad and sometimes I learn things. All the devils I meet are angels in disguise, and sometimes darkness can show you the light. Sometimes the story you expect is not the story you get. Sometimes you tell the story, but sometimes the story tells itself.
That happened to me today when I went to the television station to film a little segment on the World Naked Bike Ride. Most of the time I don’t repeat the stories the Universe tells me, but I think this one is worth repeating. When I got to the station all the doors were locked, and nobody answered the buzzer. I thought I had made a mistake, and I checked the page I had printed with all the information and found that I was in the right place at the right time. So I called the lady I was supposed to meet and she said she would send someone out to get me.
As we hung up, I got that tingle at the base of my skull that lets me know that Something is about to Happen; That things are not as they seem in this place. I waited a few minutes more and a feeling of urgency came upon me. That feeling like I should leave; That I should make an excuse and just go. But that wasn’t the story I really wanted to hear, so I waited some more.
The old black security guard came out of a door a good distance away from me, and he walked towards me in an unhurried manner. As I watched him, his story leaked out of him and spread out along the pavement behind him. It spread out in front of him, it spread out along the wall near him, and it reflected off the low concrete ceiling of the parking garage. Most of his story was easy to read – the same story as billions of other people – but some of it was colorful and some of it was dark. As he got closer, his story entangled with mine and I could feel his story now instead of just seeing it at a distance. I knew him instantly. Not personally, for I am sure I had never seen him before, but I knew his archetype. I knew what kind of man he Was and Is and Will be: Gentle and kind and wise. Not an ordinary old man at all, but a great sage. Where most people would only see an old security guard holding out for retirement, I felt a man of power; a man of experience and great wisdom.
He approached me and saw my suit, then he looked down at my feet and noted that I wasn’t wearing any shoes. Rather than remark on something unremarkable, he instead made a comment about the sudden rainstorm that was pouring just outside the garage door. He opened the inner door with his key card and led me in. As we walked along the hall, we made the usual verbal dance of humanity: Talking without saying anything of any meaning. As we walked, however, I knew that he was about to teach me something – for no great sage such as this can go for long without giving a subtle lesson with a deep and profound meaning. Most sages do this very casually and if you aren’t paying great attention you will miss it or pass it off as just any other part of the meaningless meat flapping noises that most people make with their mouths.
It was a longer walk than I thought, but He knew the building, and so picked His own timing. As we passed another security door he gestured down at my feet and said, “That’s great. I wish I could do that.”
I replied, “I finally gave them up, and my life is a lot better for it.”
“OH, Yes!” he exclaims. “Most people just don’t understand. They don’t understand at all. I would love that.” As he said it, his walk changed slightly as he felt his own feet in his shoes. I would not have noticed it if all my senses weren’t on fire waiting for the Lesson. His walk became a little more pinched; a little more tired; a little more pained.
He didn’t say anything else, so after a few more steps I said, “I suppose it’s unusual to some people to wear a suit with no shoes, but to me it makes perfect sense.” After I said it, I realized that it sounded small and weak and Unimportant, but it was the right thing to say, because it was the Trigger.
As he placed his hand on the last door to the studio, he paused slightly and turned to look at me. As he turned, his story flashed out and I could see the Divine Guru inside him, and the Guru casually spoke; and when he spoke he said plainly with a little nod, “You’re only as free as you live.”
And then he pulled the door open and broke the spell and he was just an old security guard again. He led me to a chair and told me that someone would be with me shortly. I thanked him and he walked away with those same wincing steps that let me know he was thinking about his feet in his shoes again.
But I had been paying attention, and so I had gotten the lesson. “You’re only as free as you live.”