Seeing the Light
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Like most people who live in L.A., the Urban Man believes in cosmic enlightenment. Me, I’ve been enlightened eight or nine times. Usually for about 10 minutes. It doesn’t stick, but I remember each brief ascendance fondly.
One morning, for example, as I saw the sun rise like dusky fire through the clutter of palm trees and telephone wires, I really got an insight, I really saw how the threads of everything led to and from each transient moment. Then, you know, I got a cell call. It’s always like that: one moment I’m an ascended being, and the next I’m checking Facebook or sucking on a diet coke.
To help us gain enlightenment, Angelenos often employ freelance gurus. We find them in those New Age throwaways you get outside of Whole Foods: The articles are gibberish, but the ads are compelling. "Awaken the true self," they say. "Be who you want. Get what you want. Become a warrior of the light."
Always there’s a photograph of a person with a remarkable smile, a kind of "welcome to the universe, we’ve been waiting for you" smile. Sometimes you see galaxies or desert storms pictured behind these people’s heads. One woman promises to heal you at "the DNA cellular level," right over the phone. A fortyish man with an excellent beard asks, "Do you want to be G-d?"
It’s not about the particular method, or the particular words, it’s about the clear way they stare at you from the page. You’d like your own eyes to stare that way. You’d like to feel that same smile of un-ironic understanding play upon your own lips.
Here’s an ad from a young woman who’s not just a certified practitioner of Matrix Energetics, but a Reiki Master, a Massage Therapist, a Tantra Educator, and of course, a fire dancer.
Never have I personally called one of these ads. But a few weeks ago, and I swear, purely by accident, I found myself at a free introductory seminar. Outside it was just another sunny SoCal morning, but inside the windowless hotel meeting room, 15 of us were becoming pure light.
Sure enough, our leader was in a physical and mental condition so perfect, he appeared to glow.
He spoke very rapidly of love and truth and ultimate being. After just five minutes, he held up a hand, palm out, and one woman said she saw waves of energy emanating from it like waves of the sea. Another said that after closing her eyes, the image stayed before her indelibly, like the afterburn of the sun itself. Within an hour, we were all communicating divine love via telepathy.
As always when I achieve enlightenment, I thought, "How easy. How obvious." As if I were all along walking along the base of a mountain, but could not see the peak for the clouds. As if all along I could have made a quantum leap: not some slow evolutionary change, not some tediously acquired skill or hard-won realization or long-studied relationship, but a quantum leap.
"Hey," I thought, "Just like it promised in the ad."
I wanted to share my personal vision with the leader, but suddenly the session was over, and though I chased after him, he hurried toward the front door with his chakra diagrams, late for an appointment to enlighten others. "Sorry," he said, "gotta run."
I’m not complaining and I’m not mocking. I mean, I got my ten minutes. In fact, I dreamed the dream all the way down to the parking garage. But then I couldn’t find my car, and they had one of those payment machines that wouldn’t take my credit card, and I had to go all the way back to the front desk for change, where, I swear, as I waited in line, I tried really hard to continue picturing myself as a being of pure light—but the Urban Man just couldn’t pull it off anymore.
For KCRW, I’m Marc Porter Zasada.
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