I wrote the poem when I was 13 after gazing up at the stars one night from the backyard of our rural home in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It goes like this:
Look up to the heavens
What is there?
Tiny pinpoints of light
But is that all?
Look past the stars
Into the blackness of the void.
What lies there, waiting for man’s first faltering steps
Into the darkness of the universe?
What unknown mysteries lie
Where human eyes cannot see?
In the darkness of the void, perhaps there are things
We should not know, and not find out.
I find it interesting how Wuish—how nothingness oriented—I was back then. I look at my handwriting and try to remember how I felt when I came into the house, sat at my beloved rolltop desk with all the cubbyholes, and wrote those words.
That feeling is lost. But I do remember walking into the living room where my visiting grandmother, Eva H. Lewis, was chatting with my mother and some neighbors. I read my poem to everybody. At first there was absolutely no reaction. They were probably thinking, “What the ____ is this all about?” Can’t blame them.
Then my grandmother spoke up. “I like it!” That’s all she said. And that’s all I needed. I went back to my room feeling affirmed.
My grandmother grew up in New Mexico. She wore dramatic Hopi jewelry, big turquoise-encrusted necklaces and bracelets. She was into organic gardening in the 1950s. She bought one of the first Volkswagens imported into the United States. She was a character, an out-spoken freethinker. And she liked my poem!
Which was about…nothing. Mystery. Darkness. What lies on the other side of light. In short, Wu/Mu.
It’s said that Zen is a journey from “First there is a mountain, then there isn’t, then there is.” The trajectory of my spiritual journey could be similarly (though seemingly inversely) described as “First there is nothing, then there isn’t, then there is.”
Here I am in India at the age of 29, standing in the grounds of the Western Guest House at the headquarters of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (near Beas in the Punjab). Melany and Jim Ramsey are on the right, Jim and Connie Said are on the left. And there I am, lean, beardless, and serious looking in the middle.
I’d gone to the “Dera” because I’d never seen the guru who had initiated me six years prior. I spent two weeks immersing myself in meditation, satsangs (talks), and evening question and answer sessions with Master Charan Singh. It was great. I was devoted. I was sure that I’d found the Truth with a big “t.”
I was still sure in the early 1990s, when the photo for a “sevadar” (volunteer) identification badge was taken. In my 40s now, I’d become hirsute. My crazed expression aptly reflects my spiritual predilection at the time: essentially 100% committed to the Radha Soami Satsang Beas philosophy. I still believed that I had found something I could hold onto for the rest of my life.
And at the age of 57? Now I’m back to nothing. I’m 13 again. I’m still staring into the blackness of the void, except now it is the emptiness of my understanding of my spiritual understanding. When I look past the flickering insubstantial lights of my metaphysical thoughts, emotions, beliefs, hunches, hopes, imaginings, and such, I gaze upon a void.
Which is why I’m embarking on what I call The Wu Project. It’s not serious. Yet also it is. I’ve got few hopes for it. Yet also I’m staking my life on it. I’m still not sure if it is wise to venture into the void. Yet it also seems to me that there is nothing more important to do.
I’m totally confused. Which means, I can only hope, that I’m right on track. As a commenter said recently:
...Woo Woo...(sound of a train a'comin)...Woo Woo...