B-- piled up in an overstuffed chair in the small den of his home in an older part of Fayetteville. Born 1951, Texas.
My first awareness of the 60s was underground radio 1968, music of great rock n rollers: Hendrix, The Doors, The Band, It’s a Beautiful Day, and on and on, Beatles -- midnight to six in the morning. I stayed up late to listen to it. It was my introduction to anything alternative. I was in high school. It made me aware that there was life out there beyond the Church of Christ and the South, beyond the swimming pool. My time was mostly consumed by swimming team and athletic training, which was sometimes three times a day, so my time was filled with swimming, school, homework, and sleep.
I had always had a crew cut. In ‘68, I started to let my hair grow. I flipped over to the other extreme, quit going to church, started listening to rock and roll. My mother blames me for her nervous breakdown. I was offered a partial athletic scholarship to the University of Texas, but I was not ready to go to college. I got into the job market. Pasadena is an industrial town, petroleum, and there were easy jobs. I was making good money for a 17-yr-old, paying for a car, driving 2000 miles a month for fun. It was Toyota -- ‘69 model, one of the first in the country. I was in hog heaven in a way, had a girlfriend, new car, and I started buying music.
I had quit watching television in the 10th grade. The rest of the family would sit around in the evenings, watching TV, and I would go out and lie on a blanket in the backyard and watch the stars. That’s when I started noticing satellites going over. Then one night one started making right angle turns in the sky and you know it wasn’t a satellite. I don’t know what it was. My whole family saw this thing. It wasn’t one of those deals where it went into the shadow of the earth because it was moving toward the sun. I have no other experience with UFOs. But we all saw it. We weren’t hallucinating.
In ’70 I discovered a book by a writer named Jess Stern, called Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation. I bought it a convenience store across the street from this business where I worked and started doing yoga. I read the whole book and started doing yoga. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Once I got off into doing yoga, I began to experiment with changing diet, doing different kinds of exercises, messed around a little with martial arts, swam periodically just to keep in touch with how the water feels and how the stroke feels, and that set me on a new course of an inner path. Instead of looking for the answers outside of me, I began to look for a peace of soul on the inside of me. It made my parents really wonder about me. I was considered the black sheep of the family for many years.
I was having metaphysical experiences. I was getting real high. After several months of doing very intense yoga, I was having these experiences where I was very aware of being in my body but I didn’t know where I was, who I was -- it was totally mind blowing. I was afraid someone would find me and ask me who I was and I wouldn’t be able to tell them. Those experiences would only last about five minutes and then I would regain my normal consciousness.
I never had any big ambition. In the 30 years I’ve been out of high school, I’ve not done many things more than two years. Any more, it’s just that I want to be present in my moment. I want to be a decent dad to my kids. That’s the first long-term thing that I took on, when D-- and I got pregnant in ‘84 and I decided this is what I’m going to do. I’m going be a dad, regardless of what else I do. I’ve had a variety of jobs and small businesses.
I had visions when I was 15 -- about the time I quit watching television. I had a vision that we live on the electron of an atom. Our solar system is an atom, and we live inside some organ or tissue of a molecule, a cell, organic, in the body of God, which I call Fred, to be familiar. As the years went by, especially once I got into these other metaphysical experiences, this idea began to more clearly evolve for me. As it evolved, I ran into a most remarkable book that described the universe as organic. It’s a psychic channeling that came through an Iowa dentist in 1879, or something like that. It’s still in print, as a matter of fact. It fit in with my own ideas. It described the movement of this electron on this atom of this molecule -- it made me think, gosh, we’re in the bloodstream. Then that film came along, “Fantastic Voyage,” which was originally an Isaac Asimov book, and these ideas came together that wow, what if we’re part of chlorophyll, and we’ve come into the body through the mouth of the cow, we’re in the digestive tract, or we’re in the blood, maybe we’re hemoglobin carrying oxygen and the brain will give off oxygen and that will be part of thought, and that will be God realization. There are all kinds of interesting ideas about the spirituality of biology, or the biology of spirit. I’ve carried that idea most of life now, that everything is organic. The possibilities then exist that within this human body there are infinite worlds, and I should take care of it because I may be God for all the beings that are in there looking up at me like I’m looking up at Fred. If infinity is real, then everyone is right in the middle.
I had met P---- in ‘75 -- it was like he was my brother, and we still feel that way. We came to Arkansas on a visit and had an immediate affinity for the land. I found out later my grandmother had been raised in West Fork. I decided right then that I wanted to live here. I was introduced to T-- who was the yoga lady, and I asked if I could hang out, and she said please come. I had done a little yoga teaching at a YMCA in Texas. My philosophy was a sound mind in a sound body. I embraced the whole philosophy of non-violence, turn the other cheek. I held onto the golden rule, the ideas of Jesus and Ghandi, that non-violence is the best example.
When the race riots were going on in the 60s, the Houston police basically said “niggers don’t show your face on the street, because we’ll machine gun you.” They shot some guy who came in from Chicago to lead a demonstration, and he was there a couple of days and was standing on the front steps of a church and a sniper on the roof of a building across the street shot him down. That was how the Houston police dealt with the blacks.
I would have protested the war. I had a sense about it. My religion taught me that I shouldn’t kill, and I would have done any amount of brown-nosing, office work, driving, you name it -- to avoid having to carry a rifle to go kill or be killed. I know I could have gotten away with it, being a conscientious objector, on religious grounds. I would have stuck to my convictions. I was very fortunate that I was in the lottery and my number came up so high that I was never drafted. I was 1-A for three years with no student deferment. It was scary. But I never burned my draft card; I was too afraid. I still have a lot of respect for authority. I didn’t have respect for the Nixon administration, but I respected him as a man, and after all he was the president of the United States. I don’t necessarily like every thing that Bill Clinton does but he’s the president and I feel a certain respect -- and at least, he’s getting laid. I definitely respect him for that.
I feel like I’m guided along by the fates. I’m one of those drivers who will be driving along and have a sense that just over the next hill there’s something, so I’ll slow way down, and sure enough, I top the hill and somebody will be stopped, or somebody turning out of a driveway -- I pick up on that stuff. I cultivate that ability through meditation. Knowing that there is an awareness that reaches beyond the five senses and that it comes in stillness and just being aware. I don’t always know how I know.
Like The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle’s book -- there’s a character in there named Schmindrik, and he fashions himself after Merlin the magician. Schmindrik is this wannabe who tries in vain to make things happen. Anytime any of his comrades are in danger, there’s this bolt and it knocks him on his butt, knocks him out. He gets up and everything is ok, and he has no recall of anything happening, except everybody is ok and safe, and they all think he’s a wonderful wizard, but he never witnesses it because it always knocks him out. It’s a great image. That magic happens around us not because we can do it but perhaps because we need it. That’s kind of the way I feel about this ability. I’ve been a kind of counterculture person, not because I wanted to be, but just because these were my needs.
In ‘73 and ‘74, I worked around the biggest health food store in Houston, called Ye Seekers Horizon, run by a guy and his wife. He used a pendulum to guide his business decision making. There were all these great groovy wonderful marvelous people learning to do yoga there – meditation, tai chi – and eat well. We had positive visions of ourselves and our future. We knew that someday we’d have to get our little skinny asses out of the city and back to the land. There were books like the First Time Farmers Guide, The Farm, bunches of great stuff. We knew there would be place for us, and we had visions of moving out to the country in east Texas-- a bunch of us going en masse and starting our own little community, growing our own food, raising children to be close to the earth, all this wonderful, idyllic stuff.
But then by ‘77 when this still hadn’t happened and we wondered if it ever would, I moved to Tyler, which was closer to east Texas and away from Houston. I had a dream in Tyler that I was sitting on a football bench, about 5000 feet up, looking down at this beautiful dark green -- so green it almost looked blue -- forest, through which ran this really beautiful super blue-green river -- and I was so thrilled by this beautiful picture below me ... I leaned over to get a closer look, and when I did, the bench tilted, and I slid off the bench and fell, and of course, I’ve long had the ability to stop falling in dreams, because I used to get the shit scared out of me several times a year in falling dreams, and I would end up crying and sweating in my room, and I learned to stop myself with will power. So I landed, rather than crashed, and then later, when I got to the Ozarks, I realized that where I’d fallen in my dreams was the Buffalo River. So here I am.
Then I realized too that this is the kind of country that would have been best for that little group of people in Houston. I thought maybe I could eventually bring all those people up here to these beautiful woods and rivers -- but they’re running businesses in Houston. Yuppies. Beautiful yuppies. I don’t envy them.
Have you ever wondered what would be the best thing to do if we had some kind of economic apocalypse in this country? Most people think, let’s run away to the woods. I don’t. I think, let’s stick tight to this town where all our buddies are, because it will be safer to stick together than to run off in a thousand different directions, split up, be easy prey for the predators, if it ever comes to that. Stay close to town -- and that’s not what people will expect to do. We’re walking distance to large open fields that haven’t been covered with apartment buildings and parking lots. Water is a problem, but we’re walking distance to the White River.
I think part of my vision is, what if it’s never violent? What if it’s totally peaceful, what if something snaps in everyone’s brain and all tendency toward violence is gone from them. What is the rapture, the Biblical thing? It’s from the Latin “rapt” -- to seize -- the word rape comes from the same word, as does raptor the bird. They’re all the same word. That seizing of the soul may be a seizing of the body, where some event occurs -- and let me say, here is where the metaphysical comes in -- an electromagnetic change on this planet, a change in the sun, or something from space -- suddenly -- and as one old man described this to me, someone who knows that word -- said that everyone just lies down and goes to sleep -- that’s what the rapture is. It may not be painful. It may be that a small percentage of us would not go totally to sleep.
There is a certain frustration with the status quo, with the way things are going on this planet, and to me it’s funny -- now, if they kill me, they make me stronger. I do not listen to radio, watch TV, I do not read newspapers. I pay no attention to the news. I cannot tell you what the stock market has done since it went over 4800. I don’t care any more. I’ve totally let go of all that. I live in my own world. I make my own news. I catch glimpses and pieces of this and that, and most of it is violent, absurd, empirical.
I used to write a column poking fun at corporations and bureaucracies, my favorite targets. Now, what little of that kind of thing I do is pointed at corporate consumerism. I mean, the national religion is consumerism. When I read back on material I wrote in the 80s, the very first one I wrote is still probably the best of all -- “Are you illiterate? Send for a free, one dollar brochure.” It’s like, corporate haiku. Yes, I dream of getting published. I mean, if I do have a dream, it’s that someone will discover this material and help me get rich. I had a major literary agent in New York in the late 80s show my work for a year, and she couldn’t get anybody to buy it. Now, it’s out there on the Internet.
If a man doesn’t have a good sense of himself, then he’s not going to get a good sense of that woman who’s the mother of his children. It’s really difficult sometimes to come to peace with my own expectations and desires, and to keep coming back in to me, asking who am I, what am I doing, what did I decide to do -- I wanted to be not only the good dad, but it means also the good husband. Whatever that means. Here’s the key word: sacrifice. There’s this image that a sacrifice is like being nailed to a stick, when in reality, the word means ‘work made holy.’ (Sacre: sacred; and fice, is from the Latin, ficare, which means, work or to work.) So, a work made holy comes back around to, what is it I can do that serves the greater good and not me personally, selfishly.
In the me-generation, a lot of people decided to go out there and get what they could for themselves. I did that early, and I retreated hard from it. In fact, I missed the meat crisis because I didn’t eat meat, and I missed the gasoline crisis because I didn’t buy much gas, and the real estate land prices and oil prices [crises] -- I missed all those because I wasn’t buying or selling any of that stuff. I was just living, on my own, for myself, not having a committed relationship, and finding out who I am and what are my capabilities -- what do I want to do.
I feel a great sense of satisfaction in being a dad and partners with D--. She’s absolutely the best at what she does. I’m real proud of her. And I can support her by helping be the handyman here, with the many skills I have. I learned to do carpentry, plumbing, electrical stuff, small engine repairs, I do the cars, the roof, the foundation, I do my own human body. I even do my own hair. I don’t do my own teeth, though. I don’t have the right bit for my Black and Decker. With all these skills I can help make the yoga center possible, because we don’t have to spend lots of money for maintenance and upkeep. I do all that and that’s part of my contribution to D--’s business and the family.
I think there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on men to have the ‘right woman.’ I mean, it’s one of those weird ironies. All on television and Madison Avenue tells you that the woman you want has this really great shape, you know, nice boobs and this really beautiful body. But then, when she’s pregnant, she doesn’t fit that mold anymore, you know -- her butt’s going to spread, and her belly is going to drop after she’s a mom -- so are her boobs. And then she’s not going to look like that model anymore and that disappoints men, because we’re not taught that this is going to change when the woman has children. Guys need some education.
I think the 60s generation was a wake-up call to the military-industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned us about in ‘53 -- and we didn’t get it. It took the Vietnam war and a whole other consciousness. I think it was the music more than anything that changed the generation’s consciousness. “There’s something happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear..” My kids listen to that, too. Somehow we decided it wasn’t necessary for all our brothers to go to Vietnam and die.
It seems like we’re all part of a change, and we’re just swept along by it, like flotsam in a wave is pushed toward shore. It’s some greater thing than we. I don’t know why I’ve been so different all my life, but I have been. It wasn’t because of the 60s. The music of the 60s certainly changed me, but here’s this interesting thought. I got so totally into the music that I quit listening to the news and watching television. I love the music. That’s all I listened to and ignored the rest of it because I was so thrilled by the music. We’d buy the LPs, read the words as we listened, and smoke dope. Cool, man. So what was happening to us? It seems as if something got lost there, a tendency away from the desire to go to war.
I have a greater sense of well, that’s cool, let’s just let it be, peace, dude, you know. I don’t want to argue over any point, anything -- recycle, alternative medicine -- let’s look at it first. Seems like that once upon a time we were truly opinionated and it was easy to sway public opinion against the Nazis. Everybody hated the Nazis. But then, in the 60s and 70s, we became a more global people and people from all over the world were being all over the world. I mean, the University of Houston was an incredible school. There were kids from every continent. It was hard to sit next to your Chinese friend -- your Asian friend -- and support the war in southeast Asia, where her brother would be shot in the name of democracy and oil. Somewhere, a conscience got turned on. We began to get a sense of it, that it’s not right to go kill those people because they’re different. What are they protecting? Their homes. What are we protecting? Some ideal called democracy -- and capitalism. Ambrose Spear said: Christianity is a good idea. Too bad nobody practices it. Maybe it was George Bernard Shaw. I forget.
It seems that the technology of war is what made the Gulf War so desirable. Because there’s this idea that with computers and technology, I can remain removed from it, like it’s a video game, like the enemy is just a dot. This device shows me a target. Not a human being. Not a father, brother. Not a man with feelings or a life of his own, who’s only struggling to feed his children and love his wife, and he’s protecting his home. He’s just a target on a computer monitor and I can go, boom, and, target eradicated, heh heh heh, I hit the target. Why the hell don’t we just have more video games for these guys, instead of sending them over there?
Why do we seek this blood sport? What is that we really want? I think the 60s began to show us that there’s an end to this ancient desire to kill and to risk being killed, and that’s another way of getting along. It’s almost like they are the symptoms of an evolution of some kind in our consciousness.