By Tom Carroll
September 16, 2012
This is a continuation of a series titled: Hearing Voices. Chapter One is here. This recounting of personal experiences spans twenty years, give or take. All that I’ve recounted happened as written with only the expected concessions extracted by time as it affects memory.
The Same Four men… a Greek Orthodox priest, two Jewish guys who had been with the Rabbi’s group on the prayer floor, and the forth, a tall American who always wore a vest and tan fedora. Following events on the evening of Yom Kippur we met these men – continued to meet them – separately and only in passing.
Central – Downtown Jerusalem is not a very large area and the Old City – itself contained behind its ancient, high walls is even smaller. Such that, seeing someone repeatedly in the course of a day or a week would not be unexpected. But there came a time when intuition stepped up, overriding logic. A moment came when I realized that pure chance or simple coincidence had been exceeded. It became evident that our repeated meetings were the product of more than chance. The feeling of purposeful connection was strengthened with each encounter. Walking the streets, going about or individual business or just enjoying the day, then turning a corner… there one of them would be. Our eyes would lock for a moment as if to say, “You again… what is this?” Maybe it was imputed meaning – no more than people looking for patterns and ascribing meaning in an effort to claim purpose. But it didn’t feel that way.
After the events on the eve of Kippur , I felt the shift – no longer wholly in one world and aware of but not yet comprehending another. The truth is that The Voice had spoken before. The Voice… or a voice. Both carried an unmistakable authority but unlike this latest encounter, the Person who spoke the first time had not been angry. Even thought the message was not one of displeasure and correction, the first time I had heard that Voice my life had changed.
I had been running a short line railroad back home in Oregon and trying to arrange financing to buy it out of receivership. In the end I lost the deal to a group with more money. With my big plan and job gone it was time for a break so I drove South. A long way South through Idaho and Utah, out across the southwest to Texas. Leaving my car on the US side of the border at Brownsville, I bought a one way ticket on the express, the fast bus through Mexico’s northern desert to the mountain town of Tamazunchale and then to the east, to the Tampico and South again.
At some point the fast bus gave out and I transferred to a local line. It was classic Mexico. Smiling farmers, wives and children, standing room only and several chickens, all rocking along down the coast on a rough highway. The ride came to an end in a place called Nautla. The small village’s one motel was a row of cramped, hot cement cubicles with screen-less windows and no fans. Forget air conditioning. Thanking the owner for his time, I had dropped my bag by the road out front and stood wondering what to do next when a car braked to a stop in front of me. It was a family, Mom, two kids and Dad, who leaned across from the driver’s side to ask if I needed a ride. My traveler’s intuition gave me a good tingle. Squeezing into the back with the kids I was immediately pressed with questions from everyone. It’s surprising what can be communicated between people who do not speak the same language. Mexicans and American, we’ve all picked up fragments. The truth is people all around the world have the same basic needs and curiosities. Combine this with the right gestures, smiles and good will, and it can work. I was American – that was obvious. My new friends had a “casita en la playa,” a small house on the beach and had come down from their main house in Pachucca, near Mexico City, for a vacation.
“Would you like to come with us for something to drink?” they managed to get across.
“Si, gracious” I replied. It sounded great to me. Their house was on the beach but it was not a casita. Instead, turning off the highway we wound our way down a long driveway, stopping before a casa grande. Set back from the road and hidden by a forest of palms and tropical plantings, the car pulled up in front of a beautiful home. It was low and long with a central kitchen opening to an outside cooking and laundry area in front The back side was reserved for huge windows off the living and dining rooms, framing a view of more palms and the Caribbean surf. A wing of bedrooms also ran paralleled to the beach. Long windows with no glass but good screens lined the side walls of each room. The soft moan of ocean breezes sung through wide louvered, mahogany shutters – cool and clean.
“Would I like to stay with them” they were asking? I knew the answer to this one. What else could I say? I mean really… the only thing I could say in Spanish and know I had it right was, “Si, Gracious!” Overstepping my abilities I added “Quanto denaro?” How much was this going to cost? I tried to ask. This only got me frowns. They waved their hands as if waving my dollars away and with that classic phrase, “Amigo, me casa e’ su casa” Hector let me know that I was welcome with nothing expected in return. I was to be their guest. There would be no more talk of money. I thanked them and shut up. The funny thing about is was that I’d known all along that this was how it would end up. I guess that what we call intuition. It was as if I’d felt myself falling in their direction from the moment pulled over to pick me up. Falling – but falling in the right direction. This was paradise, and I’d landed on my soft end, right in the middle of it.
We were joined by at least two other groups – their extended family including an old but spry man – the clan’s great grandfather and his wife, a woman of indeterminate age with light dancing in her eyes. One look at this woman was all I needed to assure me this I was in good company. No harm would come to a guest in this house.
An Indian woman tended the home, cooked for them and watched cared when they were away. In the morning wonderful aromas woke us. Beginning with coffee, this first feast of the day included fried plantains, eggs, toast, pork – in any one of its morning incarnations – and always, a bottomless pot of black beans. After breakfast it was off to town to shop for dinner. Then back to see what our short and very round cook had prepared for lunch. Come evenings, after a dinner that put breakfast and lunch in their place, all the women, little girls and grandma wanted to dance. Whether too full or just shy, Hector and the other men in the family all begged off so I earned my keep – besides, I had to do something to work off all that food. Five women – one long cassette full of mariachi tunes – I did the best I could until from the effort and tropical humidity I was dripping and exhausted.
During the two weeks I stayed there was plenty of time to be alone. I swam and soaked in the sun. I was also praying. I needed to make sense of my situation and decide what to do next. So I walked a lot, my lips moving silently, conforming to expressions of confusion, my hopes and fears. It was on one of these walks, quite some way from the house that it happened. Out of nowhere and seemingly from above, a voice spoke. “Go home and get a sales job.” The voice was calm but powerful, and authoritative. I remember staggering around in a small uneven circle, as if stunned by a blow to the head.
There was nothing “Spiritual” about it – nothing that sounded religious. And, it was not a suggestion. Just – “Go home and get a job! Quite specifically, a job selling something. My rational parts – all available left brain circuits were fact checking like crazy, trying to figure out what had just happened. But another part of me already seemed knew who had spoken or at least on who’s authority. But… really? Yes – Really! It’s a funny thing how we pray to God then affect such surprise when we get an answer. I’d just gotten mine. Just like that. No fancy language or anything. Just, “Go home and get a sales job.” Coming to grips with what had happened, after a few moments I turned around and headed back the way I had come – back toward the house, never having felt more confident of what I would do next. Walking south to get back to the beach house but beyond what the eye could see, I was an arrow pointed north, already released from the bow, shooting straight for home.
For years I had been determined to work for myself – one entrepreneurial adventure after another – all made money but none had made me wealthy. So when I lost the bidding for the railroad, I had little savings left and no more ideas. Now, on the advice of a disembodied voice, I reversed directions, changing the course of my life. Arriving home in Oregon, I heard about an opening with a small-time, small town telephone book publisher that I’d never known existed. It turned out that during the last few weeks all their sales staff had quit for a variety of reasons. I was hired on the spot and given almost every account. These were renewals – customers from the previous year. What this meant was that all I had to do was to walk into business after business and sign them up again. Over the next several years my life stabilized. Having listened to the instruction of the Voice, I had never been freer.
Working quickly, I was able to finishing sales for the books ahead of schedule, carving out blocks of time for other things. I began to travel in these “off” months. And that was how I came to called, a Man of God… in Singapore. Man of God? I knew better. Fortunately, I would hear that Voice again, as it was shaping a message and a messenger. I’m sure that there are men and women of God. But what does a Woman of God look like? What does a Man of God do? My understanding would change radically as time went by.
And this, I see now, was what The Voice intended all along.
To be continued.