Orkney Islands shepherd, Botswana medicine man, hermit in Newfoundland, holy man in Tibet
excerpted from IN AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas
After all, what can you expect from one human life, as it goes step by uncertain step, from unknown land to unknown land, ever caught in between a timorous hello and a heart-wrenching goodbye? I suppose that depends upon which dream you signed up for, but once you have eaten of the flesh, so to speak, you must ride it out completely.
I could have been a thousand things. I could have been a shepherd on the Orkney Islands, a fisherman in Norway, fiddler in Ireland, poet in Uganda, medicine man in Botswana, bohemian in Greece, a vintner in Chile, lay-about in Australia, a father with a joyful batch of kids in Argentina, a hermit in Newfoundland, a priest in Papua New Guinea, a hedonist in Hawaii, sadhu in India, a holy man in Tibet. I could have enjoyed being a craftsman or artist anywhere. I could have made hookahs in Kashmir, reed boats in Chad, totem poles in British Columbia, yurts in Mongolia, vodka in St. Petersburg, love in Marseille. I could have been all of these things and more if I did not have to be the one thing I had to be, or chose to be, or was chosen to be.
I came to strike a specific blow, at a certain angle, in the required place, at a determined time.
As it was I lived out those years on the coast of British Columbia, wandering about both aimlessly and with purpose, loving and leaving as I went. I lived at the core of the throbbing heart of the Motherís world, at the precipitous interface between the mythic and the mean, and in the tumbling downpour of the Fatherís matterless mind.
There were so many brilliant souls whom I met and shared moments with along my way. So many of them touched me to the very quick, held me in their arms and eyes, and became a living part of me. It is as sad as thankfully laughable to look back on all the fleeting characters who walked a few strides along my path, and I along theirs, as we granted each other the benediction of our sorrows, and fears, and ecstasies. How we shared, and grew, and parted then, without knowing we were one.
Perhaps it is even harder now to hold them in my heart than it was to hold them in my arms. I see them all off somewhere, faintly, smiling warmly back at me. That is the love and agony of our distance and closeness. They live within me, and I within them. And that is the heart and the reason I came here- to dive in, and descend, and never to worry about resurfacing.
And yet it all seems now like a powerful dream which can be remembered perfectly upon awakening, and then loses its hold slowly throughout the day, until suddenly it is gone and it canít even be recalled, nor remembered that it ever was. As if I look back upon those times with friends and loved ones like the trailer at the end of a movie, as the credits roll, showing brief, touching scenes, and helping the spectator remember the feel of the whole.
At the end of my decade on the coast I could feel one chapter closing in my life and another one about to open up. I walked out and onward with a peaceful sense about me, and didnít hold on, nor sorrow, nor worry, nor cry, as it became so strange and beautiful that I was touched where I had touched. For what is my own but that which I have taken or given to others. That is all I have done on this strange and wild, cold and crazy planet, where I came down to take and give and become all others, and then to rise up, and forget.
I looked back upon those ten years which I could never have imagined living before having moved out from the east. Ten years so powerful and life altering, so full of friendships and revelry, loneliness and confusion, wonder and exploration, spirit and flesh, and a host of experiences and blessed gifts towards which I could only smile and sigh nostalgically as I sat there, perhaps for the last time, on a suburban hill overlooking Vancouver.
In the night the cityís lights took on an overwhelming peaceful and friendly feeling, twinkling gently back at me, as I looked down upon the stage which had given so much joy and agony to me. And I felt then, as I had on Flores Island earlier that summer, and at my shack on the hill a few days before, that these places were saying goodbye to me; that the forums in which my soul had worked, and learned, and grown were now living parts of me, and would always be, and the trials and challenges and dramas for others were to continue on down below, beneath the lights which seemed so soothing and innocuous from above, and so unified and living to me now, and which were letting me go another way, and were smiling at me, a warm, appreciative smile, which seemed to blend and meet with the smile within me, because I had joined in and diffused myself into the whole, and we were now like parting friends who had been through the best and the worst together, had toughed it out, had grown and forgiven, and now genuinely cared and wished the best for each other.
It was a goodbye to a city which had embraced and spat me out as many times as I had done to it. And it was a goodbye to myself, from myself; I was leaving that world and that self which I had been and I was heading towards another, without knowing where that other lay. And I was doing it with the pleasant sadness of good buddies parting and knowing that they wouldnít see each other for a good long while, and so they hold each other closely, and then, releasing each other, and wiping a tear, they turn away to face a new day, having finished their time with the old.
We linger like this in each other, and in the places weíve been and set our hearts into. We join in and are never lost from the earth ever again, nor from each other, though we leave and may never return.
In the end I grew away from the troubles of separative being. After the years of rebellion, condemnation, struggle, and turmoil, I finished with the process by which I would finally melt away like a dwindling chunk of ice which had been smashing about down the river after the break-up, only to then merge peacefully into the warm and gentle flow, losing itself into the whole; I dissolved into the careless realm, and became the calm and yet resolute river myself, carrying all things along with me on the voyage to the endless sea. For I found that nothing ends, that there is no end, though the mind seeks completion in all things. We go on forever, and this is the problem, for our eternity rends the walls of all our paradigms; it is an understanding which we try so hard to avoid because it brings no alleviation to the way in which we require goals and accomplishments so as to position ourselves in the fluid complexity. Yet it brought me to that type of peace which comes from not needing to partake of everything all at once, from not desiring to attain what I did not have, from not needing to be something, or become something else, because there is no need to rush about in eternity, for everything will happen, like it or not, and it will not cease, and when you know this about the world and yourself you begin to require less, and do less, and you sort of ease back, not out of fulfillment, but out of knowing that the all keeps going, no matter what, and therefore the little matters begin to fade away, and only what is eternal remains, calm in the acquiescent acknowledgment that nothing is ever gained nor lost, and the passing show will flicker and fade, as it is wont to do, and the grief and glory will come and go with it, but the Self shall continue forward, softly watching from the other side of dying.
I can say now that I am a living part of the west coast, and it is a part of me; such a part of me that where it ends and I begin I cannot tell. We grew together and in doing so melded ourselves into each other, and even now I can feel the trees and sea and mountains moving in me, not separate from myself, but of myself, and I know that I am also there, out on the isolated, windswept beaches, and amongst the forest and the hills. I feel myself within the land which I grew to love and married my spirit into. And even as I leave, I know we will never be truly apart, for we have woven our separate fabrics into each other.
The comings and goings which I undertook in my person, now occur within me, for this life is the plane in which things appear and disappear, allowing us to learn how to let go.
God is here and now, with me, in me, of me; the one which is both of us, wrapped in the embrace between spirit and flesh, without reason, without assumption, without concern. In, and of.
And so I take leave, for I have crossed the line, so to speak.
Know that a part of me remains somewhere, far-off on the northern, wild coast, forgetting and forgotten, alone and not alone, sane and not sane, alive and not alive, in agony from the impossible beauty of it all, bewildered, rapt, and laughing.
Know that the spirit also crashes onto the shore of life, slowly, ever slowly, tearing down the solid, imprisoned rocks and islands of the soul, grinding the stones into sand, and creating a beach, a place where we can walk upon more easily, where two unique worlds come together, and through our hearts unite into one.
by Jack Haas
Mystical books, visionary art, and fine art photography by Jack Haas