By Douglas McElheny
It’s so easy to get irked with people about the same faults we have or have had in the past, so easy to forget what we were like when we were young when dealing with young people and the difficulties their immaturity presents. It’s a blind spot that seems to afflict a lot of us when we become adults, this lack of tolerance and understanding for the young, like they should somehow not have the same faults we had at their age. I needed a dream recently to remind me of this. Let me share.
As I’ve pointed out in other posts we have an ‘extended family’ of people we are still involved with in addition to the young adults that reside here with us in our house. One of these young men is homeless, we’ll call him H. for short. H. shows up every once in awhile and wants to stay couple of days, would like to live here actually, but we’re not taking anybody else on at the moment. We have a general guideline that we let people stay two nights per visit, but since H. claimed he had both lost his job and had a fight with his mother we let him stay for four. After those four days both Donny and I, especially Donny, were glad that he left. H. usually keeps to himself when he’s here, but on this particular occasion he was frequently going into Donny’s room and wanting to hang out there. Both Donny and I like our privacy and don’t really want anyone else just hanging out in our rooms so that was bothersome for him as H. couldn’t take the hint. H. was also coming to my room to ask for money and the keys to the moped to go get this or that indulgence for himself, a soda or a snack etc. I’m used to our residents showing that kind of boldness when they want something, but the repeated coming for money on H.’s part got kind of annoying. I think it’s like the saying goes that “the fish had started to stink.” Anyone that we’re not accustomed to being around gets on our nerves eventually. I will say that something seemed to be bothering H., but we never figured out what that was.
A day or so after H. left I had this dream:
I’ve been staying at Billie’s house for a few days, but I’ve decided I’m definitely going to leave tomorrow. I’m pondering how I should spend my last day, and I think it would be nice if Billie and I went somewhere that we could hike. So I go upstairs to find Billie. I tell him my idea and he angrily tells me no he doesn’t want to go hiking. I’m taken aback by this and ask him if this is just because the fish have started to stink. I say “Maybe four days here was too much and two would have been enough. Please be honest if this is the reason so I will know if I ever come to visit again.” In a huff he admits it. I go downstairs and tell his mom Mary Margaret what happened. She says that she herself hasn’t been bothered by my being there, but that “it’s his daughter.” By this she means that my being there is getting in the way of Billie spending time with his daughter.
Back in 1999 I had gone to a Rainbow Gathering in Pennsylvania. When it was over I managed to catch a ride out of there with a group that was headed to Bloomington Indiana, so I figured I would get off at Richmond Indiana where I had gone to high school and see some old friends. The first place I stopped was the home of a mother of a friend of mine, Dave who wasn’t there, but actually living in Colorado. Karen let me stay a couple of days before she drove to Colorado to see Dave, and she made it clear I wasn’t invited though I wanted to go. Next I went to my friend Max’s house and slept on their couch for a few days before his wife told Max to show me the door. So I ended up at Billie’s where I stayed maybe a week, before I took a bus to New Jersey to stay with my brother for a few days before I got on a plane to Europe to go and see the total solar eclipse in Hungary.
Now at the time I was kind of baffled as to why Karen hadn’t wanted to take me to Colorado with her, and also why Max’s wife had wanted me to leave, because I couldn’t see what a mooch and a parasite I was being. Billie was more accommodating probably because he was my hands down best friend from high school. He didn’t say anything, but I surely wore out my welcome there too, eating his food and not contributing much except for buying all the marijuana we were smoking. I’m not sure how annoyed Billie got with the whole thing, but probably more than he let on, though I think he did enjoy having me there. I’m quite sure though that his girlfriend (with whom he was living along with their four kids) got annoyed by my presence.
So when I was looking at this dream it made me take a look at the way I was acting back then, how I’d made people feel the same feelings that came up in me towards H.. There’s part of me that realizes just on general principle that I need to get to the place where I don’t get annoyed by things like this, but the dream also brought the point home that I’ve acted the same way and really have no justification for getting annoyed with people who are still immature in the same way that I was back then. We have a number of people from our ‘extended family’ who come over here just to indulge their vitals and eat our food and don’t give nary a thing back, and if they’re asked to do something they’ll get in a huff about it or do a half-assed job. Our residents aren’t much different. That’s hard for my ego to take, but it’s largely immaturity on their part and I was the same way. The other big factor however is boys in this culture are waited on hand and foot their entire lives as they’re growing up, and feel like they shouldn’t have to do anything even when they’re a guest in somebody else’s home.
This wasn’t the end of the lesson though because a day or so after the dream another young man, we’ll call him Fred as in Right Said Fred showed up. Now Fred isn’t part of the extended family, but a nineteenth cousin or something of three of our residents. Fred is young, and extremely conceited, thinks he’s a big somebody because he’s a fashion photographer and has over 3,500 facebook friends following his personal page. He doesn’t get paid as far as I know for his photographs, just takes a lot of pictures of himself and his friends dressed up with sunglasses, and showing off their six packs if they have them. It’s the sort of thing young Tamils would like, glitzy and shallow, but I will admit that he has talent and thus he’s built his small following. Fred also has an amplified vital and wants a big party whenever he’s here. Usually he comes on a Friday and leaves on Sunday, but on this particular visit he came on Sunday and wanted to stay four days. It basically threw off our whole schedule as far as satsung goes, since our boys (who worship Fred) were running around with him taking pictures. They also bought beer and were drinking which is something Donny and I allow occasionally, but we want to be informed about it, and in this case, as is often the case when Fred is here, we were not.
Fred and I got off on the wrong foot from the get go after I first got back to India when he brought three extra people with him when he came for New Year’s Eve and then proceeded to tell me they were staying for two days when I told him to get them up and out of here on New Year’s Day. He’s just one of those personalities that will push things as much as he can, and the alpha in me doesn’t like being defied by someone trying to come into our house and do whatever he wants. Neither am I impressed with Fred’s 3,500 facebook friends, and find him mainly a disturbance who makes the house harder to manage while he’s here. During his visit this time though I realized my dream about Billie related to him too, and that he was just acting the same way I was back in 1999. Given this it’s interesting that both he and H. stayed for four days just as in my dream I was at Billie’s for four days. Maybe there’s some reaping of what I sowed going on here too. The other thing I tried to recognize is that, although I find Fred’s visits unpleasant, it’s a vital treat for the young men here who feed off his amplified vital energy and ‘let’s party’ atmosphere and who think he’s basically living the dream with his 3,500 facebook friends. I also found myself feeling a little bit sorry for Fred too, since he is good looking and with his swagger he’d do well with the ladies in a more liberal country, but here in India with this traditional culture it’s not so easy carry on a relationship. I guess that may be kind of silly on my part, but empathy is still empathy I suppose. I will say though that in general I feel sadness for the plight of young people here because of all the sexual repression and the archaic system of arranged marriages, but I digress.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t react to Fred’s antics during this particular visit, but there is a sort of epilogue to all this. A month later I came out of my apartment and heard a very loud voice downstairs that I recognized as Fred and was irked since he hadn’t called to ask if it was all right to come, something we’ve asked him to do as a courtesy. That night I had this dream:
I’m reading an account of something that happened at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, but at times it shifts visually to snapshots or short clips of what’s being recounted. There’s a group of people outside the ashram doing something with the Mother, and an obnoxious jogger passes by and yells “Byyyyyyyyeeee!” as he goes by. Then he stops and gets on the phone at a telephone booth. Everyone is just gawking at him until the Mother comes and tells us to get back to work and stop paying attention to the guy, that he has no importance.
The first conclusion I came to about the dream is that the obnoxious jogger who got on the pay phone represented Fred, who is both physically fit and also always on his smartphone. I took it that the message for me was to not get aggravated by him, see him for the thing of no importance that he is and carry on with my work. Now I think that’s true, but I think at the same time, and more importantly, the obnoxious jogger represents this part of me that reacts to Fred and creates an inner disturbance, because the real problem isn’t Fred or H. or whoever or whatever else I’m reacting too. The problem is my reactions.
I don’t know if I’m cured or not as far as reacting to Fred, but this dream really helped me, and I wasn’t bothered by him much when he was here this time and even felt some good will for him. The thing is though sometimes you have to lay down the law when you run a house like this, but the problem with me is the alpha male part of me overreacts and wants to bring the hammer down hard on challenges to its authority. It’s a continuing issue because if Donny and I didn’t assert ourselves at times our house would be overrun. What I need to do though, I feel, is work on getting a handle on myself in these situation and dealing with things firmly but with understanding, and not let my ego turn things into a pissing contest. Alas, yet another thing to work on and another thing it seems can only be completely solved by a change in consciousness since the human ego self, this way of knowing in which all these outer persons and events appear as something separate and distinct from ‘me’, is a thing of reactions and resistances. I don’t have the feeling though that if you shift to a higher way of knowing that lives in the oneness and unity of existence, that you turn into a passive candy ass. But I do think that there wouldn’t be any ill will or animal aggressiveness when you assert yourself, but rather a sincere compassion even when you’re acting in a heavy-handed way or with severity. Other people might still react to you as if there are still those baser feelings at play in you, but that won’t be the truth, just their reaction and misinterpretation. So I guess the final word is that living in a higher consciousness won’t save you from offending people. In fact, you might offend more people than you would otherwise, but you won’t be acting from ego and that’s what counts.