FIXING MY COMPASS

Krishnamurti and his words of wisdom were what got me through my phases of dislocation and depression during my late 20s and early 30s. Hatha and Bikram yoga got me through the mid- and late 30s; Hatha yoga is keeping my frayed soul together these days. It kept me going after a personal loss, preventing me from going over the edge of sanity.

My director-producer friend, empathizing with my personal turmoil, presented me with books as going-away presents.  I was leaving for Bekasi, Indonesia, in about a week’s time. Out of the three, two were books from her collection that got her through her tribulations when she was still in the US, which I have yet to read. The third was a new book, which I finished a few weeks ago. The characters and their lines left me reeling in contemplation through the days that followed after I finished it.  The lines still jump out from the crevices of my mind whenever hopelessness hits me every now and then. On hindsight, she was silently urging me to fix my stalled inner compass.

The Compass by Tammy Kling and John Spencer Ellis opens with the lead character, Jonathan Taylor, grappling with the effects of the high temperature in the Nevada desert, melting trainer soles, hunger and dehydration. Jonathan, a successful dealer of psychotropic drugs and family man, was running away from his former life. His wife and daughter were taken away from him in a car accident four months ago. His wife survives the coma – unknown to him until he receives a call from his brother months later – but his daughter wasn’t lucky.

He first meets Marilyn, a former psychologist, who is fulfilling her life-long dream of becoming a photographer. She‘s at the desert shooting her last photos because she’s dying of cancer.  Marilyn sees the beauty of life despite her impending death. One of her statements jolted me out of stupor:

“…None of us knows anything. We think we know, then we don’t. The universe has a way of intervening. Of changing you. In the end, you don’t what you’re seeking, and you don’t know what you’ll find…But it’s all irrelevant anyway because it doesn’t matter what you seek or what you find.  What matters is that you allow your compass to guide you, and let your gifts and knowledge rise to the surface so you can live out your life’s purpose. It’s worth the journey.”                                                   [Chapter 1, page 20]

Next, he meets nondescript Peter who owns 17 cabins across a span of 200 acres” [Chapter 3, page 51] in some remote place, near a lake, in Adirondacks, and has an MBA. One of his lines that got me pondering was when he explained lines from The Divine Comedy inscribed above the door of the cabin Jonathan was staying in. The line, translated to English, read “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

 “…The guests who come here are at some crossroads in their lives. Not sure what it about this cabin, but it’s true. Those who end up here have had a defining moment. They are in search of something. In that process during the journey, it’s inevitable that they’ll have to go through hell to come out the other side. They have to transcend some painful memories or event to be whole again, to put all of the fragments of their soul back together… One must abandon hope if necessary, and let go of everything they once knew. Sometimes it takes a season of brokenness, in order to find the joy and beauty that comes after transformation. To go from where you are to where you need to be. The sign signifies that process. People come here to escape or to find themselves, like you did.” [Chapter 4, pp. 65-66]

In Brasov, Bucharest, he meets 10-year-old Solomon who is a soul in a body of a pre-pubescent boy. He is fluent in English, which astounds Jonathan. When asked how he learnt to speak in English, Solomon’s rejoinder made me smile. Touché!

“We have a 97 percent literary rate in this country… English is a primary language in the schools. Most of the world knows your language, it is only you Americans who do not feel the need to understand the other languages of the world.”                                                                        [Chapter 7, page 122]

Solomon had a habit of calling people by letters like Mrs. B, Mr. A, and Mr. S. Again, he explained his reason like a wise old man:

“You adults are all judged by your profession, so I have nicknames for everyone. The world defines people by their work, no? You go somewhere as a man yet people are not interested in the man. They ask first, what do you do? As if what you do matters to what you are…God sees people as what they are inside, not for what they do. So I have nicknames for people for the emotion they represent. It is how I see them…She’s B for bitterness. She has a lifetime of bitterness from years of hanging on to the things people have done to her…The A is for the anger he has inside. ..You are sorrow.” [Chapter 6, pp. 115 – 116]

Jonathan finds himself in Amersfoort, Amsterdam, next where he meets Toin. Toin won the greatest Tour in the Netherlands and was competing in the Tour de France, but an accident changed his life forever. Toin’s words – some of them – helped me put everything in perspective. I wasn’t in a wheel chair and he was.

“Old pain is like an anchor.  Useless. You have to get over it, get back in the game…I could be bitter myself, you know. I could dwell on the fact that it was me who made the mistake that cost me my career, and almost my life. I made a mistake, just one tenth of a second and now I have to live with it forever…I had to forgive myself for that one second lapse of judgment that changed my life…We’re all human, and we make errors. We have to move on.”   [Chapter 8, pp. 153 – 154]

I was never good with compasses, but I’ve found my header and the journey is going smoothly.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by atomo on August 31, 2009 at 8:30 am

    interesting book.

    Reply

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