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My Secret Word

Thursday 01/04/2007 4:29 PM

My memory is Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version). My mother assures me I'm wrong.

There is no doubt, though, that he charged me a piece of fruit. There was an apple, probably an orange, maybe a banana.

I remember returning to him in his house, but I've forgotten the introduction.

Not only do I not remember his voice... of all the time we must have spent together, there is just a single short conversation that lingers. As if it was yesterday.

Later, still a child, I would have another similar dialogue.

That second conversation was during my IQ test in second grade. There was a list of vocabulary words and, one by one, I was asked to explain or guess at what each of them meant. The only word I know for sure that I was asked about was muzzle.

I paused (probably making a little frown). "It has two meanings," I said. I talked about the thing you put over a dog's mouth so he can't bite you. Then I talked about how you can use the same word to describe a dog's mouth and nose (snout we would say today, but I don't think I was that succinct).

Looking back, that seems like a pretty good answer for a second grader. Glad I didn't talk about the listening end of a firearm.

But that wasn't the first time I was asked about a word with two meanings. That other time gets us to what I want to talk about. And connects to your image of the day in more ways than one.

The man who demanded fruit in exchange for his time (plus whatever I guess my mom was paying him when I wasn't around) gave me a word, assigned me a word, bestowed upon me a word.

A word that he made me promise never to share. My secret word. My meditative word. My om.

Though I'd be lying if I told you I kept my oath, I feel strongly that I should not share it with you today. But if you read these words carefully, you might hazard a guess.

He asked me if I knew what the word meant and I said it's used two different ways (with two different spellings, but I'm not so sure that I knew that then). I remember him smiling at me as he asked what the two meanings were. The first, I explained how it felt. The second, how it looked, how it smelled.

He never told me which was right, which was the one he intended. Or maybe he did, but my mind prefers the ambiguity. I'll probably never know for sure.

I don't remember where we were living, but it was before Florida, which makes me younger than seven and either in Michigan or Alaska.

I'll have to report back to you on what my mother says, because I have no earthly idea why she decided to send her son to a one-on-one meditation class. I assure you I was utterly bored with the required attendance, but slightly amused (and bewildered) that Willy Wonka was teaching me how to meditate.

I'd love to tell you how from that point on whenever I was stressed, concerned or otherwise upset, that I sat in a lotus position, eyes slightly out-of-focus, but staring at a little red dot on the wall I made with a crayon. I'd love to tell you that I found bliss, discovered most of my names from my previous seventeen past lives and lived a life of quiet tranquility.

The truth of the matter is that even though I never forgot my secret word, it never brought me anything more than a few minutes of inner solitude. And perhaps that's enough. Maybe that makes it all worth while.

Some other time I should write more about Charles Tart, consciousness researcher, mediatation advocate and a Buddhist who can maintain the lotus position for 15 or 20 seconds before the pain in his legs becomes excrutiating.

The short version of my Charles Tart story is reminiscent of my Atlas Shrugged story, in that I leave it alone for a while, but every time I return, I go deeper than before.

I am presently in a Charles Tart upswing.

I am meditating. A little. Off and on. Dipping my big toe in the froth of the surf and running out of the way of the big waves that sometimes crash nearby.

My preferred place is in your image of the day. Look past my furry friend and you can see the beige carpet I sit on (not in the lotus position) in front of the fire. You can see the lovely green and white afghan I wrap myself in. The initial explosion of the gas fireplace coming on always causes to Argus look sideways at the fire for a moment, but overall he's pretty cool about it. He lies next to me while I stare at the flames, fixing my slightly out-of-focus stare at the top of one of the faux metal logs that eventually starts to glow if I sit there long enough.

That secret word has been dancing on my lips, but I have no revelations to report.

At least not yet.

File Under: Meditation
Music: Bettye LaVette "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise"

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