Refuse not your love, with discretion. ____Sayings of Jared
During the ten months Josie worked as my assistant, we were seldom more than arm’s length from one another during working hours, excluding breaks, departmental meetings, and trips to the copier. Our desks butted together side by side in the crowded space of the open bay. She wore long hair on a petite, attractive body, and needed a confidant. From her I heard tales of her struggling married life, extramarital affairs, and eleven scary muggings suffered by one or another of the young couple during the year prior to her husband’s final decision to give up on their native Chicago to move west. They arrived in Eugene, Oregon, early in 1973.
On my side, there were stories of my spiritual search, dream state lessons, karma, reincarnation and–in February of 1974–the overwhelming discovery of Eckankar, the Ancient Science of Soul Travel. Josie wasn’t particularly interested in Soul travel, nor I in her past lovers, but we made allowances for each other and grew extremely close. She reminded me of my kid sister in Montana; the attachment between us was a natural thing.
Devouring the Eck books written by Paul Twitchell with greater speed than Garfield the cat can gobble lasagna, I pounced on one novel length paperback after another. By April, I had discovered Dialogues With The Master. Its brief, easy to read chapters explained in layman’s language many of the invisible principles underlying life. One example: The distinction between detached divine love and warm human love. Give divine love to all, the book advised, but learn discrimination as to whom should receive your human love. If you do not, the lessons will be greater than you can imagine.
That made sense but did not directly concern me. I did not pick up people from the street to love but lived with a dearly beloved mate, wrote regularly to family members in Montana, and had logical male friendships developed during our office basketball team’s perfect record of zero wins, nine losses, and one sportsmanship trophy. Hardly an indiscriminate scattering of love and obviously not my problem.
The friendship with Josie contained one flaw.
As my assistant, she performed essentially clerical duties for which her college degree in mathematics and IQ of 140 left her severely overqualified. Trapped in a questionable marriage and a nothing job, she performed erratically. She possessed extraordinary abilities, able on a good day to locate a missing file, unsnarl a confusing audit problem, or clarify a rating question faster than Oliver of the Bloom County cartoon strip can crack a computer security code. On a bad day, unfortunately, she might misplace the same file, roundfile essential audit billings, and misrate the simplest insurance coverages. Brilliant but erratic, my kind of gal.
The office produced considerable pressure with which to brain-squeeze its employees but possessed the saving grace of being located less than one hundred yards from a riverbank. Many a lunch period I spent wisely, alone with a sandwich and the river, squatting in the brush at water’s edge like some primitive ancestor, screened from civilization entirely by trees, brush, and a ten foot bank of earth teeming with birds, insects, and an occasional squirrel. Skater bugs darted on the surface where eddies slowed the swift current, inspiring poetry from time to time and adding to the river’s peaceful healing vibration. Squatting thus, contemplative, remembering the river of one’s youth, it was easy to understand the Native American’s way of life and wonder at the boiling, seething cauldron of roiling forces we know as civilization.
One sunny afternoon, fresh from the river, I received a summons to Barry’s office. The Assistant Manager and I got along well enough, though not always seeing eye to eye. Congenial, beefy, in his mid-fifties, he had served as coach to our losing basketball team, cautioned me to silence in an office that preferred not to hear about dream state interpretation theories, and passed on various underwriting tasks to my two-person department. He got to the point immediately.
“Fred, it’s time for Josie’s annual performance evaluation. Since you’re her supervisor, I need your opinion. How would you say she is handling her job?”
Uh-oh. Riverside serenity slipped unnoticed into oblivion; this was the materialistic world in full swing. What to say? Several lighting fast thought forms later, the answer came: The truth.
“Well…she’s very good at what she does. Except…she’s really overqualified, she has a math degree, and clerical work–well, her emotions seem to get to her. Her production is up and down. She has the potential to be an actuary, I would guess, but without the opportunity–”
“She’ll have to be able to handle this job, not worry about something like that.” The boss’s tone was curt, the real message loud and clear. I don’t care about anything but my department and there aren’t any actuaries that can help me. This is a matter of control. What you are telling me is not what I want to hear. His fingers steepled, a desktop pyramid over which he stared at me, clearly disturbed.
“All right. I want you to count her work for a week. Come in next Thursday, a week from today, and give me the numbers.”
I stared back for a moment, wanting to say, That doesn’t make sense. I just told you the situation. It’s not going to change in a week, and counting Josie’s work without telling her amounts to Gestapo tactics. Besides, short term desk counts mean nothing since one policy may be ten times the work of another. You’re rejecting my report, not suggesting the two of us or three of us try getting together to find a solution, just giving me orders to spy on my friend. I won’t do it.
Today, much more experienced in the ways of self worth and human relations in and out of business, I might say simply, I have a problem with that; may we discuss it?
Instead, all I said was, “…Okay.” I returned to my desk, seething with anger. In later years, it would become clear that as Soul I’ve played many clearly defined roles in varied life situations. Rodeo Cowboy, for instance. Underwriter. Social Worker. A host of others. This one is filed under Advanced Subversive Wimp, or ASW. The ASW surfaced as a function of dual difficulties. Betraying Josie was unthinkable. Openly defying the boss was quite thinkable but thoroughly frightening. What would become of me if I were fired for insubordination? Such fear for self is repulsive to a fellow who in his twenties prided himself on his stubborn independence and willingness to hit the rodeo circuit with no money, no guarantee of a payday, and for that matter no guarantee of even physical survival. Ah, how are the Wimpy fallen!
Josie must be warned, but how? Our desks knelt obsequiously in front of Barry’s glass office wall. Conversation between us would be noted, especially if Josie were to suddenly turn to stare at Barry himself. Going to the conference room this late in the day would be equally obvious. Several minutes of inner nuclear fusion produced the obvious answer, allowing the Advanced Subversive to incorporate and dominate the Wimp in its simply, sly solution.
I scribbled an explanatory note and passed it calmly to Josie as though it were but another of the dozens of business items shuffled from desk to desk daily.
Josie–thought you should know the situation. Barry just had me in to talk about your salary review. He wants me to count your work for a week and report to him next Thursday. As you and I’ve discussed, you volume has been up and down, but all you need to do is be glad something in the universe is looking out for you. Keep the numbers up for a few days, and you’ll get your raise just fine.
Your friend always,
She read the note immediately and filed it in a desk drawer as I watched without looking in her direction. I left the office that day wrapped in a rosy glow, secure in the knowledge that friendship conquers all, even the dread Authority of a boss’s unreasonable order. A crisis had been averted; all was well.
The weekend came and went, marked by nothing exceptional, merely more Oregon rain and some enigmatic dream about a cougar stalking me. Josie’s work count went up as expected, nothing spectacular but enough–with only a teensy amount of fibbing and padding–to generate a respectable report. At the appointed time on Thursday afternoon, Barry listened without interrupting until I’d finished giving him the numbers…and then he lowered the boom.
“Josie told me what you did.”
The mind is disconnected, aura shattered. No defense; it is gone, penetrated, cover blown. Only one thought exists, alone, frail yet dominating. That thought is, MAINTAIN. Let no other thought enter, only MAINTAIN.
Maintain I do, automatically recording the Assistant Manager’s voice tension, now barely under control with suppressed rage. For the first time I become consciously aware of the aroused cougar look in his eyes. This, then, is the stalker from my dream.
“When she first told me, I was too angry to talk to you for days. I decided to wait until you came in to make your false report in the hope I’d cool down enough to handle it….”
To this day, there is no more recall of that conversation. Nothing could be said in self defense. No doubt my face flushed, or perhaps drained white. Still, I was at least partially under control of my reactions, said nothing to make things worse than they already were, and knew it to be of utmost importance to give no sign to either Josie or Barry that her betrayal had affected me. Day by day, we continued to work together. I gave no sign, maintained an inner neutrality, and eventually it seemed almost as if the incident had never happened.
Once the initial shock wore off, certain truths became gradually obvious. I had learned the very real danger of lying to one’s boss and the equally great danger of trusting where trust was inappropriate. I had betrayed Barry’s trust–it lay shattered in a thousand quivering pieces–and in return, Josie had betrayed me. Perfect return of karma. Still, I knew why I had betrayed the boss, but why had Josie done the same thing? We had been truly close, sharing stories and paperwork and an occasional Hostess Ding Dong for nearly eight months.
The answer lay in the issue of personal love. In later times, the 973rd Living Eck Master, Sri Harold Klemp, would stress the Law of Economy to his students, pointing out that personal love, not unlike money, must be allocated efficiently if one hopes to succeed in this world. Josie had received a measure of warm personal affection from her supervisor and had been unable to accept the gift.
The answer: Chicago. Jointly and/or individually, she and her husband had been mugged eleven times in twelve months in the Windy City, the culmination of experience in a neighborhood that placed trust in fellow human beings somewhere slightly below slugs and spiders on the social scale. Her background made her unable to comprehend the basically compassionate nature of my motives, perhaps suspecting the giver of setting up an emotional blackmail scenario in return for the offered against-the-rules assistance.
Each of us had made the mistake of believing we thought alike.
With this realization, not only acceptance but a real affection flowered within me once again for the young lady who had been such a major part of my working life. What a treasure she was! How fortunate of me to learn these lessons at such low cost!
Naturally, part of that “low cost” included changing jobs as quickly as possible, my continued presence in the office being about as welcome as a trip to outdoor plumbing in the middle of a north country winter night. Two months after the Law of Economy made itself understood, I gave notice and packed to move from Oregon to South Dakota. The story might have ended on that note, but there is a footnote.
Three years and several jobs after the Advanced Subversive Wimp incident, I picked up a pair of hitchhikers while commuting thirty-five miles to my South Dakota home from a day’s work in Nebraska. Having had the habit since high school of giving people rides, I’d become acquainted with a great range of passenger types. Mostly male, they varied from out of work railroaders to nondescript vagrants, recent prisoners, spiritual seekers, even a traveling journalist or two.
The couple for whom I stopped near Sioux City, Iowa, were man and wife. Rain poured down as the young lady in Army surplus fatigues and soggled hair crawled into the gray Pinto’s back seat and huddled disconsolately, saying not a word as her husband and I verbally explored aspects of my Eckankar studies and his newfound interest in religion. The wife seemed naggingly familiar. I kept sneaking glances in the rear view mirror…could it be? After three years, had the Law of Karma brought Josie a thousand miles from the west coast, toughing it out from ride to ride across mountain and prairie to this exact point in Iowa at this exact moment? Was this a Golden Hearted opportunity to let her know I still loved her as a friend?
After several miles of pondering and a good deal of inner dialogue with the Master, I decided, yes. But how to bring it up? Fear showed in her silent face; she knew whose car carried them. Addressing her directly could cause her to panic entirely, yet there must be a way….
There was. I told my passengers the story you’ve just read, leaving out the part about Josie having shared information on her past extramarital affairs, speaking of my former assistant as if someone else entirely listened intently from the back seat. Twenty miles later we parted, and I wondered if this time she had understood.
I didn’t have long to wait to find out. That night in the dream state, we visited briefly in some far off place, a somewhere rendezvous in a dark night lit by a few lonely stars, her small voice saying only,
“I’m all right now. Thank you.”
Josie, you are most welcome.