–Can I really be this close? __Fred Baker
Beginning November 1, the rain came down. Western Oregon’s long wet season had arrived, the near-daily precipitation that keeps the area green and the natives’ feet webbed. Memories of childhood returned. Mom’s green blanket with a golden “O” in the center, representing the University of Oregon. The song she taught us:
Be kind to your webfooted friends,
For a duck may be somebody’s mo-o-other.
Not every state university has a mallard for a mascot. Mom had been born and raised here; her father had at one time headed the University’s English Department until his demotion and is to this day considered the Father of Athletics at the U. Granddad had been a Presbyterian. Once, a student–out of class–asked him what he thought of the Immaculate Conception. His answer was apparently less than satisfactory; when the fallout settled to earth, he found himself popular with numerous correspondents but demoted in his job. After his death, they named a baseball field in his honor. I never met the man. He translated (died) via cancer before my time. Still, he influenced me. This had been his chosen place to live, to make his mark, and here would my spiritual search finally bear fruit.
In the meantime, basketball season arrived. Our office sponsored a fine team coached by Assistant Manager Barry, who led us to defeat after enthusiastic defeat. We never won, yet we never lost heart.
By February, we had snatched such defeats from the jaws of victory nine times in a row–one full cycle. December had duck-waddled in and out. January ignored the rain with its usual calm, and voila! 1974 was officially under way. February, however, planned secret plans. One night came a dream…
The trail to the river is broad and dusty. The way home–toward Spokane, which feels like home–must be upriver. Turn left at water’s edge, follow the current home? Yes–it’s probably that way, but impossible to be sure. What to do? For a time I wait, determined yet unsure.
Ah. Coming donw the trail–a car? Yes. A car. An old vintage machine, like a Model T all spruced up in shiny black paint for an antique show. I know the driver of that car will know which way to turn….
Late the following morning, a trim fellow in his early sixties arrives at the office. It is our first meeting in person, though we have talked several times by phone. Ray owns an insurance agency in a town some sixty miles from Eugene but feels the time has come to meet his newest underwriter to work out a specific insurance program for a client who makes a living as a logging contractor.
He admits in regard to the his client, “I don’t understand him. He came out of eastern Europe as a refugee. He has more hard won education, more intelligence–more just plain class than his heredity or his environment would account for.”
I pause in my calculations. “Have you tried reincarnation?”
At this, Ray realizes he is talking with someone other than the average desk underwriter. He merely smiles, however, and acknowledges, “You might be right.”
For several minutes, the conversation digresses from insurance forms and pricing to life forms and the cycles of experience as one travels through the long rounds of life after life after life. Finally, Ray looks me straight in the face and asks, “Well, now that you’ve got reincarnation figured out, how would you like to get off the wheel?”
If my ears had wings, I’d still be flying. More than a year ago, people had derided my freedom-in-this-lifetime goal as impossible to attain. Ray hasn’t even heard about that goal yet–and has just asked if I want the means to achieve it!
We spend forty-five minutes of office time and an hour long lunch break discussing Eckankar, the Ancient Science of Soul Travel. The information pours into me as fresh-pumped well water into a thirsty bucket. Much of it vanishes beyond recall in the excitement of the moment, but here and there an item stays on the surface to delight the conscious mind.
“Eckankar is a direct path to God,” Ray declares quietly. “The Eck, or Spirit, is the voice of God, and the ringing melodies you hear are simply the Eck in action.”
He mentions that an agent of God lives on Earth today. Only one? I ponder, reminded of the billions of Souls on the planet. Then the old Texas Ranger story comes to mind: A Sheriff once sent an urgent plea to Ranger Headquarters for help in handling a mob in his small Texas town. At length, one Ranger came riding in.
“They only sent one Ranger?” Cried the Sheriff cried in dismay.
“There’s only one riot, isn’t there?”
Perhaps one Godman is enough after all, I think. My world has changed. That night at home, I lie floating blissfully somewhere above the bedcovers, thinking ahead to Ray’s next trip to Eugene when he will bring along a book on Eckankar, one written by Paul Twitchell. One thought runs through me in ceaseless, wondering repetition:
Can I be this close? Can I really be this close?
For our readers who may not recognize words like Eckankar or Eck, the definitions can be found in A Glossary of Eck Terms at Eckankar.org.