I woke up late (at 6) and washed the dishes I’d left from last night. I had wanted to wake early and go to the Y, but I did not set my alarm. After I washed the dishes I sat down and read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet while applying the heat pad to my ankle. Very nice except where I chose to sit the rising sun was shining directly in my eyes.
I have always loved The Prophet, ever since that day (well it was a late night) that the messenger (Oscar? Ben? Bill? I can’t remember his name) sat me down and explained why this was the life of all life, book of all books. I think he thought it was a secular bible. There was another book that he was obsessed with, something new agey (this being 1981, it was an outlier) that he also liked, it might have been RamDass or something that stupid. In any case he spent an hour or two after midnight evangelizing this text as I drained a 40 of Ballantine Ale (or three). As I said “I’ll be right back, I need another,” he confessed to me that he was a heroin addict. I’m not so sure why it mattered that I knew that, but I definitely filed that bit of intelligence away (people not to be trusted any more) he became even more passionate about The Prophet. We stayed in Washington Square until 3 or 4 in the morning talking about that book and the ideas that it provided.
I have very few clear memories of Ben after that day. I saw him once on Madison in the 20s and on 5th below 14th (Funny how early in their addiction addicts can be found in the Village). I last saw him in midtown, near triple-six-Fifth, the DC building. He was looking run down. I wonder if he survived. Most addicts from ‘81 died of AIDS.
I wonder why people have always wanted to talk about books with me? I was a simple drunken messenger back then. But still people wanted to talk books with me. I’d been pretty good at avoiding the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious fanatics who want to talk about “Their Book.” But when I was in early recovery in Harlem and in other unusual places people have always come up to me and wanted to discuss philosophical texts. I must have a bookish mein to myself.
I’ve always considered that night in Washington Square and the book by William James The Varieties of Religious Experience that an Addict at Gracie Square gave me in ‘86 odd. But somehow I felt like Siddhartha, someone with a huge destiny because people brought me books to read in unlikely places (these are not the only 2).
In my paper journal I wrote about The Prophet, but I don’t have time to retype that here now. Sad, really. Previously I had loved “Marriage” because of the idea of separation and love: “For the pillars of the temple stand apart.” But now, these days, with teens, the passage “On Children” really moved me. I am comforted and tortured by the passage that says “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
Thing 1 has proven herself to be a totally independent thinker, who suffers instruction unhappily. However she does follow rules, like most older siblings, and has made her trajectory towards the future clear. Thing 2 -TACITURN youth- has little communication with us, though he seems to know that we are excluded from his future. He suffers our interruptions unhappily, knowing this. Thing 3 has become prematurely knowing. She is the tween sister of two teens and has started salting away their mistakes for her future use. Clever, she is.