I fully agreed. Her reasoning amazed me. This beach was fast becoming one of the most exciting, beautiful, and interesting places I had been at, for a long time. We stayed till sunset, then I invited her to join me for a dinner fit for the occasion, and to a dance afterwards. I suggested that this, too, would fulfill a deeply seated human need. She agreed.
We went to a fine restaurant in the middle of the city, right as we were coming from the beach. It was daring. This was certainly not customary. I was probably the only man there without a tie. But we didn't care. More important things ruled the day. Sharing ideas was more important than obeying conventions. We talked about many things over dinner, personal things, and sometimes intimate things. One of the things that had puzzled me ever since we met at the beach was her accuracy in perception, when she told me that I had been married for a dozen years. "Was it just a lucky guess?" I asked her.
She shook her head and smiled. "You are like someone who lives in a beautiful garden that has hundreds of types of flowers growing in it, but who is bound by some code of ethics to look at only one single flower, and none other. Of course, living there, you are aware of the rich profusion in the garden, all the colors and shades of colors, and the delicate forms that have unfolded in the sunshine. Still, you dare not to look at them, because of your commitment to the one single flower. You tell yourself that there is no need to look further, because, as the old saying goes, once one has seen one flower one has seen them all. Ah, but out of the corner of your eye you notice that the saying is not true. So, one day you protest against the code of ethics that had narrowed your vision to only one single flower. You open your heart to the rich profusion there is all around you. You kneel down where you stand, and admire one of those other flowers that you had not allowed yourself to look at before. Suddenly you find yourself immensely enriched by its fragrance, its shape, and its hues of color. As a consequence of this experience you stop, and take it all in, you drink in that beautiful moment, you store it away as a memory for all those other days."
She smiled more sweetly now, a smile brighter than the light at noon. "Most men," she said, "if they are honest with themselves, get to this point in a dozen years. Some take longer, and some never get there. Those who never get there, are usually blind to life. They either don't live at all or tend to play cruel games, games that are focused on power, wealth, prestige, rape, murder, crime. Also, there are some who never get married at all, who may be totally blind to the garden, or who, in the other extreme, are so deeply aware of it that they can never shut out anything of the beauty of life. So they remain unmarried, because they can't meet what the conventions demand. But those are few, and few of them are truly happy."
She reached across the table at this point and put her hand on mine. "You are one of those honest married men, who after a dozen years, or so, recognize the paradox that they have gotten themselves into, who then struggle to resolve it, courageously. It is a beautiful and exciting experience to be able to witness this awakening in another person, and to be a part of it, to experience the unfolding appreciation of the beauty of life. This is much more rewarding than struggling alone. And, Peter, I am honored that you chose me to be involved in your awakening."
I don't know what touched me the most about her. Her speech, her tone of voice, her smile, the way her hair hung loosely, the way it complemented her complexion and the dark yellow of her dress. They all added to the magic of the moment, the kind of magic that one hopes will never end. But mostly it was what she said that made the moment special. She had said that she felt honored by me sharing my awakening with her. Wow!
"I feel honored likewise that you have taken the time to be here with me," I said to her somewhat bewildered. I took hold of her hand, "Yes," I said quietly, "our life should be like living in a garden; your life and mine."
"Of course it takes a lot of effort to cultivate a garden," she replied.
"This also means that we can have a great life ahead of us in our individual worlds if we take care to tend that garden well, provided we awake to it more fully," I added with a smile.
Perhaps it was the vase with three small roses on our table that inspired the analogy.
I said that all of this was like a fairy tale coming true. Except, fairy tales don't exist in the real world.
"I would like to suggest to you that you've got the world upside down," said Erica with a smile. "What you call the real world is a world of fairy tales, and they don't come true, as you have admitted yourself."
I just nodded in agreement.
"Tell me," she said, "if you can figure out an answer, why it is that most married men dream about having an intimate relationship with other women, and women with men?"
"The answer is obvious, isn't it?" I replied, "but why don't we accept the obvious? I suppose the reason is that we have become slaves to a mythology that has nothing to do with reality. We think like slaves. We behave like slaves. We dream of freedom, but we live like slaves to that mythology."
"Welcome to Disneyland," said Erica. "Welcome to our fairy tale world, where nothing is real and never will be." Then she stood up and kissed me right across the table. "That was real," she added, "it reflects my love for you."
We had soup that evening, Wiener Schnitzel, and later, Black Forest cake, the finest in German tradition, but none of that measured up to the feast for the heart that she provided with her smiles, with the grandeur of her ideas, and the love of her sharing.
"I find everything extraordinarily beautiful that is happening tonight. Do you feel the same way?" I asked her.
She nodded. "It is beautiful, yes," she agreed, "but the sad part about it is that this beautiful happening is perceived to be extraordinary. It shouldn't be that way. It should be happening all the time. It should be commonplace. We have learned to travel to the moon and back. We have done this in an almost routine fashion, but we haven't yet learned to freely cross the bridge between two human hearts except on extraordinary occasions. Also, we find it easier to sit at our radio telescopes and study galaxies that are billions of light years away, than to look at each other across the barriers we have created between us. In a sense, we're hypocrites, Peter. We have made all these advances in understanding, even to understand the inner spaces of atomic physics and microbiology, but we haven't taken a significant step in almost two thousand years towards understanding the strengths, the beauty, and the needs of our human Soul. In fact, we have become more and more isolated from one-another. Only on extraordinarily rare occasions, as this one, do we dare to take a tiny step in the right direction, if we dare at all. This is a paradox that must be resolved, but how is one to do that?"
I shook my head. I had no idea. I had never made these comparisons that she had so easily presented, and with such clear and simple logic. "You are a genius," I said in utter amazement. "Where do you get these ideas from? What do you do for a living? How...."
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