Blogging's hidden jewel
I started my first business in my late teens after leaving home at 15 with just a basic schooling. I was determined to make my own way in the world but in my early twenties, with the business growing a lot faster than my capabilities, I thought it best I got myself some sort of business education. That's how I came to be sat at the back of a room full of business men listening to a lecture by John Wareham on the 'Secrets of Corporate Head Hunter'.
I listened intently not because the material was so interesting (it was), but because I had to. You see, the lecturer was afflicted by the worst stutter I had ever heard. I started to really admire this man who had the balls to talk at a lectern for 3 hours in front of mostly seasoned leaders and industry captains with such an impediment. He must have sensed my empathy and in the break he came over to chat.
He had seemed to be far older and wiser than his years (he later told me he deliberately groomed himself to appear this way), but close up I realised he couldn't have been that much older than I was. As we chatted and made friends I think we both sensed that, although we were from totally different backgrounds, we connected as two young men striding out into the world of business on nothing more than a wing, a prayer and a few ideas. 'Bottle' and 'bare faced cheek' were our weapons of choice.
Later that year, just after Christmas, John sent me a letter telling me about something that had just happened to him. I'd like to share that story with you. -
It was five o'clock on the Friday before Christmas and he was standing in the Grand Central Station at the bottom of the escalators that cascaded a slow motion cargo of jaded executives down and out of the Pan Am building. He'd been there all week and I'd seen him every night. He faced the descending throng and, catching any eye that would look, he would softly intone "Merry Christmas" or "Hello". Only that. He wasn't soliciting or proselytising or selling records. Just saying "Hello" or "Merry Christmas".
"He's crazy", explained a woman behind me to a friend.
"Crazy", I said, turning. "Is it crazy to say 'Hello'?"
"It is in New York", she answered.
He was in his early 30's, had shoulder length blond hair and a modest beard. He stood about five-ten, was neatly dressed, in corduroy trousers, a shirt and a jacket. He might have had some beads around his neck but I didn't think he was from California. It was his voice, however, that caught my attention. It made a beautiful, soft, mellifluous sound as he said "Hello" and "Merry Christmas". Sometimes both.
I was leaving work and my wife had met me. "He's there again", I said.
"Just a fellow saying 'Hello'"
Riding the escalators down on that Friday before Christmas, I was both fascinated and sad on his behalf. Almost everybody avoided his eye and darted off. One or two people looked at him warily. Nobody said 'hello ' or 'Merry Christmas'.
I decided to say "Hello" but was past him with the Christmas crowd before I could stop. "I'll just go back and say hello to him", I said to my wife.
"Don't look into his eyes", she cautioned. "These cult people can get you if you don't watch out." I laughed at her naivete.
I walked to him from behind. "You're not Father Christmas?", I said.
He turned, caught by surprise. "I beg your pardon?"
"You're not Father Christmas?", I said again. The joke falling a little flat and me with it.
"No no", he said.
"And you're not a Moonie, or a Hare Krishna, or anything like that?"
"No", he said. "I'm the son of God".
It was a matter-of-fact statement; not pompous; not strange; not, the way he said it, odd at all. But still I was vaguely disappointed at the prospect of a conversation with just another Grand Central cultist.
"Not really", he said; as if seeing my thoughts, "no more than you are; we're all the son of God, aren't we?"
"Ah yes", I replied, slightly relieved by his non jealous tone. "That we are"
Then I looked into his eyes, and from that moment I just haven't been able to get him out of my head.
It was as if time ceased in those eyes. They were like two deep black pools. Deep black pools that I was swimming into. "Can this be real?" I thought, as I stood there transfixed by two infinitely deep dark shimmering lakes.
It was like looking into my own unconscious, or catching sight of a million darkening reflections in two barbershop mirrors. I was suddenly quite lost as his soft mellifluous voice masked all the sounds of Grand Central Station. At that moment there seemed to be only the two of us standing in the middle of nowhere. Everything, everyone had disappeared. I heard his voice but didn't see him.
"All religions have there truth", said the soft mellifluous voice; then he grasped my hand with both of his and held it a moment. "Merry Christmas, my friend, Merry Christmas"
Gradually I became aware of the people about me again. Receding from the darkness of his eyes I held his gaze for a long moment, now able to focus on his whole face. It was gentle, friendly, alive, sympathetic.
In that instance I sensed his own awareness and delight of having made contact with a face from the descending throng. More than that, he saw that I recognised his gratification. It was one of those rare, fleeting, curiously magical moments: a fluttering candle in the dark caverns of Grand Central Station, that daily crossroads of a million lives where no one ever meets.
"And to you", I said, now drawing away, trapped once more within the catatonic tempo of the city that never wakes; conscious that I must hurry to my wife, dinner and a Broadway show.
"That fellow had the strangest eyes", I said to her.
"Told you not to look", she laughed. We both laughed.
But that night, in the theater, I just couldn't get him out of my head.
Immediately after the holiday break, I took the escalator down from the Pan Am building to Grand Central, as indeed I do every night.
He wasn't there and he hasn't been back since.
But I just haven't been able to get him out of my head.
John then went on to build an international executive search and management consultancy and later still, to set up the Eagles Foundation of America that's having amazing results in helping some of America's most hardened and institutionalised prisoners overcome the legacy of their past and go on to live powerful and productive lives on the 'outside'. As for me? Well, I had my own epiphany a little later, a meeting of minds that I guess led me to be now sat here writing this. But that's another story.
The point I'm trying to make in recounting this, is that connecting with each other changes us profoundly, wether with strangers or those close to us. We cannot truly connect with each other without being more aware of who really Are, without our egos shrivelling just a little, and without feeling the warmth of our true nature. Then, in this new found ease and clarity of mind, our true creative Self is able to shine through a little more clearly.
To me, this potential for connection is the jewel of blogging. We don't have to meet 'in person' because it's a meeting of minds - constrained by neither time nor space. These connections we are making, when we appreciate them, can be miracles. We don't have to sit crossed legged in an Ashram or on a mountain somewhere for years of quiet contemplation to curb our wayward thoughts and our overactive monkey-minds. We don't need to become an ego archaeologist or see a therapist or re-examine the crime scenes of our life to find our peace and power. And we certainly don't need to look for someone claiming to be the son of God or spend our lives looking for our 'soul mate' to have a truly happy and creative life. The treasure we seek is inside, and we need no- one's permission to claim it but our own.
In the rush of our busy lives we mostly trample on this flower of connection. In our pursuit of happiness and success we forget to look at the key in our own pocket. All it takes is the willingness to be defenseless, to let our masks slip down just a little so we can recognise each other's true nature. This is the shortcut - the simple, easy stepping out of Plato's cave into the sunlight of our own genius and to where the real fun begins.