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SIMPLE KIND OF LIFE


I am holding a newborn baby. We are standing in my childhood home, in the room I grew up in, which is now my bedroom. I am with my mother and the child's mother, who is blonde. The baby's hair is black. I bend down to kiss it on the lips. As our lips touch, the skin feels like parchment. The lips are so thin. The child says in a voice scarcely audible the word "daddy." The women find this delightful. His first word! they exclaim. I think, this baby is not old enough to speak. Plus, I am not the father. What will the real father think of his own son addressing me in this way. I know in my head that the baby's actual father is my neighbor, Michael, who lives just up the street. But Michael is not physically present. Later the child goes into my mother's room, but I can hear it scratching at the door. I go into the hallway to find it has opened the door enough to crawl out. I get that it wants to be in my arms, so I pick it up. Again I kiss its lips. Again it says daddy. I'm sure it is a male child.

Same night. Now I am in a public park. My ex-girlfriend is seated on my lap. We kiss. It is clear to me that we have decided to get back together. We agree to have a baby. We think it's time. I am unsure which dream happens first. But I do know that my ex-girlfriend of the second dream is not the mother of the child in the first. I don't know the mother of the child. I don't even look at her, but know that if I did I would not recognize her. Her energy is unfamiliar. She is not Michael's wife, who I have met. It is a mystery.

I think of Michael. I am awake now. He is in some ways the man I could have become. Like me he is a native of Los Angeles. We both played baseball in high school. We both are tan and brunette, though his eyes are lighter than mine. He looks a bit like Brad Pitt in Ocean's Eleven. Before married life and all those kids weighed Brad down. Torn right out of the pages of GQ magazine. What you'd call studly. Hip. With short spikey hair which he may lighten a shade or two. He wears designer jeans and aviator shades, button down shirts with oversized collars. He drives a Range Rover. Very image conscious.

Like I used to be. I who used to look like Michael. In my late 20s I could have passed for his younger brother. With spikey hair with the tips bleached, and designer jeans, and an SUV. People used to call me studly and hip. Metro-sexual was the term used by some females, whom I got to know carnally, so they must have approved. When I'd travel people could tell I was "from Cali." I advertised it with my dudes and bros and the cosmetic creams that made my face sparkle and shine. Honestly looking at Michael is a lot like looking in a mirror, only it is a magic mirror that peers into some parallel universe. Because in actual fact, in this present reality, I look nothing like Michael. I have let my hair grow long and curly, lost about 20 lbs and wear as little clothing as I can get away with in public. And I'm as dark as Fab from Milli Vanilli. I live with my mother, don't own a car, and practically have no associations, no possessions you'd be proud to own. My laptop is a Dell not an Apple and my bicycle is aluminum not carbon fiber.

I am decidedly unlike Michael, who is the man of the world I could have become. He is doing well for himself materially. A landscaped house. His flourishing real estate business. He spends his days "hustling," is the word he likes to use. By his own admission he's let himself go a bit, had to with his lifestyle. He means 10 extra lbs around the middle. Because kids love their refined carbs, and his four-year-old has a metabolism like a furnace, so lots of bread and pasta, and there simply is not enough time to spend in the gym. Because like he says, he is always hustling.

Michael is 4 years older than me. He's into turbo coffee or some such thing, to which he mixes in butter and other stuff that doesn't sound very appetizing to have with your coffee but hey it helps "hack" your day. Hacking is the name of the movement he's into. He told me about it the first time we met. I told him I like his style. My girlfriend once saw him sipping coffee in his Jacuzzi one morning. That's what I would do if I had a jacuzzi, I say. But I probably wouldn't build it to be seen from the street. And I wouldn't have my coffee with butter. I can tell Michael likes my style too. He finds it fascinating that I run without a shirt or for that matter shoes, and what do people say? I dunno, Mike. I run too fast to care.

We chat whenever we cross paths. He has a lovely home, a lovely wife, and a lovely son, Ashton. Once he invites me over for a swim. Ashton and I have fun splashing around in the pool. He gets me in a neck lock and I have to dunk him underwater before he lets go. Kids are such little savages. Lords of the flies, the lot of them. But I like the little guy. He has long hair and lovely brown eyes. The best of both parents. Asian American is a good mix, I tell Michael within his wife's earshot. I think I may have offended her. Everyone's so ultra-sensitive these days. Like so many raw nerves. Or is it just me? The boy and I come up with a pretend name for him. Superhero Yeung is actually his idea. I promise to call him this whenever I see him. That was in April. I haven't seen him since.

In the Jacuzzi, Michael asks me what book I am reading. I think he's being polite. He doesn't seem like the type that reads much, or cares. Maybe he wants to mention the book with his other friends, the way he mentioned hacking to me. Maybe he's starved for culture and feels I can supply him with some. So I tell him about the work of Stephen Hawking. His eyes glaze over. I stop mid-sentence and change the subject. We talk about the good ole days, back in high school. The conversation gets animated for a while. He lends me a fresh towel to dry myself off. While I do so, he shows me the garage he just renovated. We say we'll have to do it again sometime. I run home. We've talked on the phone a couple times. I think he may have invited me over his house again, but I haven't been back. Socializing drains me. Some people it energizes. Me it simply drains. I'm more of a waver.

Something happened to me on the way to becoming Michael, something in the first decade of 2000. I spent half of it travelling, and suddenly LA was no longer the only world I knew. You mean not all people drive either a sports car or SUV, which they usually lease for the minimum 3 years to trade in for a newer model? And not everyone gets plastic surgery and sees movies in their spare time and is in or affiliated in some way with either real estate or entertainment? I lived on an island with not one traffic light, much less a shopping mall, then spent some months in southern Louisiana where the idea of a good time was eating crawfish till your insides burst. And then came the hospital in Denver. Colorado may be liberal in name, but it is cookie cutter conservative in form. Everybody looks the same. Mousey.

And as in any cult, and medicine is certainly a cult, the goal is to tear down your personality to build you up in their image, in this case of the perfect physician. After a year as an intern like other residents I got torn down all right, ripped to shreds really, harshly evaluated and told how crappy my performance was more times than I care to remember. But I left before the program could recast me in their mold. The doctor type, pasty and paunchy and perpetually worried, is not my idea of perfection.


So I came back to LA a blank slate. Rough around the edges, unfinished, not knowing what to get myself into, like an Edward Scissorhands. Free. And I decided not to fashion myself into anything. Just simply be. My ex-girlfriend from the dream helped with this. Long days at the beach, famer's markets, planting things. Being Bohemian, free. But even being free is also an image of sorts. I might even stand out more. I'm that guy who runs barefoot. It seems there's no escaping being pigeonholed or branded in some way or other. We treat ourselves like animals. Because we are, you say. At one level, yes. But are we merely that?

In the dream I am not having an affair with Michael's wife. This interpretation is too pat, too on the sleeve. Besides his missus is not my type, although she's a wonderful human being. And even if she were my type, I'm not the cheating kind, whether on my wife or with someone else's. It's just not my thing. The former is too complicated, as far as the latter - who wants sloppy seconds. And the commandments were drummed into me. Thou shalt not covet young man! Nope, in the dream Michael stood for another version of me. This alternate self, who may be living in another world, is the guy I might have become growing up in swanky Bel-Air as I did, had maybe I not been taken to India so many times and been taught the Vedas, had I not spent so much time in church, and well, had I not been me. This Michael is the daddy version of me, the one I could have become by now had I married and had kids. But I've always been more of a dreamer, into living simply, not very ego-driven. Maybe I just don't want all that responsibility.

Not that Michael is ego-driven, at least no more than the next guy. Compared to others, he fits right in. Ask him and he'll probably say he's right where he should be. Providing his family with an upscale home replete with all the creature comforts, and to do so damned if he isn't working his tail off. Good ole work ethic. And of course he's outward directed, concerned with external affairs. Who has time for the inner life? If I sit down to meditate, he says, I'll only be thinking of the many things I have yet to achieve before the day is done. And he has made such a nice life for his family, a real home, one that I'd be proud to come home to at night.

But I would never trade places with Michael. I've had my chances at Gwen Stefani's "simple kind of life" which Thoreau in his poetry describes, if a bit harshly, as "the life of quiet desperation." Not that I'm saying quiet desperation is synonymous with being a husband and father, though it can be and often is. The necessity of making ends meet often becomes the fear of not having enough which results in too much and letting yourself go. Which pretty much describes the human condition. Not all that simple.

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" I'd never say this to Michael. There's enough guilt going around already.

But the thing is, there was no Michael in my dream. Had there been, the women (my mother and the baby's mother) would not have allowed his baby to call me daddy. Instead they found it utterly adorable. This Michael existed only in my head, as a face and body that looked like his, but were really my own. I guarantee that had there been a dream mirror to look into at that moment, I would have found a Michael staring back at me. Because Michael was who I could have become, and in the dream, did become. Michael is me playing daddy. And also happens to be the name of my father, who played the role of parent and did his reluctant best.

And this woman by my side, the child's mother, whom I had no conjugal feelings for, nothing really except a sort of impersonal acknowledgement, well-meaning but by no means affectionate? Who was this child's mother? It is clear to me now that she was also my wife. It was I as Self, higher Self, pure awareness witnessing all, that knows no me and mine, this Self that didn't consider her my wife, only that the Self through her was playing the role of wife and also the role of husband, through "me." I didn't consider myself the child's father, because father was not who I really was. I was merely playing the role of parent to this child whose first word was addressed to me. And rightly so, for in the dream he was my son. Child of the lower me, the individual me.

That is, the son of the individual self with whom I, the Self, was associated. The dream self, not just because it took place in a dream, but any individual you play, whether in daily life or nightly visions, is not who you really are, and therefore as real as the product of a dream. The individual self is akin to a "parenthesis in eternity," to quote a mystical author. Of course you can play your role in society, as parent or sibling or spouse, but too often you believe that this is who you really are. You suffer memory loss, live hypnotically, get entranced by the cosmic dream.

It is easy to say I am not the body. Another thing is to feel it. If you're a parent, to see the parent role you play as so not-you as to seem like another person. That is quite an experience. Renunciation is not packing up and heading to the forest - though it can be. It is sinking your ego-based consciousness into the Self source of everything and always acting not from separation but from wholeness and integrity. That's THAT.

I urge you, as the dream has shown me, never to forget that it is not really you that strives and struggles, cries and achieves. You are not the body you inhabit, nor the mind and its intellect and senses, despite how it may seem. Much less are you what you have and where you live. This, all of it, is only a role you are playing. Who you really are existed before your body was formed, and will exist long after the body returns to dust. In praise or blame, I AM, single or spoken for, I AM, hungry or sated, I AM, rich or poor happy or sad excited or depressed I AM. The Self, both immanent and transcendent, inside and out, feels no hunger or thirst, pleasure or pain, happiness or grief. It is beyond duality. Is the movie screen burned by the explosions that take place during the film? Of course not. Distant and aloof, yet forever present, the Self remains always the same, as blissful consciousness pervading everything. Remain fixed in THAT, and let come what may.

Oh and I often pick up my mother's toy poodle Max, hold him like a baby and kiss him on the mouth. And sometimes he scratches on my mother's bedroom door to get into mine, so that's where the dream baby's behavior came from, in case you wondered about that.

Sometimes it takes a dream to make a person wake up to what's real. Now that leaves me to figure out whether these dreams of mine are telling me I'm supposed to be a parent, and if so with whom. Nah, I had to play part-time parent to my two younger brothers. That suit didn't fit. And like I said, I'm not into wearing much clothes. Unless I marry a princess. But Kate's taken. Not that she'd be a princess if not by marriage. Oh it doesn't really matter either way. With child or without, as the lonely purity, it is I AM that plays the game. And after the curtain falls, I AM that remains the same.

 
Of course I may have gotten the dream's meaning all wrong. Another neighbor, two doors down from Mike, recently had a baby of her own. She is blonde. We have maybe exchanged a dozen words, pleasantries mostly. She seems like a nice person. And her husband, whom I have only seen once, does vaguely resemble Michael. At least they have similar coloring. I have never seen husband and wife together. I haven't seen the husband for years. Just her walking her dog with her infant in the stroller. Maybe the marriage is on the rocks and this is me imagining raising her child as a step-father. In which case I really wouldn't be the daddy, and yet I'd be justified in feeling weird about being called that by a baby that is not my own blood. Secret wish fulfillment perhaps? Certainly not a conscious desire of mine. Like I said I'm not the cheating type. Or for that matter into divorcees. I wish them a lifetime of marital bliss.
 
Come to think of it, last week I ate dinner at a friend's house, whose wife just had her third child, with black hair just like my dream baby. And Devin does sort of look like Michael. But I certainly don't have designs on Devin's wife. Though she is also a lovely woman. And Emma is a beautiful baby girl. It goes to show you, as in the time of Freud and Jung, dream interpretation is still an inexact science at best, but fun to think about.

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