I've had one hell of a life- hit all 7 continents, the Titanic, the North Pole and Mt. Everest. Then a bunch of war zones- going back to Angola in 1980 until Iraq in 2003. For some reason, God wired me not to run the other way, though I have a healthy respect for staying alive. Just not hesitant to walk right up to the edge.
Along the way, I've been able to check off all of my childhood dreams, except going to outer space but my story's not over. Among the things I enjoyed when I was little:
I loved watching wildlife shows on television- filming animals all over the world fascinated me. Now, I have an Emmy for my work in Africa for National Geographic Television.
I loved Sci-Fi- for all of its limitless possibilities and infinite worlds of maybe (borrowed from a favorite book title). And then one day I figured out how to shrink a TV truck into a backpack. With it, I transmitted live video via satellite from many harsh, remote and extreme locations on Earth.
Then there were pioneer-age aircraft- the brass, the copper, the wood, the fabric. I built a reproduction 1917 WW1 fighter, flew it a few times, then sold it. Then I built another plane, and that figures prominently into my story.
The second aircraft I built was a 1933 reproduction Flying Flea. On my 2nd test flight, the engine quit and I crashed.
When my plane finished crashing and someone came to help, there was no aircraft left around me- it had entirely disintegrated, except for the rear section to which I was still seat-belted. Blood was pouring out of my mouth as foam from my two ruptured lungs, all my ribs were broken and my right leg looked like a pretzel. There were other injuries but these top the list.
Once I was helicoptered to the hospital, the trauma team put me in a breathing machine and inserted all types of tubing going into or coming out of me. They placed heavy canvas cuffs on my hands and strapped them around my wrists so that I couldn't remove the tubing in my delirium. What no one knew was that some of my work in war zones required training to escape such restraints. And in this case, what I saw through my shocked and medicated mind was an enemy hospital- that's how powerful my training was. I tried to conscript my oldest daughter- whom I didn't recognize- into helping me escape, but she said no, then watched me slither out of my restraints, and called for help. The nurses ran in and stopped me. The doctors then told Dana, my wife, that since I was hovering between life and death, needing multiple 6+ hour operations and being a handful, they would put me into a week-long coma.
And that's where my story really starts, more important to me than all my hopes and dreams that led me here. When the doctors put me under, I immediately awoke somewhere else, a place I call the In Between. It was NOT pleasant. It was painful, gray and hard. Not hell, maybe more purgatory-like. I was there for one week, and though it felt like torture, I was given the chance to change my future. I still find it amazing that between 2 endpoints of time defined by absolute stupor caused by shock, anesthesia and pain medication, I was wide awake, fully aware and remember everything. Of my crash, two days before and several weeks after- I remember nothing.
In the In Between, I appeared on a large gray terrace of a tall building. The sky was also gray. I was on my right knee, with my left foot planted flat on the ground, in a semi-crouch. The reason for this odd posture was that I was feeling intense nausea in my stomach and simply couldn't stand up. I was bewildered, as I had no idea why I should be in pain at all, or why in my stomach, but there was no arguing with it. In trying to get my bearings, I looked over to my left and saw a large, for want of a better word, machine. It was tall and shaped like an egg. It was actually constructed of a chaotic latticework of straps, more open than closed. Within I could see sector gears oriented in every orientation possible. A wave of nausea hit me and I said, "I don't think I can stand this". When I said that, the gears within the machine all started spinning around, with a clack-clack-clack like you hear on a roller coaster as it pulls up a steep incline.
I watched the gears then come to rest and I realized that the machine and I were somehow connected. That it moved in response to me. Bent over in pain, I shuffled my way over to it and looked inside. I can still see the straps bending around forming the egg, and within, many sections of gears arranged in a way that looked chaotic to me and would have made spinning around impossible here in this earthly reality.
One gear right in front of my face had an impression of something related to my life. As it was a large gear, it was easy to notice and I could see it represented a large home renovation project in my future, specifically a purchase at a home improvement store. I looked at another gear and saw a friend at an amusement park with her family. I looked at more gears and soon saw that they represented my future of thoughts, words, and actions.
I decided to reach through the open lattice of the egg and see what the gears felt like. I lightly touched some and then felt one that increased my sense of nausea. I can't explain why, but rather than recoil my hand, I grabbed that particular gear tightly. Bracing myself against my stomach pain, I yanked as hard as I could, pulling the gear free. I wiggled it out through the maze of other gears and then the opening of the lattice I'd reached through. Without looking at what it represented, I threw it away as hard as I could, over my left shoulder. I really wanted as much distance as possible between it and me. Right then, the machine came once more to life, and the gears started spinning around again. This was my future re-calibrating itself to an event now missing, re-fitting all the things surrounding the now-absent occurrence in my future in order to fill that space in time. I guess you can't just show up in 20 years to find a gaping black hole on a beach or in a boardroom representing something you won't do that day.
The machine stopped and I again felt inside to further explore using my sense of touch and my hurting gut as guides. Again, I found a gear that didn't feel right, yanked it out and threw it away. Once more the machine accounted for its absence in re-fitting everything together. So I kept at it, though I'm not sure why, except that I knew I was removing things in my future that were hurting me right now. I interpreted this as somehow cleaning up my future in a preventative fashion, and reaching in and finding more toxic gears made me think there were plenty. It's humbling that it was my hand feeling blindly around and my hurting stomach that guided its search, rather than some moral compass or sense of higher self.
While Dana remained here on this plane, kicking the doctors into action to put me back together, I was in the In Between, with nothing else to do than continue searching inside the machine of my future for nauseating gears to remove. After each and every removal, the remaining probabilities of things I would think, say or do spun around and I saw the events in my life whiz by. All of these possibilities were based on who I was right then, and I knew it was more important to redirect my destiny to one better than to try and know the future by remembering every event yet to come. Again everything whizzed by, fitting together in new unimaginable ways. Knowing the future simply wasn't important here. Seeing how everything fit together, the interconnectedness of it all, was. Understanding goes deeper than answers.
At some point, I realized I was feeling a little less sick. I knew this was my removing what was bad for me from my future. I wondered why I was sick here, why this place looked so Gothic and my future represented itself to me in the form it did. I think it logical that the look and nauseous feel of the place may have had to do with my past, with what I brought with me at that present moment in time. If the place was cold and gray, perhaps it was because I was too. If I was sick to my stomach, maybe it was as a mirror that reflected back a version of me unprotected by the usual filters of ego that justify every wrong decision I've made. If that doesn't divorce you from a sense of self, I don't know what will. All this in a place for which residence required some measure of purity more than I had to give.
I began to recognize patterns as my life repeatedly whizzed by. When I say "interconnected", I mean to a degree that the type of wood flooring you choose for your kitchen this week will somehow affect the color of shoelaces you'll buy next month. That understanding of connection then spoke directly to me, that I pay more attention to relationships. That these are precious and to be tended. The final straw was a realization that I just couldn't take watching the gears spin around again. It was torture, having all my re-engineering efforts followed by the spinning and clacking of gears, seeing the same events pass in front of my eyes again and again. I simply needed to escape this, even while I was the one causing it. As soon as I felt my nausea was manageable, I said, "I think I can live with this". And with that, I woke up back here. I had been away 1 week, and not for a second in that time did I rest from my efforts in the In Between.
My memory upon returning here to the ICU is non-existent. I was transferred at some point to a rehabilitation hospital. Eventually, my ability to remember anything finally settled back upon me and the first visitor I remember was the Catholic priest from my wife's church, who'd transferred out several years before. Father Bob had seen the news about my crash and somehow figured out where I was and came to say hello. He and Dana just happened to arrive at the hospital at the same time and she thought he was there to see someone else. She was surprised when they got off the elevator on the same floor. I have no memory of what we talked about, only that there was a lot of happiness in the room. Why wouldn't there be? Father Bob was a jolly guy and I was still drugged up on pain medication. It wasn't until several months later when I was writing up my experience of the In Between, that I sent it to him for his thoughts.
It's interesting how the memory of the experience descended on me here, back in the world. The remembering predicted the eventual question of wondering what future events in my life I had removed. It took the form of having a conversation with God. In this exchange, He removed from me and suspended in space, something representing cigars and booze- two things I had grown fond of in recent years. I looked at them and then He asked, "What do you want to do with these? If you want to take them with you, I will carry them for you. But if you want to leave them behind, I will remove all of your attachment to them. It will be as if you have never had them, and they will have no pull on you". It didn't take much thought to realize I was being offered a great deal. So I said, "Leave them behind". He said, "Alright" and they were gone.
I can't say if it returned all at once or was like peeling an onion, my reverie of the In Between. But I do know that soon, I began talking about it. In fact, I felt pushed to do so- compelled, even. The first person I told it to was my morning nurse, Jen. I've no idea why, but she would come by my room and find a reason to stay for a while, just to talk about life. So one day I asked her if it was OK to talk about this experience I had. Jen was eager to hear. As I completed the tale, she began to cry. I asked why and she said, "I don't want you to die, because you are magical". I first asked her why dying would bother her in that she was a nurse, then asked what she meant by magical. She said that all the doctors in the hospital were so busy that each patient would receive only a few minutes from one doctor every day. For some reason, I had three doctors who liked visiting me and would stay and chat about all sorts of things. One even wanted to form several businesses with me, and we managed to have a couple of conference calls while I was still in the hospital. In short, Jen had never seen anything like it. I wondered if maybe I'd returned with a superpower of being likable, remembering the lesson regarding relationships…
I keep chewing slowly on my introduction to the IB and its importance to me grows. I don't talk to everyone about it, but I think about it all the time and it still reveals things to me. I actually have to work to not see this world from that place, as a core part of me remains there. Memory becomes meditation.
The egg shape of the machine housing the gears of my future represents continual birth, perpetual Becoming.
The gears represent my most-probable thoughts, words and deeds as the gestating embryo of my future, impregnated by my destiny, itself moment by moment determined by who I am at this instant in time.
I was given the opportunity to gene-edit the DNA of my future and re-engineer the events and experiences that would bring out of me a better person (birth). Working on the fundamental, internally latent level results in changes in this outwardly manifest level we call “life”.
Because the latent is too large to be held by the manifest, that which is obvious in one place can only be intuited in another. Logic alone fails because it perceives only what is correct. But emotions tell us what is important, which puts down the roots of faith, which then can connect to logic with the bridge of intuition. This is how the two work together, at least for me.
I find proof of this in how deeply sensitive and intuitive people hearing my story sense the life of it, as if they can’t quite see, though can feel, the egg of destiny giving birth to the future.
In the End:
All the force of Will you need is found in the art of Letting Go. Always live Life in celebration of the individual spirit. For no one, no thing, can stand before the brilliance of the truly naked soul.