Philip Marlowe and the I Ching – September 15 2018

Philip Marlowe and the I Ching – September 15 2018

Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos. Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish in the crowd.
I Ching
 
It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are without any self-deception or illusion that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized.
I Ching
 
Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production.
Raymond Chandler
 
I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
 
Many years ago I studied the I Ching. I took a bag of books with me everywhere, and the I Ching often was in the bag. There has always been a safety for me in having books around; and to have a book that sometimes seems to be sentient, and much wiser than me, gave me the feeling of safety on a high order. 
 
One night, attending an acting class downtown at the Mark Taper, I left my books in my taxi and the taxi was broken into. My I Ching was gone, along with my journal and whatever other books I was reading at the time. I drove around frantically for an hour or two looking in dumpsters and alleyways, hoping that the thieves would toss out the books and just keep the leather shoulder bag, but to no avail.
 
A couple of months later I was at Counterpoint Used Books in Hollywood and got involved in a conversation with a clerk there. He was middle-aged. I was in my twenties. He seemed a bit lost, and almost as socially inept as I was at the time. The reason for this came clear as he told me his story. It seems that he was a Jesuit of some obscure lineage of Jesuits, and he had spent the preceding 20 years in a monastery observing a vow of silence. The monks were allowed to speak one day each year. The rest of the time, nothing. This was the extreme to which he had gone in order to find God.
 
During one of the Ecumenical Councils a year or two prior to our meeting, the Church fathers had determined that the vow of silence no longer was needed in, or even appropriate to, the modern age. The Jesuit and his brothers were told to begin speaking. This caused in my new-found friend a bit of a breakdown. The foundation of his practice had been wrenched away, with nothing to replace it, and he had not yet achieved his goal of an experience of God. He had taken a leave of absence from his brotherhood, and was here working in this used book store and contemplating the idea of rejoining life, and the idea of sex.
 
I so related to this man. He was shy and stumbling. In awe of women. His need of God was so obvious, as was his lack of direction as to where to look. All qualities I myself possessed. I began to stop in regularly and we would talk. At some point I told him about my stolen I Ching, and he offered his own copy, for the book was something he had picked up in his search for meaning after his silence had ended, not least because Carl Jung had written the introduction. In exchange, I gave him a first edition Raymond Chandler. Philip Marlowe. He loved mysteries. Go figure. 
 
One day he was gone. I have no idea where he went or whatever happened to him. I can only hope he found a spiritual practice that worked for him. But I do think of him from time to time, and when I do I can’t help but wonder what he would have to say about the experience available to me each day in my meditation practice. Any of us who look for an inner experience of God do so because we know intuitively it’s there to be had. I looked for years without success. In fact I had given up on finding anything of value in spiritual practice some brief time before I found Vedic meditation. I had given up on finding true transformation of myself in my spiritual studies, because I never had found it, in all my years of trying. I thought, maybe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I don’t deserve it. Maybe I’d been thrown away by God and it was time I accepted my lot. Then I learned to meditate, and it was the beginning of a transformation that continues to this day.
 
I think this was where my brother, the Jesuit, found himself when we met. I think he was in the process of giving up on the idea of finding God, giving up on the idea that it was available within, and was preparing to throw himself into the  secular world with the hope he could find something of value there. For even though Philip Marlowe never was happy, at least each of his cases ended with an answer to the mystery he’d embraced.
 
Today I will be grateful for the mystery of life, for the idea that the answer to this mystery lies within me, and for this practice that allows me to contact this place whenever I choose to.
Book Covers
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober