January, 2000, Volume 7 Nr. 5,
As I write this issue there are 12 days left in the 1990s. It is December 19, 1999 and today is JeanneE's last day with Patch Adams in Cuba. When I was very young in my pre-teens, each New Year's Eve I would stand atop the stoops in front of the Brownstone building in which we lived waiting for the new year to arrive at midnight. People would come out on their stoops. I could clearly see up-and-down the block in nice neat rows on both sides of the street people ready to make noise. The pots and pans started appearing and the sounds which came from their banging commenced after Guy Lombardo and his orchestra began singing and playing Auld Lang Syne on the television at the moment that the big televised ball in Times Square hit bottom.
For those few minutes before the ruckus began I would stand there atop the stoops, which during the day served as a convenient backstop and focal point for stoopball, looking into the sky. I looked into the what appeared to be the immensely star-studded Jersey City sky (until I grew up and discovered lightless Vermont nights) hoping that a cross or other mysterious and ominous sign would not appear signifying that the end of the world was about to happen.
I distinctly recall wanting, wishing and praying for one more year - one more year that would bring me closer to the year 2000. I wondered if I would live long enough to see it. I calculated how old I would be when the calendar went from 1999 to 2000. I calculated that I would be 50 years old when the year 2000 rolled around, close to my 51st birthday. I wanted to live long enough to see what many of my teachers, the Felician nuns, were telling me was an important date to God, to Roman Catholic believers and to the world.
I will celebrate my 51st birthday in just over three weeks, honored that it falls on January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. In the interval between my childhood and now much has changed. Eating meat on Friday no longer gets one a trip down under if one dies before one confesses. At one time, I believed that not-eating meet, if it was a good thing to not do on Fridays, would grant me extra indulgences if done voluntarily at other times during the week. I was too young to know and too naive to understand that hundreds of years prior Martin Luther had been through all this and set his own responses to it into motion on the Cathedral door. Perhaps, I should be wondering this New Year's Eve if my time in Purgatory has been significantly reduced as for the past 25 or more years I have been a vegetarian? Surely, if one is to acquire credits for not eating meat on Fridays (as if fish were not meat) as a sacrifice or offering to an Almighty and powerful God, then giving it up forever, should place one on the short list of candidates for significant reward...some would say like hitting the Vermont Tri-State megabucks. I admit from time-to-time to still reverting to being that child at the top of the stoops, but, instead of asking for one more year, I wonder how long humanity has to change things before the planet reaches a point of no return.
A quick line from The Doors album shakes me loose from mental time flight. "You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!!", shouts out the now long gone, Jim Morrison, who is marching in a Soft Parade, Waiting for the Sun. While I get to see and hear This is the End, as 1999 is ripped off calendars across the world in rhythmic wavelike succession starting in the South Pacific, Jim doesn't get to see the effects of Y2K. He doesn't get in all his outdated vacuum tube glory to witness the effects of all the computer brains with pocket protectors who twenty years ago were short-sighted enough to develop operating systems for IBM PC compatibles that only utilized the last two digits of the year. These cyber wackadoodles are today multi-million and multi-billionaires. Their homes and lives are Y2K compatible while hundreds of millions of computers throughout the world, particularly those in economically strapped countries, such as Russia, run out the clock waiting to see if PC-controlled and supported nuclear weapons, power plants, power grids, life support systems, trains, etc., have accidental launches, detonations, meltdowns, shutdowns, mishaps and other "acceptable risk" glitches. If I were 13 years old again sitting atop that Brownstone in Jersey City on New Years Eve 2000 knowing what I know today and fearing the Felician mythology of back then, I might likely surmise that the Y2K bug was the sign telling me that the planet would not see much of the year 2000.
Here I am, on December 19, looking for anyone who believes that the world will end on midnight January 1, 2000. I am looking especially for people who are convinced that the rapture will take place at that time. I'd like to ask just one of these believers who are convinced that their bodily flight out of this world is imminent if I can have their car? Since they won't be needing it having attained superior non-vehicular locomotion I could put that automobile to good use. It's not that I doubt these people's sincerity, rather I doubt their belief. There is as much chance of me getting their car today as there was of me seeing the sign in the sky from my noisy vantage point in Jersey City almost four decades ago.
The year 2000 does have some significance. It is a psychological unique changing of the yearly digits which suggests something new is taking place, at least for those of us who subscribe to the predominant Christian calendar of Pope Gregory XIII, who in his own ignorance did not take leap years into account when he created it. Seems that the Y2K bug has a built in Y1582 bug on top of it. The whole point of moving from the previously accepted Julian calendar of that time to a new system was the drifting of the dates for religious holidays, particularly Easter. Interesting though, that today, Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day in Spring. It along with bunny rabbits, eggs, chicks, etc., sound pagan to me. Just think. If it were not for Gregory we would have to wait till March 25 to celebrate the new year. He moved it back from March 25 to January 1. So, he's to blame for Bill's little bug popping up in the next few days? Gregory was not privy to Kepler's laws of motion either. There's nothing like a papal Bull, a bit of infallibility, to place an imprimatur on when Y2K gets triggered. I wonder if millenialist rapture awaiters have escape clauses in their life insurance policies? Perhaps, a more important question might be, would anyone who believes that the rapture is coming in their lifetime at any moment actually buy life insurance, a seemingly unnecessary commodity?
On December 18, 1999, I was listening to Radio Havana Cuba (RHC) on 6,000 kHz short-wave. I first listened to Ed Newman and the news. I was interested in hearing news about Patch Adam's medical educational tour. 80 people are part of Patch's entourage. I had not heard from my wife, JeanneE, since she left to join the group on December 10. After Ed Newman's news, RHC had a special report. They covered a lecture that Patch Adam's was giving. I knew that JeanneE was in the crowd as I had her itinerary. Since Patch makes people laugh and JeanneE's laugh is loud and unmistakable I thought that I had a good chance of hearing her. I did not. I listened intently as Patch said something which for me is an inspiration for the new decade of the 00's. Here was my sign, not from divinity directed to the stoops of a Brownstone, but, from another long-haired and tall man thousands of miles away in a room with my wife in a country which my government has attempted to crush for the past 40 years through an economic embargo which includes the sale of food and medicine. (Isn't it interesting how long-haired people have affected humanity beginning in the first century onward). Here was a modern physician, a contemporary example of love and compassion giving a talk in the presence of U.S. and Cuban healthcare workers and providers in a country where health care is free and a priority while back home 45 million people have no health coverage at all in the richest nation that has ever existed.
Patch's message during the lecture was a simple one. He talked about his childhood which he said was a happy one. Even so, he told the story of twice being suicidal. At the conclusion of the second episode which included a hospitalization, Patch concluded that from that day forward, "I will never again have a bad day." That simple affirmation, that statement of purpose beamed up north from RHC might just as well have been a sign in the sky. In many ways, Patch Adam's lecture was a restatement of the lessons that appear in A Course in Miracles. He was talking about Attitudinal Healing, a topic which not only was written about years ago in Metaphoria, but, a spiritual self-psychotherapy which was the basis by which this newsletter began, originally called, A Course for Teachers.
Patch Adams dresses as a clown and uses humor for healing. I've often called humor, Vitamin H. JeanneE once told me that the reason why angels fly is because they take themselves so lightly. How easy it is to take ourselves heavily or so seriously as to not see those things which are important and worthwhile. Those things are not one's retirement plan or investment portfolio, nor one's ability to make or raise money, increase wealth or status in the ever dominant corporate world.
A few months ago there were a few small life events which upset me. A Course in Miracles teaches that projection makes perception - a good lesson in Attitudinal Healing to remember. I wrote Patch Adams at the time expressing my admiration for his activism and commitment to peace and social justice. I sent my thoughts to him via an Email address which appeared on the homepage of his Gesundheit! Institute. I promptly received a reply from the homepage webmaster that Patch does not touch computers, but, that if I pass along my postal address he would reply. That letter is now framed on the wall of the living room in our home. It is hand-written and difficult to read, but, remains as a reminder. Below a picture of Patch surrounded by many children in a refugee camp in Kosovo are the instructions to, "Keep a sense of humor in your interface" with others. A week after receiving the letter, Patch and Dr. Helen Caldicott from Physicians for Social Responsibility were arrested for walking naked on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, California, while attempting to draw attention to the Y2K dangers associated with computers and nuclear weapons.
Patch and Helen made a good point in their choice of civil disobedience. Bareing all to get attention brings out the newspaper reporters, TV media and the crowds. That being said, perhaps, we should all march naked for peace and social justice? Can you imagine millions of people worldwide committed to ending hunger, wanting, alienation, loneliness, pain and suffering by demonstrating naked on the first work day after Y2K and every year thereafter? While January 1 may be the Roman Catholic Feast Day of the Circumcision (although it may no longer be called that), January 2 can become the Feast of the Bare Facts for Social Change - a day to recommit humanity to people first, to friendship, love and compassion, to alleviating the pain of alienation. Call it a sign. Call it human. Call it sacred. Call it Satyagraha. Every person has the Power from Within. Let's do it!
© 2000 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski