AVOIDING REALITY

I started my journey in Life at the Pine Rest Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville, Michigan, just two months out of high school. Most of my buddies put their applications in at General Motors or Herman Miller in the hopes of getting a job that would pay a good retirement. For some reason the idea of planning for my retirement at the age of 18 didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I didn’t know where Life would be taking me… but I sure hoped it would at least get me out of Michigan.

My first duties were mopping floors and cleaning toilets in a depressing old red brick building that housed long term male patients.   There was a fenced in Yard where patients could go if they wanted, but most just sat in wooden chairs lined up against the walls, smoking cigarettes.

That first month was rather hard on me and when I finally did get my pay check it was less than a hundred dollars. I was disappointed and embarrassed to even tell my friends, who were bragging about their Two Hundred dollar paychecks and looking for a new Chevy to buy because they could get a discount for working at GM. I thought about quitting… but before I got around to it I was promoted to an Orderly, which allowed me to have direct contact with the patients and an increase in pay.

There are many stories I could tell you of my first encounters with the mental patients in Building One, most of whom had years of experience with new staff like me, who came with preconceived ideas of what a mental ward was like. For the most part life was boring for them and so any time one of them could pull a prank on me; it became entertainment for them all. I soon learned that just because I carried the keys and went home when my shift was over, didn’t necessarily mean I was any smarter than they were. For many, the life they lived was a chosen path, and it was not, in any way, an easy one to maintain.

One of those patients was a young man who I originally mistook for one of the staff. He always dressed very neatly and could carry an intelligent conversation on almost any subject. I asked him one day where he learned so much and he told me he had gone to school since the age of three. I asked him if it was a special school and he said, “No, where I come from all of the children start school at three. It is required.”

“And where did you come from?” I asked out of curiosity. He gave me the name of a place but I didn’t recognize it. “Is that in Michigan?” I responded.

“No,” he replied, quite seriously, “it’s on another planet.”

“OK, you got me on that one,” I replied with a smile, “but I’m serious. You are very knowledgeable and I would like to know where you went to school.”

“I just told you.” he responded, looking very hurt by my disbelief, and without a further word turned and walked away.

I was selected by the school to go to Nurses training and left Building One soon after that. In training I would occasionally return to the ward and try to talk with John… his story was always the same, and even though I presented him with facts that showed his story could not be true, he stuck to it.

John had grown up in a privileged family and went to some of the best schools in the country but then one day decided he had had enough of the life he was living and the people who were trying to control it… and so he created a new world for himself, where people would leave him alone.

According to John, he was a child when he came to Earth on an exploratory visit with his scientist father. Their ship had come down in some dense forest and John, being curious about the trees and vegetation, which they did not have in their world, ventured out beyond the perimeter set by the team. Some drunken men had discovered the ship and started firing at it with their shotguns and since the team was under strict orders not to destroy any humans, they had no choice but to leave John behind. He spent several days in the forest, until he was discovered by some hunters and placed in foster care.

John needed to believe that story more than anything else in the world, even though there was nothing to back it up. He needed to believe it because if he started doubting it, he would have to face the reality of his own failure and, in addition, would have to accept the responsibility for building a new life. That was too much of a price to pay for John, and so he spent the remainder of his life believing his father would one day come back for him and make everything right again.

John’s story in not that much different than many of ours, for when we look into the Heavens, we feel overwhelmed by its vastness and when we look to the Earth we feel helpless to do anything to change it… and so we create stories of how we got here and imagine that one day our daddy will come to save us and everything will be alright.

We tell ourselves these stories, even though there is no evidence to back them up, because the idea of being alone in this vast Universe can be scary, and to accept the idea that everything that is wrong in the world is of our own doing and the only way it will be made right is by our working it out together, is a reality most of us don’t want to face.

I happen to believe in Life however, and have confidence that It will find a way out of our present condition and bring us into a New Day, where Love and Peace shall reign.

THE FIGHT

A few days ago we had a group of people here that wanted to spend the day with our children. They showered them with gifts and prepared a dinner with more food on the table then the kids had ever seen before. We had a great time but as is usual, on days like these, the kids get tired and sooner or later a fight breaks out. The two boys were about the same size and therefore it was a fair fight. Our usual policy at Wat Opot is to allow the children to express themselves, as long as the fight is clean, and then applaud the participants when it is over for coming to an agreement. Not everyone understands this of course and I had hoped to avoid having to step in but I could see that the guests were very concerned and so we broke them apart. The one boy however, who had been pushed down in the dirt, would not be consoled and so I gave the other one, who had done the pushing, a one minute head start to find a hiding place, before releasing his victim. He disappeared behind some buildings and when I released his victim he went running after him.  The visitors wanted me to follow them but I told them it would be no problem and we continued with the games. The boys returned together later and had obviously worked things out. When children are given responsibility for their actions, they usually come up with adult solutions.

Some people wonder why I have given up on religion and I can certainly understand their confusion; but the reason is simple. I got tired of being a child of God… because as long as I believed I was a child of God, I was not responsible for my life or for this world that He put me in. Everything that happened to me was because He wanted it to. Even if I had done something wrong, Jesus covered it with his blood and I could live with the assurance that all of those who did something wrong to me, would be cast into hell. When adults are not given responsibility for their actions, they usually come up with childish solutions… and that is exactly what we see in the world today. 

Jesus showed us how we should live our life here on Earth. He stood up to injustice, he healed the sick and the blind, and he did not become a member of any society. He was a terrorist in the eyes of the religious authorities and took responsibility for his actions by being crucified. Shouldn’t we be doing the same?

ONENESS

God didn’t die, but neither does he live. He is only a creation of those who refuse to accept the responsibility for their own lives. Life however, has been around for a long-long time and in fact was present when the formation of what we call the Universe burst into being. The existence of a God Being has been in question from the beginning of mankind’s time on Earth, but who can question the existence of Life? Life flows through each and every one of us each time we take a breath. It also exists all around us in the forest and the mountain streams, without which we could not survive. We are all connected, not only to each other, but to nature as well, and it is this interconnection, or Oneness, that drives us forward into eternity.

Life is not a Being and therefore needed no Creator. It Is, always has been, and always will be Life, regardless of what form it may choose to take. Humankind is only one manifestation of Life, and in time may no longer be of necessity… but Life will go on in other forms, as I am sure it has done in other parts of the Universe.

What then is the purpose of humankind if nothing we do will last? The answer is quite simple actually; we are the filtration system for the Plant Kingdom so that it can breathe and produce flowers and trees that provides a beautiful shelter from heat and storm to their most important asset… which just happens to be you and me.

Wayne Dale Matthysse

RELIGION

I am not interested in destroying anyone’s religious views or habits. We all crave security, and belonging to a religious group can provide us with the fellowship needed for us to have a meaningful life. The problem lies not in how a group of people decides to worship, but in how the group they belong to functions in the world. Many religious groups support proselytizing of “pagan” peoples or support military actions against opposing religious groups. While these destructive actions may not require the direct involvement of a majority of its members, it does require financial support and backing. While I know of many good people who would never think about turning a child against his parents or culture, without thought would give money to a Vacation Bible School program in some poor community or third world country, which is one of the most destructive weapons in the missionary’s arsenal. Most of us would never think about killing another person, yet support the military actions of our leaders with, not only our financial support, but with our sons and daughters as well. 

All I am asking of you is to  look within yourself for the answers to life’s questions and not to someone else; for until we have learned to accept ourselves completely, we will never even begin to realize the beautiful creatures we are becoming as a result of overcoming what many Christians call our “sinful nature”, and what I have come to think of as Ignorance of our true potential.

Creation is, in Essence, God. Let all of Creation rejoice!

STEPPING OFF THE FIELD

The Enemy
 
The Sun settled slowly,
After a long and costly fight,
And I with the rest of the men who survived,
Pulled back and dug in for the night.
 
In front of us in an open field,
Lay those we could not save,
Their mangled bodies stiff and cold,
Their lives for freedom gave.
 
I sat alone on listening post,
But nothing could I see,
Yet across the field at another post,
I knew one sat like me.
 
I wondered if by chance he too,
Were trying not to cry,
Remembering all the friends he’d lost,
Asking why they had to die.
 
Suddenly my feelings changed,
No hatred could I find,
How strange that this my enemy,
Would have feeling just like mine.
 
I wanted then to meet him,
But would he understand,
If I stood in peace before him,
And offered him my hand?
 
With a rifle shot, the answer came,
And I knew it could not be,
For that young man across the field,
He was my enemy.
 
And so I put away my thoughts,
And forgot about my friend,
For I knew tomorrow we’d probably meet,
And for one it would be the end.
 

We did meet the following day and although I do not know if it was his… a hand grenade exploded just a few feet in front of me, sending shrapnel through the air, a piece of which shattered my glasses… causing me to loss vision in one eye. I wrote this poem a few months later, while recovering from those wounds at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. It is not one of my better poems but it does express well what I was feeling at that time in my life. A lot has changed since then… and yet, only recently, have I realized the significance of what I wrote back in 1968.

It did not take me long back then, to go from pro-American to anti-establishment Hippie. I exchanged my gun for a Bible, went from Republican to Democrat, left the work force to become a volunteer, and realized that there were alternatives to being straight. I considered myself to be a much better person… more loving, more open, and much more intelligent than any pro-American, straight, gun carrying, workaholic, Republican, and up until recently, delighted in defending my position with anyone who dared challenge me.

Perhaps I have just grown tired of the challenges… or maybe it is, that in my old age, I have finally come to the Understanding, that to become friends with your enemies, you must to be willing to step away from the playing fields and not take sides with those who choose to continue playing the games.