A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
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I’m a Missourian. I grew up right on the Mississippi River. The most important part of my childhood was spent just wandering in the woods. I spent a lot of time in nature. Mostly alone. If I could, I’d get a friend to go with me, but usually I’d walk their legs off. There were a lot of caves and real high bluffs, things to explore.
The out-of-body experience seems to be the closest thing that people report to death . . . In an out-of-body experience, people report that their consciousness can move to different physical locations, can roam about without the body, in some presumably immaterial form.
He was only another name, another guru, until I read Sally Kempton’s article in New York Magazine. Sally had written for Esquire a couple of years ago about her liberation as a woman. Now, she was writing about a different kind of liberation.
What is your personal view of survival after death? Do you think it is certain, probable, possible, improbable, or impossible?
Our reporter, Dusty Miller, writes, “Unless you’re trying to scratch out a living as an artist or have seen the contemporary collection at the state museum of art in Raleigh, or live in a treehouse in the hinterlands like a friend of mine, you’re undoubtedly aware that North Carolina is the state of the arts. Everyone’s heart of Thomas Wolfe, clogging, and handmade dulcimers, but how many people are aware that living a life of quiet anonymity in Raleigh is one of the nation’s literary porn kings, Ronald Kemp? The company he’s been working for recently folded, but that’s life, the life of an artist.”
Ron Tabor says he spent the first 17 years of his life in New York City, watching The Three Stooges and eating pizza.
Her hands are graceful, forceful, certain. They move through the air like swift, impassioned birds, emphasizing her words, as she explains about medicines of flowers and fruits for craziness, diagnosing pregnancy by feeling the pulse in the ring finger, the difficulty of curing heart disease when there are evil spirits, the importance of the doctor’s own dreams before the patient arrives, and, with the same matter-of-factness, about cancer. She is sitting cross-legged on the pillow, her eyes dark and active, her voice calm: why tumors grow; karma; the presence of evil spirits.
I remember my visit last November to The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. This is the Stephen Gaskin commune. Until three years ago, Stephen, a former college teacher, was mostly known for the weekly sermons he gave in San Francisco, known as “Monday Night Class.” He spoke the language of many young people who have turned away from the soft, delightful comforts of their fathers, in their search for a different lifestyle, and attracted a large following.
Some of them moved east with him, to The Farm, located about 50 miles south of Nashville. More than 700 men, women, and children live there now.
Work on yourself first, before you work on something else. That’s kind of the basic idea. The Zen people say wash your bowl. The Sufis say clean your mirror. It’s all the same thing. Work on yourself first, then those other questions answer themselves.