Aleph

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"... So, I had a double life. In the summer I was a teenage messiah with an old Harley Davidson and cowboy hat and cowboy boots, and during the rest of the year I was taking walks with an old man who I had literally run into. I knocked the wind out of him and he said with a thick French accent, "are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?" I said, "yes sir, it looks that way," and he said, "well, bon voyage." The following week I met him again. He had a long name but he asked me to call him by the first part which to my ears was something like Mr Tayer.

He had no self-consciousness whatsoever. He had leaky margins and he was falling into lovingness with things all the time. He would fall to the ground in the park in ecstasy to look at a caterpillar with his long gaelic nose raking the ground. "Oh Jean look, a caterpillar! What does a caterpillar become, uh? Moving, changing, transforming - metamorphosis. Can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar? What is it to be a papillon, a butterfly? The butterfly is within you! What is the butterfly of Jean in ten, twenty, thirty years, uh? I replied tentatively, "I think I'll be flying around the world meeting different peoples and helping them to be what they can be." This question was my adolescent initiation.

He was something. He had all kinds of strange ways of relating to reality. He'd talk to trees and rocks, addressing them tu, toi, thou. We would lean into the wind and say, "this same wind was once sniffed by Jesus Christ. Alexander the Great - very interesting, Genghis Khan - not so good.(laughter) Here it comes, Jean d'Arc - be filled with Jean d'Arc! Be filled with the tides of history - same molecules." People followed us around, not laughing at us but with us. He created a kind of conversational gestalt. He would look at you as if you were God in hiding and I would leave my littleness behind when I was with him.

We walked together twice a week for a year and half. The last time I saw him was on April 7th 1955. He was very pale. He went off on this extraordinary riff about spirals. It began with a talk about the floor of Chartres Cathedral and brains and intestines and galaxies and evolution. He said, "Jean, the people of your time at the end of the 20th century will be taking the tiller of the world, but they cannot go directly, they must touch upon every people, every culture - you must do that Jean. It will be a great field of mind, we will be turning the corner on the human race."

He said, "au revoir Jean," and I said, "goodbye Mr Tayer, I'll see you on Tuesday." My dog Chicky didn't want to go and was whining. The next Tuesday he didn't come. For eight weeks I went to meet him but he still didn't come. He had died that Easter Sunday but I didn't know it. Years later in graduate school somebody handed me a book without a cover called The Phenomenon of Man. I read it and the words were very familiar. I asked where the cover was and my friend showed it to me with the photo of the author. Mr Tayer had been Pierre Teilhard de Chardin."

From an interview with Jean Houston


6:00 AM
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