Hear This Beautiful Song
June 1, `72
Yesterday, Juan told me he wouldn’t need any help. He did let me
spend the night, though. I appreciated that. In the morning I got back on my bike and arrived in Cody, Wyoming, in the afternoon. It was the gateway to the Rockies and to Yellowstone. In Cody, I took on provisions of cereal, raisins, and honey. That chore done, I proceeded to chow down on an apple, cantaloupe, and a Banana Split.
I was only 45 miles from Yellowstone. So far, these mountains were
nothing like the Big Horns. I met two bikers coming out of Logan,
Utah, going into Canada. I told them to send my regards to Mike and Denny if they saw them on the highway. I wished they were here now. It had been great traveling in the mountains, but I didn’t want to do it all summer long without company. Last night I washed my clothes, and then took a bath in the ice-cold reservoir behind the 550-foot Shoshone Canyon Damn.
This is really pretty country; the novelty hasn’t worn off, and I hope it never does.
I was slowing down. It would be so stupid to hurry through this
beautiful country. I was one or two miles from Yellowstone. My last 50 miles was spent admiring the scenery of the Shoshone National Forest and Canyon. The weather was great! Just before the Yellowstone entrance, I stopped for coffee and met Henry. He was staying at a nearby campground. He invited me over to his campsite, and I was happy to oblige. He was a teacher from N.Y.C. and was heading west to find a new home and a new life.
I bought some beer, cheese, and crackers and biked over to Henry’s
camp. He helped himself to my cheese and crackers, but passed on the alcohol. That’s when I found out he was into Babba Ram Dass. When I told him I had read the book, Be Here Now, he got excited. He was actually trying to model his life around Ram Dass’s teachings. He asked me what I thought, be here now meant. “To me,” I said, “it means to be centered; to be focused; to be conscious of the moment…”
“The Buddhist’s call it mindfulness,” Henry interrupted, “but what if you could get all the way in; if you were able to stay inside the
moment all the time?”
“I don’t know. I guess I haven’t thought about it much,” I said.
“Maybe it’s the `big Kahoona,’ the bliss and ecstasy thing. Maybe its where you become one with the universe, or maybe its that
sat-chit-ananda thing, — perfect wisdom, perfect consciousness,
perfect bliss. Whatever it is, I’ve never encountered anybody who has even come close. What about you? What do you think it means?”
“I think we’re already there,” Henry replied. “Think about it. What
could be simpler? Be here now, where else can we be?”
“Sorry,” I said, “I’ve heard that crap before. Believe me, you
wouldn’t want to be me, and I wouldn’t want to be some Ethiopian in some parched desert, either. Wherever be here now is, its not here now, and, if you ask me, that’s good!”
“Wait a minute,” said Henry, “I wasn’t being flippant when I said `we are already here, where be here now is at.’ Do you believe it is
possible to actually experience the here and now?
“I guess I do.”
“Well, would that event be any more or less than what we are doing
right now? The whole universe, past, present, and future is just a
series of events. We live in our own `moment,’ doing what we can to
obtain pleasure. Whether we succeed or fail, its still one moment
after the next. Think about it. Aren’t we always trying to stop the
clock—in memories, photographs, dreams? I mean what is it that makes us work so hard–a new car, house, or that portfolio that brings our dreams to life? And what about athletes, do they train to win once or forever? Are we ever satisfied? Where does it end?”
“I know what you’re getting at,” I said, “it’s all a race against
impermanence. But what’s that got to do with be here now? Doesn’t the Buddha say that impermanence is the cause of suffering and to
eliminate suffering, you have to eliminate desire? What’s that got to
do with be here now?”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Henry, “but it’s precisely because we can’t
avoid impermanence that we chase after permanence. Unnecessary
suffering exists because permanence is an illusion, it cannot be
captured no matter how hard we try. If we would stop chasing after
what can’t be caught, we could see that what is `real,’ is right here,
right now. All those `moments’ spent working so hard for that big
house, big win, or big promotion, compared to be here now, are just
windblown pieces of confetti. Really, if we would just stop trying to
possess what we can’t have, and concentrate on what we have right now, in this moment, we could have it all, and the world would be a much better place because of it. It’s because we are taught to chase after what can’t be caught that so much suffering is created in this world. Stop chasing it. Really, experience this moment with all of your heart, and you will not want anything more.”
I opened another beer and said, “Sure, disappointments are going to happen, but some things, familiar things, are just plain fun. For
instance, after my fourth or fifth beer, I will have captured, in my
own way, my own moment, and that’s not all bad.”
“You are more right than you can imagine,” responded Henry. “Living in the moment is not easy, especially if you can’t resist the chase. Addiction, any addiction, is just another example of trying to possess something you can’t have, only what you get, at least in some cases, can wind up killing you.”