I’m re-reading one of my favorite books called Mr. Vertigo. The book is special to me because how I came across it.
Back when I was in Denmark, I was traveling to Spain for a work trip. I had a layover in England and decided to make a 24 hour stay of it and enjoy the city. I was going to be staying with some friends in the evening, but they didn’t get off work til 5 so I arrived in London completely alone.
There is a rare joy of traveling into a huge expanse completely and utterly alone. No one knows who you are, but then again, no one knows who you are. All the ways you sublet your identity to others free up and for once in your life you are truly your own man/woman. Its always refreshing.
I knew I was going to have the day to myself, but one thing I refused to do was plan. Not a god. damn. thing. I arrived at the city center, checked my luggage into an overnight locker, took my return key and set out to find the best coffee shop within walking distance.
I stumbled upon a large square attached to a very official museum with large steps. People were just lounging in the sun, in groups of 2’s and threes. waiting to go in or relaxing after their tour inside. I sat out there for hours, just drinking coffee, journaling and people watching.
At some point, I noticed a little knot of people was assembling, I wasnt sure if it was a school group or a tour. They didn’t appear to know each other. Then one person spoke to them all, apparently giving them instructions. After he stopped, all the people in the group produced a book out of nowhere. My immediate assumption was that this was some kind of cult bullshit and I was about to have to listen to a short elevator pitch about scientology or Hare Krishna.
With that in my head, I was completely caught off guard when a very normal guy approached me and asked if he could give me a book.
In Copenagen, there are weird cults that offer you a book, but then when you reach for it, they don’t let go, and then they say “everyone can donate something”. I was expecting something like that.
Instead, he explained that he was a part of a flash mob that had met, and the point was to show up somewhere and give away one copy of your favorite book. I love sincerity, and I was thankful and I took his book. It was a novel I’d never heard of, but with an introduction like that, its hard not to give it a fair shake.
I read the book, and it moved me. It is the story of a poor ignorant boy that gets adopted by a mysterious foreigner who promises that he will teach him to fly.
In the course of the book, the foreigner Master Yehudi puts the boy Walt through a lengthy and grueling process intended to help the kid learn how to levitate.
The steps make no sense. One day he will spend buried in the ground up to his neck for 24 hours. Other times he will be compelled to take a vow of silence for a month.
One of the worst ordeals is he has to cut off the tip of his own pinky finger. After he heals from the amputation, he notices months later that Master Yehudi is wearing the severed finger tip around his neck in a tiny jar of formaldehyde as a reminder to himself of what he owes his pupil. Later in the book after Walt levitates for the first time, he gives the necklace back to Walt.
As the story develops, so does Walt’s ability to levitate. He learns how to float and move forward, bit by bit. The master and him practice several hours a day on this other worldly ability. Once they feel Walt has maxed out the distance he can move forward, they turn their attention to trying to float upward.
Here Walt fails and nothing they can do gets him more than about 5 inches off the ground.
Then Master Yehudi asks Walt to remove the severed finger necklace, thinking that the weight of it is impeding him.
The next exchange is so good, I’m just quoting it in its entirety.
“I’ve worn that thing since Christmas” I said. “Its my lucky charm, and I can’t do nothing without it”.
“Yes you can Walt. The first time you got yourself off the ground, it was slung around my neck, remember? I’m not saying you don’t have a sentimental attachment to it, but we’re intruding on deep spiritual matters here, and it could be that you can’t be whole to do what you have to do, that you have to leave a part of yourself behind before you can attain the full magnitude of your gift”
Man, that to me is what 2019 feels like.
Everyone that I know and admire is not a whole person. They are often lopsided. They are one hand dominate emotionally. They are incomplete. But they are also brilliant. They are masters, they are levitators in their own pursuits.
As I’m getting older, I’m starting to believe that wholeness as a goal is overrated. In the Christian culture I grew up in, they talked a lot about brokeness. The idea was that you had to allow God to heal you so it would stop impeding your life. New age spirituality/health can be like that to. I’m not living my best because the water isn’t filtered, or my supplements are off, the vibrations etc..
Maybe there are things that help and hurt us that we can’t see. Spiritual or health wise. But the ability to perform despite those things is the only way I have discovered to be a man. Its not what happens to you, its what you do in response to it that is your beauty, your glory, your legacy.
We will always leave pieces behind. We will always have pieces that don’t connect.
I love people that don’t love me back. I speak languages that i never get to hear or use. I have made beautiful things with beautiful people, and felt that it was leading to momentum just to watch it all dissolve. The pain of that is real and maybe eternal.
But those jagged edges can still harmonize in a way that doesn’t yet make sense to us if we open ourselves to it. I don’t believe everything happens to us for a reason. I believe its our job to synthesize. To make a collage of what doesn’t make sense, and live with it and inspire with it and laugh with it as best we know how.