Prologue to the Forthcoming Sequel to My Memoir
by Alan F. Zundel
Well, the ideas for the sequel to my recent memoir have jelled enough that I am finding some thematic direction for it. I just wrote a Prologue, which follows below. You comments are welcome.
The last time I saw the man I now consider my first real spiritual teacher, I was in a hardware store in Detroit with a friend.
This friend Greg had spiritual interests and wanted badly to meet “that heavy dude,” as he called him, using the slang term still current in the ’70s to mean someone of imposing presence and depth rather than someone with a weight problem. Greg had driven me to the store to get something for a repair job on the run-down former mansion I then lived in with several other people.
I turned the corner of an aisle and there was Ted, my teacher. He was a man in late middle-age, always wearing a cheap suit and with a knowing twinkle in his eye. Surprised, I said hello and he asked how I was doing. I assured him I was doing well.
My friend Greg was oddly quiet during this brief encounter, and after Ted departed I looked around but he was nowhere to be found. I bought what I needed and exited the store, finding Greg outside waiting for me.
“Where did you disappear to?” I asked. “Do you know who that was?”
Greg looked puzzled.
“That was Ted Church.”
Greg was stunned. “Shit! I thought it was just one of those old bums from your neighborhood.”
When you are ready the teacher appears, or so the saying goes. People think this means the teacher suddenly shows up, but what it really means is that you start to see things more clearly that were right there in front of you. Greg learned this the hard way.
Afterward I thought Ted’s appearance had happened to teach Greg that lesson, but I didn’t realize at the time that there was also a lesson for me. As I said, it was the last time I would ever see him. When you are ready the teacher appears, but what does it mean when the teacher disappears?
I had seen Ted maybe a half dozen times during that pivotal period of my life, and am not sure why he stopped popping up and I stopped seeking him out. However, I do remember his parting words to me that day:
“Don’t forget the twelfth step.”
He was referring to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Ted overcame his alcoholism through A.A. and helped countless others with the same affliction. He knew I didn’t have an alcohol problem, and we had never explicitly discussed the Twelve Steps. I did know what they were, although I don’t know that he knew that I knew. In any event, I did know what the twelfth step was:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
The gist of it can be expressed even more simply, and is the culminating lesson of any spiritual path.
Once you’ve gotten your own shit together, you have an obligation to help other people.