The year is 1976. I am standing on the steps to the library reading the front page of the newspaper. It is my second year of university at Lincoln. Pro-abortion marches are the big thing and a march in our very own town the day before is front page news.
“A very great thing,” says a voice over my shoulder. I look around to see who it is. “Freedom in action,” he says.
I look him over. He is older than me, with reddish hair, and speaks with an American accent. “What if reincarnation is a fact?” I counter. “Then you’ve got a trillion babies wanting to be born. Who knows what trouble we cause?”
We talk some more. It turns out he has a degree in comparative religion. He has to be somewhere, he says, but it’s rare to meet someone willing or able to discuss matters philosophic. I agree. Can we meet up, he wants to know? Sure. He tells me what: Bring a bottle of wine. He’ll cook dinner, tomorrow at seven, and we’ll continue. We’ll run the gamut. All the time in the world. He lives on campus, in the librarian’s house. Seven o’clock.
I turn up with my bottle of wine, red as I remember. He’s in the kitchen, already cooking. I put the bottle on the bench. He pours a couple of glasses from a bottle already open. We don’t mess around. Like an examination, time has been apportioned. Start now. He keeps cooking. We start at the start: God, gods, non-gods, demigods, devils, death, futility, thought, evolution, devolution, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianism, Confucianism, Islamism, Zoroastrianism, Hermeticism, Nihilism, Plato, Socrates, Cavemanism, Aristotle, Alexander the Greatism, Danteism, Shakespeareanism, French nuns, alcohol, Goethe, Joan of Arc, Homer, Gurdieff, Soloviev, Dostoyevsky, Nietzche, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudolf Steiner, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, the guy who invented homeopathy, the Romans, the Germans, the Goths, the Greeks, the Russians, the Egyptians, the Incan, the Maori, Aryans, Africans, the Eskimo, the Jew, Noah and the Ark, ice-ages, dinosaurs, gravity, temperature, relativity, women, friendship in general, not in general, superstition, drunken singers on Friday nights, cars, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, comets, beauty, Californian waitresses, time, affection, deafness, Jung, symbolism, the non-symbol, the pseudo-psychology of the late twentieth century, heart attacks, caffeine, squash, foodism, untruthism, the law, the mafia, boredom, Buster Keaton, specific hats, Rabelais, listism, title-ism, the curriculum, individualism, evilism, Manicheanism, moneyism, Mozartism, improvisation, John Lennon, Novalis, Rouault, the troubadours, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Revelations, the future, karma, fate..
Before we know it, we’ve eaten dinner and we’re onto Irish coffees. Talking of fate and karma, he says “well, this is fate. Here we are, we two sitting having eaten dinner, right now, talking about karma, drinking Irish coffees. This is fate!”
For the first time in the evening there is a gap in the conversation, and I realise I am drunk. So much drinking, so much thinking, I go from stone cold sober to stone cold drunk in three seconds. He continues to look at me from across the table.
“Who are you?” he asks.
But I am dead. Surprising how many other people like me are dead. We all file down the side of an enormous space, a kind of cave, in a queue three or four wide, leading toward the Weigher of Souls. Those who have passed the test are ushered to the left. Others are sent right for correction. I know, when it comes my time to face the examiner, I will say: “let all these people pass,” and I will point to heaven. “I will go to hell in their place. You can put all their punishment on me.”
This all takes place in a split second. My friend has a bemused look on his face as I haven’t answered his question. But now I feel sick. I need to lie down. He pulls out a mattress from the wardrobe and I put myself to sleep on the living room floor.
It’s a rough, rough, cruel, cruel world.
Everything comes in doubles.
In the morning I get out of bed.
It’s a beautiful day.
I didn’t die.
Even though I did.
Right now I think it entirely possible my Irish coffee was spiked, which would, no doubt, be a fucking dodgy red-haired-American-librarian thing to do! Quite probably, I got bum-fucked in the middle of the night. But I have no memory of it.
But it is in this way that the question of who one is gets answered.
People don’t necessarily believe in visions any more. Possibly because they don’t have any. Or, more likely, they don’t know they’re having them. It is, in reality, quite possible to have a vision just by opening your eyes.