The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Steal Fire (Sunday cont.)

I bowed later in the day yesterday (Wednesday) and into the night because I was out under the Full Moon almost all night Tuesday. I will keep this more nocturnal schedule today as well for various reasons, including minimizing my sunburn.

My attempt to penetrate the Secret Female Place was ultimately successful, but these things always come at a cost we don't anticipate in the heat of love. You probably don't want to hear about the costs, though. You want all the steamy details and you may get them, but all in good time, and I get ahead of myself. Back to Sunday, The Lord's Day.

Some may ask how I rent the veil of the Temple, but that comes later. First I had to steal Fire.

After a cycle of prostrations in the Plaza, I went to light candles for my St. Anthony's Dining Room donors at St. Boniface, an amazing old Franciscan church, and the quietest place in the Tenderloin. I used to go and meditate there when I was young and lived nearby. I have always been fond of a certain statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe. In fact, when I did take refuge with Lama Lodro and attended my first empowerment in Tara practice, I stopped by and paid my respects to her and more or less asked for her blessing. (I got it. She is not controlled by the official Church, as near as I can tell.)

La Virgen is poised at the opening of a secluded alcove which is usually empty and, if you can handle the cold hard floor, is perfect for a set of prostrations. A few prayerful devotees have come across me doing prostrations there. No one has ever batted an eye. I finished a set and went to study the candle situation.

Obviously economic hardship has hit the devotional life here. In the old days there would be a donation box and a bunch of candles to light on the honor system. Apparently that had put the church in the red. There were now just a few candles already lit. I would have gladly made a donation but I couldn't see any way to get more candles. There was a Mass in Tagolog going on in the Church, so I didn't want to go disturb anybody about it. I just knelt and practiced Mantra and then silence.

I always feel power at such places, not so much because of the official religion involved but because you can feel the depth of the people who have been there with their problems and joys in prayer. It seems to me that to some degree all official religion runs by harnessing the power in ordinary people in a manner similar to the way an energy company runs by harnessing the universal power of fire.

I knew what I had to do. Since I could not light a candle I would steal the Fire in the candles there and take it out into the Tenderloin. I took one of the bamboo sticks they use to light candles and dipped it in the wax. I lit it and walked out with my little blazing torch right past the Mass. No one noticed me.

I was amazed by how long my torch burned even out in the brisk breeze, but eventually the flame went out and I watched the smoke disappear into the Tenderloin sky. I buried my charred stick in a tiny plot of weeds. I felt refreshed and I knew it would be a good day.

I walked through the Oxycontin and Heroin dealers who always proffer their wares right on the corner by an HIV Clinic and Resource Center at Leavenworth and Golden Gate (A couple blocks away they call out "lightning" which is new to me but I think is probably speed in these parts now. It used to be "water.")

I turn down toward the Plaza. At the bottom of the hill at Leavenworth and McAllister a thin weak, but clean looking black woman in a wheel chair asked me for help getting her up to the top of the hill. She looked like she had seen better times and I could see her in church or at a club meeting with a hat and a dignified gaze. She said she had eaten at a free food place and was sick. (Not St. Anthony's. I asked.) When I said I would help her, she got teary, pulled me closer and kissed me very sweetly on the cheek. I pushed her to the top of the hill and gave her some money on the way up where no one could see us.

I asked her name. “Regina,” she said. “But you can call me 'Genie'. Don't you think 'Genie' s a nicer name?”

I told her, “I like Regina because it means 'Queen' but I like Genie because you are probably magic.” She laughed weakly but sincerely. When we got to the top of the hill she went on her own, but she asked, “How can I ever repay you?” I said, “My name is John. You can pray 'go John!' and pray for yourself too.” She said she would and that seemed to make her feel better.

Off she went into the hard Tenderloin, my act of kindness disappearing like the smoke from my stolen Fire.

I went back to UN Plaza and retrieved my cardboard. A security guard spotted me and approached menacingly. I walked up to him with my cardboard and explained the situation. My name is John and I do prostrations...

He became very serious and threatening. I was storing and retrieving my cardboard prostration mat on Federal Property. Here I confess I performed the only act of meanness on my whole retreat and I confess it to you, Dear Readers, as a sin most grievous: I laughed in his face. I really do feel bad about this and at that moment the Veil of the Temple was drawn—or rather slammed shut, more like steel than linen.

As it happens when I did alternative theater in San Francisco with my genius wife and Teacher at the time, I supported myself as a legal assistant and have prepared many cases for trial at the Federal Court nearby. The thought of entering that august chamber to talk about my cardboard seemed entirely entertaining at the moment, but I did harbor hostility to that guard and relished showing him how powerless he really was. In fact he looked very upset and hurt like he was going to cry. He was just doing his job, if perhaps with a bit less humor than necessary.

I went and did prostrations, upset that I had been so mean. John makes a pathetic stand for the people and his precious cardboard. What a joke.

It's a good thing that when you sing the Mani, it doesn't matter who or how mean you are. The Lord of Love doesn't make distinctions and doing prostrations while singing OM MANI PADME HUNG freeform using a beautiful tune that I heard sung by Lama Lodro (but have no doubt butchered since) is a lot easier than doing them synchronized to my refuge and bodhicitta prayer. I was having my ups and downs, but they were feeling pretty good.

It seemed that the guard and the heroin dealers and I—and even Genie—were all getting a fresh start. It's up to each of us whether we make use of it or not, and life always hurts and death is inevitable anyway, but that fresh start is always there.

I had stolen Fire and was more than living to tell about it. In spite of my having slammed the Veil shut by my meanness to the Guard (or was it because of it) I knew what I had to do to rend the Veil.

But first I had to summon the Protectors.

Love to All,

John O.

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