The Touch of Time- Stories Told by the Man of True Grace
My friend and colleague Jackson Gillman sent me birthday wishes a few days ago, and as always with Jackson, there was both levity and depth, and an annual assortment of quotes… this year about time and aging. I spent my birthday, soaking in hot springs with a vantage that allowed me to watch the Rio Grande River flow by. Sunset found me 100 miles or so upstream, at a wildlife refuge, and witness to the fly in of thousands of Sandhill cranes… a migration that scientists believe have been uninterrupted for tens of thousands of years. So Jackson’s missive, along with the inevitable reflection of an amateur elder with another year over the dam, found me particularly tuned in to meditations about time.
The first time I heard Jackson tell, he told, mimed, and completely astonished me with a portion of an intricately nested Hasidic tale; Rabbi Nachman’s story of the Seven Beggars. Stories, within stories, within stories!
That was 25+ years ago and I am still trying to learn this story not so much as to be able to tell it, but much more importantly to understand it more fully.
Here, in my own words, is a piece of what he told that night, and what I have returned to so many times over the years. Each of the Beggars appears to have an infirmity which as the story unfolds is revealed as a gift, and shared with two orphans who are about to be married. Here, the Third Beggar speaks, the Beggar who had earlier appeared to be a stutterer.
“In truth, I am the greatest speaker and singer that there is. Every living thing in the world will stop to hear my words. The Man of True Grace, will tell you that I speak the truth.
At the top of a high mountain there is a waterfall.
At the top of another mountain way across the earth is the heart of the word. Yes… the world has a heart!
The heart of the world and the fountain love each other and want to be together forever.
The heart thinks… If I cannot see or be with the fountain forever- I will die.
And God forbid that the heart of the world should die… because if it did… everything would die.
And this is why the heart is afraid. The heart is afraid that there will be no tomorrow. Because, every day is the last day of the world. Every day is the last! Unless! Unless a new day can be created and this is the part I play…
Because of me, each new day is created.
At the end of each day, I go about the world, gathering all the acts of kindness- large and small from that have been performed that day. From these acts of kindness I use my great power of speech and compose a story or a song.
Then, I tell this story to The Man of True Grace, and from this story, The Man of True Grace creates a new day. Then he takes this new day and presents it to the Heart of the World. The Heart of the World presents it to the Waterfall… which is in fact the Water of Life. And so their love continues, and so time itself continues.”
Today, I am here to share how many of the days of our lives have been created. I went to Jackson’s web-site after I received his message, and read a recent story that he shared there. Here is the link, and if you read it, you will understand why the Man of True Grace has made many a day from Jackson’s acts of kindness.
The short story here is that he has been going into children’s hospitals and tuning in deeply to the children he visits there… children who are struggling to live, often isolated in their rooms.
Here is a quote from a mother of one of these children.
“Once a stranger and now a fellow traveler on this ride with our Special One. He gave Aidan his first smile of the day as he sang silly songs and used Aidan’s body as an instrument. Tapping on his fingers, playing his ribcage, knocking on his knees. He used Aidan’s hands to tell a story using each finger as a member of a family who ended up living in Aidan’s heart.”
Now let me tell you about another touch. If you are old enough you will remember the Vietnam era photo of a terrorized 9 year old child, on the road, fleeing naked, her skin seared and melted in places from napalm dropped from the sky by American planes. We want to turn away from these images, and let time heal the wounds of war. But time is not always that generous. And certainly “humanity,” this flawed sum that we are, is not that kind because 45 years later children are still burning in their homes and on the refugee roads. Perhaps it would be better some think if the next day for our species should cease to come.
But the Man of True Grace undoubtedly will hear the story I just read in today’s newspaper and give us another day. Phan Thi Kim Phuc who has been living with the pain and scars all these years heard about a new laser therapy being pioneered by Dr. Jill Waibel at a clinic in Miami. Dr. Waibel offered Phan Thi free treatments there. They are almost complete.
Read now the words of Phan Thi and rejoice for at least a day…
Thank you Jackson Gillman, thank you Phan Thi and thank you Dr. Waibel. If there are more like you and I know that there are, among them those reading this, the world may go around and continue for another 365 years, and god willing, spirit willing, inshallah, I may soak in the springs and watch the cranes arrive from the venerable vantage point of 70!