Those moments once strung together make a life of remembering. That is the rare gift of being a human being, the ability to take one moment and connect it with another to create the illusion of a life lived. It is this ability that allows the human being to contemplate a future and look back over a past. The illusion is that neither of those states are a reality, yet it is where most human beings spend 99.99% of their waking and sleeping time.
As far as we can tell from scientific observation up to this point human beings are the only creatures on planet Earth capable of this kind of mental feat. Other mammalian life come close, for instance, the dolphins and whales of Earth’s great seas, however, there is yet no concrete proof that they experience or are aware of a “past” or “future” in the same cognitive way humans are.
This rare gift we humans possess got me to thinking while I was lying in bed one night as my thoughts of the day ran ramping through my mind. I began to wonder about moments. I thought about those non-measurable instances of electrical impulses racing across my brain by the millions and millions from one neuron and synapse to the next. Of all those thoughts, all those moments in my life which can I recall were the most exquisite, the most sublime?
In my 64 short years on this planet hurriedly making its way across a vast little explored universe I have had a great many moments of experiences. I made it a point early in life to ensure that in this one lifespan I would try to collect as much knowledge as my limited brain would allow in the areas that it found most intriguing or whet my curious appetite the most. Like Solomon of old I had set my course early in life to absorb as much of life as possible, taste its delights, feel its pains and agony and satiate its desires. While I never sought or attained the material wealth of Solomon I was able to amass quite a life of tremendous moments filled with nearly every kind of experience that I sat my hand to know.
In these 6-plus decades I have encountered nearly every kind of personality one could possibly hope or expect to find on this world. Due to the wide range of occupations I have engaged in it has opened me up to nearly every corner of the planet, met with their inhabitants, sat and broke bread with them, drank, sang, loved and fought with them all. By age 21 I had circled the globe twice. Been to the remotest, highest, lowest, coldest and hottest parts of it. Intermingled in countless cultures, tasted their rich heritages in their stories, fables, religions and daily mundane lives.
I have personally loved and lost and found love renewed. I have learned that the most difficult roads to navigate are those found within my own heart and especially that of another human being. The greatest mystery of all that I and the great philosophers of the past and present have yet to reveal is the workings of the mind and heart of that one person we love and desire the most. Perhaps it is the very mystery that keeps the relationship worth exploring from the point of view of both involved.
Of religion I count my self an expert. Not in the traditional sense of one who went to university dedicating his life to such an exploration, but to actually living it out in the real world where religion is practiced every day. Early in life I was fortunate enough to have a parent, my mother, who was opened-minded enough to not try and force any one kind of religious doctrine down my throat. Even though my genealogical heritage was Jewish, the idea of judaism never entered my early formative years. I was allowed to fend for myself, so to speak. I was taught to read beginning at the age of 3. By age 4 and 5 I was already reading the books in my mother’s extensive library. At age 5 while my compadres were learning their ABC’s I was sitting quite bored in the classroom longing for a return home to my books. During recess breaks I would purposefully walk around the playground of the school and try to meet as many different people as possible and observe their behavior. I learned a lot about human beings in those first few years of elementary school. By high school, my teenage hormones raging, I sought out the opposite sex with a vengeance, not for mental study, but, well, my hormones were raging. Even Solomon had over 1000 concubines, so give me a break. I became a lead singer in a rock n’ roll band, not because I ever thought it would lead to anything big, I had no desire to spend my life on tour and on stage, but for the experience of performing before a screaming crowd of teenage girls. It was pretty much fun and we became somewhat noticed in the midwest, and were set to record our first single. At the bands peak I quit to the disdain and lack of understanding of my bandmates. But, this was 1967 and I saw the handwriting on the wall. None of us in the band were scholar material and Vietnam was raging. I knew our number would be coming soon so I preempted Uncle Sam and with 5 months left as a high school senior joined the Air Force on delayed enlistment which allowed me to graduate from high school that summer. Religiously speaking, I told my recruiter that I was Baptist so I would have something to put on my dog tags. In reality I wasn’t anything. I had spent time at a Baptist Church and use to play basketball in their recreation center. By not putting Jewish on the form this one omission allowed me to go to locations around the globe that the armed services would have never sent a Jew back in the 1960’s and 70’s.
By late 1969 I was drifting in a sea of confusion. I was in need of some kind of “spiritual grounding” and as fate would have it I found it the day after a rather torrid night of drinking and whoring around in the devil’s own backward on a darkened street in Angeles City, Philippines. A bright neon sign parted the darkness and led me into this little ratty building where a pentecostal service was going on. I dove in head first for what would become one of the most gratifying and horrid experiences of my life to date. It was through my several years experience with this pentecostal denomination that I learned the in’s and out’s of how to manipulate another human being into believing and buying whatever it was you had to sell them, whether it be free salvation or something material, these religious folk had it down pat. I became one of their best disciples of bullshit. I would trudge through the mountains and jungles of the Philippines preaching, building churches in small villages that had never seen a white man before, healing their sick (well claiming to have anyway) and whatever it took to win them over for the movement (not Jesus - although he was the prop), but the pentecostal movement.
Soon I took the road show to the United States but found whatever I did in those primitive jungles just didn’t have the same hook for the more so-called sophisticates in civilization. Like clock work the answer came by way of a knock on my door and in walks this fine humanitarian from a more sophisticated group of Christian believers with a better way to reach out to them -- through their intellect, not just their feelings and emotions. I liked it. I came on board, learned their ways and worked their mental magic of deliverance on those soldiers, sailors and airmen I came into contact with slowly moving on to the college campuses “for Christ.”
Over time I suppose my Jewish roots began to pull heavily on the DNA of my heart and I sought after something that could bring me back in touch with my ancestry and still keep a grip on Jesus (after all he was a Jew, right?). Once again, like magic the answer appeared in a little known movement at the time called messianic judaism. My wife and I checked it out (she too was Jewish not raised in a Jewish home), liked what we saw on the surface of it and decided to give it a shot. We began holding weekly Torah studies in our home based on the teachings of this movement and found them to be a lot more interesting and challenging to the heart and mind than every other Christian movement we had ever been exposed to (which included a long list - Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah Witnesses, etc). Over time we began attending conferences, meetings and talks across the country and soon were part of the upper echelons of leadership within the movement. I was invited to attended their 4-year rabbinic yeshiva, which I did and after the required amount of time was ordained a Messianic Rabbi. Needless to say I thought we had finally arrived at a place within religion in which one could adequately feel a real part of “God’s family.” Keep in mind that while all this is going on I continued my own studies in other religious groups like Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Bahai, etc. Secularly, besides hosting my own radio show for 3 years and being the executive news director and co-producer of a well known satellite radio and internet program I also attended the Missouri University St. Louis campus School of Nursing and George Washington University to became a licensed Nuclear Medicine/Nuclear Cardiology Technologist which I practiced for 37 years before my recent retirement.
I suppose we would still be practicing messianic judaism today had it not been for one event that took place at a conference we attended in Ohio. During a period between lectures something quite familiar and haunting began taking place. The people in the audience began displaying behavior I had found repulsive back in the 1960’s when I was among the pentecostals. Mostly being done by the younger members of the audience they were beginning to babel and jerk and writhe on the floor. From many years of experience with the pentecostal movement I knew exactly what was going on and was going to intervene but decided to watch and see how this was being viewed by those in authority over the conference and to my astonishment they appeared pleased to see this happening. My wife and I left the lectures, along with several others. After several meetings among the muckedy-mucks in the messianic movement it was decided that this kind of activity would be allowed to continue and that this would be the new direction of this movement. I, and others, were aghast. It caused a split in the movement that to this day, over 20 years later, has not been fully healed.
Well, as Dustin Hoffman would say in “Little Big Man” that was the end of my religion period. It wasn’t the end of my need to believe in a God, a Creator of All That Is, but was the end of my need to seek religious experiences, so after a few years of flirtation with traditional Judaism, I can honestly say I have pretty much experienced enough religion for 3 lifetimes.
Politically, unlike most in America, from childhood on to today I have always remained quite libertarian in my stands, drifting into conservatism and moderation on some issues, but a strong proponent of individual freedom as deemed so beautifully in our Founders original concepts set forth in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. I find those documents to be the most perfected form of political thinking that human beings are likely to ever attain.
Now back to the original question: Of all those thoughts, all those moments and vast and varied experiences in my life which can I recall were the most exquisite, the most sublime? I hope my answer will not offend those in my life I find most precious - my wife, my parents, my siblings and closest friends and family I’ve had over the decades. Have you ever had a surgical procedure or some kind of medical test where you were required to be fully sedated? You’re lying on the gurney or the surgical table and an anesthesiologist says “Alright, begin to count down from a hundred.” You begin to count, “100, 99, 98, 9....” and then there is nothing. No past, no present, no future, nothing. Absolutely no awareness. No darkness, no light, no sound, not even the soft sound of your own heart beating within your chest. My life has been great to this point and hope it may continue for several years into the future. I wouldn’t change one thing I did, thought, felt or didn’t do, thought or felt. So, when I say that my 3 most precious moments were the 3 times I was put completely out of consciousness by a doctor, please don’t take that to mean that I consider my life a failure, or that those who have been a part of my life on any level were not important or unappreciated by me or unloved. It only means that I have learned that a human being’s greatest friend and enemy are his own clamoring thoughts beaming back and forth across his physical brain’s pathways and when those can be completely shut down, even for a moment in time, is the most exquisite experience to ever have, even though there is absolutely no memory of that moment.
Perhaps it is the lack of awareness of those moments that make them so precious.
“The making of many books is without limit and much study is a wearying of the mind. The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe Its commandments! For this applies to all mankind.” - Solomon the Wise (Ecclesiastes)