- Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.
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ACROSS the UNIVERSE with John Lennon
By Linda Keen
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 1999 Linda Keen
All rights reserved.
No FAMOUS SOULS
It was Saturday morning, March 21, 1987. I was sitting anxiously alone in my study. Outside my window it was cold and damp, so I reached over to turn up the heater. Every year there seemed to be less and less of a springtime in the Netherlands and, as a native Califomian, I often found the Dutch climate hard to get used to.
Luckily I knew I could change anything inside my own mind—even had weather—and that's exactly what I was planning to do this morning as I sat in my swivel chair, trying to relax and enter a deep trance by means of focused concentration. It had taken me about nine months to find the courage to do this; I think I'd been afraid it wouldn't work out. Or had I been afraid it would?
With the help of a cassette tape of an English meadow with birdsong playing through my headphones and another tape for recording my voice, I slowly permitted myself to travel with full concentration to an imaginary meadow. It was here I was planning to meet my friendly and faithful advisor, Basil, and, hopefully, the specter of John Lennon—if he decided to show up. Since childhood, I was used to hearing inner conversations with various intangible beings. Now I was prepared to repeat everything which might be conveyed to me into the tape recorder.
In a state of suspended animation, I projected myself into the meadow. It was a technique I often taught others as a means of coming into contact with deeper layers of reality, especially those relating to the nonphysical world.
It is delightfully warm and sunny and gentle with birdsong. A brook is flowing nearby and I can smell the moist, green grass and fresh air. The sky is blue with puffy clouds hanging lazily about, and everywhere around me are beautiful, colorful wild flowers. I am sitting under the partial shade of a large and stately oak and, as I gaze into the distance, I notice an entire group of them which seem to be whispering secrets to one another.
Reclining into my tarpaulin lounge chair, I turn my face slowly upward to catch several delicate yet glorious sunrays. A fly buzzes around my ears, then darts away, and I linger awhile, doing nothing. Slowly, I'm getting the feeling. It is the feeling to begin: to start somewhere, anywhere.
I look to my left, and there is Basil reclining in his lounge chair. His eyes are closed, which gives me the chance to inspect him thoroughly. He is an elderly gentleman, well-dressed in a blue tweed suit, handsome and well-preserved for his age. I stare appreciatively at his gentle face. Basil has been an important teacher and my father figure for several years, giving me strength and courage to trust more and more in the reality of the immaterial world, in the power of healing and transformation. I wonder now if he is asleep and if he will hear me when I speak to him.
"So—when is the show going to start, Basil?" I ask timidly.
He opens one eye and winks, straightens himself in his chair, and beams.
"I was wondering when you were going to ask me that! It looks as if you are having a touch of stage fright, my dear—you need to relax for a moment and not be so nervous about all of this."
"I thought I was doing pretty well so far."
"Connect yourself more with the ground ... take a few deep breaths ... there, that's it ... that's much better."
I pause, sigh deeply, and immediately feel more at ease.
"Now," he resumes, "it just so happens that you can serve as a reliable medium for particular information. But if you keep taking this project so personally, you're going to prevent the information from coming through! You're aware of this your' self, of course, but it's just going to take some more practice."
"Practice makes perfect," I laugh sarcastically, adjusting my position in the chair and inspecting the folds of my new forest green dress which I have never seen before.
"You are hung up on all of this, aren't you?" Basil grins. "This desire to be perfect is a problem you often suffer, yet it does have it's positive aspects."
He waits for a moment, then speaks.
"It is so natural sitting here with you—just like a father with his daughter. Don't you think?"
"Yes it is, actually. The same thought was passing through my mind a moment ago when I watched you sleep."
"Well, you know," he says, "it's not meant to be such a serious place here."
He reaches over to a small table I hadn't seen before and I can hear ice cubes clinking in the pitcher as he pours me a glass of what looks like lemonade.
"John is waiting," he says calmly, handing me the glass.
"I know. I just can't see him yet," I answer uneasily. "Am I not suffering from illusions of grandeur? I need you to help me."
"Oh, never mind. Now it's a matter of trust—you haven't made enough contact yet. And, don't be so fearful! Why is it that a famous name can be so incapacitating? We're just who we are in this place, plain and simple. There are no famous souls here! Of course, each soul is unique and has its own singular expression...." Basil smiles at me again.
"We think it quite amusing to regard all of you on earth with your silly attitude of 'famous' and 'not famous,' as if it has some bearing on each person's importance—or lack thereof!"
"You must be right, but still, it's just the idea that I even dare. I suppose I need to jump right into deep water and force myself to swim."
I watch the ice cubes floating in my glass, take a sip of cool lemonade, and observe Basil swatting at a fly which seems to be just as annoying as its earthly counterpart. Taking a handkerchief out of his breast pocket, he carefully wipes his forehead. A light breeze is rustling the new, bright green leaves of the oak tree and there is a sweet smell of flowers in the air.
"You could think of it in such a dramatic way ... but once you get involved, I think you'll see it differently." Basil dabs again at his forehead.
"Okay! Let's get on with it ... John, I can't see you yet, but I can feel that you're here. You're sitting somewhere on my right, aren't you?"
There is a moment of complete silence as I stare tensely at the ground, then look imploringly at Basil.
"Yeah, hallo there! How's it going?" a substantial, friendly voice booms out.
I can now see the figure of John Lennon sitting next to me as distinct as the oak tree. I'm surprised to see how happy he looks. His face is fresh and radiant. He's dressed in brown corduroy pants and a cowboy shirt. He has sunglasses on, so I can't see his eyes. His hair is medium length and tousled, he's got a slight growth of beard with full sideburns and a big smile. My heart pounds.
"You certainly don't have to be afraid of me or anything else in this luv'ly meadow," John utters in his distinctive Liverpudlian voice, "I'm so glad you and Basil asked me to come!"
I'm smiling from ear to ear and begin to chuckle uneasily.
"Well, hello there, John ... it's great you decided to show up, I mean ... I wasn't so sure. How exciting that I finally get to meet you face to face! You know how long I've been thinking and wondering...."
"Yeah! You sure as hell took your time since that first dream we had together," he says, shaking his head at me. "Linda, it's a pleasure ta be here and you must know that. And don't make me too shy. I'm not used to that anymore."
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't realize ... so it really is true! I mean, you really did want this yourself...."
"My God, kid, yer about as insecure as I used to be," he says shaking his head and chewing on a piece of gum. "Hey, what's that ya got there?"
"Oh this? Well, it's your book. I mean, a book which was published after you, uh, died."
"Oh, yeah, that thing ... Skywriting by Word of Mouth."
He pauses, chomps on his gum, then continues, "When I look back at my writing and drawing and stuff—however fun and amusing it used ta be—I remember, too, how isolated I used ta get."
John is sitting with legs crossed, tapping his fingers on his wooden armrest. Looking around, he chews enthusiastically as a faint breeze blows lightly through his hair. Basil and I wait in silence for him to carry on.
"Nice place ya got here," he says, continuing to glance around. "Well, when I look at that little book, I can remember how much insight I had then, and how it related to so many things I did ... but it was as if I couldn't cross over the threshold of my own limitations. D'ya know what I mean?
"Well, I'm not sure, really."
"It had somethin' to do with pride, with big headedness— which most human beings have in their own peculiar way. Although I dared to speak out—and God knows I did!—and even, at a certain point, tried to change the world, I never really dared to take certain steps within my personal life. I just wasn't ready for it yet."
He shifts in his chair and scratches his head.
"I could only see all this, though, after leaving my body and looking from the perspective I have now."
It's not easy for me to get used to this sudden intimacy with John and it's difficult to think of what I'll say next.
"Gee, you really look great, John. I didn't know what to expect. I was so curious what you'd look like!" There is an uncomfortable lapse. "Uh, do you mean you weren't ready to see certain things about yourself?" I ask, glancing at Basil who is looking vaguely amused.
John mumbles as he glares at me. I catch the word "Lucy."
"What's that?" I answer anxiously.
"Well, ya know, there were certain important aspects to my personal life which I didn't wanna hafta face. And on top of that, it's actually very limited, what a person can say—what I ended up even wanting to say—to the public. During my whole life I expressed a lot ... and eventually ended up not caring if I was misunderstood or not. There was more going on inside of me than I could come out with directly ... and ... of course ... my favorite way of letting it all out was to act crazy! It's just that I didn't wanna admit to myself I was tired and fed up with the life I had created for myself ... who does?"
He peers at me, and I see Basil offering him a frosty bottle of beer which materializes out of nowhere. Obviously, John is thirsty. He takes the wad of gum out of his mouth and sticks it neatly under the armrest of his chair. Then, as he tilts his head back to drink, I watch self-con-sciously as his Adam's apple bobs up and down with each swallow. He sighs with pleasure and burps nonchalantly.
The meadow remains remarkably real and peaceful, bearing distant memories of idyllic calm and safety—of carefree childhood dreaming—hopeful and free. I sit and gape at John.
"This new perspective you have since you died ... could you possibly describe it to me?"
"Take a look ... whadaya see? Whadaya feel? This is really one of the main reasons you're here with me in the first place—ta perceive it for yerself. But it's gonna take some timel You're gonna have to be extremely patient, not only with me but with yerself! It's gonna take years ... and it's gonna ask a certain amount of guts ta keep on believing in us and what we're doing together."
"Oh no ... my meadow sounds tape just ran out! I didn't rewind it before I came here!" I shoot partially out of trance and look down at a tape recorder sitting on a white formica desk. "Can you wait a few seconds until it turns itself over?" I ask feebly. "I've got this new auto-reverse thing, and I can't seem to concentrate properly without our meadow sounds ... dammit...."
I keep fumbling nervously, fearing John will disappear if my tape recorder stops functioning properly. My concentra' tion is divided equally between the reality of the meadow and that of the stuffy room where I started out.
"There we go—God! This is all so new ... excuse me"
"By all means ..." He looks at me tolerantly.
"Okay, here we go." I'm completely in the meadow again and greatly relieved. "I agree with you that this is going to take a lot of patience. But I'm the type who doubts continuously—it's one of my weak points."
"You'd better be happy about it, kid, 'cause that's one reason me and you are gonna be good working together! Your insecurity makes it easier for me to get through ... it's like you've got more channels tuned into me that way. You know how ta listen well."
"You mean I can listen better to you because I'm unsure of myself?"
"Somethin' like that. I can get through to you with me own ideas ... 'cause yer not blocking them constantly with yer own plans and opinions. A channel needs ta be empty in order ta function properly."
"That's a nice way of looking at it," I answer, absorbed.
With dazzling sunrays shining through the new leaves, I notice beads of sweat forming on John's forehead. Feeling all of a sudden very warm myself, I start to blush and hope no one will notice. I look over at Basil, who bats his eyes at me and focuses again on his folded hands.
"But John, you were just telling me about your lack of courage. It seems as if you did risk a tremendous amount ... compared to the rest of us—for instance, when you and Yoko staged your bed-ins for peace after your marriage."
"Oh, that! That was more innocent than most people wanted to think. Yeah, I know what you mean ... but that's not really what I'm talkin' about. It's all so bloody relative." He shakes his head in frustration.
"Do you mean you felt a need to present yourself to your fans in a way they could relate to? If you began to say too many outrageous things, they would think you had lost it?"
I take a sip out of my glass, feeling my cheeks continue to flush. I'm becoming emotional and don't know why.
"I think that's a bit naive," John answers in his nasal tone. "Many people thought I had gone fuckin' mental long before that! You can't fathom how many people couldn't handle my moods and changes as it was. I stayed busy in my own private world tryin' to discover who I really was as this weird person, John Lennon ... and it often caused awful depression."
He gazes at me solemnly for a moment, as if he's been reminded of certain things which are still painful. I suspect, at this moment, it is taking him just as much nerve to have this encounter with me as the other way around, perhaps more.
"I admire you for your courage," I blurt out. "I've got a faint idea of how it must have been, but you're the only one who knows how it actually felt. I guess this is something you can tell me more about ... eventually."
He shows a crooked smile and finishes his bottle of beer in a few gulps. I notice he, too, is somewhat flushed.
"Sure, friend, we've got all the time in the universe."
I glance again at Basil, who is enjoying his reclining position in the partial sun.
"Basil," I ask, "what is your purpose, sitting here with us in your outrageously comfortable lounge chair? Is it because you make me feel safe? With my two feet on the ground? Of course I'm much more down to-earth when you're around. And what about the funny fact that both of you are Englishmen? Is it coincidence that we happen to be sitting here in the English countryside? I mean, both of you were British in your last life on earth...."
My cheeks seem to be hotter than ever and Basil pats me gently on the knee.
"Linda, my dear," he answers, "it has become a bit obvious to you, perhaps, that John and I are also old friends, just as you and I are, and that's one reason our meeting has been able to take place. John and I have known each other before—just as you and John have. Do you think it a coincidence that the names of Lennon and Keen are both derived from the Irish?"
"Oh. Okay. Maybe I'm starting to understand this whole setup a little better." I look solemnly at the ground. "Are we going to talk about all of these things? I mean, will those lives we've all had together be revealed to me through you and John?"
"Yes, eventually," Basil replies, trying to suppress a grin, "but you'll have to let this whole meeting unfold itself naturally ... without wanting too much, remember? This attitude is essential for our success as a team."
"A team? You make it sound like we're going to play baseball or something"
My serious expression switches into a mischievous smirk. John takes off his sunglasses, rubs his eyes and says, snorting, "By the time we finish, luv, you might feel as if we had!"
For the first time I see his piercing brown eyes, and it's as if I'm looking timidly at a person I have known for a very long time. Basil clears his throat and sits up straight.
"Just to pick up and begin somewhere ... John and I have a very strong link together from the legendary days of King Arthur. During that period, we had, as men to men, a deep bond of loyalty together. In those days, John and I incorporated a strong code of respect and honor into our human ways. Those were the themes of the day, along with the mystical experience and its accompanying ideals."
Excerpted from ACROSS the UNIVERSE with John Lennon by Linda Keen. Copyright © 1999 Linda Keen. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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