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The JourneyFrom Now to Then
By Charles Moore
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Charles Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDavid Long shifted his weight to his left side as he sat on the wooden school desk, at the same time feeling sorry for all the students who are forced to sit on this type of chair for the better part of every school day. He had forgotten how uncomfortable they could be after a while. Looking around the room he realized that it was not unlike the many school rooms that he had spent so many seemingly endless days in during his adolescence. Dull, blue gray walls with only a black chalkboard centered on the back wall to break up the monotony. Rows of wooden school desks arranged neatly in straight lines, all facing front. There was no teachers desk with books on top. No pull down maps attached to the wall above the chalkboard, and no American flag standing in the corner. Instead, there was a small rectangular wooden table slightly to the left of the chalkboard, with a pitcher of water and a single glass on a brown plastic tray. The blue gray walls were bare, with no pictures of dead presidents or other famous people, and there were no books under the desks. No noise and no sounds of quiet whispering, muffled laughter, or the scratching noises made by wooden desks that are unintentionally jarred and moved under the weight of restless young bodies. All that could be heard was the soft low voice of Martha Ellsworth, a woman who looked to be in her late thirties or early forties.
She was a rather well known spiritualist who had been scheduled by the Unity Church to give a series of nightly metaphysical lectures that week. David and his wife Lisa had been attending services at this church off and on for several months now, though they had not become formal members. It was a common occurrence for the church to sponsor programs of this nature, and it was this kind of new age thinking that had drawn them to it in the first place. Lisa had been planning to attend these lectures since it was first announced three weeks before. David had only decided to join her earlier that day.
He had never heard of Martha Ellsworth or attended this type of lecture before, so he didn't really know what to expect. She reminded him of a pleasant, well dressed, slightly over weight house wife who wore no makeup. She could have been any woman next door. He had thought she would be more dynamic, or maybe even a little flamboyant. Instead, she seemed almost timid and spoke as if she were having a conversation with her family over dinner, as she related excerpts from some of her previous lectures.
She was engaging in small uninteresting dialogue with different members of the audience who seemed anxious to tell her about what they thought were their own metaphysical experiences. David found this to be both boring and unbelievable, and was beginning to wonder if his coming had not been a mistake. He looked down at his watch, which read 7:42 PM, and felt certain that he would not be able to take this session for another two and a half hours. Lisa reached over and squeezed his hand. Looking as if she had read his mind, she whispered;
"Don't worry honey. It will get better."
"I sure hope so." He replied.
As he listened to Martha Ellsworth he began to think of when he was a young boy growing up in the south. He was thinking of what it was like living in that part of the country as a black youth during the forties and fifties, with all of the unwritten rules that a young black boy was required to abide by, even if he didn't always understand them. Rules like; moving off the side walk to give way to any approaching white person. Or never looking a white person in the eyes, and never talking back to a white person, even if you disagreed with what they were saying. Always having to say 'yes sir' and 'no sir' or, 'yes mam' and 'no mam', and never ever looking at a white girl or woman, no matter what the circumstances were. There were many others, and he couldn't remember ever being specifically taught any of them. But he always knew them. Maybe they were so much a part of that culture and environment that learning them was natural, like learning the language. But in spite of these handicaps, he felt that his childhood was filled with fond memories of many wonderful experiences.
Whenever he found himself thinking about this period of his life he always thought of Clarence. It would have been impossible for him to remember any part of those years without thinking of Clarence, because he had been so much a part of them. He had been David's best friend since early childhood and they were almost always together. They lived in a small cotton town in Arkansas on the same unpaved street, two houses apart. David always looked up to Clarence, probably because Clarence was two years older than he was. He often wondered if Clarence ever realized how much he envied him, because he always seemed to be able to do the kind of things that most boys found exciting, like being good at sports, hunting, and other types of out of doors activities that David was not very good at. David always spent most of his time reading, studying and day dreaming, while Clarence and other kids were out running and playing. Clarence was a strong muscular kid but he only seemed to confident when he was singing. David could never understand that because Clarence was very street smart and really knew his way around. He was well known and liked by almost everyone. He never had any kind of regular job but always seemed to be able to find enough odd jobs to enable him to have enough money to do the things he wanted to do. Usually very shy around other people, especially strangers, and yet he was never hesitant about singing before a group of people he had never seen before.
His family were members of the local black Baptist Church but he was not a very religious person, even though he professed to believe in what his church taught. He was also very superstitious, always careful not to walk under a ladder and he would turn and go the other way if a black cat crossed in front of him. He had other superstitious beliefs that David thought were weird. Like the time the two of them were walking down the street near where they lived. It was late afternoon and they were busy talking about two sisters that they had crushes on, when Clarence stopped suddenly, saying that someone was calling him. David didn't hear anything, but Clarence insisted that he heard someone call his name. They both looked all around and didn't see anyone. Clarence became very frightened and said that it was death calling his name as a warning because he was coming to get him. David knew that he really believed what he was saying because he hurried home and didn't come out of his house for over a week. When he finally did come out again he said that his mother had paid an old woman that was supposed to have some kind of special powers, to work a spell and pray for him, so death never came.
David wondered how Clarence's whole family could believe anything like that but he knew they did, so he never brought it up anymore. He always Teasingly told Clarence that he was much more serious about his superstitions than he was about his religion. He couldn't remember Clarence ever going to school. In those days in that part of the country, it was completely up to the parents whether to send their children to school or not. This was especially true in the black community. If the parents chose not to send them, nobody cared. Clarence was apparently one of those kids that didn't go to school after the first or second grade, something he was very ashamed of during his teenage years.
It was because of Clarence that David became a member of a gospel singing group. The two of them had always spent a lot of time sitting around singing together when they were alone. Everyone was familiar with a black gospel group called 'The Crusaders'. They were very well known in the whole region. When Clarence was about fifteen years old he learned that the group was in need of another voice, and asked his pastor to arrange for him to audition for the position. When it was time for him to go to the audition, he was very nervous and didn't want to go alone, so David went with him.
The leader of the Crusaders was a tall fair skinned, soft spoken man with freckles. His name was Isaac, and he was obviously the oldest member of the group. Her could see that Clarence was very nervous, so he talked to him for a while before trying to get him to sing. Clarence wouldn't sing alone and asked if I could sing with him. Isaac reluctantly agreed, thinking that it might help him to relax. They began to sing 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' together, in slow harmony, the way they had always sang it when they were alone with no one else around. After listening to them Isaac told them to wait while he went into the other room to talked to the other members of the group. When he returned he asked them both to become members of the group.
The Crusaders consisted of five young men ranging in age from twenty four to thirty years old. David and Clarence spent the next couple of months learning the songs and the routines before they were allowed to perform on stage with the group in public. The majority of their concerts were held in churches, many of which were located in remote rural areas. David could still remember traveling to the different churches, driving down unpaved country roads in Isaac's big brown Olds, past cotton fields with scattered black workers of various ages, all busy chopping or picking cotton. Sometimes they passed so close to them that they could see the sweat on their faces as they looked up to stare at them in awe. It must have been a rare sight indeed for them to see a group of black men traveling in what they probably thought was such a fine car. He also remembered passing black prisoners that would be working in fields with white men carrying shot guns guarding them. Both the prisoners and the guards would stare at them as they passed, probably for the same reason that the workers in the cotton fields did.
He remembered once when a number of black prisoners were working on the road they were traveling on. He could still feel the tension that was in the car as they drove very slowly through the prisoners and armed guards, some of which were on horses. The guards stared at them with such hatred and contempt that it frightened them. These were not uniformed prison guards. They appeared to be local white men that had been hired to guard the prisoners. One of them was a very mean looking man that watched them intently with his finger on the trigger of his shot gun, as if he wanted to shoot them, and was just waiting for an excuse to do so. Isaac was saying in a voice no louder than a whisper;
"Don't look at them. Look straight ahead and don't look back after we pass. You heah me? Don't look back."
He must have been frightened also. They all must have been frightened. But it was impossible for David not to look back. He couldn't take his eyes off the man with the shoot gun. In spite of where he lived, he had never seen such hatred up close, and felt certain that the man was going to start shooting at any moment. He watched them until they were out of sight, wondering how the prisoners could stand being there under those circumstances. He felt a profound sadness for them. Some didn't look to be any older than he was.
"Boy, don't you know how to act around white folks?" Raymond, one of the older members of the group asked. "You gonna git us all in a whole heap o trouble. You can't never stare at no white man like that. He'll thank we's up to something and we'll wind up out there working like the rest o them niggers.
"I thought they were prisoners." David said.
"Ain't no prison round heah boy." Raymond said. "Them niggers is from the local jails in these towns hear bouts. Probably got caught stealing or drinking and fighting, or jes wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time and got put in jail."
"What do you mean, 'the wrong place at the wrong time'?" David asked.
"Boy, you shore don't know nothing do you?" Raymond answered. "These days you gots to be careful where you goes, and you gots to be specially mindful who you goes there wif. You can wind up in a whole heap o trouble for no reason a tall. When a black man gits in trouble round heah he goes to jail, and when he goes to jail they puts him to work, and that's a fact. These white folks round heah needs workers, and they don't want to have to pay em. So the police puts the niggers in jail for little or no reason a tall so they can bring em out heah to work for free."
David knew Raymond was upset because he was frightened, but he also knew that what he was saying was true. He felt an emptiness in his gut for a long time. Later, after discussing it with Clarence, he learned that Clarence had felt the same way.
Chapter Two"Has anyone here ever had an out of body experience?" Martha Ellsworth asked, as she moved slowly back and forth across the front of the room. There was no response.
"Anyone?" She asked again.
There was still no response. She paused and, clasping her hands together asked;
"Has anyone ever dreamed that you were having an out of body experience?"
Again there was no response from the audience.
"I always ask these questions of my audiences and I always get the same reaction." She said, in a quiet soft voice.
"This is not surprising because our culture teaches us that it is not possible to have an out of body experience, and we tend to believe what we're taught. When something happens to us that we can't explain, or when we think something has happened that is contrary to what we have been taught, it's easier for us to assume that it was our imagination, or even an hallucination, and we consciously choose not to believe it. But sometimes, deep inside, we're not so sure. Are we?"
After a long pause she moved closer to the audience. Her eyes seemed to be scanning everyone in the room, as if she were looking for one particular person.
"There is so much more to the universe around us than what we can see, touch and feel, if we would only open our minds and trust in our instincts." She said. "Would it surprise you if I told you that there are millions of people in eastern countries that believe that out of body experiences are not only possible, but very common among all people. They believe that many of us have these experiences when we are sleeping, or day dreaming, but we don't realize or accept it because we can't explain it in natural terms that are consistent with our religious beliefs, and yet, here we are. Together in this room, talking about things that we have all been taught not to believe. Why?"
She was speaking in a slow deliberate tone now.
"Some of you have probably come here tonight only because you're curious." She continued. "And have already made up your minds to scoff at what ever I have to say, and that's okay because I'm not here to try to convert you to my way of thinking. I've come here tonight only to share with you some of my experiences. It is my hope that those of you who are searching for the truth, and I believe that many of you are, will feel comfortable enough to share some of your experiences with the rest of us, and in that way, we can all learn from each other. If we can do this then maybe we will be open to learning more about who we are, and what we are, and why. It is to you, the 'searchers' that I will address my remarks, and if we're lucky, some of you scoffers will leave here tonight a little less skeptical."
She was smiling now, as she went over to the table, poured a glass of water, and drank half of it.
"Please understand that I don't pretend to be an expert on this subject." She Advised. "You see, I'm searching too. I have been searching for some kind of enlightenment for a very long time. Even to the point of traveling to other countries, trying always to find the truth of where I fit in the universe around me, and why I've always felt so strongly that there is something missing."
She put the half empty glass down on the table, and began to talk about the time she spent in India, and her many conversations with a certain holy man who had befriended her.
David was wondering which category he would fit into, the scoffers, or the searchers. He decided that he had come as a scoffer. This was surprising even to him because he considered himself to be completely open minded on the whole subject of metaphysical spirituality. He had always thought of himself as a religious person, but he also knew that he really didn't have the slightest clue as to what his religion really was. His beliefs were not consistent with the teachings of any of the religions that he had been exposed to. He had never been able to understand why there were so many different faiths. Each one with it's own interpretation of God, the bible and Jesus Christ. Yet, each one claiming to be the one true church. He had always felt that his concept of God and Jesus Christ was in complete conflict with all of them.
Excerpted from The Journey by Charles Moore Copyright © 2011 by Charles Moore. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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