At the end of my last post about getting lost in a cave, I said, “I’m confident if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually I’ll emerge into the stars. And I haven’t even told you the story of when I was struck by lightening this summer… that tale is yet to come.” These stories are archetypal trails of my passage.
Zippppp … wham … lightening STRIKES
I intended to relate my experience on the new moon in July of being struck by lightening. Which I will describe, with much greater significance than I expected. For on Tuesday of last week, April 2, 2013, my dear friend of 30 years, Marc Austin, was struck by lightening on a walk in Austin, Texas. It threw him to the ground so hard, he broke his neck. Witnesses found him face down, but conscious and able to speak. By the time he reached the hospital he was on breathing assistance and had lost all feeling in his body.
When Barbara, his wife of 26 years, arrived she knew he was not coming back. They spent the next four agonizing days communicating with winks, and a few whispered goodbyes struggled out around the breathing tubes, before determining with their two children, Nick (26) and Elizabeth (22) that it was Marc’s wish to let go. Saturday, Marc graciously stopped breathing on his own and slipped away. Just like that. He was gone. The brilliant light of this 61 year old force of nature was extinguished. Marc was funny – always laughing, always cheerful – so funny he COULD actually have been a stand up comedian at one point in his artistic career. And now. Boom. Zap. He’s gone. And we mirror him, slammed face down into the mystery of death.
I had just visited the Austin family of Austin, Texas, in March for the wedding of their eldest, Nick to the lovely Madison. The occasion turned into a rousing five day sleepover with plenty of laughter, joy and general merriment. Memories were etched into time and space that we had little idea would be even more precious now that Marc has so suddenly left us.
Not once, but twice – lightening strikes
Now my experience holds more significance, and yet so much less. Ten months ago, in July 2012, I was in a fire circle in the piney darkness on an Encino hillside to welcome the new moon. Quintessential urban shamans, we chanted, drummed and rattled away what we wanted to let go of, what was no longer serving our greatest good, and conjured what we wanted to bring in to move us along the path. Having just been laid off, I had a lot to let go of. And more to bring in as I embraced reinvention.
The ceremony completed, the group of 10 or so converged indoors to partake of some delicious food offerings. Notably, there is little rain in the Los Angeles desert. Without warning, a freak downpour began. Being a Southerner, I love a warm rain. I ran outside, stripped down to enjoy the rain, then dove into the chilly pool. Suddenly a loud clap of thunder erupted, with a flashbulb of lightening. This prompted me to get out of that cold pool pretty quick.
The clouds passed quickly, so undaunted I moved toward the hot tub. Just as I was stepping in, another burst of thunder clapped and I heard a sizzling sound above me. I looked up, and a streak of gas blue light was zigzagging toward me at ‘lightening speed’ with the crackling sound of high wires, and a distinct smell of ozone. In that split second I froze, already drenched, one foot in the pool, one on the stone steps. “In or out of the water?” my mind raced.
The lightening hit the top of my head, swirled around my body lighting it up with that effervescent blue and shot down my leg, bursting blue light into the water. I lit up like a incandescent blue bulb. Literally. Like the center of a gas flame with a tinge of gold on the edge. I was stunned – every hair standing up, adrenalin and excitement blasting my body. The only man in the group was the closest witness, running out yelling ‘you better get out of the water!”
“Too late! Did you see that??? I lit up!” Others had come out by then. We were all shocked that I had been hit with no injury. Little did I know that this was a sign of more to come. And with a very devastating outcome. More than just an archetypal allegory. The Tower card of the Tarot comes to mind – apocalyptic deconstruction of all one assumes is real.
“We’re all in this together, and none of us is getting out alive!” Lily Tomlin
Death is a powerful teacher about impermanance. No hiding. No delusions. If you don’t get that you are lucky to be here, says Thor, take that you silly human! Lightening! Boom!
Now to witness the butterfly effect we are studying in my Social Media Marketing class at UCLA (www.smmucla.com), also known as ‘chaos theory.‘ How will the loss of Marc affect those he left behind so abruptly? Like that butterfly wing creating a storm half a world away. Chaos is NOT a THEORY in this aftermath – its a REALITY.
UCLA Class Instructor and author Beverly Macy writes,” In complex, turbulent environments, speed in recognizing opportunities and responding is essential.” While she may be referring to our real time social media phenomenon, I see far reaching and near reaching meanings echoing ‘Carpe Diem’ to move close to those we care about, and things we value and speedily respond with compassionate lovingkindness.
The initial ripple for me is to channel Marc’s contagious cheerfulness and humor. His brightness and creativity. No Eeyore here. More of a Tigger. or perhaps philosophical Piglet or Pooh. To take ahold of my life, use my multiple talents and make sure I find Meaning in it and Do Something Meaningful with it. That’s the only way it will mean something to anyone else.
Marc Austin. I will miss you. Flap those butterfly wings and let us feel your spirit.
“Death and hopelessness provide proper motivation for living an insightful, compassionate life.”
“To think that we can finally get it all together is unrealistic. To seek for some lasting security is futile. To undo our very ancient and very stuck habitual patterns of mind requires that we begin to turn around some of our most basic assumptions. Believing in a solid, separate self, continuing to seek pleasure and avoid pain, thinking that someone “out there” is to blame for our pain – one has to get totally fed up with these ways of thinking. One has to give up hope that this way of thinking will bring us satisfaction. Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or the hope that there’s anywhere to hide. … At every turn we realize once again that it’s completely hopeless – we can’t get any ground under our feet. … We begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental groundless spaciousness.”