I want to say thanks to Ram Dass for coming to Chapel Hill last month to do a benefit for THE SUN — and thanks to everyone who came to hear him.
It was a huge success financially — and in countless other ways. For one, I haven’t wanted a cup of coffee since Ram Dass left a week ago. This is a small thing, not much of a miracle — unless you’re a four- or five-cup-a-day coffee drinker like I am. I didn’t give up coffee because I suddenly felt purer; on the contrary, I’ve felt better about who I am with all my imperfections, calmer and more spacious, and I haven’t wanted to jar myself with that caffeine rush, racing the mind to hurried conclusions and loose talk.
I remember reading in A Course in Miracles that all miracles are the same, one isn’t bigger or smaller than another, they occur naturally as expressions of love, and the real miracle is the love that inspires them.
Well, another miracle was that after picking up Ram Dass, I managed to get us to Chapel Hill despite missing my exit. It’s the sort of thing I only do when I’m picking up world-renowned spiritual teachers. The trip took twice as long as it should have, and included a thoroughly unnecessary tour of downtown Durham. “At least,” I offered, “you get to see Durham.”
However, I wasn’t so bedazzled that I missed my chance when he complimented me on THE SUN. “Please say that on stage tomorrow night,” I crooned. Maybe that’s when I missed my turn. Later, in his hotel room, running through my list of questions, I asked again that he mention THE SUN. He laughed, “You’re hustling me here in my room at the Carolina Inn.”
But he did say nice things. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Nor to plan. I’d never organized anything on this scale, and was startled to realize we needed 15 people to sell tickets and usher. Thanks to them, it went off perfectly. I even asked my friend Van — an ex-football player who used to help me move my piano by having me hold open the door — to play undercover cop, and keep an eye on the cash-box. The ludicrousness of having a “guard” in that crowd became apparent as soon as people started arriving; nobody even took the flowers. But Van, gentleman that he is, played the role to the hilt.
I played my role to the hilt, too, until just before dropping Ram Dass at the airport. Host, editor, interviewer — I’d done it all impeccably. If I was nervous at first, I was too tired from all the running around for it to show. And Ram Dass has a way of making you feel comfortable. Many people commented on his “ordinariness,” and common touch — here was a man, not a self-proclaimed god. But Ram Dass is no ordinary man, and I wanted to see my reflection in his eyes and in his heart. “Where am I?” I asked, surprised by the plaintiveness of my voice. “You’re a mensch,” he said — mensch is Yiddish for a person with a good heart — “but you’re too mushy, you need to be more empty.”
I’ve been thinking about that, but not over coffee.