“So you want to be rich? Here, it’s not hard. It’s not meaningful and beyond a certain amount, not even necessary, but here. It’s possible.”
This felt like another voice was taking control of my hand. I was writing the words, but it wasn’t me saying them. I could resisted if I wanted to, but I was too curious.
“But how?” I asked, “What do I need to do?”
“It’s not what you need to do,” the voice said, “it’s what you need to become. You see,” the voice went on, “You need to stand in the infinite river of abundance and dip your hand in to drink from it.”
“What does that mean? How can I step into this ‘river of abundance?'”
“You don’t need to step into it,” the voice said with a touch of annoyance, as if talking to a small child, “You are already in it. Everyone is, they just don’t see it.”
“I don’t understand this,” I said, “What do you mean? Is there a way I can understand?”
“I don’t know,” said the voice, “maybe. Lets try it this way,” it said, deep in thought, “What is the easiest way for you to make money?”
“I guess I could go back to programming.” I replied, “I’m pretty good at that. But I don’t…”
“There!” The voice interrupted my train of thought, “You see?” it said, now sounding like a teacher talking to a slightly dim student, “Did you see how you stopped yourself from exploring this?” it paused. “Do you actually want to be rich?”
“Well, yes,” I concured, “I do, but not at any cost.”
“OK,” it said, “so what do you actually want?”
“I WANT TO BE FREE!” I shouted within my mind.
“Well, that sounds closer to the truth,” the voice in my head said. “Do you realize that having more money wouldn’t actually free you from it?” it asked.
“Well yes,” I replied, “I guess this makes sense. If I have more money, I’ll still believe in its worth, and in how it reflects on my self worth.”
“So in order for you to be free,” the voice continued, “you have to free yourself from the illusion of money.”
“I understand this intellectually,” I admitted, “money is an illusion created by people, but what does this mean?” I asked, “I still need it to buy groceries, pay rent, even to be on this retreat here with you.”
“Oh really?” the voice asked incredulously, “Didn’t you notice that we both reside in the same head, using the same hand to write this dialog between us?”
“Well, yes, that’s true,” I conceded.
“And didn’t you notice that you’re actually getting groceries for free from the Food Center every week?”
“Sure,” I said. We’ve been using the Food Center services since the pandemic broke out and I lost my job, “But we still shop at the grocery store.”
“And why do you do that?” it asked.
“There are some things we want that the Food Center doesn’t have,” I said.
“‘Want‘, you say, so not necessarily ‘need‘?”
“I guess not,” I admitted, “I guess we could survive on the food we got from the Center. But this wouldn’t be fun or tasty, and I like fun and tasty…” I trailed off.
“And here we are,” the voice said, “the first junction. Do you want ‘fun‘ and ‘tasty‘ more than you want to be free?”
“Of course not,” I replied adamantly, “that’s absurd!”
“Well, your actions show otherwise,” the voice concluded.
“They do, don’t they,” I said. “Yeah, I can see that now. So what else am I doing that’s in the way of my freedom?” I asked.
“What do you mean ‘everything?'”
“Everything that you do is in the way of your freedom.”
“So you’d have me do nothing?” I asked not really sure what he was saying.
“But… I don’t know what to say to that,” I said, “Do you want me to sit on my butt and do what? Nothing?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well look at it this way,” the voice explained patiently, “Has anything you’ve ever done made you feel any more free?”
“I guess,” I mused, “ocassionally. There are moments. Actually, ” I said, “right now is once of those moments of freedom.”
“Really? Tell me more.”
“Well,” I said in my head and wrote in my jouirnal, “I’m writing this conversation down. I know the next thing each of us is going to say. It’s…” I looked for the right word, “it’s effortless. I mean, my hand is getting tired, and I’m worried I won’t have enough juice to finish writing it all, but I can just slow down. And take a breath. And my handwriting is suddenly more legible. This is amazing. I could always do that? Just like that?“
“Of course you could,” the voice said, smiling, “You see, you misunderstand ‘doing’ as something that requires effort, force, going against something. That’s a uniquely human perspective,” it said. “Trees don’t do anything. Yet they grow and evolve, survive fires, have offspring. Everything happens naturally. This effort idea that your world has come up with is quite absurd to be honest.”
“Wow, hold up a second,” I said, “You’re… you’re not human?”
“Well,” it thought for a bit, “yes and no,” it said. “I reside in the same body as you, we share the same mind, languages, memories. But I’ve been around much, much longer.”
“Like thousands of years longer?” I asked.
“It’s hard to explain,” it replied. “Where I am from, time doesn’t work like that. It exists, but it doesn’t flow in a single direction like what you percieve.”
“Oh boy,” I said, feeling we were getting off track and wanting to squeeze out a bit more out of this bizarre conversation, “OK. Lets step back for a second. I’d like to get back to my business.” I’ve been working on an online mental health app for the last 6 months and sales were still abysmally small. I was growing frustrated, which was why I took a couple of days to myself and closed myself off in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere. It was also the reason I took a mild dose of psilocybin, hoping to see something that I couldn’t see in the everyday hustle. Looks like I was getting my money’s worth.
“Why can’t I get my business off the ground?” I asked.
“You’re struggling, that’s why,” the voice replied. “You’re like a fish out of water, wiggling around, flopping your whole body,” it said. “Relax. The first thing you need to do is relax,” it paused briefly, “and take a look around.”
“OK,” I said. “OK. OK, I’m relaxing. Here, I’m even writing slower. This actually feels good. But what does it have to do with anything?” I asked.
“Give it a few more minutes,” the voice said, “It’s coming.”
“The realization. It’s on its way to you.”
“I thought time and space were meaningless or something in your world,” I quipped with a smile.
“It is. And I can also see we’re merging back,” it said, growing fainter. “This journey is almost over. But the realization,” the voice said, “the insight, it will come. And it will seem trivial and obvious when it does. And it will seem completely unexplicable to anyone you tell about it.”
“I’ll be honest,” I said. “I was hoping for some sort of grand finale. Something that would make this into a great story that others could read and be moved by.”
“It is already that,” the voice said, with a twinkle in his eye, as if he realized the absurdity of it all. “Because it’s true. ‘Critics hate him,’ they’ll say, but readers will love it. Just don’t pretend it was you who wrote it,” it warned. “And don’t try to write a sequel for it, because, ” it said, fading away…
“Truth has no sequel.”
“How can we help him?” asked the first nun. “He’s going to come back from his psilocybin journey and forget that he has access to infinite wisdom.”
“Well,” the other nun said in my head, “he has this idea of ‘integration’ – making changes in his physical life that would make the wisdom he experienced during his journeys stick.”
“That’s absurd!” the first one replied.
“You really like this word,” the other one said, smiling.
“I do, and it is,” I heard. It was getting hard to tell the two wisely, female, caring voices apart. I had gone into the shower to freshen up after my conversation with The Guide when I suddenly became aware of this dialog. I wondered if I was perhaps going crazy, but went to my desk and started writing, deciding to call the nuns Anna and Betty.
“He can’t possible expect to somehow encode infinite wisdom into a mere ‘change of lifestyle’,” Anna said. She paused, then tilted her head to one side and said, “but maybe there is something we can do.”
“I’m listening,” Betty said, intrigued.
“He understands that consciousness is maleable and can change quickly, right?” Anna asked.
“Yes, I do think he’s already realized that’s true,” Betty concurred.
“Well, if we replace the physical realm problem of his ‘failing’ business with one of concsiousness where it can be resolved instantly, that would help, wouldn’t it?” Anna wondered.
“Go on,” Betty urged her, excitement in her voice, “this is fascinating!”
“So, he says he can’t get people to buy his product, correct?” — “Yes.” — “And he doesn’t know why, right?” — “Indeed.”
“Well,” Anna continued, “he prides himself on being empathic and being able to see things from other people’s perspectives. Why don’t we nudge him to imagine a conversation between himself and a potential buyer, trying to sell his product, this Wuju?”
“I love it!” Betty exclaimed. “This will let him see what’s wrong and what he’s missing.”
“Let’s leave him to it then,” they both said in unison and faded into the background of my thoughts.
Heeding the nudge I got from the nuns, I turned a page and started writing.
ELI: Hey, check out Wuju, it’s awesome!
GUY: Wha.. What? Who are you? How did you get inside my head? Get out of here, I was in the middle of something.
ELI: No no, listen, you don’t understand, Wuju is truly awesome. It can change everything. It can solve all your problems.
GUY: Sure it can. Can it make coffee too?
GUY: Listen, dude, I don’t know who you are, how you got in here or what the fuck you’re trying to sell me, but I want you out. Now!
GUY: I said NOW!
ELI: Hey, excuse me?
ELI: Can I show you something?
CHAD: Ehm, I’ve got a minute, but… yeah, you seem nice enough, watcha got?
ELI: Oh wow, thank you so much for agreeing, this means so much to me, you know I’ve been looking for someone who will…
CHAD: Yeah, yeah, I said I only had a minute and you already wasted half of it. What did you want to show me?
(fumbling with his phone)
ELI: So, yeah, this is Wuju and it’s like this mental health app that can basically help you release any negative emotion you may have and…
CHAD: Say what? Oh, sorry, I got distracted. You see there’s this really hot chick that’s been texting me and she’s free for some hot lunch if you know what I mean, yeah? Alright, buddy, nice thing you there, I’m sure it can be super useful for some people, I’ll be sure to tell all my friends about… whachama call it?
ELI: Ah… Wuju.
CHAD: Yeah, Voodoo, that’s it. Yeah, I’ll tell everyone about it. Alright, see ya!
ELI: Hello sir! We are representatives of the Wuju corporation. We’ve been working for over a decade on various mental health applications and we would like to help your Suicide Prevention Center to streamline and revolutionize your Suicide Prevention measures so they don’t require any personnel on hand.
MAN: I, ah, Ahem. Yes, well, sure, this all sounds very interesting. Why don’t you fill out this form here for our, ahem, technical partners and we’ll get back to you when the time is right. I’m sure your products are every bit as good as Google, IBM or Yahoo.
ELI: Excuse me ma’am, do you have a few coins to spare? I haven’t eaten all day.
WOMAN: Here you go honey, get yourself something to eat. And take a shower, will ya? You’re kinda you know – (wrinkles her nose) – stinky.
(walks up to a sad looking young woman sitting by herself on a park bench)
ELI: Hey, how are you feeling?
GIRL: Wha?.. Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m alright.
ELI: You don’t look alright to me.
(reaches out and puts a hand on her shoulder)
GIRL: I’m… I’m…
(starts crying, Eli sits down next to her)
ELI: It’s OK. Just tell me. It’s OK.
GIRL: I just feel so lost. I don’t know what to do anymore. I tried everything. I spent God knows how much money on therapy and meds and I just still feel like shit. I’m such a loser.
(Eli puts his hand behind her back in a gentle hug, she leans her head on his shoulder)
GIRL: You know, you’re a complete stranger, but I feel safer with you than I have in months. Thank you, thank you so much!
ELI: Yeah, so actually, I have this little tool called Wuju that you could pull out any time and it will make you feel better. I promise!
(pulls out his phone and loads the app to show her)
GIRL: You… what?! You’re trying to sell me something!? Get your hands off me! Stay away, you hear me? You stay the fuck away from me or I’ll call the cops on your ass!
(storms away from the bench)
ELI: I… OK.
ELI: Hi, is this the New York Times?
OPERATOR: Yes, how may I direct your call?
ELI: I’d like to speak to a reporter please.
OPERATOR: Do you have a story to report, sir?
ELI: Yes I do!
OPERATOR: Alright then. We have the sex and violent crimes department, the terrorism and beheadings section, the crazy family drama group and the dirty politics devision. Where would you like me to transfer you?
(hangs up the phone)
ELI: Excuse me sir, do you have some spare change?
(on his knees)
ELI: Oh God almighty in the heavens, also know as Jesus, Yahwhe, Allah and… Buddha?
WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?
ELI: Oh… what? I didn’t… err… didn’t actually expect you to respond.
GOD: You didn’t? OK then. Bye!
ELI: No… no, WAIT!
ELI: What am I doing wrong? What isn’t it working?
GOD: You’re working too hard to see you aren’t working on the right thing.
ELI: What do you mean? What should I be working on?
GOD: You need to find a place where your clients hang out…
ELI: Yeah, yeah, I know all that…
GOD: And then you need to be humble.
ELI: But… I’m already humble, humble as a doormat, humiliated, stepped on, rejected more times than I can count. I’m done with this. That’s it. Here are the keys to my life, do whatever the hell you want with me.
(turns to leave)
GOD: Hey, Eli?
ELI: Yeah? (turns around)
GOD: Welcome home. Now I can help you.
. . .
(sitting at a simple desk outside a depression convention center)
ELI: Hey there.
GUY: Hi… ahm… I heard there was this Wuju thing that could help me with my… ahm… depression.
ELI: Sure. Let me show you how this works.