There is an interesting pattern I have noticed in the way sea changes occur in my life, and they didn't begin to happen until Al Gore or the NSA or Teilhard de Chardin or God or somebody invented the internet. Prior to that, things just kind of happened, with no real, observable cause and effect.
John Fahey taught me about cause and effect, and in his one complete book he mentioned how at age five he didn't have any grasp of that concept, that, in his words, "I was an idiot." At age five.
I was an idiot till age 50. John, I got you beat.
In 1994 I went on line while recuperating from a near-catastrophic (for me, anyway, since I am the center of my own universe), coronary event. That was the cause. The internet was the effect. I was sitting around the house and my daughter handed me a Prodigy floppy disk, and it started.
They had a medical support bulletin board on Prodigy back then (when one had to choose a service and learn to live with it while all the cool kids were having fun over on AOL, or so they thought). When I realized there were actual other people out there doing the same thing more or less, I began to have conversations with them. This eventually led to me ressurecting my borderline writing career, and it also led to me meeting people back when everyone always warned everyone else to watch out for ax murderers when meeting people in person they'd first met on line.
Eventually all this led to me getting involved in a long-distance relationship which in turn eventually led to me moving across country to be with the girlfriend. It didn't last, but by then the ball was really rolling, and Teilhard's "Globe, clothed with a brain" was helping me think and do.
It was handy when I was on the way to the door, when I'd been asked to leave the seven year long relationship I'd found on the opposite coast. I'd also discovered, again, Salon, which has been mentioned to me by a long-lost high school friend who'd turned up on that other coast as well. I became a chronic commenter on Salon, and when the powers that be decided to create this thing called Open Salon, none other than Joan Walsh persuaded me to join in at the outset. I couldn't understand why, since I had no faith in my writing abilities and believed I had been one of the worst-behaved commenters probably in the history of the site.
I was persuaded somehow, and the causes and effects continued.
My first ever attempt at OS writing, talking about the weather for chrissake, got me my first EP. To this day I am confounded by that, but I continued to experiment, to find my voice, not knowing then that Joan had effectively changed my life, set it off on a new arc, shortly after I'd arrived back here in the mysterious east.
All this is by way of prologue to the story I am trying to find a way to tell about last week. As I write this, a week exactly has passed since I made the most recent real-time connection with someone I had originally met on line, and in that short time (and, in reality, in the year leading up to it), I've had my life changed again, for the god-only-knows how manyeth time now. Each change has been positive, often wonderful.
Since I slipped into OS, trying to not be noticed (yes, I get how stupid that sounds), I have gained a family and more. I have become the writer I feared I could not possibly be, or at least came to accept that I can write, and it is because of people who encouraged me and even embraced me (occasionally quite literally) that I have found myself on the threshold of being completely in love with life, more than I ever would have believed possible, even though my life has, on balance, been awfully damn good. Even that time when they took out my heart and played catch with it, back when this all began.
This past week I returned, after more than five years, to the place I'd lived for a while in Southern California, to see what it would be like withhout her being involved.
It was incredible.
I met more friends I'd never met, found friends I hadn't seen in ages, discovered La Jolla and a Chinese abstract artist whose work threw me into a prolonged trance; I walked into a bagel place I used to frequent but hadn't visited for more than five years, only to have the counter guy call me by name the moment I walked through the door; I was reminded just how insane Laguna Beach is on a sunny weekend day; I listened to a rare April rainstorm quietly in the dark, alone; and on the last day (or was it the first?) I hiked the Hollywood hills, wandered Santa Monica (where I was congratulated on having such a lovely wife, which elicited some awkward laughter and a "We just MET!"), and generally felt that sense of riding the vast wave that is the Eternal Now.
I want to thank those dear OS friends who shared their precious time with me, and those Facebook friends who also shared their time, those I know because I was on Facebook because of OS, because of the internet, because my right coronary artery once upon a time came apart. I cannot thank you enough for having helped make my survival of that and the figurative broken heart two of the most positive things that have ever happened to me.
About the time I signed onto Open Salon beta, I'd decided to open a Facebook account. I figured maybe I could network with other aspiring writers as well as political activists, and maybe even keep track of my family. All those things happened, and a huge chunk of my large group of friends there are people I've come to know through OS. By whoring out...I mean linking...my posts here, especially the political ones, on Facebook, I attracted some politically like-minded people. Not just ones from OS, but just random ones
One of them, I realized at some point, shared much more with me than just political leanings. We think alike, we love the same music, we have many of the same passions, and, well, we just kinda like each other a lot.
On the last day of my trip to SoCal, during which I felt the last of the past finally fall away and the light come all the way back on, during the trip during which I met a couple more of the most wonderful friends-I'd-never-met in person, connected with another old high school friend I hadn't seen since I left for California a decade ago, and wandered alone along streets and paths I used to wander hand in hand with a woman I thought I loved more than was humanly possible but who didn't love me quite as much, I finally, at the end of that particular trip, came face to face with that person I'd crashed into on Facebook, where I'd never been were it not for OS, which I'd never ventured into were it not for Joan, and found myself looking into the eyes of the future.
The future is beautiful, and I will meet it out on the blue horizon and will never again shrink from its approach because of the past - or for any other reason.
I need to go back to LA soon. I left some books out there.