The Twice Lived Life


  It went from cold, disapproving looks and scolding until the day when the man of the cloth, (my boss) lost control and shouted me down. (I was an associate clergyman in a large church)

 You might wonder, if you’ve met me, sweetie that I am, what possibly could have brought down his anger upon me. Well, it was at least in part because the two of us were temperamentally miles apart, as indicated, on the Meyers Briggs Temperament Type Indicator.

 I, an INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving type) have never felt able to be more than a fragment of my self when in the same room with my opposite, the ESTJ, (the extraverted, sensing, thinking, judging type) which the angry boss was.

 ESTJ’s, in my experience, typically tend to think that people with my kind of  poetic and intuitive personality, are of no earthly use, which I myself would confirm, for I am very aware that I have no practical value or usefulness. I have, for example, no aptitude to fix anything around the house and have no idea how a car works.

 I never have had any desire to tinker with a car or to build model airplanes. Instead as a boy, I used to play the piano for hours every day creating melodies as the muses spoke to me. (An ESTJ reading this will be rolling his eyes in response, if somehow, miraculously, he got this far in the article.)

 My type, typically, and probably unfairly, tends to regard the ESTJ’s of the world as persons who should find jobs in banks where they can count numbers. These types, furthermore, should never become counsellors or ministers, for they have no people skills whatsoever. 

 I haven’t gone as far as to think that ESTJ’s should be banned from getting married or having children, but it has crossed my mind that if such measures were to be taken that, there might be fewer lonely wives in the world and fewer misunderstood children.

 On the day when I experienced the full fury of a sizzling, steaming hot, ESTJ, I had never been yelled at like that in all my life. 

 In high school, the basketball coach used to yell at us, but his anger was but a momentary outburst, with no final meaning.

 When the coach roared, it was but a part of process of a team and its coach moving towards the possibility of a championship. The yelling would quickly subside and inevitably yield to laughter. We players all knew our coach’s pattern of sudden fury followed by laughter. And thus, some forty years later, I feel only affection in my heart for the coach who used to leap from the bench in one of his endearing fits of rage.

 But the rage coming from the angry man of the cloth was final and irrevocable. It was a complete negation of me. No joy would appear on the other side of this level of rage. He had found it impossible to have me around and so blasted the hell out of me. It was the end of relationship, with no chance of recovery. 

 Thus on that day, which was like the culminating point of a whole bunch of things piling up, something died inside of me. 

 What was that? It was the death of a dream and of a self who had thought that he had been called to church ministry as a Pastor. I knew then that the dream no longer had any chance of fulfillment. 

 It had been one too many doors slammed in my face. I knew I could not, or perhaps rather, would not, go on.

 I had conceived, up until then, of no other possibility than to be a Protestant minister. I had been a minister, the Rev Al McGee, for more than ten years. That was my identity, hard won, after seven years in school and a one year internship.

 That sense of calling had been confirmed many times but, just as many times, I had been slam dunked just when I thought all was going well.

 Now reeling and dazed from an angry verbal assault, I was left with a sense of emptiness and astonishment. I really could not believe what had happened! How could it have all come to this?

 It was quite a state to be in. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I had committed no crime other than to be myself. But in being myself, I had driven another human being to the brink of madness.

 And then I found that I could not even protest. I would not go to war against the man who had violated me. There simply was no defiance in me, but rather a sense of resignation that, after all, this rejection was my fate.

 And strangely, somehow, there was a sense of relief and mysteriously, a sense of triumph.

 How could that be? I should have perhaps felt suicidal. Instead, I began to feel liberated. I felt a surge of strength. There was a resolve, too, that I would never allow myself to be treated that way again. 

 Which meant that I would not try again to be a Pastor. “Why would you go on anyway,” a dear friend had said at the time. “You have no respect for any of the clergy. You are not one of them. Why go on?”

 She had been right, but it took the verbal lashing to break my attachment.

 Later, as I was driving along a highway, a thought nearly knocked me out. It was the thought: 'I do not believe.’ I repeated it several times.

 I couldn’t believe I was thinking that, the unthinkable, the unsayable: 'I do not believe.' 

 But instead of censoring myself, I said it out loud, and then turned up the volume. ‘I do not believe. I do not believe.’  

 'Where did that come from?' I asked, stunned. I didn’t know that was in me! And who was saying that? Surely not that one known as the Rev. Al McGee.

 'What is that within me?' I asked, that is saying over and over again 'I don’t believe.’

 I didn’t recognize that self. He had never appeared before. I had always believed, even during rebellious teenage years, I had believed. I had raised hell a few times, but had always believed.

 It had even been said by some that they had never met anyone who believed so firmly as I did! 

 Now I was driving along a highway saying over and over again: 'I do not believe, 'I do not believe,' and surging with joy and elation.

 These words were some kind of sweet, liberating music. I was flooded with joy and strength. 

 I felt that these words were the best I’d ever expressed. I simply couldn’t get enough of shouting out at the top of my lungs in the car: 'I do not believe! I do not believe!’ I do not believe!’ 

 It was one of the best moments of my life. I was feeling free to express the previously unthinkable, the unallowable:"  'I do not believe!' 

 And its effect was somehow to be making room, or clearing space, for something else to appear, though I could not have imagined what was wanting to emerge.

 There was an unmistakable sense of freedom in the experience. It was that I was free not to believe. And that the Ultimate, or God, did not care that I was saying it. On the contrary, God was cheering me on.

 In fact, if anything, I felt that He, or God, was right there with me, in the impulse. God, the Holy Spirit, was, in a sense, in the force and strength of the assertion. I was being urged not to hold back, but to let it fly: 'I do not believe. I do not believe.’  It was soul medicine.

 It was God saying no. And He meant it. There was somehow a no being uttered towards whatever image of God I had had up until that point. Some kind of notion of God was being told to take a hike.

 It was as if, like Meister Eckhart, the greatest of the western Christian mystics, that I was going beyond god to God, beyond my image or concept of god to God, beyond a god who had been too small, into a region of awe, mystery and incomprehensibility.

 It was no other feeling than that. A spiritual revolution was going on inside of me as I drove along that highway in Calgary, Alberta.

 It was the sense of moving into another dimension of myself, a part of me that had been hidden and buried. Another life was now surging forth, like a dam unleashed, without the slightest fear of disapproval or censorship.

 And here’s the insight, as I put words to paper: I was entering another life, a second life. It was exploding inside of me. And it was to grow deeper and deeper until almost taking over that first life.

 I was beginning to enter the twice-lived life. The first one had just come to an end. As a writer has expressed: “We live twice: once in the world of events, and the second time in the world of art; and the second life is by far the more important."

 Really, I would never again care about becoming established and recognized as ’the minister, or Pastor.’  Something higher and deeper was breaking through.

 Now it was to be all about whether that newly appearing sense of self was appearing in all of its fullness and power. I was beginning then, I now realize, to live from within. I could not live in any other way. 

 Thus my experience, as painful as it had been, was something good. There was something in it that was the up side of down

 Some hitherto unrealized, coiled up, potential, had become unsprung.

 It was exhilarating and transforming. I was literally surging with life and inspiration. Where was this feeling going to lead? Well, life is full of surprises!

 A while later, I attended a Yoga class for the first time. The teacher, probably the most experienced Yoga teacher in Calgary, wanted to say something to me, almost as soon as she met me. 

 I was startled at the way she spoke to me. Her warm presence and searching eyes were a palpable force. I felt recognized, valued and understood, on the spot. 

 The Yoga teacher was recognizing something in me that the angry clergyman had tried his best to negate.

 I felt that she was drawing out some hidden, buried part of me, that had longed for expression, but had been suppressed in my other contexts.

 Within minutes of meeting me, Margot Kitchen, was saying: “There is a video you must watch. I will get it for you.'

 When I got home, I put the video on and watched as Bo Lozoff, whose ministry was to teach prisoners how to meditate in their cells, was giving a talk at the Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta.

 Bo was sitting, not standing, at the front of a lecture hall. He was sitting cross-legged, which I had never seen before. 

 Bo had no title. No pulpit. No Bible. No priestly attire. But more amazing and astonishing to observe was just how natural and casual he was. Bo wasn’t performing. He was simply being Bo, and you could have heard a pin drop when he began to speak. 

 And as I watched Bo, I began to weep. For Bo was Al. In Bo, I was seeing my future.

 In the next few years, I would find my voice and style more than I ever had, as I created the Calgary Yoga Academy. And there I would sit cross-legged at the front of the room.

 I was no longer the Rev. Al McGee, with a title, Bible or pulpit. I was just being Al. And I would deliver my homilies. And people used to say all the time that the Academy was better than any church they’d ever been to. 

 I had been teaching Yoga for ten years or so when a student appeared who stood out from the others. I used to feel that she was watching me with her glowing, penetrating eyes

 And then one day, she handed me a piece of paper. “Al. This is a poem about you.”  

 I am sharing this poem for somebody out there reading this article who feels  that his way in life is blocked and he cannot imagine getting past it.

 Please do not give up. You aren’t over yet. You remain a possibility. Something may need to end for you, before a second life can emerge. And maybe one day somebody will write a poem about you that will make you cry.

It’s called Man of God

"no collar wears he 

man of god 

no golden cross for all to see 

man of god 

no flowing robes or sermon book 

man of god 

no candle in his pious hand 

man of god 

no wafer in his vestement 

man of god 

but he hath breathed the holy flame 

and drunk the blood of the lamb 

man of god 

and he hath wept in green pastures 

and layeth down by still waters 

to softly whisper your name 

man of god.” 

(from a former student)

 Thank you, Al McGee

Aum, Chloe Goodchild