Friday, December 6, 2013

How I told my daughter that Baba is God

Megan Ott. Click to enlarge.
This post is destined to be long, as I have plenty to say. It also is destined to remain on this blog only temporarily. Why? Because I asked my daughter if I could write a post about her, and she said it was fine as long as it did not remain online for too long.

I raised my daughter mostly by myself, though I had initially and along the way much help from family and friends. She has had a rich and interesting life, and has no regrets about her childhood, but only good memories. There were times, I later told her, we were poor, and she said that she had no idea of that at the time. She always felt prosperous, and that she had anything she wanted.

To begin I want to start by answering the question in the title of this post, that is, how I told my daughter that Baba is God. The answer is that I didn't. She told me!

When Megan was two or three, neither of us can remember for sure, we were living in married student housing at the University of Arkansas, where I was studying for my masters degree in philosophy. A few things need to be said to make this story understandable. First of all, Megan was unusual in that she did not speak until she was three, though she would say a few words for me, and it always felt like we communicated. She often spoke in single words. Today she is a good writer and very articulate. The other thing to know is that, for some reason I no longer remember, for the first couple of years of Megan's life I had no pictures of Baba in our house beyond what were in books. And I never mentioned him to her. This might sound odd, but it simply did not come up. I didn't have the pictures and Megan and I didn't have that kind of communication yet.

Ancient One photo
So Megan was a child of few words, and to my knowledge had not seen Baba -- at least in her own memory. Then one day, I put in a video in the evening as the two of us sat up in my bed, and a picture came up of Baba in the Ancient One picture. Megan immediately bolted up and pointed at the image and said, "God! God!" I had never heard her say the word.

I was stymied. I asked her, "That is God?" and she repeated, "God," still pointing to the image.

I didn't know what to think. I thought perhaps she had seen an image of Jesus in one of the Churches we had visited that looked similar, and in her Sunday school class heard this. So I fetched an image of Jesus. I showed her the image of Jesus and asked her if that were God, and she said, "No." I showed her other images and she said the same. Then I pointed to Baba again, and asked her if this definitely was, and she replied in the absolute affirmative.

Socrates believed that all learning is really memory. Even when a teacher is involved, if the words were true, the teacher was only helping the student to recall what he already latently knew. This, however, seemed to be more than that. She literally seemed to recall something from another life.

Now I don't say this without another instance that came shortly after. Some days, weeks, or months later I was going through a book of Baba with her (I think it might have been The Beloved) as by this time I saw she had interest in the pictures. I turned a page and came to a picture of Mehera. Megan suddenly burst into tears, and still in her inimitable manner of being a girl of few words cried, "I miss her! I miss her!" This time, Megan was visibly upset. She would not let me close the book or remove the picture. She appeared too agitated to go to sleep. So I got out a scissors and as she watched carefully I cut out the image of Mehera, set it in an improvised paper frame I made on the spot, and set it beside her bed. Satisfied, and checking that the picture was there, she went peacefully to sleep. That, quite fantastically even to me today, is a true story.

Thus I never told Megan anything to convince her who Baba was. She seemed born expecting his arrival into her life. From then on began a long period of me teaching her all about Baba.

I need to add one more tiny fact about Megan at this time. While I was at college, we got to know the parents of other children in the complex, and through them learned of a wonderful day-care lady. She was the Hindu wife of an Indian engineer, who was getting his Ph.D. They also lived in the married student housing complex, straight across the playground from us. So each morning I would dress Megan and walk her across the playground to her caregiver, who also had two other lovely girls whose parents were in college. And thus, quite remarkably, Megan's first surrogate Mom was a devout Hindu. Megan and the other girls loved to watch her do her puja before her small shrine to Krishna. They loved it so much that they wanted to perform it too. But Shell, their teacher, would not permit it as there are very special rules of cleaning, washing, etc. It was not a play-act for children, but a true ritual in the oldest and most serious sense, but the children looked on in awe. Due to Shell's connections, she also managed to get her three little white girls into a Hindu pageant put on at the University by the Hindu community there. Megan was blessed with the outfit of a Parsi, her best friend as a Hindu. She went out, at three years old, in her gold sari, and stood blinking out at the audience, stunned. It was quite funny, but the other Hindus did not appreciate it. Interestingly, I asked a Hindu woman there to tell me about Parsis (in those days I literally was unclear on what the term meant, but thought I knew that Baba's family was part of such a community as he grew up). She replied in a kind of irritated fashion, as if we westerners were so dumb we were hardly worth talking to, that there were no Parsis left in the world. It was just a language. Of course we all know today that is quite absurd.

Back to Megan's spiritual education.

Now it will sound extraordinary, but I began to teach her Baba's theme of Creation (from God Speaks) when she was about four. This was not as difficult as it might sound. My father had done the same for me at my bedside when I was five, and I still remember it. That was in Woodstock, NY. I would go to sleep with it stirring in my subconscious, shaping my reality long before I had any other thoughts in my head to conflict with it. My father told me the theme in words I could easily understand, in the form of a story about God. He would begin, "From the beginning, before there were any stars or planets or anything, there was God, but God was asleep. Then one day God woke up, and he asked himself "Who am I?" And the thought came to him, "I am stone." And then he experienced himself as a stone, this kind and that, and for millions of years God was very happy thinking he was a stone. But then one day, God grew tired of this and said, "I am not a stone. So who am I?" And this time the answer came to him, "I know. I am a plant." And for millions of years God experienced himself as all kinds of plants, this kind and that kind, and for a long time God was happy. But then God grew tired of this at last, and became frustrated, and so he again said to himself, "I am not a plant. So who am I?" And the answer came to him then, "I know, I am a worm." And of course this went on and on, until one day God, as a man, said, "I know! I am God!" and then he was happy forever.

So this was how my father told me the story. Much later as I grew up I would come to him with other questions, and he told me about the Bible and Adam and Eve and about ego, and about all these terrific ideas. I would come into his studio and stand there with my questions, and he would paint and answer me.

So when I was a father of Megan, I had some experience with this issue of how to talk about God in a way a child could understand, for I had it from my own fond memories of my own father telling me. However, it was not my father's method that I ultimately chose for my own daughter.

My method was even more fun, and Megan grew to enjoy it so much she would request we go over it again, as it had become a game for us. I would get down my large framed picture of the chart from God Speaks by Rano Gailey.

I would tell a rather imaginative story, tracing the path with my finger and making God the clever happy protagonist. Now Megan loved to look at all the pictures, and name the animals, and they inspired her to have ideas. But the really fun part was when we would come each time to the reincarnation image. We would have lots of fun picking who we were. She would always pick the pretty ballerina in the yellow tutu, and I was always the cowboy. We didn't much like anyone else. Sometimes Megan said that I was like the man with the staff, but I said I preferred to be the person on their knees. After all, I had no staff. I certainly never wanted to be any of those kings.

Anyway, if you look close you can spot a caveman, so it is quite fun and engaging.

To use a modern cliché, Megan gradually brought out my inner child. One day I came home with a pile of G.I. Joes to play along side her Barbies. I even bought a G.I. Joe helicopter, and we built an Island in the middle of the floor with a green felt blanket, and there the helicopter would land, G.I. Joe at the helm, all the Barbies holding on wherever they could. It was about the best fun of our career together. I long reminisced on her third year of life, which was our happiest.

When Megan was older, we went to visit her godparents in San Francisco, Megan's first encounter with a real city. Megan instantly loved it, and bought some go go boots in a thrift store in the Haight Ashbury. I showed her all the places of my memories from my youth, and she wore her go go boots for years. From that time forward she declared she would live in a city, and to this day she plans to move to New York as soon as she can.

Today, Megan is a drama student at the Academy for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology. She plans to attend Brooklyn College, where she wants to get a degree in documentary filmmaking. Megan is a superb actress -- and her entire class and teacher agree. She recently won a trophy for Best All Star Cast in a state competition. The play her class is doing next is from a script she wrote. She hangs out with a group of top students, who call themselves the "Fab-Five." She has brought several of the Fab-Five to see the Meher Center, which they loved.

Megan has a beauty that is both external and internal, and I have never met anyone that did not see it in her. She is 18. Her ambitions are many, but they include marrying when she is about 23, after college, and wants a big family. She has many of her children already named. She is amazingly particular about the kind of man she would count for a husband. He has to be taller than her. She is 5' 7". He could be anything over that, up to 6' 5". The most attractive man to her, she says, is one that is funny, interesting, kind, wants a family, is outgoing, and above all she consistently says he has to be ambitious. She does not care what he does. An artist or musician are fine, so long as he is already somewhat established, and not simply a dreamer. A lawyer, an engineer, or a gardener, are all fine. She likes men to be manly, and she has long said she only wants to be married once, meaning she wants a man who wants to stay for the whole show of kids and growing old. She is not looking for marital "experiments." He has to be a Baba lover, has to have at least as much education as her, and be intelligent and deep. There must be one Baba boy out there as level headed as all that. She also says a tattoo wouldn't hurt. I don't get that personally.

She also wants to someday own a vintage clothing boutique.

Anyway, I end with a lot of pictures. BTW, Megan gave me permission to say all I want, told her I would even say her goals in life, and allowed me to use her pictures, even suggesting one.



Here are me and Megan when she was three, our golden year together.



Our trip to San Francisco.



Megan's Senior picture. Photo by Gregory Allen Butler.



Another by G.A. Butler




Preparing to go on stage at the Academy for the Arts.



Megan (right) with part of the cast of her most recent performance.


Post note: 3.12.14

At the top of this post I said this is destined for a short life on this blog, as my daughter had originally requested. However, she later read it and saw nothing to object to, and nothing embarrassing, also saying it was all true. Thus she said there was no reason to remove it. Therefore, it will remain here as long as she gives her permission.

5 comments:

  1. This is a Wonderful Story. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a beautiful love story which appears to have begun at an ancient hearth, in a Tavern where the Inn Keeper poured with a heavy hand! Baba blessings abound in this telling...I have been deeply touched.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the temporary glimpse--a beautiful story about beautiful people,

    ReplyDelete
  4. jai baba superb

    ReplyDelete
  5. Truly Awesome! My love and blessings to Megan! Having two totally magical Baba sons around her age, I totally understand!

    ReplyDelete