What sense might we make of the cover of Ram Dass’s spiritual cookbook, Be Here Now? Twelve satellites poised in a circle, linked to one another in orbit around a sitter, so as to announce, “YOU ARE A TOTALLY DETERMINED BEING.” What matters, the book says, are the vibrations that emanate from us. Owl eyes, islands, stars free like cotton candy. I recall the weight in my arms of my dog Daphne, a neighbor’s dog reminding me again of how it feels to live with an animal companion’s presence. Sarah and I miss that — but there are many narratives, the imagination able to enter and exit vantage points in countless parallel worlds. To write “literature,” however, say the theorists, one has to disguise one’s stake in the story one is unfolding. Shape time, seed dreams with positive vibes.
On another plane of consciousness, I am chased, as in a game of Manhunt, up and down stairwells in a large, multi-level apartment. I feel betrayed by certain friends and colleagues; it’s as if they’ve offered me in sacrifice to the murderous force that pursues me: a man with a ‘ball-and-chain’-style flail. But when I wake, all is well. Ram Dass guides me through recipes involving “eating” and “sleeping” from his “Cook Book for a Sacred Life,” the final section of Be Here Now. Sarah and I release temporarily from our sentences to walk the aisles of a gem and mineral show at the local fairgrounds mid-day: a wonderful experience for the both of us. And after dinner, I submit to the weight of a Kafkaesque piece of microfiction by black prisoner Joe Martinez, a devastating 125-word dystopia called “Rehabilitation and Treatment.”
Rehabilitation and Treatment
By Joe Martinez
The convict strolled into the prison administration building to get assistance and counseling for his personal problems. Just inside the main door were several other doors, proclaiming: Parole, Counselor, Chaplain, Doctor, Teacher, Correction, and Therapist.
The convict chose the door marked Correction, inside of which were two other doors: Custody and Treatment. He chose Treatment, and was confronted with two more doors, Juvenile and Adult. He chose the proper door and again was faced with two doors: Previous Offender and First Offender. Once more he walked through the proper door, and, again, two doors: Democrat and Republican. He was a Democrat; and so he hurried through the appropriate door and ran smack into two more doors; Black and White. He was black; and so he walked through that door — and fell nine stories to the street.