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I'll Shut Up -Right After This

Tears, love, champagne and the force —

John Darling —

We get to the part in their wedding where she repeats — after me: to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for — worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness ... then her throat catches. — Tears fill her eyes. She looks to me for help. I smile and whisper - you're — supposed to cry. It's good luck.

That part "gets" a lot of people who are marrying, the — words about sickness and health, richer and poorer. I've had some couples — ask me to leave it out because it's "negative" and you don't want to affirm — sickness and poverty. I've responded - are you sure? Do you really think — you two are going to get through life without those or something just — as challenging?

You want a friend in life. Sometimes, maybe most of the — time, that, not romance, is what you have. Sickness and poverty in the — vows are just metaphors for them loving you as they go deeper into learning — about your fears - and all that stuff that lives in the depths with your — love.

The bride gets back on track in a flash. Then she says, — this is my gift to you. Forward comes Aunty Malia, the hula teacher in — Ashland, dancing the Hawaiian wedding song before the couple. Her movements — are of utter voluptuousness mixed with shyness. She's a feminine shaman, — smiling, summoning, holding and unveiling the ancient powers of love, — nature, community and happiness.

The groom, dressed in sporty black, wearing a goatee, — gives his usual understated, twinkly-eyed smile. At the end, he bows. — We all do. It's instinctive to bow to this. You lower your head to efface — the ego, to open to the universal that touches us all.

The guests cheer and as we break out the champagne, I — converse with him in his native Greek, the few lines I can remember from — when he schooled a small group of us at my house every Tuesday night, — with many a toast of ouzo.

"E matera eine kali," I say. This is what I always say — when I see him - and about all I can remember from the classes years ago, — though I still enjoy reading the classics with bilingual pages. It means: — mother is good. Only fitting I would remember those words, sprung from — the land of land of primordial goddesses - Athena, Demeter, Aphrodite, — Artemis.

As the "liquid stars" (champagne) imbues happy cell receptors, — I find myself seated between two men I'm getting to know. We check out — each other's occupations - professor, screen door installer - and they — seem to know what my work is. You seem a very sensitive man, says one, — referring to my writing. "You betcherass I am!" I retort. We all crack — up. I can't stand solemnity.

With that, we're off, one relating a tale of a cab driver — in New York last week who cut right to the core, wanting to know who he — was, what he valued in life, how is love showing up in his life, then — got out of the cab to give him a big hug.

Yes, things are changing, we say, the world is opening — up, people are being more honest, opening their hearts to ... it's hard — to put words to it, but we all know what we're talking about. One cites — an article in the Vancouver Sun last week saying Ashland has become the — spiritual mecca of the West Coast.

Well, a newspaper would say that. A "thing" has to be — happening in a place at a time. As if Ashland were where you came to be — spiritual. But the taxi driver gives lie to that. It's happening where — it happens. It happens inside you.

That evening, talking with my friend O., a Star Wars freak, — he says, hey, strong The Force is with me, but big cycles of anxiety and — depression I keep having and something wrong with me I keep thinking there — is - and tell me that, a lot of my friends do.

I giggle at his Yoda-speak and, letting The Force surround — and penetrate me, I venture, hey, keep your focus on the thoughts you — are having because, as Yoda said, the Dark Side of The Force lures you — in with fear - fear creates hate, hate creates anger and anger creates — suffering.

Things are changing, I remind him. This is not like it — was 10 years ago or even five. Just look at the geopolitical scene now — - it makes Star Wars look tame.

Behind it all, The Force grows stronger and demands more — of us, while it gives us more. If we can handle it. If we can't, it comes — across as stuff like anxiety, depression, confusion, self-esteem issues, — feeling uneasy about being different. So, there's nothing mental about — you. We're all going through more and it's forcing us to learn how to — use The Force.

Gets it, he does. Relieved, he is. With all its anxiety — and depression, is this journey not better than sex, drugs, religion, — likker, tv, prozac, a new girlfriend and all the other fixes? Well, he — allows, some of those can be fun in the short term, but over the long — term, no, nothing can touch the life of a Jedi warrior.

And what does all this do to romantic love, which so often — seems the center of the universe? Why do the Jedi or Zen monks and the — shamans of Don Juan's lineage rarely, if ever have spouses? We don't know. — It's changing. It's hard. I'm finding more people say they love more but — want the form less. They have to keep to their center and love themselves — first and always, then two such people can share that - and only when — they can both share it.

Is this the work of The Force? What isn't the work of — The Force? I search the term on the Internet, finding it has parallels — in all religions, ancient and modern, whether used to mean nature, God, — wisdom, love or Tao, the ineffable "way" of things.

Elusive, answers are. Worth a thousand answers, a good — question is. Then, in an e-mail from Zane Kesey, come these words from — his dad, Oregon's badboy tripper wizard Ken Kesey: "The answer is never — the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the — mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen — anybody really find the answer. They think they have, so they stop thinking. — But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which — strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater — than the need for an answer."

Contact John Darling, an Ashland writer and counselor, — at jdarling@jeffnet.org.