And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And looking on it, with lack-luster eye,
Says very wisely, “It is ten a’ clock.
Thus we may see,” quoth he, “how the world wags.
‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ‘twill be eleven,
And so from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.”
Richard II III.iii.147-54
I broke my neck in a single car accident on April 18, 1986, and I stayed at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta with a blooming pink mimosa greeting me every morning from my window until September of that same year when I left the security of rehab to try out my new life as a quadriplegic in Byron, Georgia, where, at the time, my parents lived. That was the same year that Atlanta set a record for consecutive days with temperatures 100 degrees or higher. 1986 saw many events of interest, but the most memorable event was the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion. I remember walking from the cafeteria to my dorm-room at Georgia Southwestern College and wondering why the flag was at half mast; it wasn’t long before I realized the significance of the mid-raised banner. In 1986, the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl (for the ‘85 season); L. Ron Hubbard and Georgia O’Keefe died; Clint Eastwood became mayor of Carmel, California; the infamous explosion of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl stunned the world; and I broke my neck.
So there I was… a crippled boy with barely twenty-two years of living under my belt, living in my parents’ home with nothing to do and the rest of my life to do it. I thought back to when I first arrived at Shepherd Spinal Center a few weeks after the car accident that left me a level C-5 quadriplegic. (I’ve repressed all that occurred starting from some hours before the actual accident and including the time I spent at the Medical Center in Columbus, Georgia, the Fountain City.) I laid in bed staring at the ceiling and counting the holes in the tile when I decided that I needed to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Actually, I had been crying. I won’t lie; I did cry, but these were excursions into a depression that was so incredibly anticipated, slightly desired. Sometimes self-pity will lure you into a yearned-for emotional abyss from which your return is questionable. I fought hard for the most part, focusing on the positive, and I was meeting special people at Shepherd who were the most diverse, creative, incredibly warm human beings I’d ever met, but I did allow myself some time to wallow in the pitying of my crippled body, the body I had until just up to that point in time, worked so hard to build into a temple of egoistic idolatry. It was a call from a banal, nasal narrator of harlequin romance:
“My poor, pitiable son. Your life has become irrevocably changed. You have a formidable obstacle to overcome before you find emotional equilibrium, and although you will ultimately find solace, you must first histrionically portray Human Suffering and Sadness; you must emotively and, yes, vociferously descant to your god the unfairness of the burden you must now bear; you must become visibly upset, both emotionally and physically (well…as much as physically possible; you are crippled after all; you know what I mean: you can still control the crying, yelling, cursing, breathing… you know, those kind of things). Ha!
”By now you must realize that you are totally paralyzed for the rest of your life. There’s a pre-prescribed amount of time for denial, anger, and depression, but then you’ll be encouraged to finally accept the fact of your paralysis as well as everything emotionally and physically associated with living the rest of your life with the inability to perform even the most rudimentary acts of daily living.”
I had been laying for an eternity in a too-sterile, achromatic hospital bed, a bed that had been harboring vengeance for a crime I had committed, quite possibly against its mother (a crime for which I still remain ignorant); it was while I lay in that cowardly, yet malicious dark-gray and lifeless bed in a frown-ridden, leaden-weary spinal cord rehabilitation center, smack dab in the middle of the South’s Renaissance City, and I dropped my stoic character (actually felt its brittle fracturing into illimitable shards); I so flaccidly slid into embryonic depression, crying about my bad luck and my unanswered prayers, when a couple of paraplegics wheeled into my room.
I am very sorry that I don’t remember their names because they were benevolent, celestially luminous powers that vouchsafed my first experience into spirituality: the hitherto unknown ethereal, intangible, enchanting aspect of terrestrial existence that had been hidden from me. All I remember is that the couple were young, attractive, healthy, and happy, and they were only a part of my life for about twelve seconds, but their existence in my life was perfect. What else could they have been but a collective ethereal entity whose existence I will never fully understand? My two personal advisers who had helped me to see that focusing on the negative was not helpful to my life’s quest, whatever path that it may take.
These two terrestrial angels were not the only celestial advisors I was to meet throughout my four months of rehabilitation. I witnessed myriad glowing angels effortlessly floating just above a communal expression that bordered sanctification. It was like listening to Bach, or the letters written by the really young men who fought in the Civil War: sober, emotional, sacrosanct, hallowed… inspiring. How could I ever fail to achieve my most important goals? I witnessed peaceful serenity that was steadily increasing in power, a spiritual landmark that I’ve never equaled before or since, a tranquility that grew increasingly more hungry the more it had consumed, and the energy was fed by complete tolerance of everyone’s neighbor, a communal acceptance of the positive energy that exists in every person… regardless… of… anything.
It was the first time that I had been introduced to a small community that was all-inclusive, even happily accepting into its fold homosexuals, who were the most giving, caring, loving, nourishing people I have ever met, men and women who showed me personally that homosexuals in our society are grossly misunderstood and, as such, are violently mistreated both physically and mentally. In my personal experience, most homosexuals I’ve met have loved me for who I am. I have strictly heterosexual yet irrevocably shallow male acquaintances who won’t help me tuck my shirt into my pants because their fingernails might scrape my scrotum and thereby threaten their anthropocentric, male-dominated ego with insidious seeds of homosexuality that will invariably grow into a tangible temptation, invading their emotionally hardened resolves not to ever think that Val Kilmer, in his prime, was a truly attractive man! And it goes on beyond that!
It’s so ridiculous to think that many of the people with whom I am acquainted, sadly a vast majority, are so myopic when it comes to observing mankind, and these comically impassioned idolaters of infallible musings are unable to see how foolish it is to think that the human being could possibly be compared to God… foolish to think that the human being is the nexus to God, even made in His image. Humanity doesn’t come close to reaching the lofty goals of deification as defined by kindness, mercy, and compassion; how could any human possibly be compared alongside perfection, especially when excluding social segments of our society who have transcended into terrestrial angels… even if the only affect lives for just twelve seconds?
Peace Through Music