Mr. Glass Half Empty Pitches a Snit

The New Age wasn’t supposed to be like this. Call me Mr. Glass Half Empty, or whatever words move you to be judgmental in my regard – but I was expecting more. I truly was.

It’s mid-January, of this year. I’m moving from Texas back to my home state of Florida. I feel the lure to return home, and thirst for a departure from tinder dry landscapes, beautiful though they may be. I haven’t seen a beach in 2-1/2 years.

I just want – I need – to feel the warm surf and wet sand slooshing through my toes once again. Oh, so there are a few sea-rotted candy wrappers and empty discarded syringes floating up on shore along with the salt water, too. So. You simply sidestep them, and you’re fine. (Do any of you find that image disturbing? It’s just debris tossed overboard from passing ships and washing ashore, a minor symptom of the times – who’s being Mr. [or Ms.] Glass Half Empty now?)

Yes, I’m being facetious.

I was there back in the mid-80s dreaming hopeful dreams about the coming New Age, by the way. Where are all of the palms-facing-up closed-eyes ceremonies, the singing whales (at least those who haven’t yet beached themselves in group suicides), the aura-fluffings, or the chakra-cleansings now?

âÂ?¦It’s mid-January, this year, 2006, and I’ve been on the road for more than 12 hours and driving some 600-plus miles when I decide to pull into Slidell, LA, just northeast of New Orleans, for a meal and some sleep. I hadn’t heard much news about New Orleans of late, and so figure things have to be working out fairly well through the long-term, post-Katrina rebuilding efforts. Were it otherwise, wouldn’t The Nightly News be reporting serious lingering difficulties there?

What I encounter is very nearly full-blown, leaderless anarchy. Physically and emotionally exhausted, about all I can do is blink at what I’m seeing in Slidell.

The local Motel 6 and Best Western, more or less adjacent to one another, have white copier pages taped to their check-in doors with the words scrawled, “No rooms, no vacancies.” There are a bunch of such hand-written pages, to help drive home the point. Evidence suggests the motels’ respective managements can no longer deal with Just Saying No to road-weary drivers and their families.

Slidell’s streets near the interstate are jammed with vehicles. No complete lines can make it through a single green light. It’s about 6 p.m. on a Sunday evening.

The young manager of a Taco Bell is standing alone out front, taking drive-thru-orders-only through an earpiece with a microphone – and why not? The inside of the restaurant is empty except for cooks in the back. He tells me he had to close the inside because most of his help has marched out in frustration and anger in the wake of dealing with way, way too many customers.

One such employee, in her Taco Bell uniform, storms by us to drive home that point. She’s not only through for the night, but in that restaurant’s terms, maybe through forever.

“No one wants to work,” the manager informs me, after I ask him what-on-earth’s going on here. “The place is overrun with FEMA people, they’ve taken over the hotels. It’s the rebuilding. There are not only no vacancies in this town, there are no motel or hotel vacancies anywhere in the tri-state area.”

This doesn’t sound good. (A passing thought races through my brain, and back out again: who’s footing the bill for all of this, I wonder?) “The ‘tri-state area?'” I ask him. “What three states are those?”

“The states hit by the hurricane,” he explains. “Coastal Louisiana, at least as far west as Baton Rouge; Mississippi, and Alabama – all around Mobile. If you need a room, you may want to think about driving to Texas.”

I tell him I’d “just left” Texas, although that’s hardly the proper choice of words. In any event – did he happen to hear if there were any rooms available in Florida’s panhandle, I ask? He shrugs a big I-don’t-know, pleasantly and sympathetically enough, and then waves, grudgingly turning back around to deal with his orders.

At last, deciding I’m going to shoot for some unknown motel in Pensacola – it’s already been dark here for more than an hour – I stop by a convenience store near the expressway to gas up, but have to pay cash first before pumping. So I step inside, and there are two very long lines of people waiting to pay for things – and two bleary-eyed (and justifiably irritable) store workers gamely manning the cash registersâÂ?¦customer, after customer, after customer.

“Do you think motels will have vacancies in the Florida panhandle tonight?” I ask my cash register man when it’s finally my turn to pre-pay. (Seriously – who else am I going to ask? There’s no way to get online, or anyone else around to query.)

“Don’t know,” he says, opening his eyes wider in lieu of a shrug. “Just know there aren’t any rooms around here.”

So I gas up, hit the interstate – and hunker down for two more hours of driving due east, about to leave Louisiana and bypass two more Gulf states just to find a place to safely pull over and sleep in the third, my beloved Florida.

And, so, what – this is the so-called New Age? Where few are responsible, even less know squat, and no one is really in charge? Oh, joy. Thanks, but no thanks.

Am I out-of-sorts much? Yes. When individuals pitch a snit, they’re out-of-sorts.

But then, we’re all sort of stuck with this kind of scenario nowadays – aren’t we?

That situation in Slidell had several troubling components, but one that jumped out from the pack was this: our city, state and federal governments undertake too many actions these days with seemingly very little regard for their consequences.

Is it better in Europe? Maybe some of us could run away to the U.K. Only, nah, I’m thinking. Those folks probably don’t have compelling ideas about what they’re doing, either. And what on earth would they do with the overflow of humanity?

Do humans even discuss big picture philosophy issues any more, by-the-by? No.

* * * * *

It’s a clichÃ?©d phrase, I know, but it’s apt here: like it or not, New Age proponents or not – it’s now Show Time in our world.

Circumstances are growing increasingly out-of-control out there, and for a while longer are sure to get worse before there’s (hopefully, finally) some “correction” that registers in this nation’s hearts – followed by a wakeup call that gets heard.

Regardless to what extent, my sense is 2006 is going to be a very bumpy ride.

I remember a flash of insight I had in the late 80s while watching a spring training baseball game between the Orioles and Dodgers in Miami. I was seated far down the first base line, and so I could view all of the fans seated behind the backstop and along the left field line very clearly. And, of course, there were all the players.

The thought hit me then that if there was really going to be a New Age, these were the kinds of individuals who would be its primary inhabitants – not the robed gurus, the channelers or their entities, the astrologers and numerologists, nor the New Age bookstore owners, although they would all certainly be welcomed, too.

Further, as much of the early New Age movement was focused on predicting that the New Age was headed our way – what were the movement’s activists going to do with themselves once the New Age arrived?

Allowing that the New Age is actually the Now Age, and the early stages of it are already here – what are the long-trained (and well-primed) “magicians” supposed to do? It’s a worthy topic for discussion.

I believe it’s time for the Now Age to evolve – and to that end, I believe a brief critique is in order of the “old” New Age of the late 80s, keeping in mind less than half of its innovators and supporters, for good or for ill, even made it into the 90s.

Sure, the movement took major hits back then at the hands of the media, the religious conservatives and the secular universities – but there remained several key problems above and beyond such usually surface-level-only verbal assaults:

Ã?· The movement was not terribly discerning, and from the outset was rarely even self-critical. (It’s hardly unique in that respect. Even deductions made from empirical test results in science still run into difficulties with the latter.)

Ã?· As with most formal religions now (and yes, again, secular science), there were a lot of what I call “ontological leaps” made back then: as in, when discovering something new in someone’s life, one might commonly “leap” toward a way-premature explanation for its source: i.e., that was God who caused that event, situation or result – or Jesus, or My Guardian Angel, or My Higher Self, or The Random-driven (and Uncaring) Universe, or…

Ã?· There became far too many would-be visionaries and not enough seekers. Very quickly the initial free, open peer discussion groups disappeared, and were replaced by often one-note entrepreneurships – and such as it was, the movement, even in the small book stores, began to focus heavily upon seeking out those with money to help practicing “teachers” secure a living (or some cash on the side). By the mid-90s, as with so many other arenas of society, there was no place in the New Age for the poor. No matter what the morality of that: to be truthful, without the journey of discovery present in large enough doses, the movement lost its core vitality. (This is a hubris issue ultimately, and again, it’s not culturally unique in these times. It’s far too often the rule.)

Ã?· One of the most intriguing failures, for me, was the publication in the very late 80s of several way-wide-of-the-mark predictions made by some of the most notable and still-influential trance channelers of today, most of whom are still practicing. This is not a cut-and-dried determination of delusion or fraud from my perspective, however – and might serve as an entire topic unto itself, for another day.

In any event – putting all of this another way: I’m convinced the same-old, same-old just isn’t going to fly this time around (which isn’t to suggest the material and contributors left standing today are necessarily off base). Rather, room must be made for all manner of individuals, regardless of income or chosen life paths.

That necessarily includes residents of (and visitors to) the likes of Slidell, LA, and every devotee of Red Sox Nation – in which I, F.Y.I., am an ardent member.

It does strike me as a given that our nation and the world have some tough times ahead. I’m not embracing doom and gloom. It’s just an eyes-open observation.

Finally: it’s not the least bit unrealistic to suggest that the movement’s concerns this time around may conceivably focus on some kind of new unexpected crisis, of a type none of us have ever had to deal with before, even in our imaginations.

Regardless, crossing the Now Age “bridge of belief” is sure to be a very slippery undertaking, no matter what does or doesn’t come down over the balance of this year.

Or the year after that.

Or, you know – the year after that.

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