THE COLUMN

Issues No. 52, 53, 54 & 56/January 27, February 3, 10, 24, 1996


THE REC ROOM

IVAN HOFFMAN

"Where am I?," he asked, although there did not appear to be anyone around to answer. "…am I?…am I?…am I?," his voice bounced back to him.

"You are in the Rec Room," came the reply from no one that he could see. It was simply a disembodied voice coming from everywhere simultaneously, and like his voice, bouncing off the hard walls like a child's ball. "You are in the Rec Room, You are in the Rec Room," it echoed until subsiding.

"The Rec Room?," he asked. "I don't see any ping pong tables or naugahyde sofas? How can this be a rec room? Where is the fake wood paneling with that strip of border at the 8 foot mark? With all these mirrored walls, looks to me like some sort of carnival attraction, you know like the Hall of Mirrors. All I can see is me and me and me. Or maybe a place for some first time sex like when me and Mary Jane…." Always brash, even now. He hoped the voice did not notice.

"Brash aren't you?," came the voice. "But you are right in a way. And so you're brashness can be accepted because you possess some wisdom. Not much but some. But do take care to watch it in the future. It is like a Hall of Mirrors. And it is supposed to be that all you can see is yourself, many times over."

"What happens here?," he asked. "And where are all my clothes? That new jacket I bought; seems like ages ago though. And mostly, who are you?"

"In the Rec Room," the voice resounded, "you have the opportunity to see the reasons for everything that has happened to you in all of your lives."

"All of my lives?," he said. "You mean I had lives before I was an accountant?"

"Yes. You had many lives," came the reply. "You were here, there, to understand about balance. That's the reason you became an accountant the last time."

"What do you mean by 'the reasons for everything that happened in my life, er lives',?" he said.

"Nothing that ever happened to you, or to anyone, was an accident," the voice thundered. "You may not have known it, but everything was part of a plan that we worked out for you, for everyone. Everyone's life is connected to everyone else's life and now you can see all those connections. Here, now, in the Rec Room, you can see that plan and the reasons you did not get what you wanted in all those lives. You can see how your destiny was only one part of the collective destiny."

"How come I am here now?," he asked.

"You are here now because you have finished your lives and are now ready to proceed," the voice said.

"Proceed?," he replied. "Where am I going?"

"Exactly!" the voice said.

"I am not certain I am ready for this," he said.

"You are ready," the voice said. "Trust me on this one. Besides, you have no choice in the matter. Even that you are here, now, is part of the plan. Now, perhaps for the first time in your lives, you may be able to see yourself. You may be able to reconcile all the questions, all the doubts, all the 'what if's' and stuff that you always wanted to have answers to."

"So that's the reason it's called the Rec Room," he said. "It is about reconciling stuff."

"Yes," said the voice. "Everything in your lives must come to a place of reconciliation before you can proceed. In order that you may grow and eventually get to the final place, you must understand that all things that have ever happened to you were part of a plan to bring you here.

And even though you may not have been able to see that plan nor understand the reasons those things happened, they were simply tools in order that you might be given opportunities to learn about yourself and to get here so you can get …there."

He stood there, naked, in front of the walls of mirrors, staring at himself. The voice continued.

"You can choose to begin under any category. Which would you like?"

"Relationships, of course," he replied. "But then, perhaps you should have known that already." He smiled.

"We did," was the surrounding voice. "Take the mouse and click on button 'A'," it said.

"Wow!," he exclaimed. "Where is this?"

"China," said the voice. "About 400 years ago. That's you under the banyan tree."

He saw a young man sitting next to a young Chinese woman, whose thick, black hair seemed to catch the sun.

"She's beautiful," he replied.

"She was the girl you loved," said the voice. "And she loved you. Click fast forward."

He did and saw the young man laying dead on the ground under the same tree.

"What is this?," he asked. "Is that me? Am I dead?"

"Yes," said the voice.

"But why?," he asked. "I loved her. And," he paused, "she loved me."

"Because if you had lived, then the rest of your life and her life and your subsequent lives would have been very different, and not within the plan," replied the voice. "Just watch the screen."

He did and saw a young man, no longer in China, standing at a street corner.

"Where is this?," he asked.

"England," came the reply. "Circa 1875."

As the young man began to cross the street, he saw a horse and buggy come careening around the corner, out of control. The young man reached out, instinctively it appeared, and grabbed the white bustle of an older woman who did not see the horse and pulled her back onto the sidewalk.

"Thank you, young man," she said. "You saved my life."

"So you see," the voice said, "if you and the beautiful Chinese woman had stayed in love and married, you would not have produced the child who produced a child who produced a child and…well you get the picture. Your children would have been different because they would have been born of love. But what was needed in our plan in order to save the life of the older English woman several hundred years later was a child who would have been at the exact corner at the exact time. Your children would have been artists and would have lived in another country. And so after you died, your beautiful Chinese love was forced into a prearranged marriage and so ended up producing the child that fit into our plan."

"I see," he said. "Maybe I see, anyway. I always believed that children born of love were what the universe, you know you, wanted."

"I know," the voice replied. "Most philosophers believe that. Not clear how that idea began. We're checking into it. But there are other factors at work here. You have to understand that your life, any of your lives, are not simply about your life but are really connected to everyone else's life. But we set it up so that you can't see this big picture, anything beyond where you are during any given life. Not at least, until you expand your idea of consciousness, which some can do and most cannot. Until you get to the Rec Room.

"You are all tools, not only in your own life, but in the lives of everyone else who has ever lived."

"Tools?," he asked. "But if we are tools in everyone else's life, what about our own lives? What about my life? What are we all just a bunch of sacrificial lambs to suit some purpose beyond ourselves? How did I get here, today, now?"

"As I said," replied the voice. "It is both. You are tools in each other's lives but as part of that, you are also there to grow in your own life. Growing is the only purpose of life. Most people don't seem to know that. They think it's TV ratings. Or about getting. It's about giving."

"How so?," he asked.

"See," it responded, "we have planned all of the circumstances of all of your lives for the purpose of teaching you about yourself, in order that you can move beyond the place in which you found yourself at the time of the particular event. The purpose of it all is to empower you to grow."

"Empower?," he asked.

"Yes, empower," the voice replied. "When we give you these circumstances, you are not mandated to follow any particular approach in how to handle them. You can make many choices but if you choose the one that gives you a deeper understanding of yourself, of us here, of the universe, then you can move on. Unfortunately, many people don't understand and fail to see how those circumstances are not about something else but only about themselves. And as long as those people fail to learn that lesson, we just have to give them more of the same until they do."

He paused, as though trying to understand.

The voice continued. "This seems so simple to us but we also realize that it is quite difficult for you to get, at least until you get here. None of the things that ever happened to you were about the things that happened to you. Not the loves or the lost loves. Not the money or the lost money. Nothing. They were all just lessons in your life plan. You always had the choice to see them that way or to see those things, those events, as significant in themselves. If you saw it in the way that created more importance to the things, if you failed to see their lessons, then you missed the point completely."

He paused again. And the voice continued again.

"You have always been you," the voice said. "The purity that is your being, your heart, has always been the same no matter what your physical being looked like in any of your lives.

And it is this purity of who you are that is here today. All of the experiences that you had in all of your existences, all the love, all the pain, all the versions of who you were were just details, designed to afford you the particular life experiences you needed at that time. But you have always been the same heart you are right now. You have been that heart from the moment of your creation. The only thing that has ever mattered was your heart."

He paused yet again and the voice continued yet again.

"Your heart is how we communicate with all of you. We give you intelligence so that you can understand your heart. I realize that seems like some sort of contradiction but it is not. Unlike the animals that populate your world who understand this idea instinctively, we gave you intelligence so that you could see the larger picture. We gave you intelligence so that you could "catch on" to what your universe was about. But you gave more power to your intelligence than you needed to. It began to get in the way of your heart. You stopped feeling your way through your life, lives. You abused your intelligence."

"Abused it, how?," he asked.

"You abused your intelligence by inventing bombs, by creating hatred and by coming up with phrases like 'Thanks for sharing that.' God we hate that phrase! It's gonna cost the first one who used it a couple of incarnations."

"Why do loves need to end?," he asked. "What's the value in all the pain? Why did I have to go through such pain? What was in it for me? Why do you give us love if it isn't going to last? Why give us the pain of ending?"

"So you could experience the pain of ending," was the reply. "What did you learn from the experiences of what you call ending love?"

"I suppose I learned that I could experience the pain of ending," he said.

"That's the reason we have this place," the reply said. "So you now understand that you had to be given that pain of what you call ending so that you could learn that you could survive it and move on. Many people who come here don't understand that, didn't understand it then and don't now. They stay in the pain and don't see what we're trying to do here. They are afraid of the pain and hide from it and so fail to learn from it.

"We give you pain so you can grow to live without pain. Once you experience the pain and learn from it, you fear it less. And if you fear it less, then you stop hiding your heart from it. And when you stop hiding your heart from it, then you can actually become more loving with another, and yourself. When you can stop living in fear of pain, you can love ever more deeply. That's when you get to that place that that writer…oh! what's his name?, oh! yeah, Hoffman, calls spiritual intimacy. Nice term. Wish we'd thought of that. The book should be recommended reading.

"The only way we can teach becoming free of the pain is by providing pain. The purpose of all your lives was to grow to the point where you could let go of the pain and the fear that accompanies the pain. The fear of pain. Your pain only came because you were afraid you wouldn't get what you wanted. If you had been able to see the pain for what it was you wouldn't have experienced the pain in the first place. And pain is our way of telling you that we are paying attention to you. We give you this pain so that you will know we are present in your life. Instead, some people want to drink or shop us out of existence. Never works but it's good for the GNP.

"Here, in the Rec Room, when you see what those painful experiences were really about you can let go of the pain. And when you let go of the pain, you are ready to move on. Besides, how else are we going to get the job done, if not through the pain? We tried other things-joy, happiness, gold jewelry-but none of those seemed to work. Pain works. Got to say that for it."

"Why did I always feel a hole inside my heart?," he asked. "Why, no matter what I had, did I never feel complete?"

"What you describe as that hole in your heart is the reason you got to get here anyway," replied the voice. "If you did not feel that sensation, that emptiness, that hole, you may never have continued to search and it is because you never stopped searching that you ended up here, ready for the next step. The hole is the pain. Others keep trying to fill up that hole with things, with others, with stuff. The filling material that you really needed you had all along. What you needed to fill the hole in your heart was simply your heart itself."

"But that hole, the one in my heart," he quickly replied. "It never went away. I had love, I had success, and still I had that hole."

"Exactly!," said the voice. "It never was about love, at least not love of someone else. It never was about success, at least not success in the material world. As long as you kept focusing on those outer things, you had the hole because they could not fill it. The very emptiness you felt is what pushed you to try to fill it up."

"What is that hole called, anyway?," he asked.

"God," the voice quickly replied. "That hole is called God."

"I believe you are ready now," continued the voice. "I believe you are ready to take the next step into self-love. I believe you are now able to love without fear, love yourself without fear, love another without fear. Be spiritually intimate. God I like that term! And because you are, we want you to know that we are not just about pain. We want you to know that this kind of love is love without pain, without fear. Look over there."

He turned and saw a beautiful, young Chinese woman, whose thick, black hair seemed to catch the sun….

© 1996 Ivan Hoffman


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