I want to pepper this blog with my favorite profiles of, and stories about, some of our Teammates. For thousands of years, humans spent their evenings sitting around a fire, sharing experiences, ideas, and dreams (that’s why TV is such a hypnotically compelling attention-getter; because it’s a flickering light that tells stories). and So I want to tell a few campfire stories by the light of your computer.
I know dozens of Teammates now, from all over the world—some rich and famous, some obscure but amazing, all currently experiencing a sense of quickening.But the first person I want to mention is the one who convinced me the Team was real: My handy-dandy portable blond Zen master and Number One Son, Adam Beck.
I wrote a whole memoir about my experiences gestating and giving birth to Adam; he was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome when I was a PhD candidate at Harvard, and the entire event was life-changing for me.I had so many mystical experiences that it blew my rationalist world-view to smithereens.But there are things I didn’t put in that book, because I didn’t understand them.Now, as Team Time approaches, pieces are falling into place in the particularly spine-tingling way that things tend to happen around Adam.
Before Adam’s birth, I began believing in miracles, and this led me to hope I could magically “fix” him so that he’d be born “normal” (of course, he’s a totally normal person with Down syndrome, but I couldn’t wrap my head around that for a while).When the miracle I wanted didn’t happen, I wondered what Adam’s reason for being actually was.I never believed that he was “here to teach others,” as many people told me.I sensed he had his own life mission, but what could that be?I used to ask him, as I put him through the newborn “early intervention” exercises we did for hours every day.No answers came during the day.
But at night, when I was dreaming, Adam answered.
Dream a Big Old Dream of Me
I had a series of dreams in which my son was a 20-ish young man, without any disability.He would show me pictures drawn in lines that shone like gold under floodlights, and writing in a strange script that I’d never seen while awake, but could read in the Dreamtime.The pictures made no sense to me.They were mainly of animals, sometimes scenes from nature, occasionally people.Most of the animals were African, most of the people were black.I felt such tenderness from all of them that I’d wake up crying, and totally baffled.
These dreams were so electric that for weeks after I had one, I’d feel myself buzzing like a phone wire.I drew pictures of some of the dream images.I also tried to remember the meaning of the writing Adam showed me, but I never could—with one exception.One night I woke up knowing the English translation of the strange script I’d just seen.It was actually only a snippet of the entire document.It, like the images, made no sense at all.But I remembered it word for word, because it kept repeating in my brain like a bell, and every time it did, I’d find myself buzzing and tearing up.
I did a painting of one particularly strong recurrent dream, which (along with news about my wilderness experiences) you can see by going to YouTube and searching for “martha_in_africa”.Or, you can just click on this link:http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=martha_in_africa&search_type=&aq=f.
The Dreamtime Meets the Daytime
Anyway, I didn’t write down the snippet from the dream for 20 years.The first time I put it on paper was after reading Dave Varty’s book about “rebuilding Eden.”We’d just had a conversation about fixing the river systems in an ecosystem—the “lifeblood” of the earth—and how it allows native vegetation to return, so that the animal populations rise.Dave and I had talked about how huge regions of Africa had been almost stripped bare of wildlife, the plants cleared for farming, the animals shot in horrific numbers.
The whole time we talked, Dave had been driving our party in an open Land Rover, past healthy herds of antelope, prides of lions, families of elephants, and all the other animal residents of a now-healthy ecosystem.I’d begun to feel hopeful about human’s capacity to save the world.Suddenly, what Adam had told me 20 years before made perfect sense.Here are the exact words from that incredibly intense dream:
The earth cries like a child,
And the blood of the animals
Is the blood of innocence.
But you (and by this I knew Adam meant “normal” people),
Having lost your innocence,
Cannot hear the cries,
Or the blood as it beats in your own ears.
It is to answer those cries
That I have come
As I have come.
I remember waking up from the dream and telling Adam’s dad, “I think Adam’s life isn’t really about humans so much as it is about the whole earth.”I thought this might be my own delusion, or at most, some mystical effect Adam would have on the ether.I still think that may be true, but I’m beginning to see that it isn’t all airy-fairy.At some point, we Teammates may be inspired to rechannel real rivers, with real bulldozers, to sponsor real preservation efforts through real-world political action, write real books in ordinary words, and so on.We’ll dream it first, but we also get to do it.
I decided Adam would be my first Team Profile last week, when he did another of his mildly spooky, inexplicable tricks.At 20, he still doesn’t talk much, and it’s hard to understand him when he does.Intellectually, he’s more like a 10-year-old than a young adult.He doesn’t drive, or shop by himself.
So it was highly unusual for Adam to go to his “other mother,” my partner Karen, and say, “I need to go to the store.”
“Why?” Karen asked.
“There’s a necklace I need to get for my mom’s birthday.”
“Oh, you want to look for a necklace.”
Adam laughed.“No, not look.I need to get the one.”
“So, you already know which one?”Karen was puzzled by this, since Adam’s never been to any sort of jewelry store, or the jewelry department at the store he asked to visit.
“Yes,” he said, with absolute confidence.“I know which one.”
When they got to the store, Adam walked straight to the crowded jewelry counter and pointed right at one necklace, without any hesitancy or pausing.
“You did know which one!” said Karen, recognizing yet another Spooky Adam moment.
He’d bought me a filigreed necklace in the shape of a butterfly.Now, Adam doesn’t know that my business logo, which I just created this year, is a butterfly. He doesn’t know I use the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies as a major part of my coaching.He just picked the perfect signal to let me know I was more or less on track.
He does this every birthday.When I was in debt and scared about money, he bought me a pencil that looked as if it had a $100 bill wrapped around it.When I was feeling especially vulnerable and hoping we all have guardian angels, he bought me a tiny angel pendant that I’ve worn ever since.As I put the filigree butterfly next to it on its silver chain, I remembered something I think I wrote down a long time ago, that “the butterfly is the angel of the dead caterpillar.” And so Adam reminded me that we die and are reborn, the angels to our former selves, every time life forces us to let go of our preconceptions.
Look for the Smoke Signals
I believe Team members are constantly being given little signs like this, from all over the place.One day it’s a guy with Down syndrome, the next day it’s your dog, the next day something you happen to see on television—the messages are ubiquitous.I think of them as smoke signals from the Team Leader, however you want to conceptualize that.
Who’s your Adam today?What smoke signals have you seen recently?
One more point: if you’ve read my book Expecting Adam, you know that both Adam’s dad and I, independently, started to call him “Adam” before he was born, even though we’d chosen another name for him.I wrote that this worked for me because (according to my dictionary) it could mean “man of clay,” “elder,” “everyman,” or “earth.”It reminds me, every time I speak to my son, that we are all riding in these odd physical bodies, these clay vessels, but we needn’t be defined by them.It speaks to the common lot of mortals, to our physical frailness and our vast inner resources.I like that.
But, as I put the butterfly on its chain and the chain around my neck, I thought of something else I’d never included in the symbolism of my son’s name.Though I’m not religious, I love the creation myth in Genesis, which says in part,
“And out of the ground God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam….And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.”
All those animal dreams, and I never made this connection, until Dave Varty’s son Boyd mentioned that what the Team has to do is “rebuild Eden.”Of course, my son is the opposite of the archetypal, biologically prolific forefather Adam. According to my Adam, pretty much every beast of the field and bird of the air is called something like, “Grfplmumph.”(I repeat: Dude cannot talk.)All of which works perfectly for me.
Shout Out from the Portable Zen Master Himself
So I can’t say that “never in my wildest dreams” did I think I’d want to devote my life to serving the Earth and all its animals, except that my wildest dreams were hinting this rather strongly all along.What have yours been telling you?Is there an Adam in your life you may have overlooked?Ask tonight, before you go to sleep, and keep a dream journal by your bed.Write down whatever arrives, even a snippet.You may be getting your next marching orders, and they may be—will be—your heart’s desires.
I asked Adam what message he would give the Team today.(I didn’t even try to explain, just wanted to see if he got it at some spooky level.I think he knows more than he lets on, because when I did a painting of that long-ago Africa dream, I asked Adam, “Do you remember sending me that?” and he blushed to the roots of his hair.)
He gave me one of his laughing-Buddha grins and said, “Tell them they’re good.Tell them it’s all good.”
And so it is.