Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: I was the guest speaker at Canyon Ranch in Lenox and Tucson this month. When I was at the Tucson location I met Natan Baruch when he came to my Manifestation Workshop there. He told me he was a writer. I don’t often get men at my workshops so I tend to get kind of excited when they show up and really commit to being there fully. Natan did. He then went home and sent me something he had just written. A short story. I loved it and decided to publish. Here’s to more of us declaring who we are in the world. xo jen
By Natan Baruch.
Last week I moved to Berkeley, California, to a beautiful two-story blue house where I live with thirteen other people. In the mornings, we chant and pray and meditate, and then we walk down to the farm where we all work. After communal dinners, I like to sit on one of the ratty old couches under the pear tree in the back yard and drink tea.
The other evening, as I sat on the couch and wrote a poem about weasels, I heard a voice say, “Hey,” and I looked up. It belonged to a robot, about the size of a filing cabinet, which sat on the couch across from me.
“Hey,” I said back.
The robot looked uncomfortable. “The Zorgans said-”
I sighed. Once upon a time the Zorgans had hyperslipped into the space between my dresser and my wall and asked me to share my thoughts on creativity, and I, like a fool, answered them. Now hundreds of different species insist on visiting me with their questions.
“What do you want to know?” I asked.
The robot looked at the ground between us. “I’m a Lamogrian,” it said. “And we don’t get the thing you call anxiety.”
I nodded. “All right,” I said. “Let me tell you something. About a year ago I took the Metro-North from Grand Central Station to Beacon, New York, where I hiked a mountain with a thirty-three-year-old French lingerie model named Corinne. When we got to the top we shouted our fears, and I said, “‘Yeargh! Yeargh! Yeargh! I’ll never become the person I want to be!'”
“But surely you’re the person you want to be?” said the Lamogrian. “You’re–”
“Just listen,” I said. “Two years before that event I wrote a short story, and you know how? I’d just read John Fante’s Ask the Dust and I tried to copy that. Why? Not because I felt the desire to connect, or develop the human condition, or share God, but simply because I wanted to be great, great, like Burroughs or Fante. The thought consumed me — it occupied my every waking hour. Would I really live and die on this planet without becoming great?”
“Probably,” said the Lamogrian. “Billions have died before you without–”
“Listen,” I said. “Just listen. I’m getting there.”
“Sorry,” said the Lamogrian. “Please continue.”
“Thanks,” I said. “So at the time, I decided, no way. No way would I die without leaving a mark. So I locked myself in my room and I grumbled and groused and grit my teeth until I felt miserable and my heart hardened and I gave myself a stomach condition.”
“But you wrote a good story?” asked the Lamogrian.
“I wrote a great story,” I said. “And a book, and another book, and a handful of poems, and maybe a hundred thousand articles. A magazine hired me. People liked my work. When you searched, ‘Best action movies’ on Google, my article was the first that came up.”
“Whoa,” said the Lamogrian. “Can we do that now?”
“No,” I said. “It indexes lower at this point. Anyways, I got what I wanted. Free drinks, free dinners, free trips. A popular name. And still, I found myself on the top of that mountain screaming, ‘Yeargh! Yeargh! Yeargh! I’ll never become the person I want to be!'”
“Confusion,” said the Lamogrian.
“Confusion indeed,” I said. “Because I got what I wanted, and it wasn’t enough. And when I looked back on my life, and thought of all the times I said, if only I could get this, it’d be enough, I realized that it was never enough. And I realized that the part of the human mind that wants never stops its wanting.”
“So nothing,” I said. “I didn’t become enlightened. But I’ve found that when you have a question, the world conspires to give you an answer. And it wasn’t long after that Corinne said, ‘You should meet my Peruvian guru and drink ayahuasca.'”
“Ayahuasca?” said the Lamogrian.
“A drug,” I said. “A medicine, really. People say it communes with your body and shows you the path toward personal growth.”
Instead of hands, the Lamogrian had vice grips, and it spun them in circles. “Ah,” it said. “Intercranial connection therapy.”
“Maybe,” I said. “I’m not sure.
“They sound similar,” said the Lamogrian.
“They might be,” I said. “Anyways, I drank the ayahuasca, and slipped into a seat of awareness where I saw all of my faults and accepted them. I cried. And then I needed to pee, so I left the room. In the lobby I saw another man, a bear of a man with a big red beard and an open shirt and I could tell that he’d been crying, too. ‘You’re beautiful, my brother,’ I said, and he said, ‘My brother, you’re beautiful,’ and then we hugged and laughed and cried together. His name was Brad, and he ran an organic farm in Connecticut. And when he told me this, I said, ‘No way!’ because I’d been thinking a lot about farming. Helping the earth, providing for the needy, real spiritually fulfilling work.”
“I thought you are a farmer,” said the Lamogrian.
“I am,” I said, “but I haven’t always been. I’m talking about my growth, my process, my genesis. Most modern farmers aren’t born to farming — we come to the craft through experience. This is the story of my becoming, and it answers your question.”
“Ah,” said the Lamogrian. “I see. An allegory. Please continue.”
“Okay,” I said. “So I asked Brad, what’s the best lesson your farm ever taught you? And he said, ‘Man, it came from my bees. One day, the queen stopped laying eggs. And then, a month later, she started again.’ ‘What changed?’ I asked. ‘Time,’ he said. ‘A tree takes a lifetime to become a tree.'”
The Lamogrian beeped pleasantly, and light pulsed behind its plastic eyes. “Trying to compute,” it said. “Elucidate?”
“With pleasure,” I said. “You know acorns?”
“The town in Ohio.”
“No, that’s Akron. Acorns. The nut. They grow on oak trees.”
“Ah yes,” said the Lamogrians. “Acorns. I understand.”
“Now, imagine planting an acorn. You need to wait for it to grow. What do you do? You can get mad that it isn’t grown, and grumble and grouse and grit your teeth, but that’ll only harden your heart and give you a stomach condition. Alternately, you can sit back, smile, and enjoy the process.”
“Incredible,” said the Lamogrian. “I see. I see. And then you became a farmer?”
“That’s it,” I said. “I quit my job and moved out here to farm.”
“And you’re happy?” said the Lamogrian.
“I’m joyful,” I said. “I don’t know what comes next in my story, but I’m content to let it unfold.”
“Thank you,” said the Lamogrian, and his head turned all the way around on his shoulders. “You’ve been a tremendous resource. I’ll tell the galaxy of your wisdom.”
“No!” I yelled, but with a puff of smoke, the Lamogrian disappeared.
Natan Baruch brings creativity, whimsy, and love to his path as a writer, healer, and youth mentor. His previous piece, Anxiety and the Lamogrian, was published on The Manifest-Station in October. You can follow him on his website at https://ohhousehead.com or on Twitter at @creativejewces. Currently, Natan lives in Mt. Shasta, California, where he is connecting with Mother Earth and finishing a young adult fiction novel entitled “The Art of Monster Hunting.”