That was the first word my Ecuadorean guru taught me to learn.
My parents had talked around me, speaking to me in a mix of grown-up language and baby talk, never sure what the enfant terrible in their hands was going to grow up to be.
I was a kind, loving, polite toddler but I was also unfiltered and honest beyond the normal.
The old lady who visited me, speaking to me at grocery stores when my mother’s back was turned.
Ever noticed one of those?
You know, the grandmotherly types who coo over a baby without anyone paying attention.
No one gave any thought to my guru.
She changed her clothes — her costumes, if you will — every day, sometimes more than once a day, managing her looks so that her deliberate education of the children around her went unnoticed.
She taught me to listen carefully to my parents, ignoring their pleas to hear a word from me recognisable in their native language.
“See your parents not as ‘them,'” she told me in a communication form that predated human language, “see them as ‘we,’ an extension of yourself.”
In my waking hours, which felt like lifetimes, I closely observed all the extensions of myself, learning through my guru that neither I nor her truly exist.
With innate cognition, the difference between the individual, unique “me” and the generic third person “one” disappeared.
I was one.
One was me.
The messages sent to me, either directly or through mass media, became part of a whole chorus singing the songs of the universe.
I smiled often, comforted by any and all sounds, whether numbingly smooth major chords or jarringly violent dissonance.
My guru came and went out of my life as my parents moved from town to town. Sometimes other adults would speak to me as stand-ins for my guru.
My guru knew that the messages I was receiving from echoes within the local solar system would move me faster through my training than she had, surpassing her understanding while I was still young.
At five years of age, I saw my guru one last time in the western mountains of North Carolina.
She was very sad to tell me goodbye.
My internal happiness made her happy.
The last lesson she gave me was to feel the flow of doubts and insecurity which follows being out of step with the drumbeats of general rhetoric.
“Let uncertainty guide you to those who are also of independent thinking. Most people are treading in water, fearing death by drowning. When you see that everyone is tall enough to set their feet down on solid ground beneath the waves and lift their heads above water, you will surpass all understanding. You will suddenly feel as if you’ve woken up for the first time.”
At age five, as I’ve told you before, I woke up just like my guru said I would.
Since then, I’ve watched subcultures vie for the right to control the flow of public opinion, laughing to myself as I look up at the stars, including our sun. We have so far to go that one such as me patiently strives to live my future life on other celestial spheres.
Sometimes, I go back to sleep for long periods of time, grumpy when woken up too soon unless love wakes me up, stirring my happiness.
I miss my guru when I go shopping at a grocery store.
Which one of the old ladies pushing shopping carts, stopping to whisper to little babies in strollers, is someone else’s guru?
The ones who smile and nod at me knowingly, telling me to carry on my part of a message millions of years old, that’s who.