Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Twenty Nine)

I made my way back to Brooklyn and sulked a bit. I wasn’t actually in that bad of a mood, but I wasn’t enjoying yet another uprooting… again losing my only real friend. Still, Signora Ricci tried to cheer me up and I kept up my anti-homesick routine.

What I needed now was a job… I needed the rhythms of a productive existence. And so I cultivated my beard and started through the want ads. Getting work as an electrical supervisor was a no-brainer for me, but I considered all sorts of jobs. After all, for me this was a moment pulled out of time: I had money enough and no direct obligations; I could, if I wanted to, brush up on my musical skills and look for work in a very busy New York music scene. That option didn’t last long, however; while working with musicians appealed to me, working half the night in seedy clubs did not. But I did consider lots of options, which pulled me back toward an even mood.

In the end I took a job at a small electrical contractor’s office, transitioning to field supervision as soon as they were convinced I was competent.

* * * * *

Driving an old truck between job sites every morning and dealing with the mayhem of construction logistics in the afternoons was fun; I just had to fight against mission-creep. Unlike everyone else at the company, I was unwilling to work long hours. I tried to play up the “old man” angle, and it worked a bit, but I simply wasn’t old and tired enough, and I didn’t want to work very hard at that role either.

It was then (in the summer of ‘48) that things changed; “Something was in the air,” as they used to say. Suddenly, strangers began recognizing who I was, even with the beard, expressing their overwhelming need to learn more. Pretty soon it was becoming a daily occurrence.

How and why this happened, I didn’t know. Why didn’t this happen months ago? I asked myself, or at the beginning of my mission? No answer was forthcoming.

When I asked people how they recognized me, all of them had the same answer: “Somehow I just knew.”

I tried to accommodate them, of course, most typically sharing lunch with them. But they kept coming, and it was starting to pull me away from my job. And so, I had no choice but to quit. I apologized and came in several afternoons to help my replacement, but that was all, and even that didn’t last terribly long. I think they thought I was “an odd duck,” but they weren’t angry with me. After all, I came in those afternoons for no pay. (When, to their credit, they went out of their way to bring me food, or to put gas in my car.)

Still, I didn’t know what to do with all the people seeking me out. Now they weren’t just coming alone, but were bringing their friends.

And so I decided to start meeting anyone who wanted in Stuyvesant Square Park, in Manhattan. That gave me a separation between my personal life and my public life. I could enjoy slow mornings, meet with my new students mid-day, then slip back to Brooklyn at some point and be off-stage for the evening.

What remained, however, was the problem of officialdom, with both the America side and potentially on the Soviet side. At this point, however, I decided to just take the risk. More people were coming by the day, which meant it would be relatively difficult to grab me. Beside that, Renn had given me a bit of detail about changing my body purposely, and particularly about letting myself die. In the worst case I’d do that. By that point I had seen my friends do it multiple times and had confirmations of their returns. It wasn’t something I could look forward to, but neither was it terrifying.

* * * * *

The late summer of 1948 became one of the most pleasant passages of my life. I’d get up in the morning, walk around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, chatting with shopkeepers, ladies sweeping their steps, and assorted interesting people. I’d take breakfast at any of a dozen excellent ethnic restaurants. Or, sometimes, I’d stay home and have signora Ricci cook while I read the Wall Street Journal.

Then, I would walk to the subway (I seldom drove), and head into Manhattan. There I became a sort of explorer/minister for several hours, dealing almost exclusively with the best mankind had to offer. These were the first fruits of humans who were coming to see themselves and their species differently. It was a continuing stream of inner beauty and courage, and it probably did as much for me as it did them.

I had shaved my beard once I quit my job; it felt good to simply be myself.

* * * * *

One of my great pleasures that summer was a surprise visit from a 20th century legend. I was sitting on a low rock wall and having a discussion with several young people, when I heard a thick Germanic accent behind me: “Would you mind if I joined you?”

I turned to see Carl Jung standing a few feet away. Immediately I stood and motioned my young friends to shift over. And so they did, making a spot for the old gentleman. I shook his hand and guided him to his new spot. “It’s a sincere pleasure to meet you, Dr. Jung.”

I continued my conversation with the young people precisely as I had been, and Jung didn’t interject more than a few comments. But within an hour or two I called my day to a close. A lot of the kids remained into the night (as they did regularly), but Jung and I took a taxi to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a long, pleasant dinner.

Jung was every bit as multi-facetted, curious and thoughtful a man as I had imagined him to be. He was particularly interested in the internal operation of my other-worldly friends, and I knew enough of Jung’s basic ideas to make the conversation flow.

We adjourned our dinner before it got too late, but repeated it the next evening. It was fun to compare what I had learned from my friends with Jung’s feelings about the collective unconscious, metamorphosis of the gods, and his surprisingly large number of thoughts on alien civilizations.

One thing I was able to do at the end of our last dinner was to tell him how important his work remained in the 21st century. I know that mattered to him deeply, and I was gratified to give him that satisfaction.

* * * * *

Slowly, I realized what was driving this moment. It was that nearly half of all Americans had a friend of a friend who had personally seen or touched the spacecraft, and everyone, including authority, admitted that it was real and not of this planet. It became “that which they had seen, looked upon, and their hands had handled.” For real.

In other words, they had gained a type of “knowing” that changed their expectations of the universe and themselves, and it was changing them, from the inside-out.

The interesting question remaining after that, was, Why did it take from October until the next July for it to show noticeable effects? That was a question I could answer in part, although only in part.

In my experience, it takes a significant amount of time to integrate important changes. And by that, I mean getting them rooted and operational at the level, not of mind, but of our inner parts: our subconscious mind and all related to it.

At one point of my life, I noticed that a major change had taken five months to integrate itself into me. At another I found a similar period of time. These, of course, are the experiences of one man, and fuzzy ones at that, but they are indicative of something.

And so, I’m fairly well convinced that the flowering of the seed planted by my photos and the delivery of the spacecraft were the causes of the “Something in the air” summer of 1948. The realization of new and powerful facts – world views and assumptions that changed those previously held – worked their way from human eyes and ears down to their cores over that eight or nine month period.

Perhaps the strength of the change and the number of people involved… (or the number of assumptions that were uprooted) required more time than my five month figure, but I’m as sure as I can be that something like that happened. At the end of the process emerged humans who were learning to see the world and themselves in a new way… a better and healthier way… a way that permitted them to experience themselves as more than they were able to grasp prior.

May we find many such changes in our world.

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Paul Rosenberg