Beyond the Game

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A “What’s So” Letter to Michael Naumer

October 21, 1942 – May 4, 2001

Sitting in your black canvas director’s chair, tilting your head, cocking an eyebrow and wiggling your right foot, you listened. You had us raise our hands and stand to speak. No moving the chairs, sitting in a circle, no cross-coaching, no helpers in the room. This was all part of the course—a way for us to see ourselves—to see our resistance and our positions. You didn’t care if we liked you; that’s not why you were there.

For three days you talked about relationship, spirituality, and death. You talked about being at choice, about space, service, Michael Naumerand enrollment. You spoke about monogamy and sex, about what’s so and what’s possible. You told us your incident, and helped us decipher ours. You talked about Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Werner Erhard. You talked a lot. Your raspy voice still follows me around in the back seat of my mind.

Changing the name of the course from the Mind of Love to Beyond the Game, you spoke of concepts I never gave much thought to: reality and logic, identity and ego, value and debt. You spoke of commitment, trust, choice, and attachment. You told us, “Trying to work things out in your relationship without having worked your stuff out with your parents is like trying to fix the sink when the stove is broken,” and “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective?” and “The mind is a dangerous neighborhood; don’t go in there alone.”  You told on yourself, made us laugh, and ended your stories with, “You know, like that. You taught me that everything is important, and nothing is significant. You showed me that I am the projector in my life, not the actor, that things are happening for me, not to me. You helped me see myself when I couldn’t, showing me my mechanisms, structures, and defenses. You helped me turn my pointed index finger around to myself, to see my part.

E-SymbolThe course was about transformation. Beyond the Game was a higher game: chess, not checkers. The objective was self-recognition, and you deemed that the purpose of relationship was not to make oneself happy, but a useful vehicle for seeing oneself. By the end of the weekend we got it. Then we stayed on for the nine-week graduate courses, missing The Simpsons on Tuesday nights to be in class.

While leading the October week-end, you thought something was wrong with your contacts so you went to your eye doctor. It turned out to be a tumor. Losing your sight in your left eye, you nearly lost your voice too. It was lung cancer, which finally explained the constant clearing of your throat. By chance, your next graduate course was about death. Previously you’d chosen not to deal with the topic as you felt you couldn’t speak to it. But there are no accidents, and when you calmly announced your prognosis to the group, you remarked, “Well, how perfect. Now I have something to say.” The doctors gave you four to six months, you made it seven. You taught the January course, and then one in April. Swamped with pain and struggling to breathe, you made it through the three days. From somewhere, you found the strength to stand and give your gifts. You were a higher possibility, and the final course was an amazing grace.

Years before, your teacher gave you a large copper distilling can, given to him by his teacher, and the last time we met, you passed it on to me. Seated, facing me at your glass dining room table, holding my hands in yours, you told me that you were sorry that we hadn’t had more fun together. I didn’t know you were saying goodbye. I smiled a small smile and whispered through tears, “Maybe next time around.” Two days later, no longer able to eat or sleep and bent in pain, for the final time you put on your dress slacks, silk shirt, and struggled with the laces on your black leather shoes. While you were still able to be “at choice” you slowly made your way to the backyard, lay down on a blanket in the grass, and ended your life with a cocked pistol.

Like you said, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.”

Catherine & Michael

Catherine & Michael

Michael, I miss talking with you on the phone, miss you calling me, “Hey, beauty,” miss our friendship and your laugh. My love for you is deep, my gratitude and appreciation boundless, your contribution and the difference you made profound. Thank you.

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