The Bugs of Karma

“I been deceived by the clown inside of me.
I thought that he was righteous, but he’s vain…”

--Bob Dylan (Abandoned Love)

I returned from California in the mid-seventies to a cold autumn presaging a severe winter. I was without funds. This was a perennial condition. An ex-brother-in-law gave me a place to stay for a week or two. While there I found a copy of the great Chinese book, the I Ching, otherwise known as the Book of Changes. I threw the coins occasionally for honest inquiry because I thought there might be something to it, and now and again it gave me a new way of perceiving things. They say it is all a matter of interpretation. C.G. Jung, Freud's contemporary and known as the mystic psychologist of the Unconscious, found such value in the book that he wrote the Foreword in the edition I use.

It happened that Bob Dylan was starting his famous Rolling Thunder Revue in a few days. I had heard it through the grapevine. He would play small venues around the country. I wanted to follow the tour. It was something I had always wanted to do, but never had. There was no concert I would attend quicker than Dylan's, when I could afford it.

I did not know how I could manage it, being broke, but I knew if I could get to the first show in a small town in Massachusetts, I could hook up with someone or some means for staying with it. I hoped that somehow I could meet Bob Dylan and have some private time with him. He and John Lennon had taught me how to feel, that it was all right to feel. My feelings had been locked up in self-defense, and I see now that I had given myself a vote of no-confidence that blocked me from the one thing essential to creativity. I wondered how Bob had broken loose from the pack and somehow hoped he might provide at least one clue. I wanted to be like him. I didn't care so much for his wealth and power; I wanted to un-bottle whatever it was that stopped me from an artistic creativity I knew was confined somewhere inside me, but couldn't spring from whichever interior jail where it was incarcerated. He had done it; why couldn't I?

If I couldn't manage that--and I really had no hope for it--at least maybe I could get close enough to observe this extraordinary artist who had altered the musical world the way Hemingway had changed American literature.

I threw the Ching and asked the question, “Should I follow the tour of the Rolling Thunder Revue, or should I stay in the New York City area and look for a regular job?" God knows I needed a job, regular or not.

I had three authentic, antique, Chinese coins with square holes in the middle, which I kept expressly for throwing the I Ching on rare occasions when I consulted it. You throw the coins six times. According to how they fall—heads or tails-- you find the corresponding hexagram in the book. Heads indicate a solid horizontal line, and tails, a broken one. Each hexagram has a title.

The hexagram was Thunder.

[At the end of this piece see
Thunder reprinted in its entirety; maybe you'll understand why I decided the way I did.]

Coincidence? It blew my mind. It seemed to be telling me to go. Still, it was getting colder. I was penniless. It seemed a difficult undertaking. I had a financial obligation to my former wife and my small son. I was in arrears. What about my kid? Guilt was eating me up. How could I continue to act irresponsibly and not pay a price for my neglect? It never occurred to me that the price would be the loss of my self-esteem, which had diminished already to a thimbleful.

I ignored the reading and looked for a job. Dylan would be around. I ran into a casual acquaintance, a reporter at The Record, my old newspaper. He was moving to Philadelphia to work for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and had an apartment in Edgewater, NJ, with a month left on the rent. He offered the apartment and I took it. He said that movers would come for his couch, water bed, and chairs before the end of the month. Until then, it was all mine. If I managed to land an income, I could probably get the lease. What luck, I thought. It was close to the apartment where I had taken my first acid trip, a block off River Road with a partial view of the Hudson River and the New York skyline.

The lsd trip had changed my life and altered my perception forever. Once you see that perception is the key to existence and that the way you see things is the biggest determinant in your life, you realize there are many ways of seeing the same thing. To see a tree is one thing; to experience it is another thing altogether. We look at a tree and our brain accesses a category and says "tree." " Then it might add "big tree," "oak tree," "dead tree," "old tree," and so on. But what if you didn't have a name for it? What if you didn't need a name for it? What would you see then? You might see it as a living being as complex and mysterious as you are.

The water bed even had sheets. I had some weed and a few borrowed dollars. I had three weeks to find something. I scanned the classifieds for jobs and applied for some. I had long since given up any notion of getting back into the newspaper game. Journalism standards had changed. The paranoia of the Sixties had placed armed guards at the entrance of larger newspapers, and one needed i.d. and an escort to get into the newsroom. Now you needed a degree in journalism and an arrest-free record. Although most of the journalists I knew smoked pot and took acid and swallowed just about any drug handy, drugs were out. And so was I, because I had been busted for pot and lsd in Louisiana, which I've written about.

I had walked out on the job without notice in 1968. I had been jailed in Louisiana a year later and had done 18 months in a solitary confinement cell, and everyone at The Record knew it. It occurs to me only now that if I had not shared the information with a few people who I thought were friends, I might have re-appeared after my release and persuaded them to hire me again. But it never occurred to me at the time, because the incarceration had traumatized me.

An editor who had bought grass and acid from me wasn't reluctant to tell my potential employers about the jail time: "Yeah, Mike Havenar is a good reporter, but he was arrested for drug possession." I got this firsthand from an editor in Connecticut where I had applied and used The Record and his name as a reference.

When I heard about it, I confronted him mildly on the telephone.

"Why did you tell them about my drug arrest?" I had asked.

"Well Mike, he asked for information about you, and I had to include it," he had answered. I had wanted to ask (but didn't) "Did you also tell them about the marijuana and acid you bought from me?"

My earning ability had fallen as my depression had risen. I had been reduced to working as a janitor, a taxi driver, a truck driver, a part-time typist, and other manual work that paid little money and fixed me in one non-creative milieu after another. I had no skills other than the ability to construct a sentence and do the research necessary for a reporter to convince an editor that he knew what he was writing about. There was little that was creative about being a newspaper reporter, for that matter. I had a knack for writing fast and trusting my instinct and grabbing images from I-don't-know-where that gave my writing a certain flavor, although it was by no means high-quality stuff. It was passable, and I was seldom caught in an outright error. Editors had taught me the rules of Associated Press style, and Strunk's "Little Book" had helped me with grammar (I think.)

The classifieds were skimpy with offers. The few jobs I applied for were denied without interviews. I don’t know why. Probably it was my long hair, my beard, or my attitude. I can barely remember how I was then. I was probably despondent, defiant, preachy, pretentious, self-important and defensive. Maybe employers sensed that I didn't really want the job. When I filled out applications I never tried to inflate my accomplishments. "Highest Grade Completed?" I would write GED. "List Your Employers for the last 10 Years?" I hardly tried to do that. I couldn't remember half of them. I would list the important ones, and any potential employer could see that I had jumped from one profession to another like a bird jumping from branch to branch, landing wherever work could pay the food and gas bills.

I was also then, as I might still be even now, a natural and incorrigible rebel with a self-destructive disregard for consequences. Sometimes, folks, I just don't give a damn.

I sat by the window, smoked grass, and read books. Edgewater had a fine little library a short walk away. I addressed a letter to myself and used it to establish a local address for a library card. (I've had 45 of them.) I found the autobiography of Simone de Beauvoir and read it. It was absorbing. I started with the last volume, All Said and Done, and because they were arranged backward on the shelf, I read the whole six volumes that way before I realized that I was reading it backward. So, when I finished "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter," I read it again, going forward this time.

Simone de Beauvoir lived an exciting intellectual and activist life with her companion Jean-Paul Sartre. They defied conventions, produced an anarchist newspaper together, and must have had a lot of laughs. I enjoyed her tale and admired her honesty, especially when I read that she had found the confrontational attitude of American feminists to be “distressing.” I had tried to work with feminists and had marched with their demonstrations in support several times, and had felt the same way. It was distressing to be stereotyped as a "male chauvinist," when I was trying to be supportive and non-sexist. They seemed to be acting out their hostility on whichever male was handy for specific offenses they'd suffered, unaware of and not caring for his feelings, attitudes, or actions on their behalf in this stupefied, male-dominated society. I always felt that I was getting shit for something that someone else had done. But, as always. I was inarticulate in the face of female hostility. And what good would it have done anyway?

My feelings about what my mother and sister had done to me were too deep and my experience was too complex and too different for me to explain, though I wanted to--as I had wanted to explain my evolution from racism to blacks, who couldn't be less interested in my story or my feelings because I was, after all, "whitey." I knew they could not be less interested in me. When I tried to communicate with feminists, they treated me like another man on the make for sex. I always had to let it go without explanation, and move on without looking back, trying to suppress resentment and bad feelings. But repressed anger always leaks out. Sometimes, I hated them all, in the same way that some women hate all men, despite their protestations otherwise. And to be honest, I don't know whether it was my developing ethics or my desire for sex that impelled me. Probably both.

I fatalistically accepted the inevitability of joblessness and losing that nice little apartment. I read on and on. Then one day I began to itch. The itching started on my inner thighs. As I read, I scratched them raw. The itch spread to my waist and my armpits and even to my fingers. I looked for lice and found none. It became worse over a period of days. I developed a severe rash. Finally, I recognized that I had some sort of malady and hitchhiked to a local hospital emergency room, unable to afford a doctor-visit.

Hospital emergency room workers don't like it when people use the emergency room as an out-patient clinic, especially those of us without medical insurance or other resources like a bank account or a steady job. Medicine like the law is a business. But they seldom refuse you. The doctor who examined me after a three-hour wait said that I had a rash. What a revelation. I had told him that. He wrote a prescription and disappeared down a hall.

I hitched to a pharmacy in the Bergen Mall and learned that the medicine would cost $15. I called an old friend at The Record and asked for a loan. He met me after work in the parking lot of the newspaper and lent the money. I hitched back to the pharmacy and filled the prescription. It was an antihistamine. I hitched home, took a few of the pills and the itching mercifully subsided.

I read on. The weather worsened. The days shortened. The classifieds shrank. Snowflakes began falling like dandruff late one night and became a blizzard by morning. The storm continued for days. The heat came on slowly in that apartment. I sat near the window wrapped in a blanket and reading. It was useless to look in the paper anymore. I went from de Beauvoir and read Sartre's great work, Paths of Glory, consisting of four novels: Nausea; The Age of Reason; The Reprieve, and Troubled Sleep. As I later found parallels to American life in the
Autobiography of Maxim Gorky, I saw the American people of my time reflected in Sartre's description of the French lost in their lullaby of illusions.

Those four novels had a powerful effect on me. They depicted pre-WW II France and the lives and character flaws, the illusions and selfishness of a half-dozen characters who epitomized the contradictions and stupidities infesting French society, which slept, blissfully unaware of the danger of madman Hitler and his amphetimine-addicted thugs.

I bummed nickels and dimes in a nearby laundromat and phoned around to construction companies and the like. There still weren’t any jobs. I found more books and sometimes read the clock around.

We were stuck in the muck of the recession and inflation that President Jimmy Carter was in no way responsible for. (It all came from wasting more than a trillion dollars on the Vietnam War and OPEC raising the price of oil from $4 to $24 a barrel overnight.) I was too depressed even for politics. I couldn't afford a newspaper anymore. I could have gone across the river into New York City for a taxi-driving job, but I no longer had a NY driver’s license or the money to convert my New Jersey license, or the money for a hack license either. It was senseless to ask my ex-in-laws for help. They were all mad at me for leaving my wife and kid. No one understood or cared about my mind, my feelings or my reasons. Even I had come to doubt them.

There was no help anywhere. I knew it was useless to call anyone in my own family. All but my grandmother and mother had dropped me like a slimy bug after my sister Pat had locked me up. In my whole life, I had never gotten a call or a letter from any one of them other than Mother and Mam-ma. Years later when I began talking to myself and raging in my van at night I carried on conversations with them:

"Where were YOU when my mother locked me up for talking back and was so drunk she couldn't stand up straight? Where were YOU when my sister put me in jail and wrecked my newspaper career? Where was that phone call or that supportive letter saying, "Mike, you've made mistakes, but they aren't fatal. Hang in there and keep trying. Tell me how I can help you out."

I was imprisoned in my usual quiet and isolated cage of despair. Nobody knew and nobody cared. Then the prescription ran out and the itching started again, worse than before. I put up with it for a couple of days before reluctantly going to another hospital. It was driving me crazy. It was as if I were being eaten alive. My legs, waist, and arms were on fire. I could not re-visit the same emergency room because I hadn't paid the previous bill. I hitched to a hospital in Hackensack and went through the same routine. A long wait. A doctor gave my body a cursory look and asked what I had done about it. I told him about the prescription I had gotten. I showed him the empty bottle. He wrote another, and disappeared down a hall.

This time I knew the cost. I called my friend again. He wearily advanced me another $15. I dared not ask for more. He had three kids and a bitchy wife to support along with a heavy marijuana habit. We smoked a joint in his VW van and I hitched back to the pharmacy. The druggist filled the prescription and I hitched home broke and hungry. There was nothing left to eat but white rice. I boiled some. It tasted good even without salt. Life dragged on. I read and read, waiting for the inevitable. It snowed again.The prescription ran out in a few days and the itching resumed. Now it was as if someone had poured acid on me. It was everywhere. The soft, moist areas of my anatomy were inflamed and broken out into open sores where I had scratched. It was excruciating. Even my eyebrows itched. I did not wait this time to visit a hospital. But I was running out of hospitals.

I hitched to another one in the Hackensack area and after the standard half-day-wait, another doctor invited me into a room and asked about the problem. I explained to him with growing fury that I had seen other doctors and they must have mis-diagnosed the problem. Could he please examine me and tell me what was going on? He sensed my frustration and anger from the intensity and the shaking of my voice. He told me to pull down my pants and sit on the table naked. I did so. He adjusted his glasses, moved closer, looked, then suddenly moved backward a step or two.“You’ve got scabies,” he pronounced, keeping his distance and reaching for his prescription pad. His voice dripped contempt.

“What is that?” I asked with alarm.

“Little bugs that burrow under the skin and lay eggs” he said shortly. “Antihistamine is no good for it. This is a lotion that you rub on the affected areas to kill them and their eggs.” He scribbled and vanished down the hall, as if I had the Black Plague, without saying goodbye, good luck, or anything else. He acted as if I were afflicted with something shameful like venereal disease.

My friend complained the third time I asked him for money, but he gave it anyway. I sort of felt like he owed me, because he had approved and encouraged my impulsive and foolish hippie desire in 1968 to quit a good newspaper job and follow my heart down the heartless American road in search of the stupid "revolution." That had been eight years before. He had kept his own good job as an editor, but had vicariously enjoyed my tales of demonstrations, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Meanwhile, my decision to quit The Record and live like a hippie had considerably worsened my life. There seemed no turning back. When you are sincere, dedicated, idealistic, overly-romantic and stupid, there seldom is.

The druggist filled the new prescription without comment. I hitched home and saturated my body with Kwell lotion. The itching stopped. I looked for work. There still was no work. Time was running out. The snow had frozen and the streets were icy. The nights were so cold that the rusty radiators didn't help. Some nights I read in the warm library until it closed at nine. One night walking home I met a skunk on the sidewalk. I knew it had to be damned cold for a skunk to be out on a night like that. Perhaps its burrow was clogged with ice. I felt sorry for the harmless little fellow, but gave it a lot of room.

The next day the lotion ran out. Within 24 hours the itching returned. I went to yet another hospital and obtained another prescription. After it ran out a week later, here it came again. I went to another hospital and went through the same routine. My employed friend was exasperated. Why couldn't I find a job, he wondered. I didn't tell him that I had run out of rice and hadn't eaten for three days. I was obsessed with the itching. My body was raw and red. Things took on a strange light. I was intensely aware of everything. I felt feverish. I was suicidal. I thought about taking a dive off the nearby George Washington Bridge.

Finally, on the third visit to fill the Kwell prescription, the druggist peered at me over his glasses and asked, “You haven’t gotten rid of those things yet?” He was puzzled. He had filled six prescriptions at $15 apiece in less than a month, and here I was again.

“No,” I answered. “I don’t know what is going on.”

“Have you boiled your clothes?”


“You have to boil your clothing and your sheets. It is the only thing that kills them. The water in a washing machine isn’t hot enough. Otherwise, they keep coming back. They lay eggs that hatch very quickly.”

"What the hell are they, little bugs? Why can’t I see them?” I pleaded . I had examined myself with a magnifying glass. He was the first person to show any interest in my problem. The doctors certainly didn't give a damn. It took a pharmacist to finally inform me of the true nature of the little monsters who were making my life miserable. I felt a sudden, intense hatred for that last doctor and all the others , who guard knowledge as if it were their private property.

“You can see them on a white sheet if you look real close and use a magnifying glass,” he said. The antihistamines were only to relieve the itching. The lotion is the only thing that will kill them. Then there is a product you can spray on the furniture and the clothing and your car seat, but you cannot use it on your body because it is a pesticide.” He showed it to me on the shelf. It was a pesticide called Krell. I was broke after filling the prescription.

“The next-best thing is to boil your clothes,” he said. I thanked him profusely. I felt like hugging him. I will never forget that kind pharmacist.

I hitched back to Edgewater in a murderous mood. So the son-of-a-bitch had given me an apartment full of goddam invisible little bugs that couldn't be seen! I remembered now that he had been itching, and had asked me if I knew anything about herpes simplex. During the first week of itching I had suspected herpes, and, knowing nothing about it, had asked my editor-friend what it was. He had laughed loudly and said that it was a venereal disease. I knew that I did not have any sort of venereal disease, and his laughing at me in front of his wife had humiliated and angered me, though I had not let on.

Then I recalled that when I had first visited an emergency room, I had asked if herpes simplex was what I had, and the doctor, looking for herpes, had discounted herpes simplex while overlooking other possible diagnoses. By asking, I had prejudiced what might have been an otherwise objective exam and a correct diagnosis. It was a small mistake with big consequences.

I sat on the water bed with a magnifying glass staring at tiny specks on the sheet. They were only specks, no larger than the tip of a pin. I had thought they were only dirt. Finally, after a few minutes, I saw one move! The son of a bitch! So that was what they looked like. A little dot one-tenth the size of a period. It moved. It was alive. It laid eggs. Years later I looked in a medical dictionary to see one. They are horrible-looking. Tiny vicious-looking monsters sent by God to teach Mike another lesson.

There were a couple of two-quart aluminum cooking pots in the kitchen and a saucepan. I filled them to the top and boiled water. I kept the pots full and boiling and dipped every piece of clothing and bedding I had in them inch-by-inch. I soaked my underwear, shirts, pants, and woolen cap and the two sheets. I nearly ruined my good goose down sleeping bag in the water. (It never was the same.) Twice. Three times. Four times. I put everything in the bathtub and kept pouring boiling water on it. It took all night. I poured it into my backpack. When I was certain that every square inch of fabric I wore or slept on had been soaked, I threw boiling water on the waterbed, the couch, the chairs, and even on the bare floor of the hall, living room, and bath room. I must have boiled a hundred gallons of water. I sterilized that apartment.

The next morning, after sleeping on the bare floor naked beside the living room radiator, I did it all again. It took all day. I kept my body saturated with the lotion. If I had had gallons of it, I would have soaked in Kwell all day. My mind was focused and a beam of pure hatred must have been coming out of my eyes.

Finally they all died. The eggs failed to hatch. I cried with gratitude and relief, but I was still angry beyond reason. What else could go wrong?

I can never forget the intense bite of the scabies bug. Twenty five years later, during a stay at the VA hospital in West LA, under intense treatment for major depression and suicidal ideation, I felt that bite again. I panicked. I saw a doctor who was filling in for my regular doctor while she was on vacation. He examined the area of my thigh where I had felt the bite and pronounced that I carried no scabies. I insisted. He examined me again and refused to change his diagnosis. I flew into a rage. To appease me, he sent me to the dermatology department. A doctor cut away a small piece of my skin where I showed him the bite mark with a scapel that was so sharp it frightened me. He looked at the biopsy under a microscope and saw no scabies. I was angry and scared. The next day Dr. Redford returned. I asked for an emergency meeting.

She said she had heard about it from the other doctor. She examined my leg.“I don’t see any scabies.”

“Right there,” I said, pointing at a small red spot where I had felt the bite.

“No,” she said.

“Yes," I said. "I know the bite.” I insisted. She looked again and saw nothing. But I could see it as plain as the moon.

“Look, Dr. Redford. That is a burrow.” I pointed to a small welt about the size of the lead on a sharpened pencil.

“I don’t think so, she said.

"I am sure of it,” I said. “I know the bite.” I could feel it even as I spoke. I was actually scared.

“I really don’t see anything.”

“Believe me, I know.”

"How can you know? Oh, yes, you know the bite.”

“I want some Kwell Lotion,” I said.

“Okay, Mike. You’ve got it.”

I still love that woman. She was the best doctor I ever had. When she wrote that prescription I could have gathered her in my arms and stolen her from her husband. Dr. Carole Redford somewhere in Los Angeles. Give her the Nobel Prize for Compassion in Medicine.

I was working in the medical library for a dollar an hour and taking a medical terminology course with a vain expectation that I might find work in an office doing medical coding. That's where I first saw the picture of that nasty-looking little creature. I also learned that people who have known its intense bite often becomes "scabiephobiacs."

“I have scabiephobia,” I had said as she handed me the prescription. She laughed good-naturedly. That doctor actually liked me, though I was a basket-case with major depression and a dictionary of personality disorders by then.

I applied the lotion as soon as I returned to my room, and never felt another bite. I threw my sheets and VA-issued pajamas in a garbage can, because I knew that no one would heed my advice to boil them. I had a little money and went to a pharmacy on Fletcher Avenue and purchased a spray can of Krell pesticide and came back and sprayed the whole room. When no one was looking I sprayed the couches and chairs in the tv room too.

Why pass them on? It might all have been psychosomatic, but it was real to me.

The movers came for the furniture two days before the lease expired. They did not know how lucky they were. I said nothing. I secretly hoped there were a few scabies left in the cushion to give my casual friend another dose of what he had probably gotten rid of before I had, without having to hitch all over Philly in a blizzard, borrowing money, lying to emergency room attendants, or suffering humiliation and ridicule.

I lost the apartment. One day I came home and the key didn't work. The super had my stuff, a backpack, sleeping bag, and a few books. He said that it was too bad I could not have found a job, because I was a good tenant.

"You are a very quiet person," he had said. He lived beneath me but across the hall.

He had not heard me scratching, pacing the floor, and moaning in the middle of the night.

A few years later I mentioned the incident to Lenny Ziefert, a friend of Judy Cohen's in New York. He mistook what I was saying and jumped up from the couch.

"Oh man don't tell me you have scabies!" After I assured him that it had been several years previously, he told me that he had caught them in Iran while hitchhiking to Pakistan. He said that he had not found a doctor in Pakistan knew what he was talking about and had never heard of the medicine. He had been advised to go to India.

"When I got to Calcutta (on a train) I found a doctor, got a prescription, checked into a hotel, put my clothes in a bag and gave them to a bellboy to throw them out (all of them) and saturated my body with the medicine. I laid there naked for two days to get rid of them."

There was a guy who understood.

I finally found a part-time job stripping old paint off the interior molding of the Englewood City Hall. But I was homeless and huddled in hidden doorways to sleep. I told a black co-worker named Joe Wilson about it. He was a friendly and intelligent 20-year old guy with a beautiful smile and a wonderful temperament. He called and asked his mother if I could stay with him. She said yes, and, for a nominal rent, I shared Joe's bedroom. For a little more she made me breakfast and supper. I loved staying there and getting to know black people in their own home. They were honest and funny and completely non-racist. It was a very pleasant time, but it was brief.

Finally, I learned about CETA. It was a federal program that re-trained workers who had lost or quit other jobs. I went to school for six months, and received a small stipend that paid the rent and little else. I learned enough to be a third-class machinist. But when the money ran out, Mrs. Wilson didn't want to wait for me to find a job, so I moved out without bad feelings.

Before looking for a job though, I decided to try one more time at moving to Canada. I was sick to death of the United States and still am; but I am still here, aren't I? I was sick of the wars, sick of the need to work at mind-killing jobs at low wages to pay my way, sick of the stupidity and insensitivity of the American people, sick of everything and everyone I knew, sick of my family, and sick of Michael Lee Havenar.

The Rolling Thunder Revue was finished. A.J. Geigerich, formerly treasurer of the Fillmore East and later road manager for Barry Manilow and a friend of my ex-brothers-in-law, had cooked on the tour. He had had a great time. He said that if I had come along, he might have found something for me to do. I remembered that I had ignored the I Ching and spent a month with scabies instead.

I hitched North into more pain, loss and confusion, broke, hungry and still homeless, but not itching.

So I had missed every Dylan appearance. Everyone said it had been a great success. That was when Dylan introduced his song,
Hurricane, about the injustice done to the boxer Reuben “Hurricane” Carter, framed by racist cops for a murder he didn't commit. My old newspaper had been one of those who “went along for the ride.” Like most of Dylan’s songs, it struck a personal note with me.

Oh well, I have the album.

I think now that it was karma. I was paying for my errors, or sins, whatever you want to call them, and whatever they were. There were a lot of them. More than I knew, more than I would have confessed if I had known. We always pay. Sometimes we pay more than we think we owe. We pay in strange and myriad ways. We pay until we are broke physically, mentally and spiritually, and if we don't learn our lessons--well, how can I know what happens? We keep paying until we die. And nobody knows what or if anything happens after that.

I also believe, as Dylan said in one of his later songs:

“You don’t get anything you don’t deserve."
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51. Chen / The Arousing (Shock, Thunder)

above Chen The Arousing, Thunder)
below Chen The Arousing, Thunder

The hexagram Chen represents the eldest son, who seizes rule with energy and power. A yang line develops below two yin lines and presses upward forcibly. This movement is so violent that it arouses terror. It is symbolized by thunder, which bursts forth from the earth and by its shock causes fear and trembling.


Shock brings success.
Shock comes---oh, oh!
Laughing words---ha, ha!
The shock terrifies for a hundred miles,
And he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.

The shock that comes from the manifestation of God within the depths of the earth makes man afraid, but this fear of God is good, for joy and merriment can follow upon it.

When a man has learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean, he is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences. Let the thunder roll and spread terror a hundred miles around: he remains so composed and reverent in spirit that the sacrificial rite is not interrupted. This is the spirit that must animate leaders and rulers of men---a profound inner seriousness from which all outer terrors glance off harmlessly.


Thunder repeated: the image of
Thus in fear and trembling
The superior man sets his life in order
And examines himself.

The shock of continuing thunder brings fear and trembling. The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of God; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of God. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.


Nine at the beginning means:
Shock comes---oh, oh!
Then follow laughing words---ha, ha!
Good fortune.

The fear and trembling engendered by shock come to an individual at first in such a way that he sees himself placed at a disadvantage as against others. But this is only transitory. When the ordeal is over, he experiences relief, and thus the very terror he had to endure at the outset brings good fortune in the long run.

Six in the second place means:
Shock comes bringing danger.
A hundred thousand times
You lose your treasures
And must climb the nine hills.
Do not go in pursuit of them.
After seven days you will get them back again.

This pictures a situation in which shock endangers a man and he suffers great losses. Resistance would be contrary to the movement of the time and for this reason unsuccessful. Therefore he must simply retreat to heights inaccessible to the threatening forces of danger. He must accept his loss of property without worrying too much about it. When the time of shock and upheaval that has robbed him of his possessions has passed, he will get them back again without going in pursuit of them.

Six in the third place means:
Shock comes and makes one distraught.
If shock spurs to action
One remains free of misfortune.

There are three kinds of shock---the shock of heaven, which is thunder, the shock of fate, and finally the shock of the heart. The present hexagram refers less to inner shock than to the shock of fate. In such times of shock, presence of mind is all too easily lost: the individual overlooks all opportunities for action and mutely lets fate take its course. But if he allows the shock of fate to induce movement within his mind, he will overcome these external blows with little effort.

Nine in the fourth place means:
Shock is mired.

Movement within the mind depends for its success partly on circumstances. If there is neither a resistance that might be rigorously combated, nor yet a yielding that permits of victory, if, instead, everything is tough and inert like mire---movement is crippled.

Six in the fifth place means:
Shock goes hither and thither.
However, nothing at all is lost.
Yet there are things to be done.

This is a case not of a single shock but of repeated shocks with no breathing space between. Nonetheless, the shock causes no loss, because one takes care to stay in the center of movement and in this way to be spared the fate of being helplessly tossed hither and thither.

Six at the top means:
Shock brings ruin and terrified gazing around.
Going ahead brings misfortune.
If it has not yet touched one's own body
But has reached one's neighbor first,
There is no blame.
One comrades have something to talk about.

When inner shock is at its height, it robs a man of reflection and clarity of vision. In such a state of shock it is of course impossible to act with presence of mind. Then the right thing is to keep still until composure and clarity are restored. But this a man can do only when he himself is not yet infected by the agitation, although its disastrous effects are already visible in those around him. If he withdraws from the affair in time, he remains free of mistakes and injury. But his comrades, who no longer heed any warning, will in their excitement certainly be displeased with him. However, he must not take this into account.

The shocks went on for years and years. Somehow I held onto a certain vision. I decided that my fate was to live alone without a woman I needed and yearned for with a hopeless passion that has never left me and never been satisfied. I decided in despair that some men were not meant to have that. I tried to turn off my desire for them but never succeeded. My mind became hard like tempered steel but my heart remains an open sore. My feelings are written on my face. But the the possessions I lost were not material ones. I never cared much for
things. Then one day near the bottom of a bucket of innocent blood I found gratitude that displaced resentment. Then I became reverent to everything I could see in God's Universe--most of the time--and most everything I had lost was returned to me. Today, most of the time, I'm happy--even merry! Ha, Ha!


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