Learning your true story is a doorway to everything. I often would come early to my meetings with Mr. Babushnik. I did this, not because I wanted to ensure that I would be on time, rather it was that I might have an opportunity to observe him quietly as he sat by himself on the park bench. As I recollect I think I may have learned as much from observing him than anything he may have told me.
As he sat there by himself there always seemed to be a smile on his lips, hardly perceptible, but a little smile that bespoke of his own inner harmony and happiness. Perhaps all the more remarkable, were the birds, squirrels, chipmunks that seemed to hover nearby. Sometimes he did share peanuts or other treats he had, but often they flocked near him, as though they all just enjoyed being near him.
With all the wisdom I had learned from him, all the miracles that seemed to occur in his presence, the sheer joy one felt by being just near him, made me wonder: Could it be that he was the Messiah? A simple man in a white suite and a cane who had come to make the world a better place. Maybe it was because I was young and I knew no better. But, also because I was young, because I approached the world with a simple curiosity and a simple yearning to know, that I had could ask the questions that might seem inappropriate to older folks.
And so one day I saw him on his park bench, near the pond, surrounded by several crows, and sparrows and pigeons. As I approached the birds scattered. We were alone and I could do no more than blurt out my question:
R: Are you the Messiah?
Mr. B: Heavens, no. Why would you ever ask such a silly question?
I flushed immediately taken aback. Somehow I knew instantly that it was a silly question. But as always, whenever Mr. Babushnik asked me a question, there was a complete and natural honesty in response. In a way in talking with him, you had no choice but to be honest. But it was an honesty that went beyond everyday honesty. It was a truth-telling of things that you didn’t even know yourself. It was as though when Mr. Babushnik asked you a question, some deeper part of you that knew yourself better than you answered.
R: Well, it’s just that several of my friends have found the Truth.
Mr. B: Good for them. I’d love to hear about it. I’m still trying to find it myself. Perhaps I dropped it behind the bench here somewhere.
R: They have found a spiritual Teacher, a man who has changed their lives. Thousands of people are following this man all over the world.
Mr. B: Really? That’s very impressive. He must be a very great teacher, then. I’d suggest you find out more about it.
R: They say he’s the Messiah.
Mr. B: All the more reason, then. Why don’t you go?
R: Well, there’s a little bit of problem.
Mr. B: Which is?
R: There are two of them.
Mr. B: The more the Messiahs the merrier, I would say.
R: One is a man from the Far East. He says that Jesus came to him in a dream to fulfill his mission.
Mr. B: Very interesting.
R: The other is an old Rabbi in Brooklyn, who many say is here to fulfill Biblical prophecy.
Mr. B: Fascinating.
R: But there’s the rub. Which Messiah to follow?
Mr. B: I see your point. That is a challenge.
Mr. B: Well, don’t look at me.
R: But how can there be two Messiahs at the same time?
Mr. B: Why couldn't there be more than one Messiah. I never heard of any law against it.
I was becoming more and more confused and I heard myself blurt out:
R: Was Jesus really the Messiah?
Mr. B: How should I know, never met him.
R: Then who was Jesus?
Mr. B: To tell the truth, how do you know what you know about Jesus?
R: Well, I don’t know, I heard about him. Someone told me. I guess I read about him, too… in the Bible.
Mr. B: Interesting. Then, to you, what is it? Exactly how did you learn about Jesus?
R: Well, through talking mostly, I guess. I listened to people telling his story. . Mr. B: Excellent. What kind of story?
R: A pretty good one.
Mr. B: Well, I have heard it said that it is the Greatest Story Ever Told.
R: Yes, that’s true.
Mr. B: But here is the important thing: The quality of who Jesus was, is the quality of his story. In fact, the quality of any life is the quality of his or her story. You see, it’s all in the story. What happened way back then, when Jesus walked through the Holy Land...who knows? I certainly don’t. Ah, but what a story! For once upon a time, someone told a story, a great story. Someone dared to tell it, perhaps the story changed over time, someone enhanced it. Still somewhere, sometime, there was a man who dared to tell a story about himself, a story that he was Divine, the Son of God. It is a feat of storytelling that is absolutely wondrous. That’s why I admire all of these Messiahs. All of them. It doesn’t really make a difference. What is so amazing is that they tell a great story. A story so compelling, so miraculous, so Divine, that it changes peoples’ lives and those who listen have no choice but to refer to those who tell the story as a Messiah. Oh, maybe sometimes we, their listeners, may call these storytellers by other names. Buddha, Mohammed, Siddharta, Krishna. There really are many names for those who tell the Greatest Stories Ever Told. R: So you mean to say, that it’s just an act, they’re making it all up?
Mr. B: Of course, it is. But the truth is this: we all are making it up. All the time. It is just the story that we are telling each other and ourselves, about ourselves and each other. It is usually quite ordinary. Ordinary mortals, leading ordinary lives. But just imagine what it would be like if you could change your story. If you could re-imagine your life, your world, your universe, as though you were an immortal God, who has come to Earth to live for a time amongst the mortals, to tell each of them that they, too, are immortal and Divine. Now, that would be a great story to tell.
R: So, you are saying is that Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, all of these great teachers you have been telling me about simply made up their story?
Mr. B: I presume so. Just like you, always making up your story. So, let's see. How do you make up your story?
R: I don’t know.
Mr. B: Let’s try. Tell me your story. From the moment you were born.
R: Okay. I was born on July 12th. Nineteen Hundred…
Mr. B: How do you know that? Do you remember being born?
R: Of course not.
Mr. B: So how do you know?
R: Someone told me.
And though in one sense I knew that this was just a silly game, a pretense that I might play with my friends at one time or another, in the hands of Mr. Babushnik my whole world began to slip away. For all the premises of who I was began to fade. For in truth I could not personally verify though my own memory and experience whether I was born at all, and to whom I had been born. And truly, what if I was not an ordinary child, what if I dared to imagine that I had been born of the wedlock of God and the Holy Spirit. What if I had been born to the Earth to fulfill the prophecies to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. And for a moment I saw the beauty, the power of such an idea, such a perspective from which to live a life. I saw the possibilities of the miraculous. Yet, at the same moment I found myself backing away, as though the sheer burden of responsibility for a young lad was far too great to bear. Though, for a brief moment, I had seen, even experienced, what it would be like to re-imagine and live a life Divine.
I had been silent for quite time. Mr. Babushnik had been looking at me, his head slightly cocked, the twinkle in his eye ever present. I looked up at him to wonder: What was his story?
Mr. B: Well, aren’t you going to say anything?
R: So the quality of your life really is the quality of your story?
Mr. B: Yes, it is.
R: And I can make up whatever I want?
Mr. B: I wouldn’t say so, if it weren’t so.
I was quiet for a while. After a while Mr. Babushnik got up, telling me that it was time I should be going home. He wouldn’t want me to be late for dinner.
So, Mr. Babushnik went his way, and I went mine. Yet all the way home I was quiet, feeling the both the possibility and burden, the heavy weight of what I had seen. And ever since I really have wondered: What is my story? And do I have the courage to truly live it?