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True Stories by Steve Keely
Hobo Memoirs

This Christmas give yourself a gift that attracts enduring friendships, business riches, self-discipline and peace of mind for a lifetime. It will put something into your step and handshake that was missing before and give your spoken words a resonance that draws attention and respect. It is something only you may give yourself and that you can control despite what everyone else says to the contrary.

Replace love with a spectrum of feelings. The range runs from neutral to esteem. Love is anti-life.

Follow me on a walk out my trailer, off the bottom step and into the sand. Not long ago, I took that first stride west at sunrise. It continued up a mile-long desert wash and opened into the Chocolate Mt. Gunnery Range. On this Sunday few fighter-bombers flew overhead and, for margin, the central target lay three-miles to the south. I walked eight hours straight across the range and saw cactus and tortoises, lizards and birds. I liked the way because I was learning and didn’t know where I was going. At sunset, I crested the western rim of the gunnery basin and began walking downhill, soon into the dark. After 16 hours – 40 miles from my doorstep – I felt along a 20’-wide waterway (the All-American Canal.) without crossing and lay down a blanket to sleep.

The first thing I saw the next morning across the water was a brightly painted mountain. I swam the canal and walked an hour to its base, then looked up to the 100’’ zenith. ‘LOVE’ asserted hand-painted twelve-foot red letters on the earth. The hill foundation was as large as a city block with every inch vibrantly painted by a steady, discerning hand.

A wizened man in paint-spectacled overalls with merry eyes appeared as I stared up. ‘I am Leonard Knight,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘I’m glad you like the mountain and its message.’ It was already 100-degrees and I nearly swooned on shaking his warm hand. He left and climbed the hill to continue painting. I followed him up. What was behind this?

Leonard told me his life story as he brushed. He had been a post-depression Vermont woodsman who tried to cross west as a young man but landed short in Nebraska. He worked there for six years as a seamster in a fabric factory, and after each workday he collected assorted scraps- a yard to three times that size. .During six years of collection he also thought of a simple solution to the world problems. One day after hours, he sat down in front of the pile of bits-and-pieces and began stitching.

A few weeks later he had fabricated a three-story balloon. He painted ten-foot letters around it ‘LOVE’, and built a basket with a large fire pot under it. He planned to float the ad from Nebraska to the Pacific. On launch day, unfortunately, the fabric proved too heavy even when filled with hot air and the balloon raised only a few feet off the ground before crashing down. Leonard packed the dream balloon away and hitchhiked to the California desert.

Niland, Ca., on the eastern edge of the desert-locked Salton Sea, is one of the hottest infernos on earth. The salty sea and nearby All-American Canal strike thin illusions of comfort in this barren moonscape where General George Patton centered his WWII Desert Training for the African campaign. After the war and the raze of Patton’s headquarters, leftover cement slabs jut out the sands where Leonard Night, in the 1970’s, squatted on one under the sun and stars. He took a janitorial job in Niland and began saving coins from work as he had scraps. Now he invested in paint.

A solitary clay mountain a quarter-mile from his slab proved the ideal painting surface. He took up a brush in a second aim to save the world beginning near the Pacific. He had made solid progress over the decades through chilled winters and 120-degree summers when I met him. The paint weathers well.

The Love Balloon can be viewed in a Washington D.C. museum, however the larger mountain overshadows it here in the desert. This mound and maker have drawn tens-of-thousands from around the world- Japanese and Europeans outweigh the rest- and are often featured in national publications and international broadcasts. Pictures and descriptions can be seen at many websites. Daily, Knight enlarges the painted surface and recently is persisting as far as the clay carries in all directions into the desert.

You do not have to like Leonard Knight nor support his world memo to revere the man. I was inspired, wanted to walk home singing a celebration of man, but I was lame and it would have been preposterous. Instead, I hitchhiked home to the trailer and have revisited the mountain often.

How can words possibly match that accomplishment this Christmas season?

Love is anti-life from every angle.

Step back and look at the whole evolutionary process. It, in great part, is the advancement of consciousness. Our bodies, and those of animals you see in nature and zoos, came alongside the evolution of consciousness.

Man, I think, is in limbo this century between the animals and his personal potential. The evolution toward consciousness is ongoing; but we’re stuck at an irrational neck in the hourglass. The plug is Irrationality: use of emotion in place of reason. Evolution is stymied (so far) and now we must leap the neck to reason. Anyone can.

Once a person achieves consciousness he moves away from cause-and-effect emotions and into the rational mind He may still acknowledge strong feelings, but grudgingly, and works to control them. You cannot say anything to upset him. A person who reasons has choices, ergo knows freedom.

When you are more conscious you are more alive.

On the other hand, love is like an opiate through the centuries. We’ve been duped by the church, school, dictators, psychologists and a sometimes feminine notion so the habit is endemic to civilization. Better watch out.

The table is easily turned. The present you give yourself this Christmas requires a few simple daily drills. When you start to say ‘I love…’ replace it with one of the following exacting phrases: ‘I value, appreciate, respect, admire, or revere…’ Next, when you say ‘I like…’ complete it with ‘because…’ – and explain why you like it. For example, I like flowers because they are symmetrical perfume dispensers. Next, when you feel possessed by a strong feeling try to reinstate a thought or reason for it. For example, I feel empty because there is someone better whom I may become through practice. Soon many fresh sensations will fall within your self-control. Finally, go someplace alone for ten minutes each day through New Year’s to sit quietly and resolve to be more reasonable than emotional.

You will start 2006 with a fresh alertness and a new mind with which to manufacture accurate and potent decisions. A gradually emerging persona will attract unexpected acquaintances and opportunities in your workplace, home, bedroom, mind and heart. There is no substitute for this gift that only you can present to yourself. You will look back on 2005 and the previous years with distant wonder, rub your hands warmly, and look to future successes.

Truth lies within a complete range of feelings. The hackneyed boundary of love is a mistake. The A-to-Z replacements are: adulation, allegiance, friendship, involvement, regard and zeal. The installment is daily practice for about a week. The simplicity is why I implore you to try to think more consciously. You are free to choose.

Before you lie two paths: honesty and dishonesty. It is honest to try a new thing– consciousness and life. It is dishonest to sink into a familiar bog- emotion for comfort or peer pressure. Most people seek non-evolution and oblivion. A few, if it can be clearly explained to them, seek self-improvement and a better world.

It will shake you to the toes and change your life so that every minute you live, every interaction and transaction with another, brings mutual benefit. You will improve mentally, emotionally and physically with the new range of sensations. Your thoughts will be clearer and forceful, your movements steadier and sure. The gift comes to your aid in times of emergency. It sustains you through trails. You can hold onto it even as you give it to others.

I pause to write this for Leonard Knight and others trapped in love balloons because they deserve better. Give yourself yourself this season.

 

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