(Holland, winter 1963, I had just turned 19)
It was a frosty and foggy morning and as I was riding my bicycle to school through the misty Dutch polders and the fogged-in streets of the city, I could hardly see more that ten feet around me.
Except for my bike’s handlebars all my usual reference points seemed to have disappeared.
I had made this 30 minute trip to school (a teacher training college in The Hague) every school day for the last 3 years or so, but this time, when I arrived at the school building, rather than parking my bike in the school-basement’s bicycle storage, I leaned the bike against a lantern post and I locked it.
I proceeded to take my leather book-bag off the bicycle rack, but while undoing the bungee cords I caught myself wondering aloud,
"What are you doing...?
W h a t a r e y o u d o i n g ...?"
While lugging my heavy book-bag as I went up the granite steps that led to the school's entrance, I tried to answer that question, but somehow I could not find any words.
After a minute of trying to have my lips form some verbal sentences, I could muster - but just barely,
"I am becoming...
I am becoming a t...,
becoming a teach...
I'm becoming a... ..."
But that was all my mind could offer my mouth to utter.
Then suddenly, something from deep inside me was welling up, and I caught myself wondering loudly,
But.. I am!
I immediately returned to my bicycle, unlocked it, strung my book-bag back up and started on my way home.
While cycling back through the outskirts of the city and then through the fields, the sun started to melt the fog away and I drove through a landscape that was all white with snowy frost. The tree branches, the shrubbery, the grass land... all silvery white.
But even as the hazy sun began to shine clearer and as the white haze became more an more golden and as I was gazing into the distance above and before of me, it struck me that I saw no horizon whatsoever. As far as I could see, it was as though the silvery earth seamlessly merged with the almost golden sky.
I eventually arrived at a special tree, a tree under whose shadows during the summer I'd usually do my homework. But this time, after putting down my bike, I leaned against the tree wanting to hug it, but instead I slid down and I lost my bearings totally, becoming slowly aware that my normal consciousness was slipping away.
It was about an hour later that I "came to", so to speak, and after mounting my bike I drove home, tears of happiness and exhilaration streaming down my cheeks.
I started to sing... songs like poems, the words of which were a mix of Latin, Greek and Dutch,*
“Terra - Caelum,
Γαῖα - Ἥλιος.
The Earth is the foundation of the Heavens.
Ge - Hypo Anthropoon Ge,
Helios - Hyper Anthropoon Helios…
The Earth is the fundament of the Heavens,
And the Heavens are the glory of the Earth.”
I did not return to school.
A week later though, just a month before the school-year’s exams would begin, I informed the principal that I was not going to finish my studies,
"I am not going to become a teacher!
I'm not going to become anything…
I'm not gonna…
Only my mother understood!
It took some time to put my youthful affairs in order, but by year’s end I stepped on my bike again and after a six hour trip into the country (Van Gogh country) I found the monastery (a Trappist monastery) where I would carry on with my inquiry into my authentic being - my self rediscovery.
I rang the bell and after a short interview at the gate, a monk opened the cloister door and I entered monastic life…
Much more happened after that of course as my reclamation of innate freedom only continued there.
Eventually I was able to reclaim the original freedom into and with which I was born.
* The Dutch words here translated into English.